My 12years old 16bit converters sound better than RME...why?

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by sound_forward, Mar 9, 2005.

  1. How is it possible?

    I have an ensoniq sampler from 1993 (asr10) which sounds MUCH better than my RME multiface.

    And it is not because coloration or distortion, it simply sounds more "in front", a little bit smoother and warmer and fatter.

    I made some tests recording both simple sinus tones and some very fat sounds from my old arp synthesiser.

    The original sound fantastic! It is fat, warm and in front.
    The sampled one from the ASR is not so good but still OK.
    The recorded one with RME (I tried 88kHz/24bit and 44kHz/16bit) sound thin, distant...bad!

    And now question...

    Are there any cheap converters that sound WARM and FAT??? I'm not looking for extremely flat frequency response, nor for great dynamics, or great signal to noise ratio...I just want converters that sound warm, fat and "in front" and do not cost a million.

    I we heard that very old adats (16bit, blackface) sound very good...True or not?

    Any other options? other than tape recorders...

  2. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    It could be that the old 16 bit converters are a bit cloudy and you are hearing this as warm. Or, you're so used to the sound of the old A/D's that the new, higher res one sounds so different.

    I believe that this is what you are hearing but it doesn't make sense to me. It could also be that the RME is so much more accurate that you are now hearing the true quality of your sources.

    Just a hunch...

  3. thanks for your reply Chris, but I think this is not the case.

    when I record my analog synths, sound quality degradation is more than obvious.

    I remember some converters you describe (for example akai s950, 12bit) and those converters sound good because they change sound in a pleasant way, but ASR is very clean sounding.

    Also, some older digital units have such a sweet converters (lexicon pcm70, lxp1/5...) that newer equipment can't match. I had both pcm70 and pcm81 in studio and pcm70 had much fatter sound.
  4. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    May 25, 2004
    Looks to me that maybe there is something wrong with the RME recording. Could you walk us through where the signal comes from, what kind of cable you use (balanced/unbalanced), what input you use and what settings (if any) you use on the RME and finally how you listen to the sound.

    It might (just might) be as simple as a mismatch between balanced/unbalanced cables. The ASR obviously sounds good in your ears, so I think, just probably that there is not the problem.

  5. In fact there is nothing wrong with RME and recording chain. The sound is not that bad. It is just not so good as original. Depth is missing.
    By the way, I'm more than satisfied with my RME - Cubase SX setup. Everything works perfect and it is very reliable. The only thing that I do not like are converters.

    Signal comes from ARP synth, thru good quality 2m unbalanced cable (my synth is unbalanced) directly to RME input. Auditioned on genelec 1030a.

    I'm not so sure that I would notice sound difference on some other monitors. For example, I had genelec 1032 before in studio and I hated them because I couldn't hear things I hear on 1030a. And what I hear on 1030a is that some of my equipment sound warm and in front and some are distant and thin. For example, ASR-10, arp, juno106, akai s950, pcm70, lxp1 all have this pleasant quality unlike my lexicon mpx100, RME, emu sampler (sold) and tascam dat (sold) for example.
  6. Marcus Black

    Marcus Black Guest

    "Thin and distant" sounds to me like a wiring problem or a serious impedance mismatch or something. Have you tried plugging the synth to an external pre-amp or DI-box and then going to the converter with a balanced connection ?

    I remember the ASR-10 as having exceptionally good converters for the time (early 90's). I still have a hard time believing that the RME would sound a lot worse. Maybe the levels aren´t matched and you audition the ASR a lot louder ?
  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    It's interesting that you suggest there is nothing wrong with either signal, yet the RME is THAT inferior to the older device.

    The RME converters are excellent and some of the more transparent on the market.

    If you are experiencing "warmth, up-front, and smoothing" from a converter, I would propose that you are actually dealing with a faulty converter. If my converters imparted a "warm" sound or made things stand out more, or smoothed items, I would throw the converter out and get a new/different one.

    I can make all of these changes in the signal chain and wouldn't want my converter doing it for me. Rather, I'd like the signal that goes in to be the same that comes out.

    I would tend to agree with Chris (LittleDog), that the sound you are hearing from the RMEs is more refined and clearer and thus "different." Perhaps you should continue to use the RMEs and find ways to make your signal more warm and present rather than relying on the converter to do it.

    Just a thought.

  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    For some reason, black gear always seems to sound better .. ????

    When Alesis released the 20 bit XT's, there was talk like this going around, that people should hold on to their "legacy" blackface adats, because in the future, they would be in demand for their sound.
  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    How are you playing back these results? Have you put them all on a time line (in a sequencer/DAW you can trust) and played them back, toggling between them for instaneous comparison?

    Can you see the waveforms in your editor, and have you made sure the levels are all the same? (often mistaken for better or worse sound).

    Did you have your synth play the same sound (perhaps with a sequencer) the exact same way into each converter, so you know you're getting the same sound going INTO each unit for comparison? Even if the resultant levels are different (due to different circuits, levels, etc.) you should still be able to set them all up in a DAW and compare them after adjusting levels to match overall.

    If you STILL hear a major difference - like what you're describing - then it's time for some real troubleshooting. There shouldn't be THAT much difference.
  10. perfectwave

    perfectwave Guest

    sounds to me like he may be having a problem with the digital sync between the synth and the a/d converter. I would first run a mic and pre that im familiar with through the rme, to compare an analog source at a high sample rate, sounds like the sample rate of the synth and the sound card are different possibly. Even though your synth is coming out analog back into the card, the analog voltage coming out is still quantizied or in steps. When i first opened up my studio i was running a pod analog out into my converter, i always got this wierd unwanted sound that i knew the pod didnt make , i knew my converters were good but my pod was at 48khz and my sound card was at 96khz I went and purchased a word cable to sync the pod to the sound card together, no more problems .
  11. Thanks everyone!

    Just to clarify...the difference is not THAT big. There is no way I would hear a difference listening on yamaha ns10 or some lower quality speakers.
    But when you mix 8 channels playing from RME rather than ASR than you can hear the difference more clearly. I made some tests with electronic drums mixed first inside cubase sx in digital domain (flat levels), than from RME to analog mixer and last from ASR to analog mixer.
    Everything was then recorded to cubase to 3 stereo tracks and I did A,B,C blind test comparisons and ASR analog mix was always the best, RME analog second, and RME digital the worst.

    In this case, I play my synth, asr10 and RME thru my analog mixer to genelec 1030a. Same levels, same cables. I even tried to switch channels, but there was no difference.

    About RME transparent converters...
    I even recorded "warm" sound from my asr10 to RME to see if it is only ASRs pleasant colorations issue. But it is not. When I record my asr to RME, warmth is lost. If RME is so transparent, warm sounds stay warm, right? wrong...RME it is not that transparent :(

    One more thing to complicate even more...
    I worked in the studio before and I did some recordings with Protools (original 24bit converters). I had the same problems recording my analog synths as with RME. Recorded ones always sounded inferior to the original.

    Maybe it is just the problem with modern digital equipment.
    I make electronic music and I use mostly analog synths and older samplers because I find them better sounding, warmer and more in front than modern digital synths.

    Maybe digital just cannot cope with older analog equipment...Or do I just need better highprice converters???
  12. kingfrog

    kingfrog Active Member

    Mar 5, 2005
    Whats the aural difference between cloudy and warm? 8)
  13. yknot

    yknot Guest

    I am a bit confused as to what you are comparing. What is the difference between RME analog and RME Digital?

    Note! Don't drive your monitors directly from the RME outputs. By this I mean that the gain setting for the output channel driving your monitors should be set to 0dB. Then reduce the gain in the analog domain. In my setup I generally reduce the gain by anywhere from -14 to -40 dB. If I did this in the digital domain I would be losing 2 to 7 bits.
  14. Duardo

    Duardo Guest

    What you're describing..."smoother and warmer and fatter" coloration and distortion (they're really the same thing).

    Having said that, it's entirely possible for older converters that don't spec out as well to still sound better than newer converters. There are so many more variables involved than just the number of bits used and the sampling rate. The converters' power supply, clock, and analog electronics all contribute significantly to the quality of the sound, and all of those could easily be significantly (with the possible exception of the clock, but who knows?) better in your older unit.

    And having said that, it's not surprising that neither sounds as good as the source. I think we'll keep getting incrementally closer and closer as time goes on, but I don't think that we'll ever get there. If a converter makes something sound "better" than the source, then it's coloring (or distorting) the sound. Not that that's a bad thing, but it's generally not what a converter is supposed to do. There are plenty of other tools that can do that.

    There is no need to have the clocks of two devices synchronized when there's an analog connection. First off, the synth he's using is an analog synth (correct?), not a digital one, but even if it were a digital synth the analog signal that comes out of a digital device is not quantized. It is a pure analog waveform. The quantization steps exist mainly in the digital domain, where most of them are removed by digital anti-aliasing filters. The resultant analog output is further "smoothed" by analog filters, and what you wind up with is a pure analog waveform with no frequenices above that converter's Nyquist freqency. If there were "stairsteps" they would represent frequencies above the Nyquist frequency and would indicate that the converter was broken. And even if they did exist, we wouldn't hear them because our ears would filter them out.

    If you heard a difference it wasn't because the two devices were out of sync with each other. It was because the clock in the Pod was better than the clock in your sound card. You would have heard a similar improvement with any analog source.

  15. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    I would argue that you have much more time listening and using the ASR 10 so you favor it whether you know it or admit.

    Just because you say and believe the ASR 10 sounds better doesn't mean that it is better to anybody else but you. Now it only needs to sound better to you because your the final judge, but just because you think so, that doesn't make it a global fact.

    The converters themselves are only one part, the analog circuit that goes with them is as important if not more so than the raw converters in obtaining the complete sound. Many, many converters that in modern gear today have poor analog circuits which are much harder to design and also have much higher costs in componets than digital parts do.

    I have heard the ASR-10 many times. High quality and accurate are not terms I would ever use in describing it's sound.
  16. iznogood

    iznogood Member

    Feb 9, 2004
    i'm so confused.... might it be your monitoring?

    the asr sounds absolutely crappy....

    has the same converters as FIRST generation phillips cd-players!!!!!
  17. Well, lets put it this way.

    The music production I do is electronic music.
    What I am looking in my sound is fatness, warmth, punchiness - in your face sound.
    What is not so important to me are noise and details. I can live with a little bit of noise.

    I mix on analog board Mackie CR1604, the original one, not the vlz. I mixed on several mixers in my career in several studios (mackie 8-bus, mackie 1604VLZ, yamaha 02r, protools digital domain, cubase sx digital, mackie CR1604). Out of this boxes, only mackie 8bus and CR1604 original gave me the sound I was looking.
    Mackie VLZ series sounds like $*^t to me. Same goes for yamaha.
    Mixing inside protools was weird. I couldn't get the sound I was looking for. Everything was so separated and distant sounding. The same goes for Cubase SX, but I think that cubase sounds just a little bit better.

    I ended with mackie because I like its warm, gritty sound. When I mix on mackie, everything sounds "glued together" and punchier also and I like that. It is a little bit dirty, but I like that.

    I use older samplers for drums because they just sound right.
    For synth sound I use old analog keyboard because they sound million miles better than modern digital synths.
    For vocals and other real instruments I use RME.

    My reverbs are Lexicons (PCM70, 2x LXP1). I like them because they sound very warm and 3D.

    My problem is that I would like to use RME/cubase a little bit more for recording my drums and synths.

    But, when I record with RME to cubase, it doesn't sound so good anymore. I suppose that analog circuit of RME multiface is not that good to reproduce those fat and warm tones.
    I do not record to RME if I do not have to. I rather stay in analog domain.

    The biggest problem for me is recording the final master. It always sound inferior to original. I loose that warm, fat, punchy sound. Also, the most obvious degradation is in the reverb. It doesn't sound so 3D anymore and it is usually a little bit more present and more brittle sounding than original.

    At the end, the question is...

    Which 2ch ad-da converters can record and reproduce analog sound fatness, punchyness and warmth - and does not cost a million? remember, I don't mind noise. I just want my dirty warm sounds stays intact.

    If I find that converter, I will probably get a 8 or 16 ch version of it.

  18. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    Go find some old 16-bit converters that you like and interface them to the RME.
  19. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    May 25, 2004
    Might a venture a guess here.

    I´ll digress little first by talking about electrical guitars. The sound of an electrical guitar is partly made by the amplifier. Just try once to send an electrical guitar directly into a recording and it will be a very boring sound.

    Now, just perhaps, it is something similar here. You are looking for a fat warm sound which partly is created byt the sound card / converter. And a modern converter will not create that sound. All the measurements show that the modern converter is much better, which probalby is true, but that fat warm sound is not there.

  20. bmf

    bmf Guest

    if you don't mind searching on a European ebay site: i had the same problem and i got a Kronauer 8ch converter, ADAT in/out. Very decent warmthwise! About 500 bucks...

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