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Which of these is the best interface for my needs??

Discussion in 'Recording' started by PincheEdy, Aug 10, 2012.


Best overall interface?

Poll closed Aug 17, 2012.
  1. Focusrite Saffire Liquid 56

    0 vote(s)
  2. RME Fireface 800

    1 vote(s)
  3. Apogee Ensemble

    0 vote(s)
  1. PincheEdy

    PincheEdy Active Member

    Hi everyone!

    Alright so I am having trouble deciding which of these interface to purchase to get into recording.

    I am currently narrowed it down to a Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56, RME Fireface 800 (used), or a Apogee Ensemble (used).

    I am looking to record drums with a 4-mic set up.
    Also recording guitar and bass at the same time would be a plus.

    Which of these interface would be the best for my needs out of the box, with no other gear?

    Also, whats the difference between the Ensembles' Analog I/O's?

    Is it also worth having better converters rather than extra mic pre's?

    I don't have any other outboard gear I'd be using the interface with my Macbook pro with Pro tools 10.
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    In terms of features, the major difference for you is that the Liquid Saffire 56 has 8 microphone pre-amps, whereas the Fireface800 and Ensemble only have 4. If you want to record a drumkit with a standard setup of 4 mics and also have channels left over for guitar and bass, then the Saffire handles this easily. The Fireface has the 4 mic inputs plus a separate DI channel. In contrast, the Ensemble has 4 mic inputs, but its two DI inputs gobble up mic channels.

    In sonic terms, I would put the Fireface and the Ensemble above the Saffire, but this is very much a matter of personal preference.

    So it's not an easy choice. You could get one of the two 4-mic units for now and then expand them later with a different flavour of pre-amp going into the line inputs or ADAT intputs. This broadens your sonic horizon. Alternatively, if you need more than 4 mics now, you may plump for the Saffire, going for features above sonics.
  3. PincheEdy

    PincheEdy Active Member

    Yeah I agree, The Liquid Saffire 56 has more pre amps, and I'd be able to record more channels if i needed too.

    The fireface also looks appealing since it has an extra DI Channel, also will the guitars drive the line inputs too hot?

    Will there be a noticeable different in quality between the Liquid Saffire 56 and the Fireface?
  4. PincheEdy

    PincheEdy Active Member

    In the long run would it be better to have the FF800 and eventually upgrade with better converters?

    or would it be worth my wild just to get the LS56 and buy better converters or maybe get more pre amps on-top of that?
  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    long term, i'd go w/ the ensemble (wich i have used) or the RME, which i haven't. I've never heard of anybody questioning the quality in their converters. A $300 ART MPA would be fine for the extra channels you need. and u can expand later. I have crappy converters in my personal interface, and apogee in the studio, and there is a pretty noticeable difference.

    If your looking for the best compromise of built in pre's and good conversion, you really should consider the MOTU 828 MK3. built in cue effects. And its 1k new.
    It should be a worthwile step up from the saffire.
  6. PincheEdy

    PincheEdy Active Member

    I saw the Motu 828 Mk3 hybrid but it only had 2 mic pres. I think I'll get a used FF800 and If I don't like it sell it and try something else.
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    good choice. I sold a few a while ago for $1100.00 They were excellent. Should be able to snag one for even $1000 right now.
  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Sorry, i meant the 896. my mistake.
  9. godchuanz

    godchuanz Active Member

    If I were you, I'd get the interface with the best drivers and compatibility with your computer. Ask around to check what latencies people are getting with each of these interfaces, and take note of any incompatibility complaints.

    Also look out for features like zero-latency monitoring. Some musicians simply cannot record in time if they are hearing latency (even just a tiny bit) in their headphones.

    I'd expect these to be much more important issues than the quality of the mic-pre and ADC/DAC, which is probably minimal across the 3 interfaces you have listed.
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I would go with one that had 8 microphone preamps. These devices also offer combo inputs which can accept 1/4 inch line level devices. In that respect, you could bypass its XLR preamp to be utilized with a different boutique microphone preamp, should you so wish to do so. But without any extra outboard gear, you'd have all that you need in a compact package to track your band live without any extra and unnecessary gobbledygook.

    Let's face it, all of the analog to digital conversion and back again, only comes from a handful of IC chip manufacturers. And in today's age and technologies they are all 100% more than adequate. And how do you know if you're listening to good preamps and bad converters or good converters and bad preamps? None of this stuff sounds bad. It's only poor engineering practices that make it sound bad. All of your indicated choices are all quality pieces. Differences in sound? Sure. Just like a Stratocaster and a Telecaster, a Scully and an Ampex, a Steinway and a Yamaha, a Neve and an API, a Neumann U-47 & 67 & 87 & TLM-67, FET-47. Which one of those is the best? Answer: all of them. The only difference you'll realize in your selection will be from your own hand and ears.

    In these types of situations, I've frequently had to make a decision efficiency or quality? I ready know that the efficient piece, is of an acceptable professional quality. And the quality pieces will require significant and additional routing, setups, chance for intermittent patch cords, etc.. Having been both a live broadcast engineer and a studio recording engineer, requires different evaluations and practical decisions. Recording studio guys generally have to evaluate their decisions as scientifically clinical and theoretically correct. Whereas broadcast guys have to evaluate their decisions as how good and how fast. These are diametrically opposed opposites. And the decisions to both scenarios can be found right down the middle. So not all of this comes from reading but just from doing. Doing with some reading. Reading with some doing.

    You know being Audio Engineers is really one of those few engineering trades where lots of rights sound wrong and lots of wrongs sound right. We are one of the few of the truly abstract engineers. Theoretical physics guys and astronomers can talk about parallel universes, black holes, XO planets and everything else. But they don't have to prove themselves by making a nice recording for everybody to enjoy and to listen to.

    I'm feeling spaghettified...
  11. PincheEdy

    PincheEdy Active Member

    I checked the specs and compatibility and all three seems to work well with my laptop and i noticed the RME drivers were the only ones that were updated recently.

    RemyRad: I liked how you explained Audio Engineers!

    Anyway, the LS56 was my first pick, but the more research/reading i do the more i want to go with something "better" which leads me to more confusion in what interface to purchase.

    I am going to get some microphones next month. I'm planing on buying an Sm57, RE20, and a pair of Oktava MK-102 (maybe the joly mods).

    I agree that the LS56 would be a good call since I can record 8 tracks simultaneously.

    i'll be planning on buying the interface mid next month, so i'll try doing more research as well.
  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Finding the better sounding unit is as personal and as subjective as your choice of boxers or, jockeys. All will sound good. All will work fine. You just have to pick out the one that speaks to your 3-D way of thinking. I personally never want anything less than 8 inputs. In today's production techniques there is no sense in having less than eight. Less than eight puts you in the league of a simple beginner. When you are suddenly faced with a situation needing more than 2-4, you'll be instantly humiliated and screwed and that's no fun. It makes you look ill-prepared and not highly capable. And you will never be fully prepared for any production curves thrown at you. And that's the mark of a good recording studio and/or broadcast engineer. So choose what you want but make sure it has 8 XLR inputs. Or, eight, 1/4 inch TRS balanced line level inputs. That way you'll only need as many microphone preamps as is required to schlep.

    While I utilize hundreds of patch cords, there's nothing like having a piece of equipment that provides hardwired features that let you get the job done. So, sure, 4 XLR microphone inputs along with 4 additional 1/4 inch line level inputs. But still, eight. Heck, I'll use eight inputs just for drums and even more. Stereo outputs from all electronic keyboards. At least one microphone per guitar amplifier if not two. A microphone and a direct from a bass guitar/upright bass. And then there's the vocals. And instantly you know, eight isn't enough. Not that you can't do that, you can. But at the same time, you'll be mixing things together that you won't be able to change later. And that's why eight isn't enough even. This is also another reason why I prefer purpose built and dedicated multitrack recorders without a computer. Your A to D converters are already built into the inputs of the multitrack recorder. Then it's just a simple matter of choosing the front end (preamps/EQ's) you want to utilize. Then you only need to generate a rough stereo mix off of the 24 track digital recorder which can be done via digital or analog consoles. And then perhaps later the overdubs and final mix down. So you might end up with a full-blown and finished stereo mix having 24 tracks of safety backup. And that's always a good feeling.

    MOTU and others offer quality multi-track computer audio interface devices that can offer only line level inputs. Those devices keep you from being locked into their own microphone preamps. Otherwise most of these microphone preamps on most of these devices are never valued at much more than 25-$50 each. While those aren't horrible they are also not notable. But as a broadcaster, if they work? I'm happy. As a recording engineer, if it's not quite my cup of tea, I may still have to live with it. That and horrible acoustics that can only be corrected by proper microphone selection and placement. Something recording engineers have a lot more problems with dealing with than broadcast engineers.

    I've always suggested to people that when recording at a home studio to treat that more as a on location broadcast job than a studio job. And that's largely because most homes really do not make the best acoustic environment even if you try to trick them up as a studio. And when you start using condenser microphones that largely picked up everything else you don't want then you'll go back to 57 & 58's and find out they are one of the finest recording microphones ever made. So, if you've spent $1 million on your studio build you can then afford $1 million worth of microphones and other prime equipment. When you are on a home budget, good budget equipment makes good monetary sense. I can make fine recordings on a Behringer even though I can make better recordings on my Neve & API stuff. But it doesn't really matter. As long as it works.

    My workaround is generally a workaround
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  13. PincheEdy

    PincheEdy Active Member

    Thank for the reply!!!

    I guess I shouldn't limit myself with less mic preamps.
    I should worry more about getting the job done and having enough inputs to do so.

    At the moment I decided to go with these mics to buy for tracking drums. Sm57 for snare, Re20 for Kick, and Okatava Mk102 for Overheads. Which I can also use to record guitar/bass/vocals. And if I play my cards right and buy used, I can probably snag another Sm57.
  14. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    well i hate the B word, but it's very true. i've never broadcasted, but in the live sound realm i know, ya just use wat works best at the time. Reliability is more important than premium quality in that sense. and like remy said 'it doesnt sound that bad'.

    Depending on your experience level/sound qualities i suggest you record some bands w/ just 8 tracks. personally i use 14 mics on the kit, and one or two on any additional instruments. 24 trks usually covers a full bands basics.

    You don't want to be 'under-gunned' which is a situation remy was talking about. It makes you poorer($)/embarrassed/well prepared for future projects.

    Maybe an 8ch adat capable pre and any of the mentioned interfaces would be just fine?

    I suggest a couple of AT 3035's used as general purpose cardioid. Versatile, and cheap around $100 used, tough to beat.

    i listened to my converters (i think) by comparing the line in/outs of my interface, to the line outs of the tape machine (424mk3). each plugged directly into the powered speakers for comparison. I lost significant amount bass, on a commercial cassette. Probably need a better test procedure, but i could hear it.
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    And you'll want those 57's on your guitar amplifiers and vocals with a pop filter. Yeah even the bass guitar but for that I prefer a DI.

    It's hard to find a bad off used 57 but they are out there. And remember a 58 is a better vocal microphone with an additional foam pop filter than without the foam pop filter. I'd rather have the foam than the nylons unless I'm going out in my little black dress. And that's the only time I combined the foam with the nylons. But that had nothing to do with microphones. LOL. But it could still apply.

    I've heard those 102's even without the Michael Joly modifications and they sounded rather sweet. Decent small diaphragm condenser microphones and a great bang for the buck. I just wouldn't generally use them on guitar amplifiers. And I'm generally happy if my only microphone selection is nothing but 57's. I've even utilize those for drum overheads. And they sound great. Great on everything. Bad on nothing. It's my primary go to microphone. And hey... they sound even better when you go into a primo transformer coupled, old-school design, microphone preamp. Guaranteed! And I can tell you that's true with every recording I've ever made. I love those suckers. I couldn't do a live rock 'n roll television gig without them. I mean I have but those are always my first choice. They can sound as good as any Neumann U87 costing as much as thirty-three 57's. Yeah baby! They sound out of this world going through the Neve or API stuff. It's a classic sound that's hard to miss.

    I like my 67/87/77 DX's quite a bit also but rarely use those for rock 'n roll gig's.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  16. PincheEdy

    PincheEdy Active Member

    I highly appreciate the replies.

    Yeah, I guess I'll slowly build my recording rig up. Start with a decent interface that has 8 mic-pres and eventually add another 8ch pre-amp also start building my microphone collection. Would I need a DI right away? The focusrite LS56 has two instrument lines in the front?

    I can;t wait to start recording. I'ma try experimenting with mic techniques as soon as I can.

    About microphones stands, would these be good stands to start out with? On-Stage Stands 72010 Tripod Mic Stand with Boom | Musician's Friend
    or are they too cheap?
    I saw the reviews and there like 50/50.
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    You're getting the right idea. One of those eight channel XLR 1/4 inch combo input devices such as the PreSonus Fire Studio and others just like it are good place to start. FireWire of course is required with those. And any decent desktop and/or laptop, even with an additional necessary card, will work out just great. And that can be a perfectly lovely recording system you can fit into a briefcase. Or maybe a briefcase and a dog carrier? Either way, simple, efficient and to the point. And the best thing is even good sound. Better than you'll need until you want to step up to an additional eight channel line level boutique analog to digital converter and eight additional outboard boutique microphone preamps. And still retaining and using it in conjunction with that the above original system.

    Of course a secondary alternative would be something like an Alesis HD 24 and 3 different banks of 8 channel microphone preamps in 1 U, rackmount devices. And then 3 more 8 channel, line level mixers, following the output of the dedicated multi-track recorder, that can be ganged together to create a stereo reference mix. Stick in a patchbay, digital reverb or two and a couple of compressors. And you have the perfect fly pack for recording on location. And that's what I have also and that's what I do also. I don't need to take the truck out for every location gig. Sometimes it's just too big or too far away to use. So I have a gaggle of outboard microphone preamps. API, Neve, Op-Amp Labs, Yamaha, Altec Lansing tube, Tom Bray custom tube, SHURE tube.

    Most of the DI inputs on these new computer audio interfaces are appropriate loading for passive guitar pickups. Those particular inputs generally provide a load of no less than 1 million ohms. Other DI inputs which are more appropriate as electronic keyboard and other line level sources generally present a load input impedance of between 10-50,000 ohms. I recorded passive guitar pickups loading them down with 50,000 ohm Transformers and still rather enjoyed the sound is provided for. And that's because back in the earlier days of analog, we didn't have active DI boxes with high input impedances. And all we had were 50,000 ohm Transformers. But people today demand a certain kind of perfection that they themselves cannot deliver. Because it really ain't the equipment at fault.

    As to the microphone stand question... you put your cheap microphones on the cheap microphone stands. You don't put the $3000 Neumann on the cheap microphone stand. For that beast and those others like it, you want a good heavy bass, an Atlas like heavy steel base. Tripods can tip too easily especially with booms attached to them. And that's my rule of thumb. I won't get upset if a 57 falls off of the stand but I would if it was a 67. And I wasn't very happy when even my taped down stand with a Beyer M-160 was knocked over and destroyed at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. That microphone costs as much as I was being paid for the gig. So I'm one down from my four 160's. That'll teach me. And it did. Better preamps and cheap microphones work out better than better microphones and cheap preamps. But even cheap preamps sound mighty fine with 57 & 58's plugged in to them. And this is where microphone positioning becomes more critical than anything else you're doing or using.

    My microphones are no longer misplaced
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  18. PincheEdy

    PincheEdy Active Member

    Awesome Feedback!! Yeah I'm planning on going with a firewire interface, and record into my second HD, and run Pro Tools on my main drive.
    I also saw some cool briefcase w/ rackmount spaces which include a compartment for cables and a laptop, I'll definitely get one when I start recording on the go.

    I looked up the Alesis HD 24, it's massive!! Thats a lot of gear to carry! Lol

    Good thing the 57/58's are built like a tank, I guess I won't worry as much, I'll upgrade to better stand when I have $3000 mics :D
  19. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    the trick to tri-pod stands regarding physical balance is to just make sure a leg of the stand is directly under the boomed mic, or, pointing the same way. I don't hesitate to use my 414 live, but try to make sure its hard to tip over, get stick hit. Results are worth it, but sometimes it's not the best OH so i keep the same consideration for the usual mics.
    57's just rule, and the two i bought new came w/ one of those (80's/$2) foam windscreens, which work fine if they're needed. i bought another one, and my 4th, used, in almost new condition, and its scary how well they 'just work'

    It amazes me how similar 57's all sound, although i like to use my oldest (12yrs) cuz it's a bit duller from use. Honestly, they're pretty much interchangeable to me. Even the really old silver incarnation i tried, was similar in sound (if a little duller), lacking reliability in the input jack.
  20. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I guess I'm getting a little behind the times? I forgot about the Joe Co., 1 U multi-track recorders. 24 tracks and more to a simple outboard USB 2.0 portable hard disc, no computer necessary. Great live capture and rehearsal playback/sound system check, device. It has no provisions (yet) for overdubbing of anything. Great for somebody in my line of work. 96 tracks in only 4 U of rack space. 24 in a briefcase. Screw that old-fashioned Alesis HD 24. What was I thinking? I'm getting old I tell ya'. Hardening of the eardrums I think? Prevents your brain from properly expanding when you are trying to think. Maybe it was all of the drugs... not being filtered out of our tap water? Maybe it was that generic filtered bottled water and whatever chemicals that plastic had spewed into my hydration dimension of resuscitation??...? Whatever I said?

    You're on the right track. I have simply derailed.
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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