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New Daw Setup, worth the price difference?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by ChrisH, Nov 30, 2011.

  1. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Hello everyone,

    In a couple months I will be buying an all new DAW setup (Interface, & Pre's).
    I'll be using it with an iMac running Cubase 6.
    8 pre's needed.

    My Question..
    How much of an audible difference would there be between a Focusrite Saffire 56 (I'd use the built in preamps)
    and an Apogee Ensemble with Fosusrite ISA828 preamps?

    I'll be using them to track Drums, Guitar, Bass, Vocals, and other percussion.

    One other question, how does the audio quality of the conversion in the Saffire 56 compare to an Apogee Ensemble?

    Should I just get a Saffire 56 and the ISA828??
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I don't think I would be putting all my sonic eggs in one basket if I knew I had to track that selection of sound sources. At the pro level, the Saffire or the Apogee are decent enough units, but it does mean you don't get much in the way of variety. The next worst thing after recording all your tracks using the same microphone is to record everything using the same pre-amps, but it's not that big a sin.

    You don't explicitly say what your budget is, but I would certainly give serious weight to having a selection of different pre-amp channels to get different sonic colours and saturation characteristics. You are in that line already when you talk about using the ISA pre-amps with the Apogee Ensemble.

    If your budget will stretch to it, it would be good to look also at an RME FireFace UFX as the interface, giving you 4 clean pre-amp channels and 8 line inputs for other pre-amps. Then particularly for kick and snare mic channels, I would go for a transformer-based unit like the ISA828 (8 channels) or API 3124+ (4 channels) to give you external pre-amps that could be driven hard and had a very different feel from the pristine RME channels. If I needed more channels overall, I would add some other boutique pre-amps, probably as two different pairs of channels, and build up my sound image like that. The API box could be used with the Apogee Ensemble, but you would need attenuators on the API outputs to avoid overdriving the Ensemble inputs.

    This may be all out of the question in terms of your budget, but these sort of thoughts should be in your mind to help you make informed decisions even at a lower level of gear purchase. It's worth looking at the detail of potential multi-channel pre-amps, such as whether the line inputs are attenuated and routed through the input stages or by-pass the input amplifiers and go straight to the converters. This makes a big difference when adding external pre-amps at a later stage. Neither the Focusrite Saffire 56 nor the Apogee Ensemble gives the data flow diagram in their user guides, so I can't comment on whether with these two the line inputs by-pass the pre-amps.
  3. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    So I'll go with the RME UFX. What would those 4 RME pre's work best for?
    What other pre's I should get?
    So Focursite ISA's for Kick and Snare.
    What about vocals, toms, overheads, electric guitars, keyboard, and bass?
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I think if you were to get the UFX and the ISA828 you would have a good starting selection of sonic characteristics. I use the API 4132+ and have never put it side-by-side with an ISA828 to see what the differences are, but the API gets used on kick and snare and also on a lot of vocals, but by no means all. I happen to like clean overheads, so usually put them through non-transformer pre-amps.

    At this level, you have to treat a microphone and a pre-amp as a pair and get to know what each of your pair combinations can do for you. It wasn't long after I first got an API 3124+ that I found that using it with a simple SM58 was magic for certain voices. Put the same SM58 with the same singer through a high-quality but transparent pre-amp and the magic was gone.

    It's this sort of thing that's hard to describe - you simply have to experience it. It's also one of the sad aspects of the bedroom crowd who get a couple of far-eastern made condenser mics and a single type of interface and think they are covering all their bases, that is, if they think at all. Flexibility is the key, especially if you are expecting to be recording a variety of different bands and soloists in sometimes less-than-perfect acoustic spaces.
  5. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Awesome, Im looking forward to trying different pre and mic combos.
    So if I had the 4 UFX pre's, and the Focusrite ISA pres, what's another preamp I could get that would be different than both those other pres?
    I'm thinking a Universal Audio UA-710D?
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    If I were in your place, I would defer buying more pre-amp channels until I had experience with what I had already and had identified where, if any, the gaps were. The ISA and UFX together give you 12 pre-amps, so it's not as though you would be short of channels; it's the range of sonic colour you need to cover adequately. As I've said earlier, the microphone selection is a big part of this, and I don't think you have said much about what you have available. Don't forget also that the recording room acoustics have a major impact on what mics you use and how you place them.
  7. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    My room has proper acoustic treatment. Drums are placed in the optimal acoustic spot for them.
    As for mics, there will be SM57, SM58, Beta57, Beta52, Beta91, Audix D6, SM7B, Rode NT5 x2, MD421 x2, Rode NT1000, e609, Beyerdynamic TGX61, E935, E835 x2
  8. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Are the 4 preamps in the Apogee Ensemble good?
  9. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

  10. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Thank you.
    Where can I hear the difference between a low end pre like a Focusrite Octopre, and a high end pre?
  11. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    You need to find friend(s) that have them and get them all in the same room otherwise the comparison is flawed from the get go. The Octopre is usable as well. Quite honestly, unless you are recording classical chamber music or orchestral sound scoring either the Octopre or the Ensemble will be perfectly usable especially as you add external preamps that are quality.

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