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MOTU conversion/audio quality vs. APOGEE & RME

I would like to know if anyone can tell me for sure if it's worth paying
the extra price difference between a MOTU and something like an Apogee Ensemble or a RME UFX?
This is mainly a question of sound quality difference

Comments

Paul999 Sat, 01/14/2012 - 16:43

At certain point I've found conversion to be far less important then a lot of engineers seem to dress it up to being. I've used M-audio, alesis low end and high end converters, m-audio, presonus, motu, echo, RME, apogee, API and more. The line that conversion doesn't matter to me is at the RME line. M-audio, presonus, alesis masterlink, echo, motu are all under that line. Alesis adat hd's are fine, RME, Apogee and the like are fantastic. I'm not saying that the analog part of a burl isn't all this and then some but my previous statement is were I draw the line. In the lower end I like presonus stuff and I could be fine with motu. The cheaper the conversion the better you need to be at tracking and the better front end you'll need to have. So overall the cheapest is RME and a good clean pre. I tend to not like clean pre's as much with presonus and motu converters so I end up using API or something else. On the other hand an audient 8 channel pre into an RME will get you a pretty solid chain. That will be 3k for 8 channel of pre's and conversion which is pretty unbeatable.

I am quite happy using my ensemble and RME converters.

RemyRAD Sat, 01/14/2012 - 20:46

I'm another one that really doesn't give much of a lick regarding converters. It's your microphone selection and the front end preamp that really gives you your sound, flavor & color. I'm fine with lowerend converters and higherend preamps. I utilize Edirol/Roland-UA1EX, M-Audio-Transit, ALESIS HD 24XR, MOTU 2408mkII and am perfectly happy with with those for conversion purposes.

Sloppy engineer
Mx. Remy Ann David

audiokid Sat, 01/14/2012 - 21:33

Totally disagree. Many of you are fooling yourselves if you believe this. This is as ridiculous as believing 1/4 tape sounds as good as 1 in. If you don't have excellent converters, you aren't doing anyone justice. Converters are top on my list and I hope they only improve.

I'll agree there are three basic groups. Low end is low end, mid level is mid level and high end is absolutely more true and more open than all the rest. Are we really trying to find out what something sounds like going through converters that are resticting and have a sound to them. Until you use high end, how can you even make this assumption? Better yet, until you use Lavry, you cannot know why I love Lavry converters.

Everything makes a difference and everything we record goes through our converters. The question is, there is a point where it becomes that last 2% and is it worth it to you. If I'm spending 50 grand and comps, pres, mic etc, absolutley. I want them to sound like they were designed to sound like. I want pristine space to mix in and I want a good start from the get go.

I definitely hear a difference. Low end converters are more metallic and less open. The bass is more flabby, the mids are more honky and the highend is more metallic and zzz. Its harder to mix and its hard to know if thats a mic or what.
If you put all the finest gear through a low end converter, do you really think you would be able to make a true assessment of any (mic, preamp, comp, eq)?
So much is being judged through modest converters. We buy them and spend way more trying to correct good after bad.

Nothing wrong with our choices from a financial perspective but the truth is, there is definitely a difference.

RemyRAD Sat, 01/14/2012 - 21:48

I guess I was speaking from the standpoint of having worked in analog tape? 30 IPS always sounded better than 15 IPS at 15 IPS was more financially practical and/or necessary due to reel size limitations. I actually loved Scotch 250 but had to use 226 on Scully's due to the depth of erasure issue. The quality of the sound still came through. But I guess I'm comparing apples to oranges? Maybe it's because I haven't eaten yet today? I mean this evening. This morning? Yesterday. My blood sugar must be low?

Hey! How about a nice Hawaiian Punch? SHURE!
Mx. Remy Ann David

audiokid Sat, 01/14/2012 - 21:55

Okay, this is as ridiculous as saying 15 IPS sounds as good as 30 IPS but I would also compare sample rate to IPS. Either way I look at it, converters are an extremely important part of sound, especially pristine sound and especially when we are discussing and trusting opinions on flavours and transparency of gear.

Not pointing fingers here, just making a general statement that I couldn't have known this until I had access to the gear I'm using now. Its why I'm so apposed to buying into Pro Tools Hardware. It has a sound. I don't want a sound, I want an open transparency.

Paul999 Sat, 01/14/2012 - 23:23

audiokid, post: 382782 wrote:
Not pointing fingers here, just making a general statement that I couldn't have known this until I had access to the gear I'm using now. Its why I'm so apposed to buying into Pro Tools Hardware. It has a sound. I don't want a sound, I want an open transparency.

If I was going after transparency I would have the same/similar view that you have. For me music has never been about "hi-fi" or being true. It is about grit and everything being an instrument. If I can't hear my eq's color or pre amp's color I am not happy. With converters I am mostly looking for something that won't get in the way.

audiokid Sat, 01/14/2012 - 23:33

We're confusing transparency with clinical, boring and dynamic headroom.

I guarantee an API 550b will sound better in a mix that went through Lavry converters or comparably equivalent than it will through a mid level brand, hands down. I guarantee if we were to do the exact mix and only switching converters, the mix that used higher end, "transparent" converters would sound more open with better lows, mids and highs and have a more forward sound ( grit, or classical) . That's what I'm talking about.

Paul999 Sat, 01/14/2012 - 23:55

I'm not totally sure I am missing the point although I get accused of being "thick":-)

Burl converters are currently considered creme de la creme as far as converters go BECAUSE of the color they impart. Apogees have long been selected because of the "rock and roll" sound they give. When I compared my API converters to RME, Apogee, and ADAT HD I couldn't pick it out in a blind test. The API's are supposedly ruler flat. Have you done blind tests? I am convinced that the art of self deception can be at play with this.

I am not saying there is zero difference but at the point in time that I get a hernia while squinting to hear the difference I am bored. In fact if I need to flip back and forth more then 2 times without obviously liking something I am bored.

With sample rate I much prefer 48k for rock type stuff. For classical/acoustic stuff I prefer 96k.

audiokid Sun, 01/15/2012 - 00:52

I've not had the privilege to use Burl but I've read pro's and cons on them including apogee, Lavry, Lynx, RME etc. Burls don't sound like my path but I've chosen the analog summing path. I'm sure they are stellar and I would still love to have Burl. Maybe I would love them for helping warm up cold sounding pro tools tracks. Great for mastering ITB music. Don't know.

My point is, there is a definite difference between converters and how they effect sound. I don't have to try them all to know this. I just had to try one good one to know this.

44., 48, 88 or 96 all sounds great to me. This is where I'm starting to wonder. But then again, I'm using pretty sweet converters, balanced power, silver cable, very short cable and very high quality, high headroom summing amp to connect everything so maybe I hear the path better because of this, what do you think?

Its all very subjective.

Paul999 Sun, 01/15/2012 - 06:57

What are you using for monitors out of curiosity? I am using pretty low end monitors. I am using KRK and Yamaha Hs-50's. I use ARC and love that I get laughed at for it. I've tried focal, genelec, dynaudio, adam etc. I have determined that I hate "studio monitors" and am using an old hi-fi stereo system to monitor most of the time now. Let the laughing commence! I've never found monitors that showed me all these differences between converters, cable, power etc. I secretly have the belief that there maybe some near field studio monitors out there that are amazing but I haven't heard them. ( starting to look at mid fields) I'd love to drop 10k and solve the monitor issue but this is a problem money hasn't solved for me although I am coming to peace with it more and more lately.

I totally respect your philosophy and never like to deter anyone who is on a right path(which it looks like you are). It is pretty safe to say that there are a thousand right ways to do this insane thing we call recording. If I was looking at this from an outside observer standpoint I would think you are doing the smart thing, investing in the basic's before going over the top with fun toys like eq's and pre's etc. I am not sure if this is what you've done but from what I've come to know of you that is what it looks like. I rarely get accused of doing the smart thing:-) so I've done totally the opposite and screwed up a million things along the way feeling like recording is the hardest fought battle I've ever encountered. I've never been able to pick out expensive cables, balanced power or super high end compared to midrange converters with any sense of accuracy. I can easily hear the difference between an API pre and an RNP(never that impressed with it) or hi quality summing. Although I don't think that summing is the reason summing sounds better I think it is the impact of the hardware from the tests I've done.

The bottom line is I've come from the standpoint of investing in gear with what I believe has the greatest sonic imprint first moving on to minutia last. Is this the best way? If it is the way I've done it I doubt it;-)

Now time for the fun Remy sign off.

You say tomato I say tom-ah-toe. The smart kids say "bite me" and make great music.
Paul

RemyRAD Sun, 01/15/2012 - 09:56

I think everybody is making good points here. Most of this is so subjective. For folks who don't have the background or experience level of others and they are not getting the mix sound they envision, the first culprit to blame for this is their equipment. And that's understandable. But you don't become Itzhak Perlman overnight without plenty of practice. You can however become Johnny Rotten, overnight. Everybody expects drive through. So the easiest way to get what you want is to go to a different hamburger place. When you're sick of McDonald's you know you can Have It Your Away at Booger King. Especially if you don't want those square cornered hamburgers from the place with the freckle faced & pigtail hairdo at Wendy's. Regardless of which one you choose, it's still a highly chopped up cow & not prime rib. Though people think that one chopped up cow is better than the other chopped up cow. To quote one of my heroes " Succotash ". So while we're talking about boxers & jockeys, I can safely say I'm not wearing any underwear. And many of us know you can go anywhere in your Maidenform bra. But since some of us don't need that kind of technical support, it's a boob point I mean moot point.

Most people can tell when I'm cold with a shirt on.
Mx. Remy Ann David

thatjeffguy Sun, 01/15/2012 - 11:16

I'm not exactly sure what the BURL advantage is, and chose not to take the time to read through the very wordy paragraphs on their website. But I do know that AD/DA conversion is the process of converting voltage to numbers and then back again. It seems measuring a given voltage and giving it a number would be the straight forward part of the challenge. The hard part would seem to be converting those numbers back into the sound waves they represent. This gets into the Nyquist theory (every engineer needs to be at least aware of the fact that Nyquist shows that any complete cycle of a sine wave can be exactly reproduced given only two datapoints anywhere along the wave) (hence the "Nyquist" frequency = 1/2 the sample rate). So it would seem to me that the biggest difference in converters would be the algorithm used to convert all those numbers back into sound.
But I'm no Electrical Engineer, so I could be missing something (maybe missing a lot!). I've always used RME products and found no problems, but in fact most of the conversion in my studio is handled by the converters in my Tascam DM-24 mixer.
I would love a chance to A/B different converters, or to read the results of anyone doing the same.
Interesting discussion, thanks Chris. I will read the BURL website eventually, just don't have time right now!

Jeff

audiokid Sun, 01/15/2012 - 12:21

I've done some comparisons. I own RME ADI-8 QS (RME's top converters) love them and highly recommend them. I think RME is the best in its class but that's just a guess from years of reading forums. FF800 are a real workhorse and I hated to sell mine. Plug and play, how can you go wrong.

Comparing FF800 to the ADI-8 QS's, there was enough difference to sell them and buy two ADI-8 QS's. Comparing ADI-8 QS to Lavry, Lavry wins. The difference between RME's top converters and Lavry are subtle but enough to know I don't want FF800 in my chain "no more" and can live with the QS's no problemo. They do ROCK and to get better 16 ADDA's than these, I would have spent close to 20 grand. So, I have the Lavry Blacks 2 channel package for classical and my future modest mastering rig. The Blacks are very cool.

The better the converter the more girth, width, richer silkier highs, bigger and more defined lows and a mid range that sounds less honky. Just plain better.

After years of studying the word transparency, Lavry falls under my understanding of what I'm looking for in the converter world. Transparent micpre's on the other hand, has a completely different meaning to me. When someone says they don't like the sound of an industry leader pre because it is too transparent in a metallic way, I expect to find a less than high end converter in their chain at least. The better the converters, the less irritating everything becomes and the easier it is to hear the copper and tubes vibing and so on (like an intune powerchord with heavy distortion) what a feeling when it all hits you in the gut !

Paul, your profile of me was a real compliment, Thanks! I admit I'm not the most experienced engineer but I do think I have a keen set of ears and say things they way I hear it.

What monitors do I use?
I can hear this difference using headphones or monitors. I'm using Neumann K&H 120 and Dynaudio BM6A through a Dangerous Monitor ST. My room is treated with RealTraps and ProSoundFoam. But thats not the main reason I can hear this. Aside from my strong conviction about investing in top end converters, I also have this same conviction with a monitor control system. Once you use a high end controller like the SPL MTC 2381 or the Dangerous Monitor ST, Wow! I cannot stress enough how important this is too.

After owning a crap Pro Tools 24 Mix system, I realized it starts and ends with converters.

ChrisH Sun, 01/15/2012 - 13:09

audiokid, post: 382812 wrote: I own RME ADI-8 QS (RME's top converters) love them and highly recommend them.

Thank you audiokid, you've been very helpfull.
I'll be going with an RME UFX which has the same converters as the ADI-8 QS, which will be a nice step up from my Presonus Firepod converters.

audiokid Sun, 01/15/2012 - 13:18

ChrisH, post: 382815 wrote: Thank you audiokid, you've been very helpfull.
I'll be going with an RME UFX which has the same converters as the ADI-8 QS, which will be a nice step up from my Presonus Firepod converters.

Definitely a step up, and your welcome, its been a pleasure.

Correction though, The converters are similar, though not identical.

RME User Forum / UFX vs ADI-8 QS

Cheers!

BobRogers Sun, 01/15/2012 - 16:00

Well, if you've looked at past posts you've seen that I got an RME UFX this year and I like it a lot. I think you'll be pleased. During my transition I had a number of songs where some tracks were recorded on a Digi 002R and some with the UFX, but using the same mic/preamp combination. Unfortunately none of them used the same vocalist. Still I could discern a clear pattern of differences that have to be due primarily to the converters. However, while the difference is there it is not nearly as big as the difference between different preamps or the even larger differences between different mics. (And this is between converters widely criticised and converters that are widely praised.) Because of this, I think that if you are planning to use the preamps in an interface that should be a much bigger consideration than the converters. Fortunately, the preamps in the UFX are excellent. I've never played with the Apogee or the Motu, but the UFX pres are really high quality.

sdelsolray Sun, 01/15/2012 - 17:10

I've used many different converters. A smaller group are converters that I have actually owned and used extensively. They are:

Digi001
Digi003
RME ADI Pro
Lucid AD2496 and DA2496
Lucid 88192
Lavry Blue

I only record solo finger style acoustic and classical guitar, recording and mixing only 2 to 4 channels, so perhaps the converters are not as critical in my application. In any event, I do not hear much of a difference with different converters. Indeed, with ABX and null tests I did, there usually wasn't much of a difference at all.

For example, when choosing between the Lavry Blue and Lucid 88192, I thought I could hear a difference, but I'm never sure about such things, particularly when they sound virtually the same to begin with. Confirmation bias can easily come into play. The ABX and null testing I did confirmed that the difference was minuscule, sometimes not there at all. More importantly, as far as my listening went, one did not sound better than the other, just two (very slightly) different flavors of very nice. I sold the Lavrys and kept the Lucid. I am happy camper with the Lucid 88192. They function very well indeed, are built like a tank and are very reasonably priced.

audiokid Sun, 01/15/2012 - 18:19

sdelsolray, thanks for chiming in.

Fun topic.

How can a null test tell you they all sound close though? I don't get that at all.
I do believe you all don't hear enough of a difference, but not being able to pick the Lavry Blue's out of those is astonishing. Its so apparent to me.

I had to research the Lucid vs Lavry and found only one reference:(Dead Link Removed)

I'm obviously shooting for that extra slice of the pie. I definitely agree quality mics and pre's show the most noticeable difference up front but cannot deny the subtle differences I hear are bigger than meets the eye.

Curious,

Do external clocks make an even greater improvement?

audiokid Sun, 01/15/2012 - 22:53

There sure is a lot of people who think different. But I'm wondering if this is the leftover Pro Tools 24 generation residue. If it made a difference, I would take the leap but I tend to agree.
RME has Steady Clock and if I recall, if I added a third ADI-8 QS I would need an external clock.

Why do these guys on GS claim its helped the Lucid so much? All BS, dilution, placebo what you think? We live in such a confusing industry don't we.

Paul999 Sun, 01/15/2012 - 23:34

I don't know exactly why people on GS hear the difference between clocks. How man times have you grabbed the wrong channel eq and started making changes thinking you were hearing it improve. I did this 3 times in one mix last week.LOL

Here is a little story about my own self deception(I hope I'm not repeating myself). I bought 2 more 550b's last week thinking I would put them on 2-bus to sweeten a mix. They arrived and I put them on my 2-bus. Now my 2-bus has been a manley variable mu followed by a waves maxxbcl limiter. When I mix I hit the limiter with about 2-2.5db of GR. If I am sending it to an ME I back off when I am finished. If I am self mastering I back off until I am barely touching the limiter. If I am doing a demo I leave it alone and call it a day. I decided to try the eq before and after the manley. I started with before. Next I applied some eq. Pretty subtle stuff but making an impact. 2 db shelf @10k, 2 db boost at 75 hz etc. Man the heavens were opening up. Big time! As an after thought and boost to my ego I printed and normalized the mix to compared it to the one with no 2-bus eq. Expecting to be blown away I hit play. They sounded the same! I mean the sounded so much the same that I thought I listened to the same file twice and went back to make sure I was printing things properly. To double check that everything was set up correctly I exaggerated the eq settings to stupid levels. This time I could hear the difference but far less then i expected. I am fairly certain that the 2-bus compression was interacting with the eq and essentially nullifying the effect. I can't tell you how shocked I was by this especially because of how much I thought I was opening up this mix.

Now as a mastering channel my tonelux/550b combo is unbelievable. And now I can use the 550b's on tracks while mixing. The way it worked out is a pretty win win situation. Anyway this was a huge eye opener about self deception for me.

audiokid Sun, 01/15/2012 - 23:49

Hey Paul,

I often think its me who needs to change, not the gear. We get a sound in our heads and all the gear in the world doesn't change how it ends up everytime. Scary.
I would love to travel around and sit in on mixes. Oh, how I would love this.
I'm excited to watch the in depth puremix videos coming. I'll be posting a link to them.

BobRogers Mon, 01/16/2012 - 07:45

audiokid, post: 382832 wrote: How can a null test tell you they all sound close though? I don't get that at all...

Well a null test (at least in my definition) produces the difference between two conversions of the same signal. (Right? You split an analog signal, convert it with two different converters, and then subtract the digital signals.) If that difference signal is small then the two converted signals are "close," but I guess you are saying that they might not "sound close" as in the measurement devices in out heads is doing something fancier than taking an RMS norm.

BobRogers Mon, 01/16/2012 - 07:54

audiokid, post: 382838 wrote: .... BS, dilution, placebo what you think? We live in such a confusing industry don't we...

When investigating a phenomenon that is difficult to demonstrate scientifically, always remember that [[url=http://[/URL]="http://en.wikipedia…"]confirmation bias[/]="http://en.wikipedia…"]confirmation bias[/] is very easy to demonstrate.

BobRogers Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:49

Paul999, post: 382839 wrote: ... How man times have you grabbed the wrong channel eq and started making changes thinking you were hearing it improve...

I've done this many times running live sound. Embarrassing! But confirmation bias keeps biting me in the butt. If I think I'm turning put the highs on the piano it will seem a bit brighter...until I realize I've got my fingers on the acoustic guitar channel.

audiokid Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:03

audiokid, post: 382840 wrote: Hey Paul,

I've done that a lot, you aren't alone. I often think its me who needs to change, not the gear. We get a sound in our heads and all the gear in the world doesn't change how it ends up everytime. Scary.
I would love to travel around and sit in on mixes. Oh, how I would love this.
I'm excited to watch the in depth puremix videos coming. I'll be posting a link to them.

"re: I've done that a lot, you aren't alone."

What I meant was: I've often thought my mix was going to to sound completely different using something new or changing some method and its ended up sounding so close. Does this happen to you? Its a slow process to re-curve listening habits for me.

audiokid Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:17

BobRogers, post: 382856 wrote: I've done this many times running live sound. Embarrassing! But confirmation bias keeps biting me in the butt. If I think I'm turning put the highs on the piano it will seem a bit brighter...until I realize I've got my fingers on the acoustic guitar channel.

Live sound indeed! There are so many distraction its hard not doing this sometimes. Especially when you go from extreme room and crowd changes running the console, monitors and PA. "READY SET GO! and the pressure is on. Damn I miss those days.

Paul999 Mon, 01/16/2012 - 15:49

audiokid, post: 382859 wrote: "re: I've done that a lot, you aren't alone."

What I meant was: I've often thought my mix was going to to sound completely different using something new or changing some method and its ended up sounding so close. Does this happen to you? Its a slow process to re-curve listening habits for me.

Big time. I go back and listen to old mixes thinking I must be 1000x better now and lo and behold there is improvement but not nearly what I thought. I REALLY revamped my studio this year going from "busting at the seams" with gear to "recording in a third world country". I basically sold everything that didn't blow me away and now I have the studio that fits me perfectly. This started in October and ended last week. I had about a month were other then my 2-bus(which is sacred, until I find something better:-) I only had one outboard compressor and I was used to having 8 channels of compression. I sold all but 2 API pre's and was relying on my console pre's. During this time I've tracked and mixed about 100 songs. As there is quite a time lag of tracking to mixing in most projects I had the experience of mixing through my console using mostly ITB plugs on tracks that were recorded with ultra high end classic gear like KM84's, distressors, shadow hills stuff etc. I also mixed tracks that were recorded on next to nothing gear wise(like sm57's on overheads instead of KM84's) and mixed mostly with ITB processing but still used my console for eq. Third I also am currently mixing stuff recorded on next to nothing gear wise but I have boat loads of gear again.

This was an awesome personal experiment. In all three of these instances I can't which is which because I am a bigger influence then the gear. I hate it when people say the gear doesn't matter because it does but when you've worked on the best it is easier to pull out great sounds out of nothing. I'm not saying I'm an amazing engineer. I am solid (one of these days I'll post something). I was astonished that there wasn't a major drop in quality. When I realized there wasn't I pulled out a new philosophy. When I would notice that I would consistently take too much time on something I would by a piece of gear to get me where I need to go quicker. I'd always get there but in this business you need to be quick as well. For example I noticed I was spending as much as 20-30 minutes on room mic's to get my snare were I wanted it. I found a piece of gear that gets me there in usually 2-7min now(docderr module). Now I am pulling out complex mixes like the ones I am doing for a big band with drums, horns, keys, 2 guitars, slide guitar and loads of back-ups in about 6 hours top to bottom. A standard rock mix is about 3-4 and a half hours. With the studio as busy as it is I need to mix a song everyday 7 days a week just to keep up. Of course some days I'll mix 2 or 3.

Sorry for the long drawn out answer.
Paul

sdelsolray Tue, 01/17/2012 - 19:04

sdelsolray, post: 382828 wrote: I've used many different converters. A smaller group are converters that I have actually owned and used extensively. They are:

Digi001
Digi003
RME ADI Pro
Lucid AD2496 and DA2496
Lucid 88192
Lavry Blue

I only record solo finger style acoustic and classical guitar, recording and mixing only 2 to 4 channels, so perhaps the converters are not as critical in my application. In any event, I do not hear much of a difference with different converters. Indeed, with ABX and null tests I did, there usually wasn't much of a difference at all.

For example, when choosing between the Lavry Blue and Lucid 88192, I thought I could hear a difference, but I'm never sure about such things, particularly when they sound virtually the same to begin with. Confirmation bias can easily come into play. The ABX and null testing I did confirmed that the difference was minuscule, sometimes not there at all. More importantly, as far as my listening went, one did not sound better than the other, just two (very slightly) different flavors of very nice. I sold the Lavrys and kept the Lucid. I am happy camper with the Lucid 88192. They function very well indeed, are built like a tank and are very reasonably priced.

[quote=audiokid, post: 382832]sdelsolray, thanks for chiming in.

Fun topic.

How can a null test tell you they all sound close though? I don't get that at all.
I do believe you all don't hear enough of a difference, but not being able to pick the Lavry Blue's out of those is astonishing. Its so apparent to me.

I had to research the Lucid vs Lavry and found only one reference:(Dead Link Removed)

I'm obviously shooting for that extra slice of the pie. I definitely agree quality mics and pre's show the most noticeable difference up front but cannot deny the subtle differences I hear are bigger than meets the eye.

Curious,

Do external clocks make an even greater improvement?

I'll explain what I did. I used one Gefell M295 mic into a Pendulum MDP-1a preamp. That preamp has two identical balanced outputs per channel. I ran one output to the Lavry Blue AD and the other to the Lucid 88192 AD. On each track I recorded a test tone first to eventually set levels. I also nudged one of the tracks to compensate for the slightly different latency between the Lavry and Lucid. Each converter ran AES/EBU to a SPDIF transformer coupled converter cable to SPDIF on my Digi003 dongle. I reversed the polarity of one track and listened to them together. They did not completely null, but what was left was only some high frequencies about -60dB down from nominal RMS level of the two tracks without reversing the polarity of one track (slightly above the noise floor). In other words, nearly inaudible when compared to listening to both tracks without a polarity reversal on one of them. I ABX'd the pair and I failed miserably (4-6 out of 10 correct on average).

To analyze clocking issues, I repeated the test procedure using various clocks - the Lucid as master via word clock, the Lavry as master via word clock and the Digi003 as master via SPDIF. Although the performance/takes were different for each of these tests, the resulting null tests were basically the same as far as I could tell. Each did not null perfectly but nonetheless only a bit of high frequency info was present down about -60dB from nominal.

I also repeated the listening portion of these tests using 4 different DA converters I had at that time - Digi003, Lavry Blue, Lucid AD9624 and Lucid 88192, multiplied by different clocking variations. Although I thought I could hear distinctions, the ABX testing put me in my place and demonstrated I could not tell a difference.

I listened through active Quested monitors and AKG 240DF headphones.

Dunno about the external vs. internal clock issue. Dan Lavry makes a strong (albeit quite technical) argument that decent external clocks are never better than decent internal clocks but at best are equal.

Although somewhat anecdotal, I conclude that for my uses, and to my ears, conversion is not much of an issue when dealing with modern converters. Much more important are player, instrument, engineer, room, mic, and preamp, in that order (more or less).

audiokid Tue, 01/31/2012 - 14:47

Null testing

Brad from Lavry was kind enough to allow me to post this .

Regarding "Null testing"-

Basically; null tests are useful to determine if two files are identical. If they are different; you hear only the difference.

For those unfamiliar with the term; this test is to determine whether or not two digital recordings (files) are identical. In order to make a meaningful comparison, any potential difference must be addressed so that when the two files are added (mixed) "out-of-phase" they cancel each other, and the difference is silence. This requires the files to contain exactly the same audio content, for the files to be sample-accurate with each other, and for the level to match very exactly.

Typically, the files are placed on two separate tracks and one of the two tracks is moved in the timeline to align the waveforms to a sample-accurate position. The polarity of one track is inverted so the audio content of the two tracks are "out-of-phase" with each other. If there is any difference in the level, the digital level control can be used to minimize this; but unless the difference is zero or exactly equal to the step-size of the digital level control; there will be a small level difference. This would cause two files that are identical in every other way to not cancel out completely.

The usefulness of a null test is extremely limited in determining the difference from the "ideal" as, for example; if either file is "brighter" than the other (has more treble), the difference will be very bright. It is not possible to determine which of the two is brighter by simply listening to the difference; or whether one has more low treble and the other has more high treble and the audible effect is a combination of the two. This applies to ALL differences, including distortion. If one file had only even-order harmonic distortion and the other contained only odd-order harmonic distortion, the null test result would contain both even and odd order harmonic distortion and there would be no way to determine which file contained what distortion simply by listening to the null test result.

So, like many tests; the null test tells you exactly one thing and the results need to be interpreted accordingly. The main reason I used a null test in the past was to determine whether the CD plant had done processing to the Mastered file I sent before manufacturing the CD. In this case; the only important thing was whether or not there was ANY difference. If there was; I knew that something had changed and would contact the plant to arrange to have it re-done. In this case; it did not matter what the difference was (or how it sounded).

The only other application was to determine if the files remained in time with each other. This can be useful if there is a chance that either an edit or a digital "glitch" caused some of the original file to be missing from the copy. In this case; even if there was an audible difference caused by something like AD and DA conversion, it would remain constant unless there was an edit or missing samples. At the point where the change occurred; the "difference" output would suddenly increase in volume because the two waveforms were no longer close enough in content for phase cancellation to "null" most of the signal.

Brad Johnson
Lavry Engineering, Inc.

This topic has been posted as a Sticky:
http://recording.org/pro-audio-gear/51987-null-testing.html

rocksure Tue, 02/07/2012 - 03:05

I don't consider myself a converter expert by any means. However, I have used Motu, M-Audio, RME, Mackie Onyx, Lynx Aurora and others. You should be able to get really good results with any of them. I have gotten recordings and mixes with all of them that I am happy with. In my experience while there are differences, but they are certainly not "night and day" differences. An old Midiman Flying Cow 2 channel converter I think sounds better than their M-Audio Delta converters or a Mackie Onyx every time. RME sounds better than MOTU....but I would say the Lynx sounds best of all these that I have mentioned. Worth the money? I would say yes, but I would personally put mics, preamps, monitors higher on my priority list than converter differences.

Tom Fodor Fri, 02/10/2012 - 20:03

I recently swapped out Motu interfaces for Echo Audiofire 12's and the difference was more than noticeable. The imaging and clarity improvement was staggering, noise was reduced and clocking has also improved. Sorry but it is just so obvious to your ears it's not funny, unless of course you have suffered substantial hearing damage, in which case you should not be behind the console anyway. Motu Gear is not terrible sounding overall but it is certainly not in the same league as Echo, Apogee or Lynx stuff. RME is not too bad either.

RemyRAD Sun, 02/12/2012 - 02:18

Some of those differences you are hearing could be due to differences in impedance matching & gain staging. And that would create an audible difference in what one might think is just the converters. You are dealing with differently designed analog input and output electronics. So it isn't really fair in saying one is actually better than another. Most of the signature sound you get comes from your technique of recording & mixing. I feel that way and so does rocksure. A good recording transcends any converter. Tonal quality may be different between units but only you can decide what kind of sound works out best for your technique. Every situation is different and everything offers different tonal coloration. Best is a relative and subjective term. For instance, what do you consider better or best, API vs. Neve, Neve vs. API? They're both fabulous. They both sound incredible. They both have similar advantages. They both sound different. They both sound different also merrily through different gain staging techniques in how you are running them. In my book, both are considered best for my purposes. I have no need, and no desire nor intentions to try anything differently than that. If I wanted a different sound than what my ALESIS HD 24 XR gives me, I might opt for the MOTU 2408? And that's also provided I may utilize a combination of both sets of different converters and analog input/output. I could do identical mixes both ways and choose which one I think sounds " better ". And there is nothing keeping you from doing that. In fact I recommend it. How else are you going to go for your ultimate sound unless you experiment a little?

Variety is the spice of sound
Mx. Remy Ann David

ChrisH Mon, 02/20/2012 - 13:00

Seems the majority of people tend to believe that there is a different levels of conversion quality, but then some believe that the human ear cannot detect it if there even is one.
The guys over at sound on sound said that unless you have really really great state of the art monitor speakers and a great room that you wouldn't hear a difference
between a Motu converter and a Lynx or such.
I really would like to be able to save the $1000+ by going with an Motu828 instead of RME UFX but only if I'm completely confident that the Motu would sound just as good as the RME.

audiokid Mon, 02/20/2012 - 13:42

rocksure, post: 384062 wrote: I don't consider myself a converter expert by any means. However, I have used Motu, M-Audio, RME, Mackie Onyx, Lynx Aurora and others. You should be able to get really good results with any of them. I have gotten recordings and mixes with all of them that I am happy with. In my experience while there are differences, but they are certainly not "night and day" differences. An old Midiman Flying Cow 2 channel converter I think sounds better than their M-Audio Delta converters or a Mackie Onyx every time. RME sounds better than MOTU....but I would say the Lynx sounds best of all these that I have mentioned. Worth the money? I would say yes, but I would personally put mics, preamps, monitors higher on my priority list than converter differences.

Lynx Aurora is the best deal for a simple 1 rack 8 or 16 channel ADDA but its not for the higher end requirements when it comes to hybrid. I don't have first hand on a Lynx A/B vs RME but I'm told that the ADI-8 QS sound is more open and natural and why I bought those over the Aurora's. After I used them I was even happier because they had options that I would have missed and would have had to of traded in to get what the RME ADI-8 QS have. RME makes a lot of converters that cost in the hundreds to thousands.
There are many reasons to buy or not buy something and you also have to look to see who is using what, for what, and how they base their opinions on something.

Most people don't need all the DA's so you may want to look at what you are paying for in a converter too. Most people need 2, 8 or 16 etc AD and no DA. High end DA's and how they gain stage with analog gear is very important. Simple AD is not so important and why the Aurora is a good mid level AD at that price point. They are popular because of that more than being stellar IMHO. They are simple and work.
I also choose to have less converters in one rack space box with a better PSU which is another topic. Also, if one chokes I still have another as a backup. Whether any of this makes a difference to your soundscape or workflow things like this are where you start to decide whats worth spending money on or not. Always look to see what people are doing when they mention something. I'm a firm believer you get what you pay for but you might not need everything you pay for. In my case, glad I spend the extra on something that had the bells and whistles I needed. I would never know that I needed until I started doing hybrid more seriously.

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