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I have a RME Fireface UFX as my interface.
The UFX AD DA converters have received excellent reviews.
Would like to know your opinions if I should spend the money to upgrade the converters.
I don't want to be spending $2,000 plus on a new converter unless it would produce a noticable change in sound quality.

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Boswell Thu, 07/10/2014 - 05:44

You have to work out where in the quality ladder you want to be. The converters in the UFX are excellent for their price range, but, as with most things, you can get even better ones by paying considerably more money.

The other thing you should do is a check on both the rest of your recording chain and your acoustic environment. It is often the case that people focus on one particular aspect of their room and equipment without evaluating where money would be best spent in the overall scheme. I'm not saying this is necessarily true in your case, it's just that you didn't provide any other details of your gear and room. There's a danger of splashing out on something like converters only to find you can hear no resulting improvement because it's other aspects of your recording chain that are the weak points.

anonymous Thu, 07/10/2014 - 06:42

This is a great subject to discuss, and so often overlooked in the grand scheme of the DAW.

In my hired-gun engineering travels, I've had the opportunity to work with RME on several occasions, and I always found it to be nothing less than stellar sounding.
(Of course, most of what I run into is M-Box, M-Audio, and other run of the mill consumer grade models, so pretty much anything other than these would sound great to me. It's not as if every client I work for has an Apogee or an RME.)

For your situation, I can't say as to whether the investment would be "worth" it - what I mean by this, is that while I'm certainly not doubting that anytime you upgrade your converters or audio I/O (with conversion built in), that you'll notice an improvement... but the real question is, will you notice a two thousand dollar improvement? LOL... and only you can really answer that, because it's so subjective, and as Bos mentioned, relative to your other well as your room/environment. Can you be specific as to why you feel you need an upgrade? I'm not being a smart-ass here, I am sincerely curious. Is it something in particular that you are hearing with your current I/O?

Speaking for myself, I've recently come to the point - after treating my room - to where I'm now absolutely positive that I need a serious upgrade in my pre/converters.

Truthfully, I'm sure I've always needed this upgrade, but since treating my room, it's become far more noticeable. I'm now hearing things I didn't pick up on before, because the space was such a smeary and skewed mess prior to treating it. Now, I'm really hearing the converter results... and brother, I'm not talking about hearing it in a good way, either.

The low-quality conversion appears most evident on mid-hi and hi frequencies, (although of course they are effecting the entire bandwidth as well)... The quality - or lack thereof - is most noticeable from around 1k and up, with the worst sonics happening between 5k and 12k. I hear it a lot on vocals, primarily S's (sibilance)and a harsh upper mid range.... as well as on acoustic guitar, hi hats, crash cymbals, electric guitar - both clean and crunchy - and pretty much anything where the fundamental frequencies occur around 1 - 6 kHz.

So, I guess I'm good for 2 out of 3....My batting average is on the high side -I have a good sounding room, and a variety of very nice mics (Neumanns, AKG's, Shures, EV's, etc) to choose from, a good monitoring rig, all of which is a good thing. The bad thing, the (very) weak link in my chain - the curve ball I haven't been able to hit, my pre /converters.

I've been considering RME as my next step, and have been for quite awhile now, so I'll be watching this thread to see what you and the others have to say.



kmetal Thu, 07/10/2014 - 09:38

It's doubtful that the converters from RME are the weakest link in your recording system. And while they may not be boutiques, there are plenty of pro recordings done w RME stuff. Usually conversion is one of the first places home recordists lack in their input chain but your doing alright there.

It's very likely based on what you posted that if your willing to spend 2k on converters, your not very happy w your recordings, and it's prob not the converters. From the instrument itself, to techniques, to the room/monitors like has been mentioned, those are the places to look first, as your converters are widely accepted as good.

D- the rme stuff has a great reputation, but their stuff isn't quite as new as some of the other stuff, I've used the UA Apollo and it is really really good sounding, and feature rich. If I were in the market for a new one, that would be my choice hands down. Or an apogee quartet, would be in There too. But UA while not being boutique stands up to the apogee stuff I've used, and add in the processing, it's a force that has not been matched yet in its range. Especially the ability to track w and print the effects, it's a super cool device. Worth a very serious look if u ask me.

pcrecord Thu, 07/10/2014 - 10:04

Money doesn't fall from the sky so it's quite normal that we want to put it where it counts.
Since I don't know what your setup looks like and what you do, it's hard to say if this is the right place to invest. The UFX AD DA is not a bad converter to start with.
But I'd say, if your room is not well tuned, start there. If you don't have accurate monitors, start there.
If you only record 1 or 2 tracs at the time, put the money on 1 or 2 good preamps.
If you could use more mic inputs, you can get a 4 pre with converters for around 2000$ (ex : ISA 428 or UA 710)

Tell us more about what you do.. ;)

audiokid Thu, 07/10/2014 - 11:44

Personally, I think the Apollo is about the worst choice anyone can make for two reasons,

  1. it steers you closer to more plug-ins, smearing and phase ( its a trap).
  2. I hope someone will please post a good example of a session tracked with an Apollo that corrects me from this blanket statement because so far from what I've heard, they sound terrible to me. Everything from latency to exactly what Donny just described (harsh upper freq (phase issues, banging pipes and lack of headroom) is what I hear coming from the Apollo. And, the total BS about tracking via an LA2A emulation got me excited 2 years ago but I don't hear it, not remotely close comparing it to real gear. So, what are they selling us then? :rolleyes: Aren't we on the third new and improved build of that? I thought the first version was everything amazing. Its the epitome to the saturated affordable recording sound.
    Sorry, I'm not trying to rain on the parade here, but I need more proof on that UAD stuff lately. Its all starting to look and sound like Avid all over again. :censored:

audiokid Thu, 07/10/2014 - 11:57

To add to the already excellent advice, unless you are going to spend some serious coin, aor at least the addition of some analog to your thinking, most of us would be better off buying a used PreSonus StudioLive or even better, the new AI stuff which is what I'm looking into. I seriously doubt there is much better than this until you start spending $10,000 and upwards on mics, pres etc.

Need proof? Check out
All done on a StudioLive 16.4.2. He has a lot more examples of his work on that console that is amazing sounding.

just saying...


kmetal Thu, 07/10/2014 - 19:43

The studio live actually surprised me how good it was for recording when I used it. The effects are kinda weak, IMHO, but it's a solid buy.

Personally, I think the Apollo is about the worst choice anyone can make for two reasons,

  1. it steers you closer to more plug-ins, smearing and phase ( its a trap).
  2. I hope someone will please post a good example of a session tracked with an Apollo that corrects me from this blanket statement because so far from what I've heard, they sound terrible to me. Everything from latency to exactly what Donny just described (harsh upper freq (phase issues, banging pipes and lack of headroom) is what I hear coming from the Apollo. And, the total BS about tracking via an [=""]LA2A[/]="http://www.uaudio.c…"]LA2A[/] emulation got me excited 2 years ago but I don't hear it, not remotely close comparing it to real gear. So, what are they selling us then? :rolleyes: Aren't we on the third new and improved build of that? I thought the first version was everything amazing. Its the epitome to the saturated affordable recording sound.
    Sorry, I'm not trying to rain on the parade here, but I need more proof on that [[url=http://="http://www.uaudio.c…"]UAD[/]="http://www.uaudio.c…"]UAD[/] stuff lately. Its all starting to look and sound like Avid all over again. :censored:

I have heard my cousins and it was a huge step up from the digi 002. Which could be the worst. I really haven't messed w it on my own so I'll have to do a track before I truly decide, but the fab DuPont demos where they supposedly use just the UAD Apollo and plug-inssounds killer. So based on both, my best guess is you've heard some badly recorded stuff, and the demo is exceptionally recorded?
As far as the plug-inssounding like the real thing, I wish companies would just give up on that stuff. Maybe something like a digital reverb emulation or something could come close, but really? A 2u tube compressor? I don't ever believe them. Basically at best I think you get attack/release tendencies and eq curve, but having not heard a real la2a I can't say. I know the any 1176s emulations I've used don't sound like the hardware one I use.

To be fair, a lot different hardware models sound different, I've owned 2 Mesa triple rectifiers and they sound distinctly different. But still why do pluggin company's try to say how close they sound to the hardware? They really should stop w those claims, I've never met anyone who has felt they were true.

I still think less plug-insof any type yield better recordings, but for me to really speak on this thing, I'll have record an acoustic track or something and post it.

audiokid Thu, 07/10/2014 - 21:32

Kyle, this may be the first time we disagree. :) I'm not winning any friends over my UAD opinion either, but who's listening anyway. Its a big world and a very affordable product that people seem to love.

The Fab stuff I heard through that was horrible. Full of headroom crush and distortion. The converters sound like metal. Download the Liza Colby tracks and take a good listen. I tried mixing that stuff from the contest he had a year back and my ears hurt from the processing. The upper mids are horrendous and bass was mush.
Being able to dissect those tracks told me the truth on that system.
Latency : Try lining up the tracks and you'll see what tracks are effected from the processing in comparison to the others where he went direct. Listen to how those converters break up when she starts pushing her voice. I'm not the only one that mentioned this but it sure didn't get any press.

I'm sure it is a fun system and better converters than the digi stuff but but far from pro sounding.
Is there an A/B comparison online anywhere? I'd love to hear another example because I really don't want to be slamming it this bad.

anonymous Fri, 07/11/2014 - 04:00

I'm starting to wonder if I should be looking at a StudioLive 16 or an AH Zed as an answer. There's no way I can afford the RME with the number of channels I need - while I normally don't use more than 4 at a time on a day to day basis, there are times I require 8 when I'm tracking live drums.

I've seen the Presonus on eBay for as little as $900, and there's no way I'm gonna get a better deal than that with any of the other nice I/O's RME, Apogee, etc., for 16 I/O's of good pre's and converters with 16 track-at-once capability.

That being said, almost anything I'd get right now would be an improvement over the Tascam 1641 I'm currently using.

Boswell Fri, 07/11/2014 - 04:40

I can see several StudioLive 16.0.2 mixers on Ebay US starting at around $900, but you also ought to check out the A+H Zed-R16 on there at $1100. Having used both types, for the sort of mixing work I do, I prefer the sonics of the analog desk with additional digital I/O (Zed-R16) to the digital desk with analog I/O (StudioLive). This is despite the pre-amps on the StudioLive range being about the best I have come across on a digital mixer in this price bracket. It's really the EQ that makes the difference for me. However, one thing I find an annoyance on the Zed-R16 is the lack of a channel solo-in-place button, but you get used to working round that.

Slightly surprisingly, the Zed-R16 can be used as a DAW control surface whereas the StudioLive cannot, if that makes any difference to you.

anonymous Fri, 07/11/2014 - 07:22

It's gonna be awhile until I can afford to do any upgrading at all... and when I do, I'm going to look seriously at both the Presonus and the A&H, and I have to be honest, the thought of the Zed also being able to act as a control surface does indeed pique my interest quite a bit.

In the meantime, I've been thinking of what I can do to better my conversion with what I have on-hand now.

I need you guys to either tell me that this would be a better move than what I have working now, or simply a lateral move that won't change things to any great degree, or that might not make any difference at all,
So here's what I've been thinking:

I am currently using a Tascam 1641 Pre - I/O. It supports rates from 44.1k, up to 96k, all at 24 bit. The preamps are most certainly not what I would consider to be pro grade, but worse than that is the conversion.
Since my recent acoustic treatment, I am hearing very nasty artifacts, most noticeably in the upper mid and hi frequencies.... for the sake of narrowing it down, let's call it 1k and up.

I also have a MOTU 2408 Mk1 Firewire stand-alone converter. It supports 44.1 and 48, ADAT, TDIF and it also has 8 Analog ins and outs, although they are RCA.

I've been thinking that I could perhaps use the Tascam for the preamps (I also have a few low budget tube preamps as well) and bypass its conversion stage by simply coming out of its analog outputs to the RCA inputs on the MOTU, where I can select the correct sampling rate and bit resolution to the DAW. Would this work? Will the MOTU be better in conversion quality than that of the Tascam?

Ya know what? Forget it. I just looked at the specs for the 2408 Mk1 and it only supports 20 bit resolution when using the analog inputs... so I guess I answered my own question, and the Tascam still appears to be the better choice, I guess. Well, so much for that idea. Damn. :(

I'll leave this post up anyway though - if no one objects - in case someone else out there may be doing a search for specs on the Mk1, or perhaps be in a similar situation.


Boswell Fri, 07/11/2014 - 09:12

Yup, I think you may have answered your own question, Donny. However, if you really can patch the Tascam pre-amp outs to the MOTU analog ins and digitize with that, it would be worth trying it just to see if the sonics are any different. By using reasonably high-level signals you should not encounter too much of a problem with the MOTU 20-bit converters, but if you get the same nastiness in the range above 1K, it could mean that the converters are not the only suspects and you may have to look a bit wider.

I've not used one of those older Tascam boxes, but I didn't think that you could get at the individual analog outputs of the pre-amps, since there are no direct outs and no insert jacks. There is a Mix knob, but is it correct that it alters the balance between a mono mix of all the inputs and a similar mono mix of all the outputs? Another interpretation would be that it changes the fraction of the digital signal between USB-in and USB-out that gets converted for the individual line outs. The first route would give you some idea of the sonics of a mono mix, but in the second case the monitoring route would include a double conversion (A-D and D-A) and would thereby defeat the object of this particular exercise. As I said, I've not used one of these boxes and I'm only going on what's implied by the manual, so I well may be completely wrong about all this.

anonymous Fri, 07/11/2014 - 10:59

There are several analog outs on the 1641; analog outputs 1&2 and 3&4, along with L&R monitor ( control room) outputs as well. Now, whether or not these outputs are pre or post conversion stage, I don't know, but it will be crucial to know which is the case - because if all the available analog outs are post conversion, then there'll be no point in adding another unit where it would just hit another conversion stage.

The Mix knob controls the balance(s) between the input signal and the output signal from the DAW, both balances are stereo.... not that there is a separate left and right control, but one master volume for any signal either sent to - or from the DAW, whether it be mono or stereo.

Keala Sat, 07/12/2014 - 03:47

Hi DonnyThompson and KMetal,
I am getting some pretty good sound with what I have but after reading the glaring reviews of those high end converters, one can't help wonder if it can get much better.

pcrecord - This is a list of my equipment. I do Hawaiian music. I instruments I use in my recordings are: Archtop guitar, ukulele, upright bass, steel guitar.
My room has acoustic treatment. I record one track at a time.

[=""]Neumann[/]="http://www.neumann…"]Neumann[/] 49
Electro Voice RE20
[[url=http://=""]AKG[/]=""]AKG[/] Perception 200
Studio Project C1
[=""]Shure[/]="…"]Shure[/] SM81
[[url=http://="…"]Shure[/]="…"]Shure[/] [=""]SM57[/]="…"]SM57[/]
Miktek C5MP

Pre Amp's:
[[url=http://="http://www.avalonde…"]Avalon[/]="http://www.avalonde…"]Avalon[/] 737
RNP 8380
[=""]True Systems[/]="http://www.true-sys…"]True Systems[/] P-Solo

[[url=http://="http://www.rme-audi…"]RME[/]="http://www.rme-audi…"]RME[/] Fireface UFX

Yamaha HS80M

anonymous Sat, 07/12/2014 - 04:47

Boswell, post: 416998, member: 29034 wrote: Surely the analog outs are sourced from the USB only, and it's only the monitor out that can have any of the live input mixed with it? I could find nothing in the manual about this. I hate manuals that don't have a full block diagram!

I suppose that I could use the monitor outs... but again, being that the MOTU supports only 20 bit on the analog inputs, well, it doesn't really make much sense... truthfully, I'm not even sure how I would clock that, or what would happen, in that Sonar supports 16, 24 and 32 bit float. So, how would Sonar react seeing a 20 bit digital stream? Or would 32 bit float be the answer? Am I correct in the thought that 32 Float is a shifting bit resolution?

LOL My brain hurts.

edit... wait a sec, here... what am I thinking? I could just record at 16 bit, right?

Boswell Sat, 07/12/2014 - 15:53

This has taken a bit of a crazy turn.

Patching the Tascam into the MOTU is not to be considered a long-term proposition, but rather a diagnostic test. Assuming for a moment that you can get at the analog outputs of at least two of the XLR/TRS input channels before they arrive at the Tascam's A-D converter, these could be taken to the MOTU for digitization and onward shipment to your DAW. On paper, you have a downgrade in that the MOTU is 20-bit conversion and not 24-bit, but the point is that it's a different converter. Performing this test would allow you to tell you whether there is a substantial difference in the sound when using the MOTU converter instead of the Tascam's, and hence form some sort of an opinion of the Tascam's pre-amps independent of its converters. The effect of the MOTU 20-bit conversion is not going to mask big differences in the conversion quality; remember that standard CD format is only 16-bits, and that can sound quite acceptable with good engineering.

The test comes down to whether you can extract at least a pair of pre-amp analog outputs from the Tascam, and in the absence of any semblance of a block diagram in the Tascam manual, I can't answer that question. The monitoring mix control may be of use here, but unless there is much more to the box that meets the eye, I don't see it giving more than a mono mix of all the inputs.

BTW, the 20-bit converted values arrive at the DAW as 24-bit with the 4 least significant bits all set to zero. Just proceed as normal.

anonymous Sat, 07/12/2014 - 17:09

Good thoughts and suggestions, guys. While I had considered that 16 bit would be fine, I hadn't thought of the last 4 bits being dropped, and still being able to record at 24bit regardless. This was good information to have.

I will admit that I'm dubious... after all, with the 2408MK1, we're talking about an 18 year old piece of technology here... But I'm willing to try.

I've been thinking about picking up a FW card for my PC anyway - I can get into a PCi card with a 400 transfer rate for around $50, or I can get one with an 800 transfer rate for about $80. Both use TI chipsets.

I'm gonna pick one up this week and try this experiment. I'll post the results.


Chris Perra Sun, 07/13/2014 - 01:56

Converters in the shootouts I've heard are always the thing that makes the smallest amount of difference. Room, Speakers, Mics and Pre's, make a larger difference in descending order.

You wind up paying big bucks converter wise to get better fidelity. Rme is fine.. That said,..can you rent something high end and see if you hear a difference? That would be how I would go about it. Opinions are great and point you in the right direction but first hand experience is the only thing that would make me spend the extra money.

audiokid Sun, 07/13/2014 - 08:10

Chris Perra, post: 417049, member: 48232 wrote: Converters in the shootouts I've heard are always the thing that makes the smallest amount of difference. Room, Speakers, Mics and Pre's, make a larger difference in descending order.

You wind up paying big bucks converter wise to get better fidelity. Rme is fine.. That said,..can you rent something high end and see if you hear a difference? That would be how I would go about it. Opinions are great and point you in the right direction but first hand experience is the only thing that would make me spend the extra money.

When I hear statements like this about converters I feel the need say this because I too fell into the trap of buying lower end converters after believing this. What it did was confuse me over trying to fix and find what was causing the zzz in my music.
I tend to agree with you if my main interest was tracking drums (excluding fidelity and the beautiful sparkle of a ride etc) because rock drums as an example, can sound great with some crunch and grit, thus accumulative aliasing distortion is less noticeable in comparison to rich acoustic music requiring detailed spacial content. n
No disrespect intended but many Drummers generally have hearing loss in the upper freq so you may very well not even hear or care about what the next guy hears. Those that come from a classical background and play string instruments perhaps notice/ listen to music in a different way.. Thus, it depends on who you are as well.

  • Q: are we in the music business or trying to get into this business, and which genre might that be?
  • Who is our client base and what are the goals?
  • If you are tracking your own stuff, who cares, if you are mixing other peoples stuff, the last thing you want is to degrade the clients work.

So, blanket statements like this aren't necessarily true or helpful without qualifying.

If I was into Grunge, the cheapest ADDA the better. If I am mixing or mastering, a good DAAD isn't going to win friends or help me learn more about fidelity. It needs to be completely transparent, stable and pristine. When you experience this, and identify bad conversion, well, the difference may be small to some but its that last 2% that makes the biggest change to you business that counts. Pro is all about baby steps and hearing change.

But ya, Normal bias to Metal tape, Sears to Nakimishi, same thing. A song is a song. Just adjust the levels right, don't keep bouncing and don't listen so critically. Music is more fun when we don't worry about the sound so much.
Source >Mic > Go! and if that doesn't work, get onto VSTi and sampling :)

Chris Perra Mon, 07/14/2014 - 13:47

To me Rme isn't the cheapest stuff out there.. All the cheap stuff comes with cheap preamps. It's very difficult to compare cheap converters by themselves as the crappy pre's are part of the problem.

Rme has pro level preamps. For me as far as upgrading Rme as a converter, unless that's the very last thing in my chain that I'd want to upgrade. There are better ways to get higher quality results like mics and high end preamps.

audiokid Mon, 07/14/2014 - 14:25

It's all relevant

Generally speaking. just don't go blaming a good mic for having zzzz when the converters are half the problem.
Rme pres are no better that all the pres crammed into a I space rack with tiny psu

Never heard one yet that would rival an outboard pre except for maybe the wall wart jobs.

If I am using my m-2b into a ff800 I clearly know it's not of it's full potential
Sane with a Royer ribbon into an average converter or low end pre, the sound is like silk when everything is of quality.

It's all relevant

What you are really saying is, if all you have is x amount to spend, spend it on a pre and mic and whatever is left, find the best deal?
What happens when you start buying a $4000 mic and a $4000 preamp? You still keep the budget converter?

audiokid Mon, 07/14/2014 - 14:41

What is the zzz in music today? Do you hear it?

I'm in the same boat as everyone. But the difference is. I admit it's relevant and admit I wish I had better but I can't afford everything so I live with the zz and dont pretend it doesn't exist.

If you are selling beats and rhythm , I wouldn't t be advertising you settle for less than stellar
Just saying....

Chris Perra Mon, 07/14/2014 - 14:43

How much will you have to spend to get better converters? Spending 2 or 3 grand on a mic or a pre will give you more noticeable results than the same amount on better converters.
There's going to be a point where the last thing to change is the converters. That's up to how far you want to take it.

If it were me and I had 8 grand to spend and I had an Rme that had just a 1/4 inch in with no preamp input. I would spend the 8 grand on the best mic and pre.
I don't think in the end you'll get a better sound from a cheaper mic and pre and slightly better converters.

RemyRAD Mon, 07/14/2014 - 15:38

Wow... nobody has talked about what kind of input level any of these converters can accommodate. With average slob devices, output headroom doesn't usually go beyond +18 dbM/ U/ V. But nice professional equipment has headroom to +24/+28/+30 and some even beyond that. Which would have a big factor in whose converter you're plugging into. They might be great great converters but with lousy front ends? So where's that get ya?

For instance the MOTU 2408 Mark 2 that I have, doesn't accept input levels greater than +20 before it clips everything. So, while it has decent conversion, it falls apart at the input. So how do you rectumfi, that?

And has anyone actually looked into whose converter chips are actually in use? And what sort of clocking is being utilized? Since you are all actually talking in circles? Which is the next factor in how any converters sounds.

Like Donny, I'm using mostly mediocre conversion devices like my perfectly awful Digi design/Avid, M-Box 2, my M-Audio Transit, the 2408 and the ALESIS HD-24 XR. But the front end is what gives me my sound, texture, color, balls. That when I don't overload the front end of the converters, still actually sounds remarkably good. But most flake out when hit with anything beyond +18 to the inputs. Which means you have to cheat your gain staging, with the compromise of more noise to appropriately accommodate the peak transients. Which is a screw off compromise workaround that I must perform in order to retain decent transient response. In essence, there are way too many variables going on here. For appropriate comparisons. You're comparing apples with dog food.

More Parks sausages mom... Please!
Mx. Remy Ann David

audiokid Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:34

You mean do I have any lower end converters? Not yet bit I'm heading there

I just sold about $20,000 worth of quality adda and am heading towards zzz lol
I'm not a happy camper hehe

I'll be happy to post a clip of that sound when I get back to my studio

Post something in the mean time
Maybe I'll pick it out on your work?

Chris Perra Mon, 07/14/2014 - 17:23

I just mean is there something that you know of that was recorded with so in so super high end converters that sounds much better than something that was recorded with Rme. Like this artist recorded this album with this gear and another recorded theirs with rme and there's a big difference in zzzzzz factor

Here's some stuff I've recorded.

audiokid Tue, 07/15/2014 - 09:49

Are you singing Hallelujah? Beautiful. And that's really all that matters. Your job is done.

Lets be clear, I am not trying to convince you or the next guy, I really don't care. However, because I am in the business of mixing other peoples work, I don't have a problem telling anyone they are never going to get great results with what they are using so don't blame me for that. ;)

Most people don't hear HD nor do they care enough to obsess over it. Lucky them. Its more a hobby to them and therefore, music is still magical.

There are others however that strive for excellence and are burdened with perfection. They study this craft but keep spinning their wheels until they reduce their mixes to thin. So, they look to the pros for advice.

You are telling us it doesn't matter. Are you talking to me or the affordable recording lurker?

So I say, for those looking for better are usually those who chip away at their mixes hoping to reduce a harshness that never seems to go away. Sound familiar? They are usually using budget gear that they think is far better than it really is.So, you say put that into mic and pre over conversion. But, you are clearly saying the conversion isn't really that important anymore.

As a mixer, I would describe myself as a mastering engineer going backwards. I have a system and method that is of mastering quality built around improving mixes. I dissect a mix, fix and mix it back to hopefully better.
I hear things and try and assess what it is that the recordist is doing so I can help improve or possibly replace the subject.
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to mix a song in 2 hours.
Things I deal with are:

  • What is creating that ugly sound?

  • Why isn't the bass tight?
  • Did they use pitch correction on the main Vox clearly not knowing the vox bleed on the drums is still out of tune.
  • Why are the cymbals swirly sounding?
  • Is that a wall I hear?
  • Should they move that mic back,
  • Should I ask them to redo that track?
  • Damn those converters suck.
  • Is it their mics, their DAW, their pre-amp(s) , the conversion is adding that horrible upper mid to the entire session. But, the VSTi sound great. To extreme, how do is blend VSTi with crappy conversion.
  • What, its accumulating in everything here. I hear a constant upper tone audible in everything that the converters touched.
  • Constant accumulating smear.
  • Is that a vocal rider again?
  • A de-esser, gawd, why are they using that crap.

The list goes on...

Interesting enough, I never hear a certain tone on vinyl or when I track in my studio through good converters and a high quality pre-amp onto Sequoia.
I did however, always hear it through a FF800.

You may not think so but I invested in better converters after learning more about mixing and mastering. I figure, there must be a reason mastering engineers pay extra attention to conversion and phase. I sold off my Pro Tools converters, sold FF800 and started over.

I'm a musician /mixer so I generally don't track. I Mix and fix and take on the occasional master. I would say most music I hear sounds compromised and digitized. Its accumulative aliasing distortion that builds up. Some converters seem to deal with it better than others. Plug-ins don't help.

You posted some songs, thanks for sharing these :)
Please Feel free to share what you know about each of these recordings and what you have for an answer to what I hear? Is the phase created from your mix or?

  • Libre. I hear this upper mid glass in the vocal and guitar Also, their is a proximity thing that isn't helping.
  • Never Smile is full of phase.
  • Gracias a La Vida , simplicity of this sounds fine enough.
  • Mascara de Esperanza sounds fine but its a bit small, could be a lot fuller (bigger mix).
  • Train of thought , again, this song has phase issues too. The keyboards sounds like a bad VSTi with poor stereo emulation. The cymbals are plagued with accumulative aliasing distortion, very phasy. Just a wild guess. This sounds like Sonar, what DAW are you using or are these mixes you added the drums too?

I'm not trying to pick on you. I'm simply taking advantage of problem based learning here for the benefit of mutual learning , discussion and advancement. Your drum mixes have undesirable phase to me. If this because of your preamps, mics, DAW or conversion?

Hope that helps.

Chris Perra Tue, 07/15/2014 - 13:21

You're right about all of those things. Those recordings are fairly old. Tran of Thought is 15 or 16 years old recorded with some pretty hack gear haha. I think the best pre I had then was a studio projects vtb1.

Hallelujah is where I'm at now gear wise, as well as most of the youtube videos. One thing that hasn't changed is the converters... Everything else has, mics, pre's, rooms, speakers,.skill level ect. Nothing to do with my converters.

Libre was 1 mic about 2 feet away 1 take guitar and vocal together. It was just a mic/pre test. I like how natural it sounded.
Never smile is a mess ha ha . But it's doom metal. they showed some examples of stuff they liked. Out of phase cymbals is all the rage haha.
Mascara de Esperanza for the client was never dry enough... He wanted to sound similar Alec Cuba.

Train of thought was the first thing I ever recorded cheap mics, pres, horrible small room to record drums I was doing a crazy extreme Oh left and right thing to try and get a full stereo spread. I got the stereo and the phaze . and some comb filtering ...haha

All of those tracks were recorded with the same converters.

Some tracks sound great, some not so much,... Can you guess what converters they are? Oh and do they have the Zzzz factor which was my first question?

All were recorded with Cubase. Different versions spanning back to Cubase SX1. Currently Cubase 7

audiokid Tue, 07/15/2014 - 16:14

It's apparent in Libre and in all your cymbals. It may be popular but it doesn't sell me as being smart. I'd rather do that phase with an effect. Your bass and center imaging is all over the map.

Zzzz Is an accumulative issue. The more tracks you add increases the zzz.
It's in most digital music and always present in poor conversion.

If you don't hear it, you are conditioned to it.


audiokid Tue, 07/15/2014 - 17:46

Research the best tracks mastering engineers consider stellar. That's how I learn.

Listen to older albums pre digital and listen to the cymbals. Since drums are your forte , that's what I would do. Your on your own with that.

The latest mix I did (no one from this forum btw) was enough to put a gun to my head. I looped a few bars of what I consider to be the worst zzz I've had to deal and gave it to the client to study.

He was convinced to upgrade.

Conversion and clocking is very important
If you are tracking one track at a time, overdubing and thinking your tracks are dead locked, but hear that swirly cymbal, that's a good indication you have an ussue

I hear it in most everything I get.

Most people are unaware how bad their conversion and clocking is until you give them an AB of their mix in comparison to their best. I'm not talking about the mix itself, either. I'm talking about the phase tightened up and size that is increased.

hearing a song you mixed , repaired, has far more impact.

Even though your tracking is already effected, I will detect the phase and take steps to reduce and replace problematic areas in your mix. The result will be tighter center and wider more open sounding mixes.

My studio is being dismantled so I can't offer but be certain, you need a good mic pre and clock/conversion. That's what keeps it all together.


Chris Perra Tue, 07/15/2014 - 18:17

The swirly cymbal soundd is due to mic placement.

Also some sound sound more swirly than others. Converting to mp3s causes odd things as well. A blanket statement that my converters are the culprit is not looking at all the factors.

You said that Libre has the issue as well it was 1 mic 1 take. With a room effect added. Pretty hard to put that out of phase.


These cymbals sound decent. Same converters .. you'll also notice that some cymbals sound more swirly Than others

Better converters help For sure...but that to me should be the last piece in the chain you should worry about.

so you don't have anything record previously to share with the absence of zzzz?