Need Advice on an interface

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by lefty224, Jan 29, 2014.

  1. lefty224 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2013
    #1
    Finally moving forward with creating a home studio.

    Just bought a late 2013 imac 27 i5 running mavericks.

    Got logic x installed.

    Which audio interface should I get?
     
  2. Diastro macrumors member

    Diastro

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2010
    Location:
    Veldhoven, the Netherlands
    #2
    Congratulations on your new Mac!

    Choosing an interface can be a daunting task, but you can make it easy for yourself by starting to list things you definitely want your interface to have.

    How many microphone preamps and line inputs do you need?
    Do you want to plug in guitar and bass directly (Hi-Z inputs)?
    How many outputs do you need? Are you only running one set of studio monitors and a headphone, or do you need several more?
    Does it need to have digital ins and outs so you can expand with more/better preamps or increase the amount of total ins and outs in the future?

    And probably most important for most people: what is your budget? Interfaces come at VERY diverse price points, starting at about $100, going up to over $5000. It's marketing 101 here, you'll see that more expensive interfaces don't give you MORE, but they give you BETTER components, most prominently better quality preamps and A/D-D/A converters.

    Post your list and we'll be able to give you some recommendations!

    If this is your first interface I'm assuming you want it to be at least a little wallet-friendly, so I recommend looking at Focusrite, M-Audio, Presonus or MOTU. Anything from these brands will be good price/performance.

    A little higher up you will find RME, Apogee and Universal Audio. These brands are celebrated because they all make superb interfaces, but they're not stupidly expensive.

    Hope this helps!
     
  3. spoonie1972 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2012
    Location:
    Toronto
    #3
    if you want cheap'n'good, and only need 2x2 with midi, it's hard to pass up on the quite excellent yamaha/steinberg UR22.

    I picked one up for my portable rig, no issues with many things running at 128 buffer settings over usb. USB interfaces have certainly got a lot more responsive in the last 5 years.
     
  4. lefty224 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2013
    #4
    Thank you Diastro for the detailed reply. Maybe you ca help me figure it out. It's my first time making my own home studio set up so I am not entirely certain what to do.

    How many microphone preamps? At least one for sure. I don't think I'll need more than 2 if ever.

    Guitar and Bass? Yes

    I only have one set of studio monitors and a headphone. I'm utilizing an empty room at home so I don't think I'll need more than a set or don't plan to.

    Does it need to have digital ins and outs for future? I really don't know what that means. My knowledge around this is really based on YouTube how tos on setting up a home studio.

    Budget? I prefer not to spend more than $400 or around that price range at the max.

    And lastly, I've been reading that not all interfaces are compatible with the daw and OS that I'll be using. Is that true? If so, please help me find an interface for my set up.

    Thanks in advance for any help.
     
  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #5
    The first question is "what are you going to record" I mean are you recording MIDI? vocal with a condenser mic.? A full drum kit, grand piano?

    Electric guitar? Are you mic'ing the speaker cab or going direct and using a amplifier simulator.

    How many of the above will you do at the same time?

    Got a data backup plan? You will need to make up some kind of system that includes off site storage.

    No one can suggest anything without answer to the above
     
  6. lefty224 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2013
    #6
    Going to record vocals (don't have a mic yet but I'm thinking a akg 200?) , guitars are all electric or electric acoustic, plan to get a used roland vdrums, and a midi keyboard (no idea which one)

    No more than 2 max at a time like vocals and guitar. Maybe at most 3 but not at the moment.

    Not micing a guitar most likely direct.

    No backup data plan. Didn't know I need one. Can you recommend a setup?
     
  7. Diastro macrumors member

    Diastro

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2010
    Location:
    Veldhoven, the Netherlands
    #7
    This is great, judging from what you already have, you're well on your way to make some music!

    Let me start by answering your question about digital ins and outs.

    Most audio interfaces have a collection of analog and digital connections on the back (and sometimes on the front). Analog connections you probably know about, they're the three-pinned "XLR" connectors where you can plug microphones into, or the "jack" connectors where your studio monitors and headphones go. Pretty simple, right?

    Digital connections, however, are a bit different, and they often have confusing names. In the kind of interfaces you'll be looking at, they mostly come in two variants: Optical ADAT and coaxial S/PDIF. Usually they come in a pair, and input plus an output.

    Now, what do you use them for? Simply put; expansion. For instance, you can use a digital input to hook up an additional set of preamps, so you can record more tracks at the same time! This is of course great for drums or big live recordings or choirs or something like that.

    It's good to remember that, typically, an optical ADAT can run 8 tracks of audio through it, while a coaxial S/PDIF can run only 2. There's more to this, but I don't want to make it overly complicated for you for now.

    Whew, that's a lot of information. If anything is unclear to you, don't hesitate to ask!

    Now, let's recommend you some interfaces, shall we? We have concluded that you need at least:

    - At least 1 microphone preamp, ideally 2
    - At least 1 Hi-Z input to plug in your guitar/bass directly
    - 2 analog outputs for your studio monitors
    - 1 headphone output

    My recommendation for a barebones-as-cheap-as-possible-but-still-very-good-quality audio interface is:
    Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

    My recommendation for a great just-under-$400-with-room-to-grow audio interface is:
    Focusrite Scarlett 18i8
    You can see that this one has 4 microphone preamps plus 4 line inputs AND an optical input on the back, so you can potentially hook up 16 microphones at the same time! That's what I mean by room to grow. ;)

    As you probably noticed, I'm a Focusrite guy. Presonus and M-Audio are great, but Focusrite just gives you such impressively nice sounding preamps for the money. You just can't go wrong with that.

    Hope I don't sound like too much of a Focusrite sales person haha!

    PS: There are SOME interfaces that are OS-specific, but those are higher prices devices. Under $400 you don't have to worry about that.
     
  8. lefty224 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2013
    #8
    Does the Safire series work well with mavericks?
     
  9. Diastro macrumors member

    Diastro

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2010
    Location:
    Veldhoven, the Netherlands
    #9
    Yep, flawlessly. Don't forget that the Saffire series is FireWire, not USB. And it ships with only a FireWire 400 cable. Your iMac doesn't have any FireWire connection any more.

    If you decide to go for it, you need to get a FireWire 400-to-800 cable and an Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter.

    Increases the price by up to $60 as you can see. I strongly suggest something form the Scarlett range. The preamps in the Saffire and the Scarlett are identical.
     
  10. lefty224 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2013
    #10
    So Safire and Scarlett are pretty much identical but Scarlett is USB? And Scarlett works well with mavericks too? If so, should I just get the Scarlett version?
     
  11. Diastro macrumors member

    Diastro

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2010
    Location:
    Veldhoven, the Netherlands
    #11
    Exactly. They have the same preamps, the same converters. They sound the same. But the Scarlett series has USB, and the Saffire series has FireWire.

    They all work perfectly fine with Mavericks!

    Good luck!
     
  12. lefty224 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2013
    #12
    Thank you Diastro! I'll be getting a Scarlett because of your advice.
     
  13. Diastro macrumors member

    Diastro

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2010
    Location:
    Veldhoven, the Netherlands
    #13
    You're welcome! Hope you lay down some great tracks!
     

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