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good external DAC for vocals recorded with Shure Beta 58A

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by mertzi, Jan 22, 2014.

  1. mertzi

    mertzi Active Member

    Hello!

    I'm sorry if this is in the wrong forum. I did a search but didn't find anything useful, which I guess is because not many use the 58A for recording vocals. It fits my voice like a hand in a glove. I've been using a 12+ year old 12 channel mackie mixer (don't remember the model name atm) at least 12 years connected to my faithful old servant M-audio delta audiophile 2496 pci dac and this setup has been fairly noise free IMO. I've never had any reason to upgrade this setup except upgrading my desktop pc but now I think I want to be able to replace my desktop with a laptop/ultrabook and therefore I need an external audio interface. And if I can remove the mackie mixer in this process I'd be more than happy to. I don't need 12 channels, I only need 2, preferably 4.

    I've had bad experiences in the past with USB interfaces because they've been noisy. I don't want to spend a fortune, top 220 euro (about $200 VAT excl) but noise is the most important factor and it is impossible to get any clues reading reviews (which imo rarely mentions noise) or specs.

    I only need 1 (preferably 2) xlr inputs with 48V (for when I use condenser mics) and 1 hi-z input, 2 is better.

    The beta 58A needs a fair amount of gain, which my mixer has been able to provide without adding any noise that surpasses the noise from the m-audio card. So this is the most important thing, gain without noise, so the preamp needs to be decent. I don't NEED to replace my mixer, but it would be nice freeing up desktop space.

    I've been thinking of a Line 6 UX2, a friend have the UX8 which isn't produced any more and I've measured the noise level on that one and it is really good, less noisy than my m-audio card but the ux8 has external power which I think removes a lot of noise compared to usb powered.

    Sorry for TLDR factor! Appreciate any input!
     
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    You'd be surprised...


    I'm not familiar with the Line 6 you mentioned, so I can't comment.

    As far as "best bang for the buck" in budget audio I/O preamps, you have several choices in your price range - 220 Euro is around $300 U.S., and for that money ( actually less than that) I'd take a look at Focusrite.

    They have a reputation for quality build and good sound. Within your stated budget and description of what you'd like to be able to do, a good place to start might be to check out the Scarlett 2i4.

    It records up to 24/96k, has two XLR/1/4" (combo) inputs, two 1/4" balanced outs, four RCA (unbalanced outs), phantom power for condenser mics, and is USB connected and powered.
    It also acts as a 1-in / 1-out midi interface, should you be interested in midi based production. A few other features would be a switchable -10db pad, and stereo and mono monitoring.

    The specs boast a "greater than" 105db dynamic range.

    Your cost would be around $200 U.S., give or take.

    Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 | Sweetwater.com

    I'm NOT shilling for Focusrite or sweetwater here.

    I'm simply mentioning a possible choice from a manufacturer that has a reputation for quality, and that would fit the needs you described, within your stated budget.

    FWIW

    -d.
     
  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I guess it's juste a typo, DAC = digital to analog converter, ADC = analog to digital converter. Some Units have both : ADDA converters.
    Now for your needs. In your price range, there's few that come in mind as quality preamp/converter unit. A fair one could be the Focusrite scarlett 2i2 or 6i6, it should be a good upgrade from the audiophile 2496.
     
  4. mertzi

    mertzi Active Member

    Thanks a lot for your answers!

    First, Why I wrote $200 VAT excl is because I live in sweden and we don't have euro here but ridiculously high VAT so if something costs $200 in the US it usually costs around 2000 SEK here which is 227 euro. There are exceptions though which I guess depends on where it is manufactured, like focusrite that you both recommend, the 2i2 costs 1249 SEK which actually is $192 and that price is fantastic. I'm going to do some research on that one. I read more about the line 6 UX2 and I found a LOT of people having problems with windows 8 (which I use).
     
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Don't be put off by USB connectivity and powering of modern interface units. The noise problems of older designs are largely a thing of the past.

    I would back the suggestion of the Scarlett 2i2 or the 2i4. They are as good 2-input interfaces as any in this price range and come within your budget at a UK price of around £120 (€145) for the 2i2 and £150 (€183) for the 2i4. You may be charged a little more if bought from a dealer in Sweden or alternatively would have to add postage costs from the UK.
     
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The only reason I suggested the 2i4 over the 2i2 was for the midi aspect - if you think there is a possibility that you might want to use features like soft synths/drum programs, (etc.), in your projects at some point.**

    (For this, you would also need to add a midi controller, but the USB-based basic controllers ( 49 key keyboards) are very inexpensive. Depending on the features, they can go for as little as $70 U.S.)

    Back to the Scarlett.....for the negligible price difference between the two models ( $40?), personally, I would go with the 2i4 because of the above.

    My assumption is that the pre amps and converters are all the same in the entire Scarlett model line, so the differences between, say, a 2i2, a 2i4 and a 2i6 wouldn't be in sonic quality, it would be in added ( or subtracted) features like the number of ins and outs, the number of headphone jacks, midi/no midi, etc.



    ** If you already have a midi I/O then disregard my suggestion and stick with the 2i2.
     
  7. mertzi

    mertzi Active Member

    I just read that the 2i4 handles asio latency better than the 2i2, do I get any other benefits than that, 4 output channels and midi? I guess the preamp should be the same? Maybe latency is better on the 2i4 just because it has midi?

    These are other alternatives within my price range:

    M-Audio M-track
    M-Audio M-track pro
    Presonus Audiobox USB
    Presonus Audiobox 22 VSL
    Focusrite iTrack Solo (or is it more of an ipad toy?)
    Avid mbox mini 3d gen
    Avid fast track solo
    Akai EIE pro
    Propellerhead Balance
     
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    The adventage of 2 more outputs is nice if you want to send the signal to outboard units (ex : reverb) and bac to the DAW (for re-amping as well). Other than that it's open for imagination ; 2 sets of monitors or to headphones amp to have different mixes. as for the latency, I wonder why and where you had this information.

    I won't comment on other units as I don't own any.
     
  9. rectifryer

    rectifryer Active Member

    I switched from an M-Audio Delta 1010lt PCI card to Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 and they honestly both sounded transparent in the first place so it wasn't much of a difference. I simply prefer the Saffire for its additional features such as live monitoring and nearly unending routing options as well as phantom power and input metering.

    They both have incredibly low latency if you are monitoring through the DAW. The 1010lt outperforms the focusrite in this regard but the focusrite has live monitoring. Pros and cons to both.

    Those are the two options that have worked for me in your price range.
     
  10. mertzi

    mertzi Active Member

    Appreciate everyones input!

    The saffire pro 40 is a bit too expensive for me, about the equivalence of $600 here in Sweden.

    I read about the latency thing in another forum. What latencies do you who have either 2i2 or 2i4 get? I've been fine with a buffer size of 512 samples on my 2496 which has given me 12 ms both in and out and that is OK to me. I'll probably go for the 2i4 since midi is good to have just in case.
     
  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Latency/buffer settings primarily are determined by your computers ability to process info, fast CPU lots of ram and you have low latency. Since both units are using USB which easily handles 2-4 tracks simultaneously I wouldn't be surprised if you were able to halve your buffer settings. But it shouldn't matter which box you use.

    i might be crazy here, but I think I recall hearing somewhere that the computer may prioritize certain ports, this was a while ago, but it was something to the effect that some computers will have 4 ports and two of them are 2.0 and the other are operating @ 1.0. This would be something to verify. But the interface itself, should not effect.

    some software maybe be more of a CPU hog, and force you u use higher buffer rates. But any current CPU should have you in the 256,128 range pretty easily for basic tracking w no ex.
     
  12. rectifryer

    rectifryer Active Member

    The bottleneck is usually the device(or device firmware) attached to the computer, not the cpu or ram. Just because a USB standard can stream a certain amount of data doesn't mean the devices connected to it automatically perform at that level. It takes minimal cpu processing/ram to stream audio, so the computer is not the suspect. That is old hat thinking that echos seemingly forever in technical forums...

    You can demonstrate this for yourself by attaching different audio devices to your computer and measuring the latency with latency detection software.
     
  13. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Well cpu and ram definitely effect performance, if the didn't the amount of effects your using wouldn't effect buffer size, which they do. As far as the OP goes, the devices are very similar and likely are using the same drivers.

    as far as different manufacturers go I can see where they would vary, but I suspect it's more to do w. The firmware than the box itself, but I could be mistaken. Do you have any links or articles that support that it's a difference in the hardware, I'm just curious about this. Maybe Boswell will chime in on this one.
     
  14. rectifryer

    rectifryer Active Member

    Ofcourse the cpu and ram affect performance. My point is that today's cpus and ram standards are fast enough that the device attached is normally the issue. Unless you are working with something less than a humble amd phenom 4 core and 4gb ram, you have enough. That is a 6 year old standard.

    You can google audio latency measurement and download numerous free tools. In fact you should so you know exactly what you are dealing with when recording. What the DAW states isn't accurate.
     
  15. mertzi

    mertzi Active Member

    My recording machine is a core 2 duo 2.8 ghz so far from top notch but i never reach more than 50% CPU usage with 512 buffer. I bought a cheap Behringer uca202 a month ago just to have on the go, not for recording, but the latency was worse than expected, even with the lowest buffer size possible.

    I'm going to my local store tomorrow who sells both the 2i2 and 2i4 but I've read more today about latency problems in windows 8. So I'll probably go for the 2i4 but only if i can return it after trying it out, if I'm not satisfied.

    Those of you with 2i2 or 2i4, what OS are you running?

    If anyone has good knowledge about how manufacturers historically have handled driver development for windows that would be really valuable information. I know certain manufacturers prioritize OSX and have even put windows 7 as end of the line for certain products.

    Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk
     
  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That may be true, although I recall hearing the same kind of talk back when Vista was out, and, well, we all know how that worked out. ;)

    I would think it very short-sighted of manufacturers to limit their product based on one "end all-be all" OS, considering that new OS's come out about every 3-5 years.. sometimes more freqwuent than that, in the case of the Vista abortion.

    I'm at Windows 7, after being on XP for a long time (and I found XP to be an incredibly stable OS) and so far I have no real complaints about 7, either. All of the tools I use have translated to the new OS's with patches/updates without any hitch

    I think that if you look back, you'll find that a vast number of manufacturers have kept up with the various platform changes - yeah, there have been several that have augered in, but I'm not sure that they wouldn't have anyway, regardless of OS.
     
  17. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    The cool thing about the Scarlett (and many others) is direct, or hardware, monitoring. This allows you to listen to the source while its going into the computer. In the case of the Scarlett there are no real time despite cue effects, like the have in some motu interfaces, and others, but that's not a deal breaker for me if the trade is no latency.

    Ive vey never heard any complaints about window 7 as far as audio goes. What your considering is probably a pretty safe bet.
     
  18. mertzi

    mertzi Active Member

    Didn't get the time to go to the store today but will go tomorrow.

    I wouldn't be running anything above XP if it wasn't for other, non music related, areas where I need at least windows 7. I really like windows 8 though. I have only had one software not working in windows 8 but I run a VMWare XP installation for that. If it was possible to run dedicated asio drivers within a virtual machine and not asio4all I'd probably run all music related software that way.

    About direct monitoring, isn't that standard on all external DAC's nowadays? One of my bad experiences I mentioned before was with an old terratec card which (besides being noisy as an old cassette) could only use direct monitoring without audio playback, although it had 6 line out so I could use 1-2 for playback and 3-4 for direct monitoring routed through my mixer. But the headphone output could only play either music or direct monitoring, not both, so extremely inconvenient.

    I saw that the 2i4 has a nice knob for balance between input/playback which will be pretty handy. But there are 2 features on the 2i4 that I don't understand:

    “STEREO/MONO” switch for direct monitor - why would I wan't to switch to mono? Vocals will be in mono anyways? Or will I only hear the microphone in the left or right channel if the switch is set to stereo?

    “HEADPHONE SOURCE” switch - on the front you can choose 1-2 or 3-4. Don't understand that one at all.

    Oh and also one important thing, if I put the Monitor knob at 0, that wont affect the headphone output right? That would be a big hassle cause then I'd have to lower the volume on my BX5's separately when I'm going to record.
     
  19. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    The headphone and monitor knobs are independent. The 1-2, 3-4, tells the headphones where it's getting its sound. This is useful for doing independent mixes for the headphones, and studio. Your master fader likely feeds outputs 1-2 to the speakers. In your software you could set up a bus or aux, send all your tracks to it, and output the bus thru 3-4. Then you can set a different balance of audio to the bus, and leave the faders for the main mix alone. Often vocalists will want way more or less than you want hear, so you can give them what they want and preserve your hearing.

    this is from the Scarlett manual on the focus rite site.

    as far as your concerns about your old interface performance issues, they have sussed them out quite a while ago, and it shouldn't be an issue. I use direct monitoring exclusively at the studio and have not once had an issue, same w my home setup when I use it.
     
  20. mertzi

    mertzi Active Member

    Here's an update on my purchase. I came to the conclusion that two extra analog inputs would be handy and the only two within my budget with that was Propellerhead Balance and Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6, but the Propellerhead doesn't have midi so I went with the Komplete. But lo and behold, input 3/4 does NOT have direct monitoring. I thought something was wrong in the settings but couldn't find any solution so I did some google-ing and found out that direct monitoring is only for 1/2 in. IMO this is astonishing. Why the hell would I want two extra inputs if I can't have direct monitoring on them? I asked before purchasing if I could exchange it for a 2i4 if I wasn't satisfied and that was no problem so I'll go for that now and accept that cable unplugging is inevitable within my budget.

    Besides the monitoring issue the preamps was really good judging from the little time I spent trying it out today, low noise and it powered my beta 58a really good. But it was about $60 more than a 2i4 and since I have no use for 2 extra non direct monitoring inputs I'd rather save that money and get what I presume are superior preamps.
     

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