USB audio, really that bad?

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by FroColin, Oct 24, 2010.

  1. FroColin macrumors regular

    Jun 4, 2008
    I am looking to get an audio interface and was originally looking to get the Firestudio Mobile, for 300 but it only has 2 pre amps which is enough but more would be better. And then I found the M-Audio Fast Track Ultra, ( which is (On B&H) actually 30 dollars less then the Firestudio. But I keep hearing how bad USB is, I don't mind a complicated set up. What makes the Firestudio so good? I understand it probably has better pre amps then the Fast Track ultra, and I understand that is important, but it's even more importent to me that I have 3 inputs (And the Fast Track gives me 4) technically I could get along with two. But it would be nice to have three.
    So should I get the Firestudio or the Fast Track? What are the pros and cons?
  2. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    i've never had an issue with USB audio, but i recall a couple people here have. i think the anti-USB bias is a bit overblown.
  3. dwwave macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2004
    USB Audio.Really That Bad?

    No its not, and it depends what and where You read and Firewire as far as Audio-Interfaces ar more $$ and check the specs as is it FW 400 (which is slower than USB 2.0 or FW 800 faster than USB 2.0

    and to me Apple invented/created Firewire where with a PC add on sound cards are "usually needed" on a stock pC where Macs had FW 400 way back
    we have a 2001Imac with FW400 and a eMac with FW 400

    its good to check that the interface is
    1) compatible
    2) has the number of ins and outs and types (isntrument, XLR, Midi in-out
    SPDIF, what types of outs TRS, 1/4,RCA and are the inputs 1/4, TRS, or "Combo) where a XLR or 1/4 plug can go in (I personally do not like that set up) check site reviews on Harmony-Central. even sells all sorts of Audio Interfaces (with reviews) use search engines for reviews such as
    Product X and issues etc, Magazines (recording, Mix have alot of info
    web has info (and free USA subscriptions in print and its superb) Do plenty of research
    Premier has gear reviews breaks it down into Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Drums and recordding interfaces are discussed online, visit the manufaturer web site as usually they have forumsas well
    Hope this helps and USB 2.0 have no fear!
    and set up between each is no different (unless You do not have a Firewire Port)
  4. firestarter macrumors 603


    Dec 31, 2002
    Green and pleasant land
    No, USB isn't bad.

    I think the main beef that people have is that physically the communication that's going on is a bit less resilient than firewire... and the effect of that is that you have to have a larger sample buffer set up in your software to stop dropouts. That means there can be a very subtle delay between the signal going into your interface, being processed and coming back out. That latency disturbs some.

    Personally I wouldn't buy a small firewire interface now. I think Apple has demonstrated that they're not interested in supporting firewire going forwards (dropped it from the MacBook, not present on the MBA) so if you ever wanted to go portable and use a firewire interface on a laptop you could be out of luck.
  5. agentshavers macrumors newbie


    USB audio no problem here

    I have a 21.5",Intel Core 2 Duo, 8 Gb Ram, 1tb int., 500 Gb ext., Time Machine, OS 10.6.6, Logic Studio, M-Audio BX5a's. I am a musician playing Guitar, Bass, and an M-Audio 61es Midi KeyStation. I'm using the Tascam 1641, 16 input Audio/Midi USB Interface. I write original Fusion style compositions, and with 6 Midi tracks, 4 Guitar Tracks, and Bass, everything sounds real good. I can lay down as many over dubs as I want to. I think the limit is 255 tracks for normal audio, and 35 Midi...something ridiculous like that. There are tricks and there are hardware issues. Make sure you get a pair of good audio monitors...I'm very pleased with the BX5a monitors from M-Audio. Good headphones are imperative for monitoring when you start over dubbing. A good microprocessor controlled Interface is absolutely necessary whether you use USB or the very expensive FireWire input systems. My interface is outstanding, and it's a Tascam, known for quality in the music creation world. I didn't need 16 inputs & 11 pre amps, but I did need quality, and I got quality. Also, monitoring is a trick that takes time to understand and master. Proper monitoring thru good headphones is what keeps your tracks synced, and eliminates Latency (delay). At the start, most users will rotate the monitor mix control to the left (Interface Audio) because it sounds cleaner and louder. This will cause problems in the end because you are not hearing what's going on inside your DAW. And with the sound that loud, right off the headphone pre, users also tend to overdrive their track input. This will cause the "terrible sounding" recording, USB blasters are screaming about. In this scenario, FireWire input would sound just as bad. Keep your monitor mix control rotated to the right, and watch for track input clipping. On the track head there are two audio input level indicators for left & right virtual stereo. Keep them out of the red as much as possible, but don't go the other way too far on the other hand. A few red bursts are OK. Also, if you're playing guitar, don't over do the effect boxes or echo. A little sustain or compression is best. If you want a heavy rock lead effect, the fuzz tone gives you a "loud amp" effect, without overdriving the track. Also keep in mind, that since your applying special effects post Interface, you can always adjust them to suit, after recording using headphones. Then you will have the sound you want before final mix down. Cheers, and good luck.
  6. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    "So should I get the Firestudio or the Fast Track? What are the pros and cons?"

    The biggest "pro" for Firewire is that if you are using an interface that runs on Apple's own internal "CORE" audio, there will never be "driver conflicts", because there are no [externally-installed] drivers to begin with (other than the CORE drivers, which are built into OS X).

    The next "pro" for Firewire is that Firewire itself has a different architecture than USB, providing not only speed but lower latency and better use of "the bus" itself.

    Having said that, I think there are other products out there you should be considering, as well.

    I like Echo Audio products, well-made and very solid. One to take a look at is the [now discontinued, but still available] "AudioFire8", which has 2 XLR inputs and plenty of other inputs. There is also an "Audiofire8Pre", with 8 XLR inputs, but it's more $$$.

    Another is the AudioFire4.
  7. gatepc macrumors 6502


    Apr 11, 2008
    Pittsburgh PA
    I can't comment on recording using USB but I can promise you that USB is great for audio. As an audiophile some of the highest end DACs today use Async USB to transfer the sound to the DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) which takes your digital audio and lets you plug it into your analog gear like speaker systems and headphone amps. It has lower jitter then optical connections, it also has fewer clocking problems and with the newer Async protocol implementation, it can support higher then 24/96 resolution.
  8. dwwave macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2004
    USB Audio , Really that Bad ?


    Hope this helps

    These are both new from WNAMM11' and are on both the manufacturer site and Sweetwaters site

    Akai EIE USB Audio Interface Street $199.99 (when I first saw a picture of it I though $400.00+

    and ART Dual Tube Pre $147.00 + power supply $12.00 +=$157.00

    Akai's site has a video as well as text info

    Sweetwater has a video and text of ART unit

    and ART web site has the specs well written due to ship Feb 201

    Akai ? Sweetwater has orders in

    Google both

    The Akai EIE specs are astonishing! ART a fine unit as well and considered a Audio Interface

    and both appear NO drivers, ART for sure, Akai video says Plu and Play USB compliant

    P.S. I am still figuring out drivers for two MA Products I own for Snow Leopard 10.6.4>

  9. SFXsource macrumors newbie


    Mar 5, 2009
    I recently bought the Firestudio Mobile and it's fantastic, the hardware is very good and the sound quality excellent.

    Coincidentally I did this after returning the Fast Track because it was basically made of plastic but most importantly had a terrible hiss in the recordings.

    No, USB is not bad, it just may have slightly more latency than Firewire, but the quality is just as good in my experience.

    Firestudio Mobile is a great product.
  10. FroColin thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 4, 2008
    Wow. Lots of info. Thanks to all for responding. I'll probably go with the fast track ultra, seems like a good deal to me and as long as I can make USB work, seems good to me.
    What about it is so amazing? Sorry I'm relatively new to this stuff. Is it just that it has 4 pre amps for the price? Or is there something else I'm missing
  11. paolo- macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2008
    You might want to check this guy out.

    It's usb too. I have it, and I love it. The pre amps are very nice, I think this has to do with the board using an 12AC power supply (yes AC, not a typo). I don't have anything to compare it too as I used to have a cheap tascam board which I hated. Apparently this guy thinks it holds it's own against the duet, mind you I'm not sure this board has enough gain to use a ribbon mic.

    On top of sounding great, it's designed very nicely, having a main output for your monitors and two volume controllable phone outs it really nice when tracking vocals when not in a studio.

    Also the drivers are good, had no trouble both on my macbook and iMac.

    Also, I think the maudio actually has 6 line ins, if you care about that.
  12. dwwave macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2004
    USB audio, Really that Bad ?

    Re :
    Wow. Lots of info. Thanks to all for responding. I'll probably go with the fast track ultra, seems like a good deal to me and as long as I can make USB work, seems good to me.
    Originally Posted by dwwave View Post
    The Akai EIE specs are astonishing!:
    What about it is so amazing? Sorry I'm relatively new to this stuff. Is it just that it has 4 pre amps for the price? Or is there something else I'm missing
    08 Mac Pro 2x2.8 GHz Quad-core 8 GB RAM 3 1 TB HDs; 20" Aluminum iMac 2.4 GHz 3 GB RAM.
    Canon T2i (50mm 1.4, 70-200mm IS 2.8L, 24-105mm IS 4.0L)
    Final Cut Studio Logic Studio CS4 Master Collection
    FroColin is offline Report Post Reply With Quote


    I do think both price and specs, usually You would not get a Brand Name such as Akai with 4 combo inserts (front) XLR/Line
    or toggle switch to Instrument, as well as 4 outs 1/4 two for monitors and 2 for .. plus 4 1/4 line inserts, great for line in
    keyboards etc as well as Midi in-out (though many MIDI controllers have USB 2.0 in (MIDI in is faster) plus 3 USB hubs on the rear (unusual) has a on-off switch (note Tascams US-800
    US-600 and the Lexicon US Ionix Series do not have on-off switchs (is that a deal killer , no , I would run the A/I on its own
    surge protector but obvious a design goof to me, I looked closely at the Lexicon U42S (4 combo XLR /Inst ins (dbx preamps) two 1/4 outs , two headphone outs, and has ? two 1/4 trs ins on the side ( looks great as well) but the U42S is 329.00 and was announced prior to 2009 NAMM, certainly a nice Audio Interface (I returned a FW 400 T.C.Electronic Impact Twin ($399.99 as it was far more than I needed and thankfully I did not unseal anything) Tascam's units I am not sure about anymore (Had one and it ran fine a US-122) but no Snow Leopard Drivers. I do not believe there is one audio interface that would satisfy each and every person, research and do what You think is best (I was tied btween the T.C Impact Twin and the USB 2.0 Lexicon U42S but have changed to the Akai EIE
    ($199.99) or a ART Dual Tube Preamp (its $159.00 including a optional power supply , its USB 2.0, I am trying to verify that the Akai unit is USB 2.0 (its suprising how many USB 1.1 a/i are still sold, Maybe I overacted in my description of the specs("astonishing) but price wise and spec wise it looks good on paper and pictures, same with the ART Dual Tube Preamp with compression and ins/outs it would suit my needs fine as well, (to me and I am not a pro in any means) I would like two XLR mics , One (two better) Inst Ins, Two outs, and 2 line ins
    MIDI in-out and SPDIF can take it or leave it (I have a Vox Tonelab with SPDIF out) I bought my first A/I from , then a MIDI keyboard and monotors (I had a Line 6 POD then PODXT) and guitars and have used Macs to record (for hobby purposes) Best Of Luck and take Your Time
    I have been reseraching since Summer 2010 and thought I found two then returned one, and changed my mind on the other (as with Mac;s drivers change so fast that companies will make new units at some point rather than update drivers
    but I really have found nothing I do not like about the Akai EIE
    (maybe its those VU meters ?)
  13. BubbaMc macrumors regular

    Nov 15, 2010
  14. dwwave macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2004
    "is USB audio really that bad" ?

    I would still say no and Firewire 400 versus USB 2.0 (or 1.1 which are still sold) will continue on and on I believe

    But.. with the units where onboard )the audio interface 9wether
    USB 2.0 (480 mps peak) or FW 400 (400mbs peak) one looks faster (just on numbers) but it is more than that, both USB 2.0 and FW 400 Audio Interfaces (not all though) handle latency on board (rather than through the computers CPU ) Its a built in hard ware aspect dealing with latency (on some not all) and when You read the actual users manuals (and not a paragraph or 2 describing the units it details that, wether its DSP doing it
    or just plain on board hardware management of latency its available in both avenues. You do seem to have a unit in mind
    check the return policy carefully (as now online or shops often consider any software if opened-licenced etc as used and unreturnable (I talked to one shop even about driver disks and that shop considered the disks software 9and unreturnable if opened (due to piracy issues) ( I was unconcerned about a lite version of a DAW but drivers come on , and most if not all can be downloaded from the manufacturer but not all
    *I am still looking and bought one and returned it* a T.C Electronic Impact Twin, Still looking ....
    best of luck

    Akai added a $69.99 shipping fee on the Akai eie due to weight and size ?? and waiting on a Art Dual Tube Pre, and looking at mixers with USB 2.0 connectivity. I am not sending another one back unhappy!

  15. mark28 macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2010

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