I am in the market for a new audio interface. My setup currently is as this:
Three synths and a microphone feeding a Mackie console. Stereo output from there into the stereo in of my soundcard (Emu 1212) and into the DAW. From there it's stereo out from the soundcard and into the console again to be routed to the monitors.
To be honest, I got fed up with the extra mess and cables of the console, plus that I am adding more paths to the audio signal and want the console out of the equation.
So I thought I'd get me a USB (or firewire) external soundcard.
I've narrowed it down to these (unless there are more to consider):
Motu 828mkIII Hybrid Focusrite Scarlet 18i6 M-Audio Fast Track Ultra TC Electronic Impakt Twin Presonus Firestudio Mobile
That is more or less my ceiling as far as money go (mind you the MOTU comes in an outstanding price due to its' Firewire being faulty -something I do not mind per se as the USB is fine)
What I am interested in mostly is the DACs, how clean the conversion of the audio is. I do not mind the pre's much as my sole microphone is driven by a TubePre which I think is a pretty decent piece of gear. I trust that latency will more or less be not of an issue with all of these cards. The nice and clean signal of audio is a must though. Obviously, none of these is an RME and I am not expecting miracles, still some or one must be better than the rest.
I use an RME Fireface and it's worth saving up the extra for in my opinion. Mine is the 400 so it's a lot more affordable. Out of that list, i'd probably choose the Presonus stuff. Shame about the MOTU though..
"(The New Testament) is a work of crude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events, and full of improvised attempts to make things come out right." Christopher Hitchens, R.I.P
I used an 828 mk2 for years and thought the conversion was "good" - not incredible but solid and useable. The pre's are a bit on the dark side, but still good. I think for the mk3 motu upgraded the pres but I'm not sure about the conversion technology - you might want to check up on that. If you can get it at a great price, I'd say get it. Hope this helps.
btw, replacing a firewire port is pretty easy. If you can't do it yourself, I'm sure you could find someone who would know how.