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would a duet or ensemble be a smart investment for me?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by hithere, Jul 16, 2009.

  1. hithere

    hithere Active Member

    hey guys I have been doing tons of recording research, and the most confusing purchase of everything seems to be interfaces, there seem to be things such as tried and true classic mics and pres but people have wildly different opinions on interfaces.

    anyway I have 2000 dollars to buy one piece of really nice lasting gear for myself. Because I have no way of getting audio into my computer that would have to start with an interface compared to a nice mic, or top shelf pre.

    I record everything myself, and never use anymore than 2 inputs at one time. I hear that the duets 2 inputs pres and conversion is pretty much the same as the ensemble. And I also read that you can plug in an external pre as well.

    My question is this, if I bought either, would be conversion needs at least be taken care of for a long time? None of the other interface names really peak my interest since many guys end up running a rosetta with them anyway, a lot of roads go back to apogee anyway.

    So if I intend to get really nice mics and preamps down the road are these good routes? If alls I record is myself and don't need tons of stuff going on, what would I be missing out on with the duet compared to the ensemble?
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    If your intent is to get really nice preamps and mic's down the road, and your first purchase is the interface, then you should not hamstring yourself right out of the gate. If you have up to $2k to spend then you should be avoiding the cheapos interfaces like the H1N virus. Here's the thing. A metric butt load of people get into recording "needing only two channels". That usually changes once the get G.A.S.

    More importantly, if you want something that will last for some years then again avoid the cheap stuff. You want AD/DA conversion and routing options that you won't outgrow in three weeks time. Really. In your price range are some very nice firewire (400 or 800) interfaces from RME and TC Electronics. There are also some PCI/PCIe options available but the routing flexibility can be limited on those.

    Your writing suggests you are planning for long term happiness. Make sure your purchases support your goals regardless of the number of mic pre's on the interface. Go for great AD/DA conversion and great routing options.
  3. hithere

    hithere Active Member

    hey thanks for your reply, and yes I want to get something for long time happiness.

    I see that the ensemble is on the more expensive side of firewire interfaces, and I have no problem dropping the money on it, moreso I just felt that for the time being, an interface would let me get right into recording.

    But my thoughts were that apogee is supposed to be one of the great makers for converters, and I just figured that having apogee converters and all those ins and outs would be something great until the day you bought something like the rosetta etc.

    This way if I had apogee converters in my setup, I would be pretty well off for the next couple of years as I build my microphone and preamp collection.
  4. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Apogee makes good gear. If it fits your needs and is flexible enough for the future then go for it. It's the future expansion flexibility that might concern me.

    I can't specifically comment on Apogee as I don't own any. And I'm a PC these days. There are others here who can comment on the Ensemble specifically.
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I hope you have Macintosh if you are looking at Apogee? Not sure why Apogee hasn't released anything designed for PC's? Even Digi design succumbed to PC adaptation. It's not a big deal anymore so go figure?

    I've never been able to reach my Apogee.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  6. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    the apogee duet is great if you work with logic on a mac. the hardware integration in logic allows you to control the duet directly from inside logic.

    if you're on pc you should consider the rme fireface 400 or 800. they have great and very neutral converters (if that's what you're looking for). they're both firewire400 interfaces. the 400 has 2 mic preamps, the 800 has 4. both have 8 analog inputs.

    though i've never used them myself, a friend of mine has the fireface 400 and is very satisfied. you will find many reviews in the net.
  7. hithere

    hithere Active Member

    yeah I have a mac.

    thanks so much for the help, the reason I was drawn to the apogee interfaces, were because I am using mac, and two it seems like everyone loves the converters. But more importantly like you said, hardware keeps going and coming as far as the interfaces go.

    Which brings me to another question. In theory if you had a presonus firebox or something rather cheap with all the i/os it has, couldn't you use a rosetta converter and avalon preamp and be getting amazing results? To me it seems like people will spend 1000 on an interface with alright preamps/converters only to be hoping for the more expensive apogee converters, and preamps, thus making their interface hardly end up doing any of the work?

    Now all I am doing at home is tracking vocals/acoustic/and electric guitar right now. Probably in the future micing up a piano and using some software instruments.

    This may be a stupid question but as I am not mixing at home, when I read reviews on really expensive apogee converters, the guys are saying how they are taking tracks already recorded and playing it through the converters and it sounds better/great/ but.... is that just the Digital to Analog part they are talking about, and not the Analog to digital?

    Since they are just talking about tracks that were already recorded, like how I hear people say listening to their favorite records with great converters sound better, but this listening back is just the d/a part right.

    When I am tracking if I were to record with lackluster converters the a/d? part, then I am still not going to get good results. I can't take the track to a studio and run it through some great converter in the mixing stage and have everything be merry? The only thing that will benefit the d/a part in that case?
  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    If I had your budget, my starting point would be an RME FF800. That sets the bar very very high as far as flexibility and quality.

    Presonus really isn't in the same class as either Apogee or RME even if it is decent mid level gear.
  9. hithere

    hithere Active Member


    I just mean what if I put my money into like the neve duo preamp and just ran it through a firebox or something for a while bypassing the presonus preamps?
  10. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The Presonus AD conversion is adequate but again with your budget, why would you not want the best or nearly the best AD conversion you can get? If your needs or desires don't require the top end then yes, the Presonus gear will be adequate. At some point they will hold back your progress with your desired boutique preamps- not least of which because the line input on this class of gear is just a padded mic input.

    Again, the Presonus and Mackie etc is good enough and sounds good enough to make nice recordings. My point is to buy the best interface you can that fits your needs and provides future expansion capabilities. Then you absolutely know the digitizing and routing process isn't what is getting in your way.
  11. jammster

    jammster Active Member

    Re: yeah

    Be sure to realize that the A/D conversion on the FireStudio have better specs than all the other presonus stuff, at least as far as I know.

    You get what you pay for, RME's Fireface has better drivers and preamps for sure! Not sure if the A/D is a huge improvement, I have read people happy with the FireStudio compared with a FF800. There is most certainly less latency with a FF800 too, not sure if you have considered that as well. Also, be aware that setting up your drivers on Presonus gear can be a pain in the ass! I had two different circumstances where I had issues with updating the new firmware and drivers only to search the presonus forum to find a set that someone had found that worked for me( I run OS 10.4.11 still, not updating anytime soon) YMMV.

    Be assured, once you have the proper drivers/firmware everything is good. There are people that complain about the D/A in the FireStudio, there is some random noise in the left channel in my unit. Sometimes I have things patched into the interface and there is no noise. Other times it can be annoying. This usually only happens when gain staging is not set properly and the main output knob from the FireStudio are turned down, since it is a digital control instead of analog the noise can creep up if your not careful.
  12. hithere

    hithere Active Member

    hey guys thanks for all the help.

    I guess my concept was even when I hear people talking about higher end interfaces rme firefaces/apogee ensembles/metric halo ul-2

    they seem to always to be adding outboard stuff.

    It seems at that point the only thing that expensive interface is doing is getting the sound into the computer.

    That's why I was curious about taking a inexpensive interface with the ins and outs to say add a neve pre and a say an apogee converter.

    But you are saying the in's and outs on something so cheap (padded mic input) isn't even sufficient to do that?

    as I said I am totally ready to have the highest quality interface I can buy, and 2000 dollars seems to be a good chunk for one, but I was just enthused about spending 2000 dollars on neve preamps and sending it into the in of a cheapie interface.
  13. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    You can have the best preamps in the world. If they are going through a mediocre interface then you will at best have mediocre sound. I don't know how many different ways I can type the same concept.

    If you want routing flexibility and versatility you have to spend money. If you want good to great AD and DA conversion then you have to spend money. If you want to purchase something you won't outgrow in two weeks then you have to spend some money. You threw out the name Apogee and now you want to go cheap. If you want to drive a Mercedes you can't buy a Yugo.

    Preamps are sexy. I get it. It doesn't matter at all unless you can get those sexy preamps sounding good in the box or onto 2" tape.
  14. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member


    Don't be fooled into thinking certain stages of the musical signal chain are more or less important than others...they are all important....getting high quality recordings has always been about how clean and pure and perfect you can reproduce the sound from the source to the media....then we do the exact same thing to try and achieve the most accurate and perfect playback system to listen to it....period....that is just as simple as it gets....every piece of equipment made out there attempts to do that....some better than others.....quality costs money...if you had several million dollars you might get close to something that achieves perfection....microphones, room acoustics, the electronics all play a part in that....
    Today we use computers to make digital recordings and they have their own issues with conversion rates and latency all trying to achieve that same perfect sample from that same musical source sound...
    $2000 will get you one electronic component in that system.

    I use RME FF800 and it has excellent sampling rates and good sonic quailty....Steinberg has their new audio interface system that is pre-packaged with Cubase....

    The main thing is to keep reading equipment reviews and ask questions on forums and then select the system platform (PC/Mac) you prefer and put together something that fits your budget...
    Sometimes it's not about the equipment....sometimes it's about the music....and no amount of money can buy that.....
  15. hithere

    hithere Active Member

    hey John I can't thank you enough for your help. I seemed to cause confusion with bringing up the presonus gear.

    my intention wasn't to step down, more to question of whether or not if a cheaper interface with the right ins and outs running into the right stuff kind of defeated the purpose of a nice apogee ensemble or metric halo ul-2.

    I have no problem shelling out the cash for that.

    I guess I need to phrase this better, say you have a cheap interface but you are using the spidf and ins and outs to run it in a pretty much completely bypassed state.

    Thus running in nice converters and preamps.

    wouldn't that make a cheap interface be on the same level of these high end interfaces we are talking about? or am I completely missing something?

    When you say you can run a great preamp through a sub-par interface the sound won't be great I understand, but I meant with running that subpar interface with premium converters, thus having great converters/pres just passing through the box.

    thanks so much for putting up with my confusing posts, it is really helping me.
  16. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    First off, the Apogee Ensemble and the Metric Halo are interfaces with AD/DA conversion and mic preamps built into them. Nothing wrong with these. Whether there is enough flexibility in these for you now and in the future is completely a decision you will have to make. The same can be said for the Fireface or whatever. What fits your needs is the ultimate goal. I just advise folks to plan for the future.

    SPDIF is only a two channel digital protocol. Therefore it really isn't very flexible for things other than two track recorders or the occasional two channel preamp with built in converters (that with few exceptions can't possibly equal the converters in the Apogee/RME etc). Most high end two channel preamps or four or eight don't have built in converters. The upper mid level Onyx 800R is an exception and so is the high end Grace m201 (w/AD optiion). Because of this inconvenient fact, most of these also don't have SPDif output as SPDif is a digital interface.

    So lets hypothetically say you go purchase a Focusrite Red 8. You want to run it in digitally to bypass the shitty stuff in the MBox or M-Audio whatever. You can't, because the Focusrite doesn't have any built in AD conversion. Now what do you do? You have to end up using the less than steller AD conversion in these cheap boxes.

    The cheapest two channel interface I can recommend in good conscious is the Konnekt 24D. I think you'd be better off with your plan in your first post. Get a great interface now and then add the sexy high end pre's as money and opportunity allows. A compromise might be a Konnekt 48D or a Fireface 400 at around $1K and a channel or two of Neve Portico or even a True Systems something found on sale. If you go with the Apogee Duet then just know that like the Konnekt 24D you have defacto limited your future options and routing, but those are still good pieces of gear.

    The difference between this route an anything by M-Audio or an MBox is night and day. Nothing will ever make these on the same level as Apogee or RME. Also remember that when you monitor your mixes you are then using the DA converters to run your speakers or headphones. The conversion process by nature has to run both ways.

    Don't let my crankiness deter you. I'm a salty crotchety bastard by nature and knowing this about myself I mostly do not fire for effect...at least here at RO.
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Let me add to John's already good advice.

    1 - I really think you've been bitten by the marketing bug. Yes, Apogee is decent. In the pantheon of converters, it's mid-grade at best. That puts it squarely in the league with Lynx, RME, Lucid and other similar devices. DO NOT (emphasis only) get into a dogmatic practice of thinking that only one brand is worth purchasing. You will find yourself being miserable over the long haul. Also, FWIW, I won't let an Apogee converter touch my signal chain during tracking or mastering. I don't like their sound one bit.

    2 - Acquiring a good interface in advance with a good set of built in pres and a good AD/DA is a good idea. The RME Fireface is a great option. If Apogee is your cup of tea, any of their boxes is going to work for you. Personally, I use both the RME FF800 and the TC Konnekt 24D. Both are great boxes. The pres and the conversion are a bit better in the FF (by "better" I mean- more transparent with a bit more headroom on the pres) and the FF can operate at lower latencies. That being said, the conversion and the preamps on the Konnekt box are still quite good and the built in plug-ins on the box are worth the price of admission alone! (Bear in mind though, until TC fixes it, the plugs can be inserted as an effect in a DAW, but you cannot bounce with the effects, you have to record out and back in in real time to get the benefits of them).

    3 - If you were to go with the TC box, you'd have plenty of room for a great preamp that you could add on to the line inputs of the TC. There are 4 line inputs and 8 channels of digital input (ADAT). Also, as I already mentioned, the 2 preamps that are built in aren't shabby at all. They're not as crystal clear as the RMEs, but they're still quite nice - great for vocals, guitars, etc.

    To counter John's thoughts, there are a lot of pres that do have digital outputs either standard or as options that are quite good. A few come to mind:
    Millennia HV3D
    API A2D
    Neve DPD
    Focusrite ISA 428/828
    Grace m201/m801
    Lavry Blue

    If there's one take away here - don't find yourself getting taken in by the marketing folks. There were a couple dead give-aways that this has already taken hold. The attachment to the Apogee product and the mention of the Avalon pre are just two examples. While both of these pieces are just fine, they're not the pinnacle of technology nor the ultimate in sound.

    Cheers and best wishes!

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