The importance of Research: Experience with M-audio DAC, Presonus Audiobox, Mbox 3 Pro and Focusrite Saffire Pro 26

My experience with audio interfaces is quite limited, however, I think it can be useful for my clients.

NOTE: I put a section, at the end of the post, with the meaning of some technical words for those who still do not know what they mean.

NOTE2: This blog is complemented by a vlog that you can watch here:


The interfaces, their stories, my impressions:

I have used 4 interfaces during my experience, specifically when I was a student until today.

I will mention them one by one, my experience and some Pros and Cons.

1- My first interface: M-Audio DAC

Story: I found this interface due to my budget, that’s the truth: I needed an interface to eliminate the latency * between the midi controller and my computer. I used it for 4 and a half years

Quick description: This USB interface has 1 JACK 1/4 input or also called PLUG or "Línea" * and a miniplug output (headphones output). Reference: https: //www.m-audio.com/produc ...

Software Note: To reduce the latency was useful and necessary to use the ASIO4ALL * in Windows.

For microphones: The recording process of the microphone is complicated due to you will need an XLR or CANON * cable to JACK1 / 4 which is a very bad idea because in that way, the intensity control (dB) is impossible, moreover, it is likely to produce feedback. I tried to send the XLR of the mic to a small audio mixer board* and then, send a signal for a JACK1 / 4 to the input of the interface, achieving low quality and interferences.

To record instruments (like a bass): it works fairly well.

How the output works: by sending a miniplug cable to 2RCA to a stereo.

PROS AND CONS:

Pro: it is small and light; it works almost to the limit of the minimum acceptable, well, at least “it works”. Ideal for the student with extremely low budget.

Cons: Bad quality in general, complicated microphone recording (which is evident if you think it was not made for that) and polyphony problems * when using VSTi.

2- Presonus AUDIOBOX

Story: I found the Audiobox in a similar situation, low budget (but not as low as the first interface), no knowledge and the need to have something urgent to achieve both live concerts using midi controller + computer and, to use it for recording with a microphone for XLR and also, to support correctly my VSTi for composition works. I used it for 4 years

Quick description: This FIREWIRE interface has 2 hybrid inputs (both JACK1 / 4 and XLR) and 2 line outputs (Jack 1/4); 2 outputs Jack1 / 4, one of headphones (which I think it duplicated the stereo output signal) and MIDI input and output. Reference: https: //www.presonus.com/produ ...

Software Note: To reduce the latency was useful and necessary to use the ASIO4ALL * in Windows (generating polyphony problems), in Linux there was no problem, in Mac it works excellent.

To record: The recording of the microphone and line is the minimum expected for a student. Nowadays (observing the experience of colleagues), it is Focusrite's Scarlett that takes its place in the market.

How the output works: I used it for playing live from Jack 1/4 (plug-in), to work with headphones and sometimes, I connected it to a stereo with a 2-channel-2 cable with RCA to PLUG adapters.

PROS AND CONS:

Pro: Small, light, functional; ideal for students; the best thing about this interface it was the versatility because being light is easy to carry and equipment installation in concerts. In OSX 10.7 (Mac) works perfectly without drivers required.

Cons: The technology that turns sound to digital (called AD / DA converter) is low compared to high-end professionals. In my experience, it does not work well with windows, which it caused me troubles for several years.

3- MBOX PRO 3 (Avid)

Story: Mbox 3 was my first high-end interface, traveling worldwide. Robust and powerful, I used it to record audio, midi, voices and instruments, many times all at once. Its AD / DA is impressive and has a dedicated MIDI input (which was always useful for me). I only used it on OSX (Mac). I used it for 4 years; this interface coexisted with the presonus, which I continued to use when I play live while using the MBOX for recordings.

Quick description: This FIREWIRE interface is 8x8 (4 hybrid, that is, both JACK1 / 4 and XLR) which is actually 6x6 because it uses 2 SPDIF in and out (which I never used nor knew how to use). The headphones output is separate from normal ones and uses software to configure it. Regarding to MIDI usage, it has MIDI input and output that is included in a special cable with other inputs and outputs (for me, they are important due to I usually use a MIDI controller by USB directly to the computer and another one by MIDI to the interface). Reference: http: //avid.force.com/pkb/arti ...

Software Note: It has its own software, I never mastered it and I think it is not very intuitive, but when I studied it I used it well, it is a matter of studying and always being clear about how it works.

To record: As I explained in the story, I used it in all possible ways (except the SPDIF) and always worked well.

To play live: The configuration and routing of the headphones was not intuitive at all, but possible (to hear a different signal through the headphones); although, even so, it is excellent

PROS AND CONS:

Pro: Professional quality, especially if you want to be ready for everything and still have something portable; the best of all is its AD / DA converter (and I do not know why but in protools it sounds incredible). I just tried it on OSX10.7 (Mac); the drivers worked perfectly. Robust and resistant.

Cons: Quite heavy (it worths and also is transportable). The external connector that allows the midi connection makes the assembly process much more complicated, but it is worth if you are going to use it with all its outputs and inputs. I even used it to play other instruments through my DAW.

4- Saffire 26 (Focusrite)

Story: In 2016, all my equipment was stolen, including my mbox. So, I desperately looked for something with 4 hybrid entries, that would works well but at a medium cost (for budget issues). I have used the saffire for over 2 years. The situations that I have used the most are the following:

1) on the radio, using a guitar, drums, 2 voices (choirs) and the main voice, in addition to my VSTi (with the help of a small audio mixer board to be able to include more mic signals) and it worked well (to the limit, but fine)

2) with Árbol Mecánico, my rock band, putting all the signals, tracks, live vsi, warnings in in ear, and the entire mix from Ableton Live (DAW) of both FOH instruments (Front of the House; to the speakers that sound for the public) as well as the monitors that were connected to a headphones amplifier, unfortunately, in terms of headphones it has a TREMENDOUS defect.

Quick description: This FIREWIRE interface is 8x8 (4 hybrid, that is, both JACK1 / 4 and XLR) which is actually 6x6 because it uses 2 SPDIF in and out (which I never used nor knew how to use). It uses software to set the input and output routes. The trap is that the Headphone output is not aside from the normal ones, but DUPLICATES the 1/2 3/4 or 5/6 signal. This means that (in practice) if you want to hear a different signal in your headphones, like the click, or warnings, you can not use the output 1/2, 3/4 or 5/6 causing that each signal for headphones are equal as (represented by) 2 official outputs. With respect to MIDI usage, it has MIDI input. Reference: https: //www.intermusic-pro.com ... (focusrite removed this model from its page).

Software Note: It has its own software, I never mastered it and I think it is not very intuitive, but when I studied it I used it well, it is a matter of studying it and always being clear about how it works.

To record: I have used all its inputs and outputs (except SPDIF) in traditional and atypical ways (with audio mixer table to put more mics) and it worked, but never with the conversion of the MBOX.

To play live: The setting and routing of the headphones was not very intuitive (a bit more than the MBOX) but possible (to hear a different signal through the headphones); even so, it fulfill with the minimum for professional uses.

PROS AND CONS:

Pro: Value for money, and still being transportable (lighter than the Mbox). It does not need external power source, it works (connected) directly from the computer.

Cons: It does not have XLR outputs (this applies to all previous ones, however, it is at this stage, that I use studio monitors and would love to try out XLR outputs). The worst for me is that it is not really 6x6, but when using headphones it becomes 4x6 and if you use 2 headphones it is 2x6; which is terrible when it's not exactly what you think when someone tells you that say it's 8x8 (I mean, 6x6 because SPDIF i do not use it) with 2 headphone outputs; It is natural to think that these headphones are separate outputs, but they are not. Unlike the Mbox (sometimes), when there is interference you notice much more: practical example. For live presentations: when plugging the MAC + MBOX3 to a place with poor connection and the JACK1 / 4 (as output) there was no noise, but in the same situation with Focusrite, there is a lot of noise.

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This is my experience with interfaces; I hope it is useful for you, I also made a video in which I comment my experience. I recommend you to watch it and comment if my experience has helped you:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDlcD8utfHc

Regards

Danilo Dawson

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* Images and utilities of some Technical Words that you do not understand during the reading or when watching the video (the following images were taken from Wikipedia):

** I have avoided words like Midi Controller or DAW because it was explained in the previous posts.

JACK 1/4 or Line or Plug: It is normally used to send / receive bass audio signals or keyboards. Actually, there are an infinity of instruments that send their signal by JACK1 / 4. It is an unbalanced signal and usually acquires noise when using a long cable, making a coil with it (leave it rolled when connected) or going through other electronic devices. When amplified from some instruments it has to be connected to a Direct Line (another electronic object) to balance the signal and send it to the table.

Note: In my experience with Line Cables I have always used Mono cables

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

XLR or CANON: Balanced signal, traditionally used for microphones. It is capable of moving + 24V (Also called PHANTOM or PHANTOM POWER); Energy needed to power some microphones that need that voltage to work.

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

RCA: Electronic connector used for audio and video.

RCA: Electronic connector used for audio and video.

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

SPDIF: Connection that I do not use but that is present in the MBOX3 and Focusrite pro26


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

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