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Audio interface Advice For New Budget Set Up. Thunderbolt? USB3?


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I last posted 5/6 months ago about a new condenser mic, nevertheless, now my spare room budget studio needs replacing (7/8 years old).

I was using a home built pc running XP with a Tascam Fireone & Ableton. The PC is finished & the Tascam is very out of date & is only XP compatible.

 

Now! The Fireone is firewire (that being why I got it at the time) However now there is USB3 & thunderbolt. Anyway! There are 2 new faster means by which an audio interface can work. What I need you fine people to advise me on is; which is the best budget option, under £180 ($200) would be cool. I am also building a new PC to accompany so any tips on that would also be welcome. Remember! This is budget.

 

I thank you all for any help.

 

*Any advise on Thunderbolt or USB3 interfaces would be appreciated.

Edited by Lewis77
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Only need 2 XLR & a guitar input. Basically equivalent of what I had (the FIreone). When I got it firewire was the best option.

 

I do not have a separate midi interface. Plug into audio interface & that's plugged into the pc then I use Ableton.

Edited by Lewis77
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If I recall correctly, the Fireone has a shared second input... there's a separate 1/4" jack for the guitar input, but depending on which input you want to use (mic/XLR or guitar/1/4") you have to manually flip a switch to select between them.

 

Most interfaces in yuour price range don't have that feature, but you can unplug the XLR connector and plug in a 1/4" input on most of them. It's the same functionality, and you can only use two inputs simultaneously either way, but you'd have to plug and unplug instead of leaving everything connected and flipping a switch, unless you're willing to up the budget to around $250. If so, we can talk about four input channel interfaces that will give you a bit more flexibility...

 

But sticking with two input models and a $200 budget cap, here's a few things you might want to check into:

 

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4

 

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Scarlet2i4G2

 

Craig Anderton has done a couple of reviews of Scarlet Interfaces - not that exact model, but you may want to check them out anyway since they'll give you a good idea of what the Scarlet line is all about.

 

http://www.harmonycentral.com/expert-reviews/focusrite-2i2-usb-2.0-audio-interface

 

http://www.harmonycentral.com/expert-reviews/focusrite-scarlett-18i6-usb-2.0-audio-interface

 

 

Steinberg UR22mkII

 

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/UR22MKII

 

I recently reviewed this fairly new Steinberg interface and was impressed with its quality - especially at the price. It doesn't have any MIDI I/O, so you'd need to get another box to handle that if it's important to you. A basic 1x1 MIDI interface starts at about $30 and goes up from there.

 

http://www.harmonycentral.com/expert-reviews/steinberg-ur22-mkii-usb-2.0-audio-interface

 

 

TASCAM US-2X2

 

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/US2X2

 

If you want to stick with TASCAM, this is a good model to consider. 2x2 I/O, and it has the 1x1 MIDI interface built-in too. It maxes out at 96kHz, but most people (even most pro engineers) don't record at 192kHz anyway, so that shouldn't be a significant issue.

 

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Speaking of stoopid inexpensive ;) has anyone given one of these a chance?

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1119778-REG/behringer_umc404hd_audphile_4x4_midi_interface.html

I bought one earlier this year for a project that self-destructed - it seems to work OK but I'm not doing anything supercritical nor have I sat down with it for a critical testing/listen.

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Thanks for the feedback. I was looking at the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 as many appear to like it. I was interested in the new Thunderbolt/USB3 devices though as they are said to perform better. Nevertheless, If I don't need one, I don't need one. Using Ableton & the fireone (firewire) on XP could get a bit poppy at times. Especially when adding effects & overdubs.

Edited by Lewis77
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Thanks for the feedback. I was looking at the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 as many appear to like it. I was interested in the new Thunderbolt/USB3 devices though as they are said to perform better. Nevertheless' date=' If I don't need one, I don't need one. Using Ableton & the fireone (firewire) on XP could get a bit poppy at times. Especially when adding effects & overdubs. [/b']

 

That was possibly due to the limited computational power of your old computer system. With today's fast and modern computers such issues are relatively rare, especially with only a 2x2 interface, but if you run enough tracks and plugins and set the buffer low enough, almost any system will choke eventually.

 

Ideally you should keep the buffer low when tracking and overdubbing, then max it out when mixing. That way, you'll have low latency when tracking, and the maximum amount of computer resources available for processing and plugins when mixing.

 

Also, here's an article from Craig Anderton that you may find helpful when comparing the specs of various interfaces you may be considering.

 

As far as USB 3 and Thunderbolt, there are not many inexpensive interfaces on the market yet that use either one. Again, their main benefit is that they're extremely fast compared to USB 2, and because of that increased bandwidth they can handle a lot of channels without hiccups. Since USB 3 ports are backwards-compatible with USB 2 devices, and since USB 2 is plenty fast enough to handle a 24 bit 2x2 interface, none of the companies (at least that I'm aware of) have bothered introducing budget-friendly interfaces that use USB 3 or Thunderbolt. Universal Audio has a knockout interface called the Apollo Twin Duo that is Thunderbolt, but it's way over your stated budget. They also make a USB 2 version.

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The practical maximum of USB2 would allow for 256 channels of 24 bit/44.1K audio.

Not that I'd recommend doing this. (You can get a Ford Fiesta to go 100 mph by driving it off a cliff but I wouldn't recommend that either.)

In other words, USB2 is fast enough for all practical purposes...

 

The math in case you're interested:

-------------------------------------------------

Usable maximum USB2 thru-put (from wikipedia): 280,000,000 bits/sec

Divide by 24 bits per sample: 11,666,667 samples per sec

Divide by the number of tracks (256 used for an example): 45572.92 samples per sec for each track

The audio CD rate is 44100 samples per sec for each track.

 

If you record 'high def' (88200 or 176400 or other number of samples per sec) just change the 'number of tracks' value above to get a result higher than the desired samples per sec. Even for 176400 samples/sec the result is 64 tracks.

 

The point:

There's not a real benefit in insisting on getting a USB3 audio interface for studio work.

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