Audio Interface Help

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by TheBones, Feb 4, 2012.

  1. TheBones

    TheBones Active Member

    Feb 4, 2012
    First time post on i've been on a few other forums and i'm trying to get some feedback on some of these new 4 mic pre interfaces. Four mic pres is what i'm looking for. I really don't wanna spend more than 500 bucks but im looking for something with 4 clean sounding pres, phantom power, usb or firewire that will work flawlessly with Logic Pro. I've been looking alot at the Fast track c600 it looks like exactly what i'm looking for but i can find zero reviews of the product from any users. another new one is the AKAI EIE pro looks too good to be true. MOTU has a new interface called the 4pre. and i know there are a million other ones out there. i've been shopping for months i've gotten a few things and returned them just because i wasn't happy or they were defective to begin with. i just really don't wanna spend 400-500 dollars again and get burned because i bought something with "bundled software" which i won't use at all anyway. i could really use some advice. I don't need anything with more than 4 mic pres i only have 4 good microphones and i've sunk enough money into my home recording studio in the last 6 months. i just need to take the next baby step in interfaces. thanks for your time!
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    Most budget oriented interfaces have microphone preamps that are all fairly similar and low in cost. Some, like the Pre-Sonus units feature transformer less class A microphone preamps which sound quite good and quite smooth. Whereas something like a Mackie may sound a little more aggressive due to its inherent edginess along with its greater distortion artifacts. Many deem those to be more desirable sounding than the smoother sounding ones of the Pre-Sonus class A designed budget oriented microphone preamps. It's only after you start spending $500 per microphone preamp that you will begin to hear a definite sonic advantage/improvement. Any preamp, when the gain is staged correctly & appropriately can yield professional results albeit, perhaps with less available head room & an increase of noise (hiss). Distortion is only created when one doesn't understand the limitations of the actual design. Not to mention that the more desirable and higher priced units are all transformer coupled at the input and transformer coupled at the output.

    You may also be getting confused between the difference of a computer audio digital interface and a plain raw microphone preamp that has no analog to digital converter. Both are available separately and/or combined in a single unit. It might be interesting to note that something like a Pre-Sonus Fire Studio, FireWire digital audio interface can accept XLR microphone inputs and/or 1/4 inch low to mid level line level inputs through the 1/4 inch XLR combo inputs. So with that device and others like it, one could use the decent sounding built-in onboard microphone preamps. Or, one could purchase a couple of API/Neve/other boutique microphone preamps to feed into the Pre-Sonus XLR combo 1/4 inch line level inputs. This would give you that higher-quality tonality of sound from any premium microphone preamp vs. a budget microphone preamp. Especially since when doing it that way, you are actually bypassing the first stage microphone preamp in the Pre-Sonus and are running into any reasonable generic line level input. So one can actually glean a higher-quality level with a Pre-Sonus Fire Studio and a single additional outboard premium microphone preamp to also be utilized with it.

    Bottom line is to find a unit with features that you want, of a reasonable quality, within your budget. You can then also step up with the boutique microphone preamp without having to replace your entire computer digital audio interface device, provided that the device has decent quality analog to digital converters to begin with. Most of this conversion is done from a single IC chip. Different IC chips from different manufacturers do in fact yield different quality levels of sound. But again, a simple IC chip is a budget oriented converter, some better than others depending upon what manufacture created its IC chip analog to digital/digital to analog converter chip. Premium quality higher priced converters don't necessarily use a cheap budget oriented IC chip. And so they cost considerably more and many do not actually possess any microphone preamp. They are designed to be fed from high-end preamps where it wouldn't be uncommon to drop $5000 for 4 quality microphone preamps and a high-end quality computer interface converter such as a Lavery. And some of us here have done just that where others have simply spent $500 on a Pre-Sonus Fire Studio and still obtain quality results. For instance, in my control room, my primary Digital audio computer interface is a MOTU 2408. The 2408 has no XLR microphone preamps but only 1/4 inch line level inputs. It's designed to be fed from a reasonably high quality microphone preamp or console and is only usable with a desktop computer providing open PCI slots for specialized expansion hardware. So this is a two-piece device. An external interface box feeding an internal PCI card. The PCI card has no audio circuitry on it whatsoever. All of the audio circuitry & converters reside within the external breakout box. The PCI card within the desktop machine is merely a very sophisticated routing device with a huge custom-designed VLSI chip handling all internal routing. External USB & FireWire devices feature software routing which is also reliant upon the computer's capability. So if you are strictly a laptop user without a desktop machine, your only choices are USB 1.1/2.0/3.0 and/or FireWire 400/800, Thunderbolt that does not require an internal computer card. MOTU, Avid & others are now introducing the next generation in high quality external audio interfaces. And they are not cheap. They cost between 1000-$4000 each and are intended for the most serious recordists and then demand the highest quality they can afford. When you're into that kind of quality level, you generally don't care what comes bundled with it even though it might be truly decent software. You use that in combination with your preferred software you may have spent $600-$2000 on. And hey, you might actually like what some of the bundled software provides for. No piece of software generally fills the bill for everything you want to do. Though there are some folks that never travel outside of ProTools or others. I typically retain multiple manufacturers multitrack software packages to accommodate what a clients needs may be. So I've spent thousands of dollars on software alone. Just like I've spent thousands of dollars ($2500) for a single 4 input API 3124m that will pair up very nicely with my 2 API 3124's and/or Neve 36 input console. Otherwise for inconsequential sometime use, I also have a $450 Avid/Digi M-Box 2, with their included (IMHO quite lousy) " proprietary " designed pair of XLR microphone inputs which for the most part, I loathe. That doesn't mean they're not usable it just means I don't like them, at all. But they are still 100% adequate. They just aren't up to my personal standards. Even their line level inputs seem to have issues when being fed from true quality equipment. So it sits around and collects dust most of the time until I need to do a ProTools mix or session. This too will go bye-bye when I eventually update to ProTools 10 which can be used with anyone's hardware and is not restricted to only Avid equipment. Though it's still a handy extra portable outboard piece that still comes in handy from time to time. Even though I loathe it. The one thing most entry-level people have is the difficulty understanding what they are hearing and why. Most of this comes down to simple operator error where it becomes easier for you to blame equipment for your lack of stellar recordings because you have not yet discovered a professional technique to your engineering capabilities. So people keep aimlessly swapping out the equipment before they ever learn how to create terrific recordings and mixes from their equipment, from any equipment. This is why people keep indicating why they need top level equipment. For some people, they have transcended their technique in recording beyond the capabilities of their current equipment. It's only then that one should start looking towards finer quality equipment which has a much higher price tag. Everything else around the same price is nothing more than lateral steps to and fro. Sometimes one has to select equipment with features that they require. Other times one has to select equipment based upon its sonic integrity. I've actually purchased low-end equipment for some portable use that met my feature set requirements rather than demanding improved audio requirements. You need the right tool for the right job i.e. one doesn't need a $100 hammer where a $10 hammer may fill the bill for a small build project. Whereas if you were building a house, you might require that $100 hammer? Then maybe because that $10 hammer broke within your first week of construction. So when you need a tank to go do battle, you don't drive onto the battlefield in a VW bug. So when I go out to make an on location recording, I demand a 36 input 1974 Neve console with an additional 16 API microphone preamps. Otherwise, on occasion, I'll use the VW bug and its associated lower and equipment that will fit in, with the features that I still need, to get the job done. I don't worry if I just have a couple of hand grenades as opposed to a 100 mm shell & cannon. That doesn't mean I'll come out with an inferior product. It does however require greater camouflage i.e. technique.

    My little studio requires a 25,000 pound diesel truck. Like I said, a tank.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Apr 19, 2006
    Home Page:
    There's not a huge choice of decent 4-mic channel interfaces up to $500. The PreSonus AudioBox 44VSL is a reasonably good USB device for under $300. The MOTU 4pre has a lot going for it at $450, but I've never used one, so can't vouch for it personally. Right on the $500 mark is the Mackie Onyx Blackbird, which is a FireWire unit with 8 mic preamps.

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