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View Full Version : Does a high-end audio interface make a difference?




floyde
Sep 18, 2008, 05:20 PM
So I have an old audio interface, it's a Tascam US-122 (http://www.tascam.com/products/us-122.html). It was one of the first USB interfaces to come out, but it still fits my needs pretty well. I only need to record a single guitar track at a time, the rest of my stuff is completely electronic.

I was wondering though, would a newer, more expensive audio interface make a difference in terms of audio quality and fidelity? I was thinking this because I can't understand why there are pricier audio interfaces out there. I mean, I already have 24-bit resolution (which is what high-end AI's offer), so will the extra cash pay for a better analog to digital conversion algorithm or something that would improve sound quality? Or are the high-end audio interfaces pricier because they have more inputs and better latency (but offer the same audio quality)?

If I can improve audio quality with a more expensive AI, then I think it's time for an upgrade. Thanks.



Killyp
Sep 18, 2008, 05:31 PM
Yes, it's not just to do with the D/A conversion and bitrate etc, although there is still an improvement in D/A conversion if the bitrate stays the same when comparing basic interfaces to super-duper high-end interfaces, although they're all generally very good.

The big difference comes at the output stage. Once the sound has left the D/A converter, it needs to go through a circuit which will get the signal up to the right level to 'drive' it into an amplifier, speakers or desk. This is where the largest improvements come in a good CD player. Some of the most basic CD players you can buy come with already very good D/A conversion, but poor output stages.

floyde
Sep 18, 2008, 08:54 PM
Yes, it's not just to do with the D/A conversion and bitrate etc, although there is still an improvement in D/A conversion if the bitrate stays the same when comparing basic interfaces to super-duper high-end interfaces, although they're all generally very good.

The big difference comes at the output stage. Once the sound has left the D/A converter, it needs to go through a circuit which will get the signal up to the right level to 'drive' it into an amplifier, speakers or desk. This is where the largest improvements come in a good CD player. Some of the most basic CD players you can buy come with already very good D/A conversion, but poor output stages.

Thanks. So does that output stage include what is being recorded in Logic (for example), or does it only affect the sound that is coming out of my monitors? I could live with sub-standard monitoring as long as what is actually being recorded is high quality.

zimv20
Sep 18, 2008, 11:03 PM
I could live with sub-standard monitoring as long as what is actually being recorded is high quality.

????

monitoring is more important, imho. if you can't hear what you're doing, even a great-sounding signal can be inappropriately treated.

to answer your original question, yes, a high-end interface can make a difference, and in several ways. but (again imho) the quality of conversion is kinda low on the importance scale. you're better off capturing the signal correctly at the room and mic phase.

a great signal will be fine w/ mediocre conversion. a crap signal through great conversion will sound like: really accurate crap.

originalcliche
Sep 19, 2008, 02:41 AM
Both above statements are true. Monitoring is important however... you gotta think also about people who go by the NS-10. I can't mix for my life on them cuz to me they suck balls. SO much mids and harsh high ends... but at the time they were realesed ... 1987 they were top of the line so mix engineerings got use to them. BUt anyways a higher end audio interface will give you a few things. Better A/D conversion which will give you a clearer singnal in which you will notice how crisp your music will sound once you hit play back. ALso you will notice higher end interfaces have better preamps and line ins, important for your guitar. However at the end of the day.. good music is good music... If I was anybody though I'd get the Apogee Duet. Great preamps, when compared to other interfaces and great A/D conversion. Nice clean sound.

MowingDevil
Sep 19, 2008, 03:22 AM
I always thought the point of NS-10s was that they were kind of crappy even back then. If you could make your mix sound good on them it would probably sound good in ****** car stereos, small ghetto blasters & typical radios at the time. You probably don't (or ever did for that matter) want to mix soley on them but they are a great source to check on. I know guys who mix trying to make the ****** systems sound decent and then go from there. If your song sounds great on a wicked system there's no guarantee it will sound good on the majority of stereos out there...these days, iPods.

In regards to the initial question, it all depends on what you're using your system for. Are you going for a finished project that will be released on CD? Is it for demo purposes? What you have just might be fine.

Agreed the Duet sounds like the best interface for the money that I've come across.

originalcliche
Sep 19, 2008, 04:03 AM
I always thought the point of NS-10s was that they were kind of crappy even back then. If you could make your mix sound good on them it would probably sound good in ****** car stereos, small ghetto blasters & typical radios at the time. You probably don't (or ever did for that matter) want to mix soley on them but they are a great source to check on. I know guys who mix trying to make the ****** systems sound decent and then go from there. If your song sounds great on a wicked system there's no guarantee it will sound good on the majority of stereos out there...these days, iPods.

In regards to the initial question, it all depends on what you're using your system for. Are you going for a finished project that will be released on CD? Is it for demo purposes? What you have just might be fine.

Agreed the Duet sounds like the best interface for the money that I've come across.

They triued to make the NS10 an updated monitor but ended up ****ing it up but yeah people love em stil ... anyways apogee duet... all the way

WinterMute
Sep 19, 2008, 06:06 AM
NS-10 were really useful if you needed to keep a door open or get something off a high shelf....

Yamaha proving form over content sells.

Oddly if you pair the NS-10 Studio with a particular Yamaha Power amp (the 2560 I think it was) they sounded fantastic, as this was the standard in-house amp Yamaha gave the designers and was the amp they were designed on.

The Adam A7 speakers are getting studio space with us atm, and yes, monitors are at least as important as a good interface.

AviationFan
Sep 19, 2008, 08:51 AM
a crap signal through great conversion will sound like: really accurate crap.Thank you, zimv, for making me laugh! :D

And I couldn't agree more: To understand what kind of recording you are dealing with, you got to have good a monitoring solution. If not, you'll probably make many poor decisions (without a chance to even know it) early on that will hurt the final result.

- Martin

cschreppel
Sep 19, 2008, 09:30 AM
In agreement with what a lot of these guys have been saying -- yes, a higher end audio interface will give you better results assuming you know what you're doing from the beginning in regards to mic placement, gain staging into your interface (preamps, etc.).

The advantage of newer interfaces, while certainly better in the A/D/D/A realm, is in the analog stages. I've found that some of the newer M-Audio interfaces, the Apogee Duet and Ensemble, etc., have cleaner analog stages that doesn't color the sound too much (Digi002 anyone?).

That being said, if you don't need extra inputs, spend the extra cash on an even better interface with less I/O. I'd rather invest in that than something with 10, 12, 18 I/O and have it sound like crap.

On a side note, zimv20's comment brings about one of my favorite terms to describe a crappy signal through great gear: polished turd.

floyde
Sep 19, 2008, 11:05 AM
a crap signal through great conversion will sound like: really accurate crap.

Lol :D, in retrospect, what I said about monitoring doesn't make much sense, I know :o. The thing is, I'm just a hobbyist, and I've been acquiring my studio gear ever so slowly. I don't have anything high-end; my monitors are these (http://www.yorkville.com/products.asp?type=71&cat=35&id=118), which I suppose fall within the realm of "decent". So my monitoring will be decent at best. Also, I don't have the gear, the room characteristics or the expertise to record anything with mics :p, so right now it's basically a guitar going directly through the interface and into Guitar Rig 3 (http://www.native-instruments.com/index.php?id=guitarrig3).

With that in mind, how can I know if an AI has superior output? For instance, you guys recommend the Apogee Duet, but there's nothing in its specs that tells me that it's better, it almost has the same features as my Tascam US-122 (although in practice I know it should be much better). So is it word of mouth? Reviews? How do you guys know which interfaces are better? Thanks

floyde
Sep 19, 2008, 02:58 PM
Damnit! you guys are gonna set me back $500 :p:(. I'm now officially obsessed with the Duet. :eek:

zimv20
Sep 19, 2008, 05:21 PM
With that in mind, how can I know if an AI has superior output?

in general, you get what you pay for, so cost is one measure. word of mouth is another, if you know who to listen to.

other than that, all you can do is try out the piece in the same environment and conditions in which you work. e.g. if you're mixing songs, you have to mix some number of songs and see how they translate, how quickly you can get to a good mix, etc.

that said, i use apogee conversion in my place (not a duet, though) and i think it does its job well. with the Duet, you'll probably have to upgrade all other parts of your studio before needing to address conversion again.

floyde
Sep 22, 2008, 02:28 PM
that said, i use apogee conversion in my place (not a duet, though) and i think it does its job well. with the Duet, you'll probably have to upgrade all other parts of your studio before needing to address conversion again.

Thanks. Do you think there would be an audible difference between the Tascam and The Apogee though? Or would it be a minor change that only trained audiophiles should be able to discern? :p

zimv20
Sep 22, 2008, 03:06 PM
Thanks. Do you think there would be an audible difference between the Tascam and The Apogee though? Or would it be a minor change that only trained audiophiles should be able to discern? :p

i'd say it's a change that would probably go un-noticed in an untreated room. further, i'd say treating your room properly (check out realtraps.com and gikacoustics.com) is the best bang for your buck you could spend right now.

floyde
Sep 22, 2008, 03:15 PM
i'd say it's a change that would probably go un-noticed in an untreated room. further, i'd say treating your room properly (check out realtraps.com and gikacoustics.com) is the best bang for your buck you could spend right now.

Thanks, you just saved me $500 :D. I guess I'll start with the basics then.

zimv20
Sep 22, 2008, 07:12 PM
Thanks, you just saved me $500 :D.

did i, though? you should spend it on bass traps! :-)

manosaurus
Sep 24, 2008, 09:05 PM
My background is in songwriting and record production/direction. My goals are to write and produce music at a level that will make me a living.

I used a Tascam US-122 and a Presonus Firepod for one year and a half. I used them everyday recording and mixing pop music in many different styles.

My approach is a strong concentration in performance and novelty of arrangement and not such a concern for gear or tools. I am not too concerned with having dynamite gear. I am concerned with developing dynamite songs, directing the right performances for those songs and having a tremendous facility for creating the proper arrangements for the project. That is, for me, by far the most important thing. I guess you can do that with just about any kind of gear.

However, four months ago I took a modest upgrade to the Apogee Duet. I had an amazon gift card and couldn't really think of anything else I needed that amazon also had and people were saying pretty good things about it.

I can say that my recordings began to sound of higher quality using the Duet's preamps and converters. Things began to sound somewhat tighter and crisper. In addition, it became easier to add more tracks to a project without a muddy or cluttered result. Why? I cold not say. Am I imagining these things? I don't think so. I listen very closely to things.

Part of this could be that I am always learning more about arranging and composition so my recordings are always benefitting from that. I have learned more since using the Duet and that could be part of why I think the sound is "better." It is hard to say.

The main thing about gear upgrades for me right now is what a potential client can see in the gear and not necessarily what I see in it. I am producing (and unfortunately engineering also) small-time projects for a few local acts around town now. And I am making money, though a trivial amount, doing it. Eventually, who can say when, someone that I am trying to produce recordings for is going to inquire about my gear. They haven't yet. The people that I am working with are working with me based on the recordings I have done and asked if I could help them as well. They don't care about the gear right now. But in the future other more experienced acts, for various reasons, plenty valid, may. I don't want to lose an act because I don't have any top-quality gear. I guess the Duet was a tiny, tiny step in that direction.

FWIW

MowingDevil
Sep 25, 2008, 12:08 AM
The main thing about gear upgrades for me right now is what a potential client can see in the gear and not necessarily what I see in it. I am producing (and unfortunately engineering also) small-time projects for a few local acts around town now. And I am making money, though a trivial amount, doing it. Eventually, who can say when, someone that I am trying to produce recordings for is going to inquire about my gear. They haven't yet. The people that I am working with are working with me based on the recordings I have done and asked if I could help them as well. They don't care about the gear right now. But in the future other more experienced acts, for various reasons, plenty valid, may. I don't want to lose an act because I don't have any top-quality gear. I guess the Duet was a tiny, tiny step in that direction.

FWIW

Literally

zimv20
Sep 25, 2008, 12:56 AM
My approach is a strong concentration in performance and novelty of arrangement and not such a concern for gear or tools.
very refreshing in this gear-obsessed world, and i'm in no way innocent of being gear-obsessed :-)


Things began to sound somewhat tighter and crisper. In addition, it became easier to add more tracks to a project without a muddy or cluttered result. Why? I cold not say.
it's probably that you outgrew your gear. and that's a great place to be; as you're ready, you can move to pieces which will take you a long time to outgrow, if ever.