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Audio Interface replacement. Advice on a good budget model

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  • Audio Interface replacement. Advice on a good budget model

    Basically I have a wee set up in my spare room. Home built PC & Tascam Firone. It's 7/8 yrs old & it's time for replacing.

    The Fireone is Firewire (the reason I got it at the time). Now there is USB3 &! Can I get a good budget thunderbolt or USB3 interface? If so how much?
    Will be building a new PC to accompany. It's only for me so only need 2 XLR/guitar sockets. Fireone equivalent (at time) kind of thing.

    Thanks for any help.
    Thank You.

    Moran Taing.

    Saor Alba.

  • #2
    They surely aren't cheap. You can get a much bigger bang for the buck using USB.
    There's a few companies that make the thunderbolt but communication speed has nothing to do with sound quality. You have to look at the specs because many are Mack only. Thunderbolt is just beginning to make its way into PC's I in fact own one of the first HP laptops that has it.

    Preamp and converter quality are the items that provide audio quality. Unless you are running more then 24 channels USB 2.0 is still fast enough to do the job. Once the signal is converted to digital its no longer audio. Its merely digital ones and zeroes.

    Fast communication speed is only needed if you try to run plugins close to real time when tracking, but again, that's mostly the computer speed. If you run a quad core computer, Solid State drives, 64 bit, loads of memory and it has a fast buss speed then using thunderbolt will prevent bottlenecking.

    Focusrite Universal, Motu would be worth looking at. Apogee and Zoom make some too.
    You're looking at a 800% markup in price over regular USB interfaces and have essentially get the same results, same number of channels etc.

    The one made by Focusrite is $499 for example. It's two channel and other then the fact it has a thunderbolt chip its the same as their 2 channel USB that sell for $149. If thunderbolt is worth that much to you, then go for it. I'll sit back and wait 5 years till they drop to $100.

    They are only high now because they are mostly for Macs which overcharge for everything and because PC's are just starting to incorporate Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. They wont come down in price till USB 2.0 is phased out. Most of the same companies make the 3.0 as well but they are much better in price so that would be my best advice. Some even give you all multiple options which is handy. If one technology becomes obsolete, you can simply use the other.

    If anything the 3.0 is cheaper and is likely to be around awhile. Personally I'd still opt for 2.0 because you can get a high quality 16 channel interface for $250 and record a whole band. I need at least 4 channels to record solo stuff. Something like a Focusrite Clarett 4Pre for $699 would work well for solo stuff but I already have a new Tascam 6 channel I paid $89 for on sale. I'd still need to upgrade my studio DAW too which could easily cost a couple of grand, and then I'd have to run 64 bit and half my DAW plugins wouldn't work because they are 32 bit.

    Last edited by WRGKMC; 09-20-2016, 12:51 PM.


    • #3
      Thanks man, that was exactly what I wanted to know. I ran a Fireone (firewire) tascam on XP. I would get popping with overdubs & effects added. Essentially I only need 2 XLR & guitar in. Any suggestions as to what I could look at?
      Thank You.

      Moran Taing.

      Saor Alba.


      • #4
        The popping noises could easily be a problem with your buffers set too low. The buffers adjust how much temp memory you have. Data gets stored in a reserve gas tank till the engine, the CPU needs it. If the tank is too small the engine will suck that reserve tank dry and the engine sputters and coughs. Its the same with memory. If the buffers are too small, the CPU will suck the data from the buffers quicker then the buffers can fill. The pops and clicks are missing chunks of data that never made it to the temp memory in time so the data stream gets filled with zeroes.

        Personally, I'm tight when it comes to spending money. I usually find something that meets my needs. Then I google everything I can on it including all the dirt I can find, Failures, incompatibility issues, Troubleshooting problems, minimum system requirements etc. I usually know more about the unit before buying then I know after.

        I will then try and find the best prices on EBay and wholesale sites. I bought my 8 channel PCI cards that way. They normally sold for $250 or more each new and I bought all three for less then $50 each. Saved me $500 I could spend on other things I needed.

        Trick is you have to look daily and jump on them when you find a good deal pop up. You also have to watch out for deals that look good but are actually being sold for more then normal.

        In the two channel interfaces, there are a couple that sell for under $50. The question is if you need phantom power for running condenser mics or midi.

        If you don't need either the Lexicon sells one for around $50 that also comes with Cubase LE.

        There are many others too. Art makes a little one that's real nifty. M- Audio, Presonus, Focusrite, Tascam all make low end units. Behringer makes a little Xenon USB mixer that records two channels, and you can leave all your gear connected to it so you don't have to keep swapping wires around.

        I wouldn't pay more then $50 for any of them myself no matter what they cost retail. The Focusrite probably has the best mic preamp but for $150 I can buy a 4 channel Tascam.

        If you're only recording guitar there are other options too. I bought a Digitec RP150 which is a modeling stomp pedal that can be used for both live or recording direct. Its not bad either. It has a USB out for direct recording which you can connect to a computer and record guitar with any or all the effects you need. You could probibly run a mic through there too but you'd need an High to low impedance XLR to 1/4" transformer that cost $12. Its got a drum machine built in you can record with too. It doesn't have a huge number of beats but the quality is pretty good. Here's an example of that pedal being used for both guitars.
        I think I paid $30 plus shipping for it on EBay.
        Last edited by WRGKMC; 09-20-2016, 03:30 PM.