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High end soundcards
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Head
 
High end soundcards

Hello,

I've always wondered, seeing as most people talk about pre amps, compressors and EQ's. Here are a couple of questions:

Could you give me some examples of high end soundcards that pros use?

What benefits can you get from having a high end soundcard? I assume latency will be better, anything else?

In terms of the sound quality, if I use external pre amps, does the soundcard really matter?

I'm using a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20... it does the job for me but I am wondering how I could upgrade to the next level.

Thanks for your help
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 
BT64's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gggg ➡️
.. how I could upgrade to the next level.
What's next level?
If I compare mediocre with great recordings I made the major difference didn't come from used preamp or interface but more from performance, room and mic (used) placement.
If you don't like the result don't blame the gear.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #3
Gear Head
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BT64 ➡️
What's next level?
If I compare mediocre with great recordings I made the major difference didn't come from used preamp or interface but more from performance, room and mic (used) placement.
If you don't like the result don't blame the gear.
I never said I don't like the results I'm getting. I'm simply interested in knowing what audio interfaces professional mixers and producers are using. And the reasons why. There's a reason they use the equipment they use. Surely they don't settle with mediocre equipment, right?

While "the performance, room and mic (used) placement" is important, it's not the whole picture. There are other things at play there so I think it's a bit naive to say that your studio setup isn't important. For example, my old audio interface had crappy latency issues, are you going to say that me upgrading to better equipment wasn't useful? come on...
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Rick Dalton's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gggg ➡️
I am wondering how I could upgrade to the next level.

Thanks for your help
$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Old 6 days ago
  #5
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
UAD and Apogee own a lot of the pro space. The converters definitely matter. And it's not just the chips used. It's the surrounding analog electronics, the design, the power supply quality, the insulation from electrical noise, the clock quality, etc.

Some popular pro equipment:
UAD Apollo
Apogee Symphony
Prism Atlas/Titan
Lynx Aurora

Avid has a Carbon interface out that is getting a good response from the market.
Old 6 days ago | Show parent
  #6
Gear Head
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gearstudent ➡️
UAD and Apogee own a lot of the pro space. The converters definitely matter. And it's not just the chips used. It's the surrounding analog electronics, the design, the power supply quality, the insulation from electrical noise, the clock quality, etc.

Some popular pro equipment:
UAD Apollo
Apogee Symphony
Prism Atlas/Titan
Lynx Aurora

Avid has a Carbon interface out that is getting a good response from the market.
thanks for your reply, that is definitely helpful

good to know, I was actually looking into upgrading my audio interface because I'm starting to think about incorporating analogue gear into my setup
Old 3 days ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 5 years
I started out using a Focusrite Saffire interface. The moment I hooked up my RME Fireface and just played a mix through it was an epiphany and made me realize I had better spent my money there first instead of getting external preamps and hooking them up to the Saffire. There's a reason RME, Apogee, UAD and Antelope are found in pro studios. Especially when you think about analog gear make sure you have great conversion or stay ITB.
Old 3 days ago | Show parent
  #8
Gear Head
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JSchlomo ➡️
There's a reason RME, Apogee, UAD and Antelope are found in pro studios. Especially when you think about analog gear make sure you have great conversion or stay ITB.

Exactly! Thanks for your input, yes I have now decided to go for an RME UFX+ and can't wait to upgrade. Interfaces are actually a piece of kit that seems to be overlooked and taken for granted. For me, it's like the centerpiece of the studio where all your audio is passing through, quite important to get good converters, especially if you are using analog gear. Not to mention latency, reliability, having something that is sturdy and doesn't give you any issues. All these things are SO important to any studio. Personally I've had drop outs and sound issues with Focusrite interfaces, it's just not on the same level.
Old 3 days ago
  #9
Lives for gear
 
Korcraft's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gggg ➡️
I'm using a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20... it does the job for me but I am wondering how I could upgrade to the next level.
This is audio production marketing in a nut shell.

I like my results...But I also want them to sound better.

"Here! Get this gear... it'll fix the problem you are having that totally isn't your ability or knowledge."

It is what everyone does with everything. If I only had this better pot, my food would taste better. If I had those shoes I'd run faster.

This is not to say that there are no high end items. Of course there are. The point is that you could spend $10k right now on conversion alone...And your mixes will sound the same. You could spend $100k on preamps right now and your recordings will sound pretty much the same.

Here is what takes an ok recording and turns it into a great one.

Hours spent on mic placement before hitting record.
A properly treated and tuned mix room.
Not recording vocals in a closet.
Understanding phase and polarity and how that applies to the capture not just the mixing.
Understanding what different tools actually do. Like how the compressor is actually changing the sound beyond just, minimizing peaks so I can make it louder.

All of those things plus many more inexpensive or free tools and techniques will give you far better gains on your projects than throwing money at a high end convertor.

Don't get my wrong. I totally get where you are coming from. You aren't the first and you won't be the last. But your interface is a quality interface. The preamps are clean and the conversion is clean. There is nothing the interface is doing to stop your recordings or mixes from being great.

Now, if you have $100k to burn...Go for it! All the power to you. But I think you would get a lot more out of really taking your time with mic placement and room treatment.

Another thing I didn't mention is the performance. Often people come here asking..."What is the mic pre that X artist uses?" or "What signal chain does X band use on their vocals?" They entirely ignore the fact that the artist themselves are a part of that signal chain.

Good luck.
Old 3 days ago
  #10
Gear Guru
 
henryrobinett's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Metric Halo ULN-8 3d
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #11
Gear Head
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Korcraft ➡️
This is audio production marketing in a nut shell.

I like my results...But I also want them to sound better.

"Here! Get this gear... it'll fix the problem you are having that totally isn't your ability or knowledge."

It is what everyone does with everything. If I only had this better pot, my food would taste better. If I had those shoes I'd run faster.

This is not to say that there are no high end items. Of course there are. The point is that you could spend $10k right now on conversion alone...And your mixes will sound the same. You could spend $100k on preamps right now and your recordings will sound pretty much the same.

Here is what takes an ok recording and turns it into a great one.

Hours spent on mic placement before hitting record.
A properly treated and tuned mix room.
Not recording vocals in a closet.
Understanding phase and polarity and how that applies to the capture not just the mixing.
Understanding what different tools actually do. Like how the compressor is actually changing the sound beyond just, minimizing peaks so I can make it louder.

All of those things plus many more inexpensive or free tools and techniques will give you far better gains on your projects than throwing money at a high end convertor.

Don't get my wrong. I totally get where you are coming from. You aren't the first and you won't be the last. But your interface is a quality interface. The preamps are clean and the conversion is clean. There is nothing the interface is doing to stop your recordings or mixes from being great.

Now, if you have $100k to burn...Go for it! All the power to you. But I think you would get a lot more out of really taking your time with mic placement and room treatment.

Another thing I didn't mention is the performance. Often people come here asking..."What is the mic pre that X artist uses?" or "What signal chain does X band use on their vocals?" They entirely ignore the fact that the artist themselves are a part of that signal chain.

Good luck.
Thanks for your reply

I actually agree with all your points...

However, I don't see why people here are giving me their opinion on what is more important than gear. I didn't ask this question or advice on that topic. I came here for some Audio Interface recommendations. And I get replies like "Why are you buying gear for? Just work on your mic placement!" or "Just be a better musician!"

I don't think it's so black and white. From my experience, my interface is not that good. It has a lot of latency, and it drops out/has glitches and I don't like that at all. That affects the work I do, and this is not my hobby... so it's important for me to address these issues so I can work more efficiently.

That in itself is a good enough reason to upgrade to a more stable interface, regardless of how much it will affect my sound.

Also, every time I have invested in more equipment, I have actually noticed a difference in the quality of my recordings. Whether that is because of how smooth my computer was running, which made me more productive, or how good the new headphones I bought were... or the microphones... or the room that I treated. Yep... it does make a difference and I notice it with each improvement. It's an accumulation of MANY things, knowledge, experience, time working on your craft. Also, the gear you buy... yes, that does make a difference. It's a natural progression.
I'm not doing anything crazy, like buying a huge analog mixing board without having a clue what I'm doing. I'm buying a good interface that is reliable, sounds reasonable to me.

Thanks for your input anyways, you raised some good points.
Old 2 days ago
  #12
Lives for gear
 
Korcraft's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Hey, you do you booboo if you have $5000 or more to spend on an interface by all means do it. It is your money and if you think there is nothing else you could buy with that money that would be more impactful in your recordings then go with my blessing lol.

To answer your question though...I'd say the reason that you are getting these replies is because (and forgive me here, I am not trying to be rude) you have posted in a Newbie forum about buying high-end convertors.

So we are assuming that you are a newbie. When in Rome you see. Most seasoned audio engineers would know what convertors are high-end and wouldn't need to ask which convertors are high-end. Rather they would ask for opinions on SPECIFIC high-end convertors that they were choosing from. So our assumption about you being a newbie (not an insult) while perhaps is incorrect; Is not an unreasonable one.

It is 100% a common theme for people who are newer to think that the issues they are having is that they just don't have high enough quality gear. In your case you think it is your convertor. But this happens all the time with mics, preamps, compressors etc etc etc. Even the idea that they need to go analog because it is automatically better than digital. Many people new or new-ish to this line of work or hobby have spent untold amounts of money trying to fix issues they don't have while ignoring the ones they do have that are often cheaper to fix. And it is completely common on this wonderful forum for people to try to prevent that and save their fellow audio friends and gearspace members their hard earned money.

So, it shouldn't be surprising to find that people on a forum meant to help people not only with their audio questions directly...But in this specific newbie area where many times the OP doesn't know what they don't know. That people would answer your question this way. So people seeing your particular question and how and where it was asked would reasonably see a red flag and say hey...Maybe this person doesn't know about these other factors and might end up spending a lot of money and still be disappointed because they didn't solve the actual problem.

That is my long-winded presumption on why you are getting these types of replies

Having a more "stable" interface is of course completely reasonable. But also has absolutely nothing to do with buying "high-end" convertors. There are plenty of non-high-end convertors that are completely stable. Seems like your specific interface is just broken. Or perhaps you are using a crappy cable, or maybe your USB bus in your computer is broken or under powered...There are many possible reasons for the issues you are having with your interface. The answer to your particular interface issues however, is not that you don't have a high-end interface. Millions of people use your exact interface everyday without issue.

However, it seems you have decided on a new convertor. Congratulations! New gear is always fun even if it is not so kind on the old bank account haha. I hope it does everything you want it to. At $3000USD I'm sure it will be very stable.

Good luck.
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #13
Gear Head
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Korcraft ➡️
Hey, you do you booboo if you have $5000 or more to spend on an interface by all means do it. It is your money and if you think there is nothing else you could buy with that money that would be more impactful in your recordings then go with my blessing lol.

To answer your question though...I'd say the reason that you are getting these replies is because (and forgive me here, I am not trying to be rude) you have posted in a Newbie forum about buying high-end convertors.

So we are assuming that you are a newbie. When in Rome you see. Most seasoned audio engineers would know what convertors are high-end and wouldn't need to ask which convertors are high-end. Rather they would ask for opinions on SPECIFIC high-end convertors that they were choosing from. So our assumption about you being a newbie (not an insult) while perhaps is incorrect; Is not an unreasonable one.

It is 100% a common theme for people who are newer to think that the issues they are having is that they just don't have high enough quality gear. In your case you think it is your convertor. But this happens all the time with mics, preamps, compressors etc etc etc. Even the idea that they need to go analog because it is automatically better than digital. Many people new or new-ish to this line of work or hobby have spent untold amounts of money trying to fix issues they don't have while ignoring the ones they do have that are often cheaper to fix. And it is completely common on this wonderful forum for people to try to prevent that and save their fellow audio friends and gearspace members their hard earned money.

So, it shouldn't be surprising to find that people on a forum meant to help people not only with their audio questions directly...But in this specific newbie area where many times the OP doesn't know what they don't know. That people would answer your question this way. So people seeing your particular question and how and where it was asked would reasonably see a red flag and say hey...Maybe this person doesn't know about these other factors and might end up spending a lot of money and still be disappointed because they didn't solve the actual problem.

That is my long-winded presumption on why you are getting these types of replies

Having a more "stable" interface is of course completely reasonable. But also has absolutely nothing to do with buying "high-end" convertors. There are plenty of non-high-end convertors that are completely stable. Seems like your specific interface is just broken. Or perhaps you are using a crappy cable, or maybe your USB bus in your computer is broken or under powered...There are many possible reasons for the issues you are having with your interface. The answer to your particular interface issues however, is not that you don't have a high-end interface. Millions of people use your exact interface everyday without issue.

However, it seems you have decided on a new convertor. Congratulations! New gear is always fun even if it is not so kind on the old bank account haha. I hope it does everything you want it to. At $3000USD I'm sure it will be very stable.

Good luck.
Did you just call me Booboo. right... I mean, that kind of stuff comes across as a bit patronising

Thanks for your feedback, I can understand why you guys replied the way you did.

Thanks anyways you raised lots of good and valid points which I also agree on.

I'm still getting that expensive audio interface though
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #14
Lives for gear
 
BT64's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gggg ➡️
I'm still getting that expensive audio interface though
I knew that from your opening post.
Up to the next level.
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #15
Gear Head
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BT64 ➡️
I knew that from your opening post.
Up to the next level.
Level Up.
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #16
Lives for gear
 
Korcraft's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gggg ➡️
Did you just call me Booboo. right... I mean, that kind of stuff comes across as a bit patronising
I think "you do you booboo" is like a meme or something lol. Not patronizing.

Look if I wasn't married with kids and didn't have a mortgage and a million other hobbies I waste my money on...I would buy all the best gear I could too.
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #17
Gear Head
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Korcraft ➡️
I think "you do you booboo" is like a meme or something lol. Not patronizing.

Look if I wasn't married with kids and didn't have a mortgage and a million other hobbies I waste my money on...I would buy all the best gear I could too.
That's cool, you do you boo
Old 2 days ago
  #18
Gear Head
 
BringTheNoise's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Bro, dont worry about a good DA Converter unless you´ve got a "Good Sounding Room" and a "good Pair of Speakers!"

Cheers
Old 2 days ago
  #19
Lives for gear
 
David Rick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
What does an "upgrade" actually bring me?

Usual disclaimers about musicianship, acoustics, and technique apply. That said, the Focusrite Saffire series is decidedly entry-level. If you can listen to a better interface and hear that it's better, then it might be time to upgrade. If you're having data buffer drops, it might also be time to upgrade... your computer!

Why is it that Focusrite can take the same converter chip, put it in a Claret instead of a Scarlet and have it sound better? Well, an entry-level interface takes a 35 cent opamp and a potentiometer, puts a pair of electrolytic capacitors in front, and calls it a mic preamp. In their mid-range series, they'll swap out the electrolytic caps for film caps, and add a pair of discrete transistors in front of the opamp. They might change out a carbon-track potentiometer for a conductive plastic one. In their top-of-the line offering, the front end now uses four matched transistors, and the op-amp now costs $1.35. A boutique maker might go further: maybe a 12 position switch and metal film resistors instead of a gain pot. (These differences are meant to be exemplary; I don't have access to schematics for any of the mentioned products.)

How can UA and Prism use the same DAC chip and yet they sound different? Well, UA might use a monolithic clock recovery chip (there are some pretty nice ones available) while Prism built their clock circuit using a VCXO and a DSP-based adaptive loop filter. The later approach adds extra cost and requires a lot more engineering, all for an incremental benefit that not everyone can hear. But some can hear it and are willing to pay the difference. Others can hear it, but decide its not worth the extra money.

The question we always have to be asking ourselves is this one: Even if a higher-end product is objectively or subjectively better, is buying it the best use of the (always) limited funds we have available for the next upgrade? Or is the upgrade budget better spent on a nicer microphone or guitar? If you're running a commercial studio, the question is more like this: Will adding this preamp bring me more bookings, or will I get more business if I improve the coffee and buy a foosball table?

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recording
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #20
Lives for gear
 
Korcraft's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Rick ➡️
The question we always have to be asking ourselves is this one: Even if a higher-end product is objectively or subjectively better, is buying it the best use of the (always) limited funds we have available for the next upgrade? Or is the upgrade budget better spent on a nicer microphone or guitar? If you're running a commercial studio, the question is more like this: Will adding this preamp bring me more bookings, or will I get more business if I improve the coffee and buy a foosball table?

Heck yes. Exactly. Specifically the coffee and Foosball table. Really drives home the point of what is being said. The money we spend is an investment and we should be looking for return on that investment.
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #21
Gear Head
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Rick ➡️
The question we always have to be asking ourselves is this one: Even if a higher-end product is objectively or subjectively better, is buying it the best use of the (always) limited funds we have available for the next upgrade? Or is the upgrade budget better spent on a nicer microphone or guitar? If you're running a commercial studio, the question is more like this: Will adding this preamp bring me more bookings, or will I get more business if I improve the coffee and buy a foosball table?

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recording
absolutely, agreed. You've given some really good advice and I think it's really important to remember that when buying gear

however... if you have space for a foosball table... then great

this is all very subjective, and I personally value a stable, reliable interface and computer (soon to invest in) more than anything else right now. I mainly work for myself and have the occasional co-write/co-production so a foosball table for example would just be self indulgent

I get where you're coming from though. Having a great environment so that people enjoy themselves is important. Good coffee, something fun to do in the studio. Absolutely.

I have already invested in good mics (for what I need), good guitars, a nice work environment... and only buy gear when I really feel it helps my workflow and improves the quality of my work.

It's important to not get carried away with buying stuff just for the sake of it, I also think 'what does this really bring me' before buying. That's key.

P.S... also, I'm investing to future proof myself. buying a high end interface just means I don't have to buy another one down the road when I do end up 'leveling up'... I may actually save myself money in the long run by buying the best gear
Old 2 days ago
  #22
Lives for gear
 
David Rick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The list that @ gearstudent posted is a good one, I would add to it:

Merging Technologies Horus, Happi, and Anubis
Avid's top of the line stuff
Digital Audio Denmark
Prism Sound ADA-8XR and ADA-128

I personally had Lynx pci-e cards for many years before upgrading to a pair of Prism Orpheus (same as Titan but with Firewire). Before selling the Lynx cards, I tried clocking them from my new Prism and they sounded significantly better.

David
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #23
Gear Head
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Rick ➡️
The list that @ gearstudent posted is a good one, I would add to it:

Merging Technologies Horus, Happi, and Anubis
Avid's top of the line stuff
Digital Audio Denmark
Prism Sound ADA-8XR and ADA-128

I personally had Lynx pci-e cards for many years before upgrading to a pair of Prism Orpheus (same as Titan but with Firewire). Before selling the Lynx cards, I tried clocking them from my new Prism and they sounded significantly better.

David
Thanks, David, I will check them out

I was thinking about buying an RME UFX+ and later down the road getting a Lynx Hilo as an AD/DA converter.

I love RME drivers and the IO routing options the interface has. But the Lynx would be hooked up to it like an upgrade on the converters

Just an idea for now
Old 20 hours ago
  #24
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gggg ➡️
I don't see why people here are giving me their opinion on what is more important than gear. I didn't ask this question or advice on that topic. I came here for some Audio Interface recommendations.
You also said "What benefits can you get from having a high end soundcard? I assume latency will be better, anything else?"

What some of us are saying is probably little to none and to beware of "GAS" esp of buying something just because the pros have it. The pros use Pro Tools too, and IMO that thing sucks like a cheap hooker. Sometimes pros buy what they do at least in part because customers have this perception about gear (and software) that things are better because they're popular or they're pricier. That's a ridiculous and inaccurate generalization, and many of them know it, but again, they are trying to get people's business, so if buying flashy, high-dollar stuff brings in the customers, so be it. That doesn't mean it's never worth it to spend more on this or that. But tech is so good now and only getting better that it's often money wasted.

You have a really nice AI. If your unit has major latency issues or dropouts etc, you may have a faulty unit, or something else going on. Focusrite make great AIs, even at the lower end.
Old 7 hours ago | Show parent
  #25
Gear Head
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bill5 ➡️
You also said "What benefits can you get from having a high end soundcard? I assume latency will be better, anything else?"

What some of us are saying is probably little to none and to beware of "GAS" esp of buying something just because the pros have it. The pros use Pro Tools too, and IMO that thing sucks like a cheap hooker. Sometimes pros buy what they do at least in part because customers have this perception about gear (and software) that things are better because they're popular or they're pricier. That's a ridiculous and inaccurate generalization, and many of them know it, but again, they are trying to get people's business, so if buying flashy, high-dollar stuff brings in the customers, so be it. That doesn't mean it's never worth it to spend more on this or that. But tech is so good now and only getting better that it's often money wasted.

You have a really nice AI. If your unit has major latency issues or dropouts etc, you may have a faulty unit, or something else going on. Focusrite make great AIs, even at the lower end.
Haha, yeah I'm totally aware of "GAS"

Good point about being flashy and having the 'perception' from customers. That's actually very on point.

I haven't pulled the trigger on the AI yet. I think that's why it's good to sleep on these things as well. The main reason is because I want to upgrade my computer first, I've noticed it can't handle big projects and it's slowing me down. So improving that is important right now.

Thanks for all your input! I love hearing other people's perspectives
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