Help me choose a new recording interface.

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marqueemoon
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Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by marqueemoon » Sat Jul 18, 2020 5:09 pm

After almost 20 years (!) it's time to buy a new interface.

I've decided this time I don't need a lot of inputs. 4 will do it. I also have some good outboard preamps and compressors, but it would be nice to be able to, say, take my laptop and a stereo mic to practice and be able to quickly make a decent sounding recording without having to haul a rack of crap.

I'm a Mac user and am planning to go USB just because that seems like the surer thing long term and I don't need the speed of Thunderbolt.

I want to go pretty cheap, just because frankly this stuff is disposable.

Here are my current front runners:

ESI MAYA44 USB+

https://www.esi-audio.com/products/maya44usb+/

The main attraction here is it's cheap. Both of my two channel preamps have an unbalanced (T/S) output option, so this and 4 T/S>RCA cables and I'd be in business. I would prefer balanced TRS though, and the other downsides are no onboard zero latency monitoring option, and no onboard preamps. Also no MIDI. I do like to mess with soft synths sometimes. I do like the tiny form factor though, and I could always park my trusty old Mackie 1202 VLZ at the practice space and bum the preamps from that for practice recordings.

MOTU M4

https://motu.com/en-us/products/m-series/m4/

I've heard a lot of good things about this, and I like the idea of going with one of the bigger players for support. I love the big, bright meters. It would nice nice if this unit had digital i/o, but not a dealbreaker.

Any other suggestions? I'd like to keep it under $400.

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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by Dok » Sat Jul 18, 2020 10:05 pm

+1 for the MOTU. Rock solid driver support on all products for decades, great customer service, and excellent build/sound quality. You really can't do much better for that price. If you really need digital i/o you could probably find a used Focusrite Clarett 4pre for a few dollars over $400.
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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by marqueemoon » Sun Jul 19, 2020 7:36 am

Dok wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 10:05 pm
+1 for the MOTU. Rock solid driver support on all products for decades, great customer service, and excellent build/sound quality. You really can't do much better for that price. If you really need digital i/o you could probably find a used Focusrite Clarett 4pre for a few dollars over $400.
Yeah, probably going with the MOTU. They are back ordered right now though.

I don’t have anything digital I need to get into an interface that’s more than 16 bit/44.1, so I can use my old interface for that.

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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by marqueemoon » Mon Jul 20, 2020 8:56 am

Welp, went ahead and ordered the MOTU M4. Figured since it’s back ordered I should get in line now.

Supposedly I’ll get it mid-August sometime.

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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by Dok » Mon Jul 20, 2020 12:51 pm

marqueemoon wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 8:56 am
Welp, went ahead and ordered the MOTU M4. Figured since it’s back ordered I should get in line now.

Supposedly I’ll get it mid-August sometime.
Fingers crossed it gets here sooner. Would love to hear a report that might push me over the edge toward getting an 828es. ;D
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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by marqueemoon » Mon Jul 20, 2020 1:36 pm

Dok wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 12:51 pm
marqueemoon wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 8:56 am
Welp, went ahead and ordered the MOTU M4. Figured since it’s back ordered I should get in line now.

Supposedly I’ll get it mid-August sometime.
Fingers crossed it gets here sooner. Would love to hear a report that might push me over the edge toward getting an 828es. ;D
Will report back. I think this is the best option for me, so a little waiting is fine. It will give me some time to really get the rest of the setup dialed.

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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by tdbajus » Tue Jul 21, 2020 11:23 am

I tell you, recording has never been easier or sounded better for me than when I got my Apollo8.

I've owned IOs by Metric Halo, RME, Digi. I've had preamps by Manley, Langevin, Systek, Chameleon Labs. I don't miss any of them, ever. It is such a joy to plug a mic into my snake and have it just sound amazing right away.

Their plugins are pretty great, too, by an large- though they are maybe a little too slavishly devoted to recreating ever annoying detail in their vintage stuff. The LA2A and 1176 models are amazing, and they have some very nice reverbs. They also make the only guitar amp emulator that I have ever loved- their model of a tweed deluxe.

The built in preamps are chock full o' gain, and whisper quiet. I have never once thought about upgrading, ever.

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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by marqueemoon » Sat Jul 25, 2020 12:59 pm

tdbajus wrote:
Tue Jul 21, 2020 11:23 am
I tell you, recording has never been easier or sounded better for me than when I got my Apollo8.

I've owned IOs by Metric Halo, RME, Digi. I've had preamps by Manley, Langevin, Systek, Chameleon Labs. I don't miss any of them, ever. It is such a joy to plug a mic into my snake and have it just sound amazing right away.

Their plugins are pretty great, too, by an large- though they are maybe a little too slavishly devoted to recreating ever annoying detail in their vintage stuff. The LA2A and 1176 models are amazing, and they have some very nice reverbs. They also make the only guitar amp emulator that I have ever loved- their model of a tweed deluxe.

The built in preamps are chock full o' gain, and whisper quiet. I have never once thought about upgrading, ever.
Huh, well the MOTU is already on order but I agree that (in my very limited experience with them) the UA plugins sound great.

I guess my overall take on digital recording is interfaces are more or less disposable, but UA is making a strong play for making their hardware essential with their plugin hosting stuff, etc...

A Great River MP-2NV is my main mic pre, so I'm pretty happy on that front. I'd eventually like to trade out my Oram MWS for more of a "straight wire with gain" pre for more contrast, but it is no slouch either.

Electric guitar recording at home is a tough one. I have a strong preference for open back cabs and roomy sounds, so I think some kind of IR-based solution will be needed if I record direct. Also looking at a reamp setup. I dunno.

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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by postchrist » Sat Jul 25, 2020 11:21 pm

marqueemoon wrote:
Sat Jul 25, 2020 12:59 pm
Huh, well the MOTU is already on order but I agree that (in my very limited experience with them) the UA plugins sound great.

I guess my overall take on digital recording is interfaces are more or less disposable, but UA is making a strong play for making their hardware essential with their plugin hosting stuff, etc...

A Great River MP-2NV is my main mic pre, so I'm pretty happy on that front. I'd eventually like to trade out my Oram MWS for more of a "straight wire with gain" pre for more contrast, but it is no slouch either.

Electric guitar recording at home is a tough one. I have a strong preference for open back cabs and roomy sounds, so I think some kind of IR-based solution will be needed if I record direct. Also looking at a reamp setup. I dunno.
i’m with this take. interfaces have a lifespan, as do plugins, daws, etc. - good outboard gear will last you your whole life.

i bought a clarett 8pre a bit ago, and i love it for what it is - the converters are good enough that it’s remaining in use despite my coming close to replacing all the pres. will probably get a set of dedicated converters at some point and continue to use the clarett to get myself to 16 channels or so. that said, i have to bite the bullet anytime i purchase digital kit, just feel so little attachment to such things(despite their usefulness). recently picked up a dav bg-1 and a set of isa pres, and both make recording so easy... they just sound beautiful.

sorry to rant. regarding your electric guitar dilemma - i have the same preferences, and a really small combo usually does the trick for me - i usually use my musicmaster bass amp and did some light treatment in my apartment, and that works real well. also, if you want to make your room sound bigger, you can use a boundary mic(very cheap, realistic pzms are great imo)in front of your amp facing the wall, and it will capture the reflections without getting much of the source. just an idea without much context for your limitations.
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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by tdbajus » Sun Jul 26, 2020 4:01 am

My one watt Marshall JTM-1 is absolutely magical for recording. The ZVex nanoAmp might be equally good, as the one watt Marshall tributes seem to have become rare as hen's teeth.

Nothing works as well for me as an amp with a decent mic on it.

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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by marqueemoon » Sun Jul 26, 2020 7:58 am

postchrist wrote:
Sat Jul 25, 2020 11:21 pm
i’m with this take. interfaces have a lifespan, as do plugins, daws, etc. - good outboard gear will last you your whole life.
Yeah, better conversion, clocking, etc... definitely makes a difference and I don’t want to dismiss that, but I’m trying to get things down to a few good mics and outboard gear I know well.

Having those consistent elements makes it easier to deal with the variables on the digital side and cuts down of the stress of recording myself a little.

I’ll start a new thread on the guitar recording piece.

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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by tdbajus » Sun Jul 26, 2020 12:16 pm

Feel like I ought to devil's advocate here- I have found preamps to be mostly a waste of money and time. They might have been important at some point, but good, cheap, clean gain is common.

Here's a list of gear I have not once missed for a second that I either owned or was owned by a friend sharing my rehearsal studio:

Manley Dual Mono: I knew that this was not worth the money when I did a double blind test with a bunch of friends between a $300 mackie Onyx satellite and the Manley (not mine, but something like $2-3K, no?) and a $700 RME ADA1. It was double blind because I forgot to name the tracks properly, but of the dozen people or so who listened, no one could tell which was which. This made me feel pretty stupid, because I had just bought the RME.

Langevin Dual Mono
Chameleon Labs neve clones, modded for the original transformers
Systek- which was awesome, very clean, quiet, and TONS of gain. But I have never needed it, even with my ribbon mic.
UAD 2-610

Meanwhile, a guy I know whose recordings have won literal, actual Grammys is recording everything through Behringer Ultragains ADAT linked to his Pro Tools 002. David Byrne liked his recordings enough to do more than one record with him too (Kampo).

YMMV, but for me, I had a lot of money tied up in a lot of gear that was just making my work harder. Now I just plug a mic into the snake, arm the track, and the Apollo is ready to go. I love recording again, which had become such a stressful chore. The weirdest thing is that after I sold all this ballast, I'm actually using the studio as an instrument the way I always wanted to when I was buying all this crazy crap.

If I was to invest in hardware, I'd get myself a sweet little ultra-low wattage amp. That Marshall of mine has made everything a whole new game. I have the special edition, which is selling for stupid money (it must be made from $100 in parts) but I think it's the same as this guy: https://reverb.com/item/1739539-marshal ... 2012-black

Basically, it's a teeny bassman that uses a 12AU7 instead of EL34s in the power section. Super compressed, so you don't even have to worry about outboard gear there. And it won't blow up your ribbon mic.

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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by postchrist » Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:59 pm

tdbajus wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 12:16 pm
Feel like I ought to devil's advocate here- I have found preamps to be mostly a waste of money and time. They might have been important at some point, but good, cheap, clean gain is common.

Here's a list of gear I have not once missed for a second that I either owned or was owned by a friend sharing my rehearsal studio:

Manley Dual Mono: I knew that this was not worth the money when I did a double blind test with a bunch of friends between a $300 mackie Onyx satellite and the Manley (not mine, but something like $2-3K, no?) and a $700 RME ADA1. It was double blind because I forgot to name the tracks properly, but of the dozen people or so who listened, no one could tell which was which. This made me feel pretty stupid, because I had just bought the RME.

Langevin Dual Mono
Chameleon Labs neve clones, modded for the original transformers
Systek- which was awesome, very clean, quiet, and TONS of gain. But I have never needed it, even with my ribbon mic.
UAD 2-610

Meanwhile, a guy I know whose recordings have won literal, actual Grammys is recording everything through Behringer Ultragains ADAT linked to his Pro Tools 002. David Byrne liked his recordings enough to do more than one record with him too (Kampo).

YMMV, but for me, I had a lot of money tied up in a lot of gear that was just making my work harder. Now I just plug a mic into the snake, arm the track, and the Apollo is ready to go. I love recording again, which had become such a stressful chore. The weirdest thing is that after I sold all this ballast, I'm actually using the studio as an instrument the way I always wanted to when I was buying all this crazy crap.
i definitely can’t talk shit on the apollo! it’s a great little piece that simplifies the recording process x10.

i think it depends on your goals and uses. important thing to remember is that the quality of the performance itself will always matter more than a good recording chain.

for my own purposes(recording full bands, overdubbing, etc.), it just helps a lot to have nice pres - not that i ever felt particularly limited by the stock clarett(or earlier, scarlett) pres i used to use, but when i use ones that break up nicely and capture things the way i want them to sound, it helps to speed up the processes. you’re right - clean gain is cheap enough and easy to come by, my dav pres ran 500 for the pair and are clean enough to track la traviata with - but no pre is totally devoid of distortion and that’s more what i tend to get out of good outboard gear. not so much whether it breaks up, but how it breaks up. i really, really hate spending lots of time in post, which may be a difference between our methods but i’m not sure.

nice thing is, the way i have my rack set up currently, it kinda works just like your apollo - i flip the switch on the power conditioner and it’s all ready to go. and again, i think that’s at the heart of all this, convoluted processes and gear nerd shit should never come before the music. much like your friend at kampo, i think i remember brad on here at one point talking about an accomplished horn-dub musician using a bottom of the barrel prosumer interface and a cheap mic to record horns for pop hits out of his bedroom. different strokes” always applies in art - there will never be a clear answer as to how much the gear really matters, except from person to person. imo, if it makes your life easier it’s a good piece of gear.
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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by tdbajus » Mon Jul 27, 2020 12:36 pm

postchrist wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:59 pm
if it makes your life easier it’s a good piece of gear.
Word.

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Re: Help me choose a new recording interface.

Post by marqueemoon » Mon Jul 27, 2020 1:24 pm

tdbajus wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 12:36 pm
postchrist wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:59 pm
if it makes your life easier it’s a good piece of gear.
Word.
Also backing this concept.

Tried out the rig sans new interface yesterday. Setup time is much improved. I can basically be tracking in under 5 minutes, and I think I can improve on that with a few boring changes like neatening up my cable situation.

I also have a few time savers planned like building a loft for guitar cases so I can easily grab the one I want without causing an avalanche.

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