Audio interface recommendations

Finally replacing the old iMac and its FA-66…

Looking for an audio interface for my firmware development machine with:

  • 96kHz or 192kHz sample rate (nice to monitor aliasing/HF crap).
  • Front panel instrument input, with a wide gain range, so that I can put modular-level stuff straight into it.
  • MIDI (don’t want more boxes/cables… don’t need fancy timing but SysEx that works).
  • Good compatibility with a recently purchased iMac and its 3.0 USB ports. Please.
  • Direct monitor is a bonus.
  • I only need 2 inputs, 2 outputs.

Not entirely happy with the Focusrite Scarlet 2i4 I bought for my other computer at home (Distortion when sending high level signals to the inputs and gain set to minimum - even if the signal doesn’t appear to clip ; frequently no longer recognized every time the computer leaves sleep mode ; occasional drops when recording ; also, feels cheap…)

Candidates I’ve spot: Presonus Audiobox 22, Roland UA-55, Motu Ultralite.

I can recommend the Motu Ultralite. Fortunately they sorted out all their driver issues some time ago and it works fine now. From what I heard from other people (I use windows) this is also the case for Mac.
Some people find Motus UI’s very confusing but for me it’s absolutely logical and I don’t have any problems with it. As I said, some poeple are becoming confused by it.
Audio Quality is very good I would say but I’m not the right person when it comes to audio precision.

Unfortunate that the 2i4 isn’t working out for you… I just picked up a Focusrite Scarlet 18i20 and it’s given me no trouble.

Apparently the new MIDAS powered Behringer interfaces deliver a lot of bang for the buck.
FCA610 and FCA1616

Many people diss Motu for their converters… but it’s the same people who claim to be able to hear the difference between 24 and 16bit on a mastered track. So far I think the Ultralite offers a lot of IN and OUTputs on a compact size.

I’m pretty happy with my Presonus Firebox, so I think I can also recommend their interfaces.
AudioBox-44VSL

Also I had a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 for some time and it’s a great interface. Looks good, built like a tank and has good preamps/converters apparently… and it’s relatively cheap.
Audio Komplete 6

I had the motu 828mk3, which is the bigger brother of ultralite. It has an awesome sound quality and some nice features. However it had also a few driver problems (crash, kernel panic) which was super annoying.
I then switched to an mackie onyx 1640i for two reasons: I wanted hands on control, because I got more and more into music making without a computer and it doesn’t need to install any drivers. It’s core audio compatible Which is perfect. In theory… Unfortunately there are some sort of hardware bugs, that cause loud white noise each 2-3 minutes when using the mixer with firewire and Mac 10.5+. It’s virtually impossible to record anything without frustration. It makes me so often super angry… Else it would be the perfect mixer…
I’m now also on the search for something that can replace it. I will may take the route of an audio interface + connected old analog Mackie mixer.

Bottom line: If Motu fixed all the driver issues, it’s a great audio interface. You can get a used 828mk3 for 350-400 Euro. But the Ultralite should be also great.

I can only recommend RME. I’ve had MOTU and compared to RME it sounds dull and lifeless. Also things on MOTU’s tend to break. All MOTU’s (all 828’s) i know have problems. On mine one of the mic pre’s broke, I could have it repaired in guaranty but i meant missing it for more than a month since it had to go to the states. I can’t miss my interface for that long.

I’ve got a RME UCX now. Very good sounding and versatile great build unit and very good drivers.
The mic-pre’s and converters are very good with up to 65dB of gain.
Though i haven’t tested it on USB 3.0 on a new mac. But it has USB and FireWire. On firewire it can be powered from the port. For me that’s really handy for location recordings. I can do it fully on the battery from my macbook pro.

There are a few downsides to the UCX :

Midi is on fiddly break out cable. The UFX has got this covered but that things is really expensive!(but great if you can find it secondhand)
There are FX but the reverbs sound really poor.
It’s outputs are AC coupled instead of DC so you can’t use it directly with Silent Way like the MOTU’s

@pichenettes The Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter has worked perfectly with my Presonus FireStudio Mobile on a Retina MBP, so you might want to try that first with your trusty FA-66. :slight_smile:

@t2k: ohhh I didn’t know about that! I think I’ll give it a try, because it’ll be sad to trash something that still does the job.

@pichenettes I actually have a spare adapter here. Shall I send it your way?

I’m installing the new machine on monday, so I think I’ll grab one at the apple store over the week-end. Can’t do much without an audio interface!

@pichenettes I was about to order Focusrite Scarlet 2i4. So you would not recommend at all ?

I have an 18i20 and it’s given me problems in the past but recently it was rock solid- but the past few weeks it’s powering on and the LEDs are lit but it seems like something was tripped in there because I have to keep power cycling it for 20 minutes after every time I power it down.

So I have been just leaving it on and it’s fine- for now. I really don’t want to have to buy another audio interface, but If I do it will be one relativley cheap one like the FCA for the audio rack and one smaller desktop one for the modular and whatever else.

I don’t recommend a getting a big one with a bunch of crap preamps like the 18i20 (the noise makes it very difficult for me to set up sends/returns on a buss without lit- I don’t want to have to buy an AD converter/DI rack just because my audio interface sucks.

I bet you could get a great second hand price on an RME over there…

> So you would not recommend at all ?

Hmmm, given that my criteria are unusual, it might as well be fine for you!

@pichenettes I can’t beat that by mail. :slight_smile:

There are a few downsides to the UCX

you forgot to mention that it costs way more than the rest :slight_smile:

I’ve had a couple of MOTU’s and had no problems with them.
Olivier, the last one I bought damn nearly ticks all your boxes I think. It’s a MOTU Audio Express. It’s not unlike an Ultralight, but with only 4 ins and 4 outs, and no built in effects which i’ll never use anyway (so it’s also a bit cheaper than an ultralight)
MOTU interfaces also tend to be DC coupled, which can make them rather handy for direct Control Voltage use (not a feature I use myself however)
Mine doesn’t go up to 192k though, but does do 96k, which is plenty for my needs.
It’s got Firewire and USB. I use it with Firewire, and have tested it with Apples Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter and it works just fine.
Never experienced any driver problems with either of the MOTU’s i’ve had on my Macs either.

The only thing I don’t like about it, is that it doesn’t power up after the Mac wakes from sleep. So any DAW software that was using it is suddenly throwing up Missing Audio interface type messages.

I’m very, very happy with my motu ultralite. I have been using it abroad for more than 3 years without a single issue. When I mean abroad, it’s obviously not like I’m constantly touring, but I often take it for holidays and always bring it from home to the studio/basement when I need to record some material. It can handle a huge range of signals and it seems to comply with all of your criteria.

I looked at the Audio Express but the connectors are on the back…

^ Yes, I think thats all that was missing from your list.
Im sure the Ultralight is good though :slight_smile: I nearly got that one myself. But I didn’t happen to need the extra stuff it came with.

@rumpelfilter… yes that too… But it’s good value for the money.