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Good Stereo Rack Mixers for 3 or 4 stereo channels


Bobadohshe

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I plan to go out of mixer to a Radial Stereo DI. That is, unless I get one of these rack mixers with balanced outputs.

 

You'll want to use the stereo DI regardless, IMO. You'd expect to be able to connect balanced outs directly to a console, but in my experience, gear with balanced outs (mixers, keyboards, powered speakers, etc) can often malfunction in bizarre ways when presented with phantom power, which will happen often enough out in the wild - even with the most conscientious engineers. A DI will block that, plus the DI pads your signal down to the mic level which the console will be expecting, plus plus you get a ground lift switch. My JDI Duplex is always the last thing before FOH. I got it exactly because it provides balanced inputs, though these days I'm usually unbalanced on my side of the DI.

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Other options for the 2-keyboard + laptop situation:
  • Presonus Audiobox 44VSL
  • Roland Quad Capture (or Octa-Capture or Studio Capture for more inputs/outputs)
  • Focusrite Scarlett 18i8

Also in the pipeline is the Steinberg UR44 (coming out in late January, if you wait until then) that would be a good choice too, given the build quality of the UR22.

Agreed, audio interface makes more sense given the Macbook. But unlike a mixer, audio interfaces differ WIDELY in performance, which means:

  1. Play resource-hungry plugins at lower buffer sizes. VB3 is fine, but you never know - what if you need to grab a U-He sound with a Trillian backing track somewhere down the road...? ;)
  2. much tighter finger-to-ear connection, thanks to lower latency.

If you have a really fast processor, like an i7, you may not notice the difference (processor and interface compensate for each other). However, given that the OP's using a 2007 Macbook, the difference might be *very* significant.

 

Performance measurements are available for many interfaces; in this helpful chart , longer bars => better performance (technical details here). The chart should help let you objectively choose the best interface, based on your budget considerations.

 

Quick heads-up - the Presonus Audiobox, and the Focusrite Scareletts, and the Steinberg UR series are in the bottom quartile. In general, the firewire models of the same company always outperforms the USB models. Devices like the Presonus Firestudio Mobile, and the Focusrite Saffire Pro are actually going toe-to-toe with the much more expensive RMEs...!

 

The measurements reveal that brand name means nothing, when it comes to interface performance. The Focusrite firewire devices are the *best* in class, while the USB ones are the *worst* in class :freak:.

 

Which is why I'm highly sceptical about the Radial USB DI.

 

Also, great points by @MyNameIsDanno.

 

- Guru

This is really what MIDI was originally about encouraging cooperation between companies that make the world a more creative place." - Dave Smith
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This works fine for me and is rack mountable.

 

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/X1204USB

 

I find bolting it to rack shelf takes up way less rack space unless you want to get one of those special mixer racks.

 

It is almost 2014.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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This works fine for me and is rack mountable.

 

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/X1204USB

 

I find bolting it to rack shelf takes up way less rack space unless you want to get one of those special mixer racks.

 

It is almost 2014.

 

Good idea. I made a custom stand that holds my eq also.

Been 2014 here for 1 hour and 21 mins already. Happy New Years.

Jay

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Nord Stage 3 Compact, Korg Krome EX, Novation Summit, Roland RD88 & Edge, Spectrasonic Keyscape

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At 160 euro (Thomann) or $180 (Sweetwater) it's worth it looking at the Lexicon Omega. It's an analog stereo mixer for two balanced stereo channels (unbalanced works fine too, there's a mono switch, and you can monitor levels and there are peak LEDs) and two very pretty high quality phantom powered mic inputs, and if needed it has digital IO (44.1 48 kHz only) and can act as a soundcard over USB (4 in 2 out high quality, but limited to 44.1/48kHz sampling freq.).

 

The analog mixer is independent of the USB being connected or not, and is waaaayyy better than the alternatives mentioned here, say an order of magnitude less harmonic distortion. You'll be glad to have that. It's pretty quiey, too, and frequency range is fine.

 

Knobs are ok, pots are good brand, case is plastic: it isn't a steel box with faders, but hey, it's cheap, not very heavy or big, has various good uses, so worth a try.

 

I don't know how well the outputs can stand phantom voltage being put on them by a mixer without a DI box, I don't know if it would live through that. Maybe SweetWater can answer that concern.

 

Oh, and guys remember: Direct Injection (D.I.) boxes serve one major purpose first of all: they separate your ground, so that there's one life-threatening situation less to deal with. Usually there's a transformer in it for that. That will influence your lows and transients audibly, and distort a bit. If you're sure you're on the same mains group as the PA system, your grounds are well connected, and there's no chance of getting Phantom power on your outputs, there's no need for a DI. But only if.

 

T

 

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Other options for the 2-keyboard + laptop situation:
  • Presonus Audiobox 44VSL
  • Roland Quad Capture (or Octa-Capture or Studio Capture for more inputs/outputs)
  • Focusrite Scarlett 18i8

Also in the pipeline is the Steinberg UR44 (coming out in late January, if you wait until then) that would be a good choice too, given the build quality of the UR22.

 

Performance measurements are available for many interfaces; in this helpful chart , longer bars => better performance (technical details here). The chart should help let you objectively choose the best interface, based on your budget considerations.

 

Quick heads-up - the Presonus Audiobox, and the Focusrite Scareletts, and the Steinberg UR series are in the bottom quartile. In general, the firewire models of the same company always outperforms the USB models. Devices like the Presonus Firestudio Mobile, and the Focusrite Saffire Pro are actually going toe-to-toe with the much more expensive RMEs...!

 

The measurements reveal that brand name means nothing, when it comes to interface performance. The Focusrite firewire devices are the *best* in class, while the USB ones are the *worst* in class :freak:.

 

Which is why I'm highly sceptical about the Radial USB DI.

 

Be careful about generalizations regarding USB2 and Firewire. Apogee and RME both have made strong claims that their new USB2 drivers have significantly lower latency. Presonus as well with their VSL series.

 

Interesting read from Presonus, especially how they took the standardized 6ms in/out USB buffer (12ms total) and allowed it to be user configurable.

 

http://www.presonus.com/community/Learn/The-Truth-About-Digital-Audio-Latency

 

Here's a quote from RME on the Fireface UC: "The compact Fireface UC has been uncompromisingly optimized for highest performance under Windows and Mac OS. Based on a newly developed RME Hammerfall core the Fireface UC provides revolutionary ultra-low latencies even with multiple channels. It uses two different firmware versions with different transfer methods to remove current restrictions of typical USB audio interfaces. The unit's operating mode Win or Mac can be changed directly at the unit at any time. Under Mac OS the Fireface's MIDI ports are class compliant, the operating system therefore automatically uses the included MIDI driver. Under both Operating Systems the available latencies* are simply sensational. The smallest buffer offered under Windows has 48 samples, under Mac OS X 14 samples. With this RME provides a performance previously not available from USB audio interfaces."

 

As I'm in the market for a new interface, I'm looking at USB2 from the above mentioned as well as PCIe and Thunderbolt. Personally not too interested in Firewire unless it's a perfect device for me for all other reasons.

 

Busch.

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Be careful about generalizations regarding USB2 and Firewire. Apogee and RME both have made strong claims that their new USB2 drivers have significantly lower latency. Presonus as well with their VSL series.

I'm fairly familiar with the manufacturer claims referenced. The numbers, from independent third-party measurements, reveal a rather different story, however. Not that the claims are false - they just don't give the whole picture.

 

USB might indeed lower RTL at a given buffer size. However, RTL is just one side of the story. The load that can be handled at that buffer size is the other side.

 

Take a look at the raw numbers from the same device, RME Fireface, which has both firewire and USB modes:

 

http://s23.postimg.org/9wpcjs82z/RMEFireface.png

 

The RTL numbers are indeed lower for USB, as RME claims. But check out columns 2-4. These are the number of plugins that can be run without pops or clicks. Firewire can clearly handle more (~23%) audio load, at lower buffer sizes. The overall performance takes into account both this audio processing ability and RTL.

 

Now this ~23% difference is by no means phenomenal. But let's put this in perspective: for all their claims, RME has *barely* got their USB performance up to par with FW. But to their credit, they're the only manufacturer to even get that far...! :grin:

 

In all other cases, there's really no contest: FW wins hands down. E.g: Presonus FW can run 121 RXC plugins@64 buffers (6.161ms RTL). Presonus USB can run only 86 plugins@64 buffers (7.323ms RTL). Despite all the technical spiel about USB clock buffers in that well-written article...! :P

 

FWIW, about the credentials of the DawBench testing:

  • Developed by Vin Curigliano (AAVIM, Australia)
  • Independent testing by Pete Kain (ScanProAudio, UK)
  • Established as standard on SoS interface reviews with testing by Sam Inglis and Martin Walker
  • Most manufacturers (notably RME) are aware of this emerging standard, and are in touch with people doing the DawBench testing

Those interested can go through the SoS thread (warning - 10 pages and counting!).

 

If you just eyeball the chart I linked above, you'll notice 3 distinct groups: those with rating greater than 8 (all PCIe), those in the 7-8 range (almost all FW) and the tail enders with ratings less than 6 (all USB).

 

This is the most objective, transparent, reliable info on interfaces available ATM. The generalization I made thus seems reasonable, and I stand by it. In terms of audio interface performance, PCIe > FW > USB. For live performance, FW is the one to beat.

 

- Guru

This is really what MIDI was originally about encouraging cooperation between companies that make the world a more creative place." - Dave Smith
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Good timing on this thread...I've been looking at rackmount line mixers myself, not because I have any rack gear, but simply because I'd love to have power and audio pre-wired up in a rack.

 

My current setup needs a monitor send on my submixer (for an in-ears submix), though I do have another small mixer that could be put on that duty....again with a rack it makes it more palatable as I could pre-wire it.

 

That said, the Samson SM10 looks perfect, everyone seems to like it that's bought it...Guys in my band are pushing me toward the Rane SM-82s (which is likewise good for my needs)...any thoughts on the quality difference (if any) between these? We are talking live bar gigs here, not a pristine studio setting, but obviously less noise and a clear signal is what we all want.

 

Also wondering about the older Ashley line mixer version--308, not 308b--I see a used one at a good price but not sure when those were made. Of course no send on that so it would mean a second submixer.

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While I haven't owned one, I understand the Ashly line mixers to have an excellent reputation. Don't think you could go wrong with one of those; and a used LM-308 could be an excellent value.

 

I've also owned several Roland line mixers: two M120's, and an M12E (basically an M120 with EQ on each channel). Especially wish I'd kept the M12E; I got rid of it while going through a bunch self-contained mixer/amps. Age has never been an issue with any of the Roland line mixers I've owned. They're rock solid; never had any problems.

 

Another line mixer I can recommended - as I prepare to duck - is the Behringer RX1602. Actually it's a well built, and very versatile mixer. And it's quite clean, sonically; perfectly fine for live use. I picked one up a few years back - when I couldn't find a used, Roland M120 or M12E. It's worked out very well in my live rig. I'd prefer an M12E - especially for the XLR outs, but those are few and far between.

 

I've had the RX1602 in my rack for a few years now and it's been fine.

 

I run my IEM's right out of the headphone jack, it's got an independent volume adjustment, and I barely have to turn it up, a nice hot signal.

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

www.bksband.com

www.echoesrocks.com

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My current setup needs a monitor send on my submixer (for an in-ears submix), though I do have another small mixer that could be put on that duty....again with a rack it makes it more palatable as I could pre-wire it.

 

That said, the Samson SM10 looks perfect...

 

The Samson SM10 is perfect for the application you've described. I use one in my live rig - sending the "main" output to the pair of powered speakers that I use as my stage monitors; a second mix created using the primary "Monitor" send knobs that is sent to the FOH as a keyboard "submix". Finally, when needed - I can create a third"submix" using the "Effects" knob - that I send to my IEM Transmitter (Shure PSM200).

 

This little Samson unit was the only line mixer I could find that provided the ability to create 3 discrete submixes - each with a "master" volume control and had sufficient input real estate to handle at least 4 stereo signal sources (2 boards, a module AND a playback device (i.e., iPad, iPod, Laptop). The SM10 has all the mixing/routing functions I wanted and enough input capacity to handle up to 10 stereo inputs. Plus - it's a current production unit available for $199 new pretty much anywhere you look.

 

While I can't speak to comparisons of sound quality between the various makes and models - I can say that my ears don't have any issues with the sound I get out of the unit in live settings.

 

 

The SpaceNorman :freak:
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That said, the Samson SM10 looks perfect, everyone seems to like it that's bought it...Guys in my band are pushing me toward the Rane SM-82s (which is likewise good for my needs)...any thoughts on the quality difference (if any) between these? We are talking live bar gigs here, not a pristine studio setting, but obviously less noise and a clear signal is what we all want.

 

While I can't speak to comparisons of sound quality between the various makes and models - I can say that my ears don't have any issues with the sound I get out of the unit in live settings.

 

I too am really interested in what people have to say about the difference in sound quality and component quality. Anyone care to comment?

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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I used the Rane 26B Mixer for years before I got an Ashly. Still have a couple of them. Extremely versatile, sound good, rugged, and can be had on eBay for under $100. Would easily handle 3 stereo keys, 6 mono, or any combination. A very cool piece of kit.

"Think Pink Floyd are whiny old men? No Problem. Turn em off and enjoy the Miley Cyrus remix featuring Pitbull." - Cygnus64

 

Life is shorter than you think...make it count.

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That said, the Samson SM10 looks perfect, everyone seems to like it that's bought it...Guys in my band are pushing me toward the Rane SM-82s (which is likewise good for my needs)...any thoughts on the quality difference (if any) between these? We are talking live bar gigs here, not a pristine studio setting, but obviously less noise and a clear signal is what we all want.

 

While I can't speak to comparisons of sound quality between the various makes and models - I can say that my ears don't have any issues with the sound I get out of the unit in live settings.

 

I too am really interested in what people have to say about the difference in sound quality and component quality. Anyone care to comment?

 

Bobby, I'm using the Samson SM10 in my rig as well. Plenty of head room, and it sounds great FOH.

I run the main outs to FOH, and the monitor out to my in ears.

I love the routing capabilities as SpaceNorman said.

 

I use the XLR outs to get to FOH. No need for a DI.

I haven't had any ground or other issues

It works perfectly for me.

I'm a fan :)

 

David

Gig Rig:Roland Fantom-08| Yamaha MODX+ 6 | MacBook Pro 14" M1| Mainstage

 

 

 

 

 

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That said, the Samson SM10 looks perfect, everyone seems to like it that's bought it...Guys in my band are pushing me toward the Rane SM-82s (which is likewise good for my needs)...any thoughts on the quality difference (if any) between these? We are talking live bar gigs here, not a pristine studio setting, but obviously less noise and a clear signal is what we all want.

 

While I can't speak to comparisons of sound quality between the various makes and models - I can say that my ears don't have any issues with the sound I get out of the unit in live settings.

 

I too am really interested in what people have to say about the difference in sound quality and component quality. Anyone care to comment?

 

Bobby, I'm using the Samson SM10 in my rig as well. Plenty of head room, and it sounds great FOH.

I run the main outs to FOH, and the monitor out to my in ears.

I love the routing capabilities as SpaceNorman said.

 

I use the XLR outs to get to FOH. No need for a DI.

I haven't had any ground or other issues

It works perfectly for me.

I'm a fan :)

I run the SM 10 routing similarly. While I can't comment on component quality, the chassis seems reasonably rugged, and I have not had a problem with the unit nor any issues with signal quality in a live, bar type setting. The Ashly and Rane are probably indeed better overall quality, but for my needs the Samson works fine. I am quite happy with it. :)

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The Ranes have more neutral specs (still not as good as the Lexicon). Mind that the older ones may have different ideas about what common signals look like. Newer OpAmps (amplifier chips usedc in most mixers' signal path) often are faster, which matters with sampled signals.

 

Of course some people (usually mistakenly) want their mixers to sound a certain way, which pretty much always has undesirable side effects, so is not recommended.

 

Speakers and amps (though lately that can be helped) usually distort more than mixers, but they're different types of perceptibility going on. Instruments like the CP-4, when you're good enough at it, will have you tune equalizer settings per 1 or a few dBs to get a good sound. Most speakers are far from that accurate, but almost always you'll not appreciate a mixers' distortion except for obvious sounds, and probably for obvious speaker properties.

 

For occasionally recording things, this is even more so, so having a good mixer pays.

 

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That said, the Samson SM10 looks perfect, everyone seems to like it that's bought it...Guys in my band are pushing me toward the Rane SM-82s (which is likewise good for my needs)...any thoughts on the quality difference (if any) between these? We are talking live bar gigs here, not a pristine studio setting, but obviously less noise and a clear signal is what we all want.

 

While I can't speak to comparisons of sound quality between the various makes and models - I can say that my ears don't have any issues with the sound I get out of the unit in live settings.

 

I too am really interested in what people have to say about the difference in sound quality and component quality. Anyone care to comment?

 

Bobby, I'm using the Samson SM10 in my rig as well. Plenty of head room, and it sounds great FOH.

I run the main outs to FOH, and the monitor out to my in ears.

I love the routing capabilities as SpaceNorman said.

 

I use the XLR outs to get to FOH. No need for a DI.

I haven't had any ground or other issues

It works perfectly for me.

I'm a fan :)

when you run the monitor out for iems, do you run into something else to get stereo or is the iem mix mono?

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

www.bksband.com

www.echoesrocks.com

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When you run the monitor out for iems, do you run into something else to get stereo or is the iem mix mono?

 

In my case, the Shure PSM200 IEM is a mono unit - so I feed it with a mono send using the effects send.

 

It's worth noting that the SM10 will support discreet three submixes (one created via the main volume, one via the monitor volume and one via the effect send of each channel). The "main" and primary "monitor" outputs are stereo - the effects send however is a mono output.

 

There is a econdary monitor output (which is a mono send - completed with it's own master volume control) on the front panel.

 

There's also a headphone out - with a selector switch that allows you to route your choice of "main", "monitor" or "effects" mix to the headphone out.

 

The SM10's routing capabilities were a huge selling point for me - since I usually receive an "AUX feed" from the FOH board with vocals and whatever "non-keyboard" instruments I want in my monitors that I run through a channel on the SM10. The ability to include the "band monitor send" in my stage monitors (but NOT route it back to the FOH), as well as the ability to patch a playback device (i.e., iPad, iPod or laptop) for break music that gets routed to the FOH but NOT to my stage monitors) was critical for my purposes.

The SpaceNorman :freak:
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SpaceNorman, I run my FOH feed to my monitor the same way.

 

I was in a situation last weekend where I had the option of sending a stereo send to the house as the house PA (a killer line array setup) was in stereo. I had no way to do it the way my rig is configured right now. I think I figured out a way though, my mixer has a "monitor/fx to phones" button. If I turn the main level of my monitor return down, but turn up the monitor send and then press that button, I should hear it in my in ears and have control over it's level, and then I can use the main L/R out of the mixer to send stereo to the house. That's my project for the weekend, set up my rig and play with that.

 

I like that Samson, if my RX1602 ever goes belly up, I'll get that one.

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

www.bksband.com

www.echoesrocks.com

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What are the best and most affordable stereo rack mixers on the market?

Any other suggestions?

 

I currently own a Rane SM 82 and an Ashley LX-308B. They are both quiet and neutral. I've used Rane gear for 20 years but just recently got the Ashley. The Ashley has a built in power supply (I believe the newer Rane models do as well) and a headphone jack, which my Rane doesn't have. Don't think you could go wrong with either one of them.

:nopity:
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I like that Samson, if my RX1602 ever goes belly up, I'll get that one.

 

DanL,

I used an RX1602 for many years. Last year channel 1 went tits up. That's when I went with the Samson. So far so good, and as Norman and I've mentioned before, the routing options are great.

David

Gig Rig:Roland Fantom-08| Yamaha MODX+ 6 | MacBook Pro 14" M1| Mainstage

 

 

 

 

 

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Motif and a CP4 and Mainstage. I could submix through mainstage but right now I'm actually using the, get ready for it, don't get mad,..1'8" out of the Macbook with no external sound card. (We'll see how that goes after a couple gigs.)
I used headphone outputs on laptop for years. Whenever I used my MOTU instead, nobody noticed the difference. I noticed a bit of difference, but once the band starts playing it wasn't enough to matter.

 

But if you're going to get a submixer anyway, why not get an audio interface that does the job, and also opens up a lot of other possibilities (like having multiple audio outs, for example to play organ through a ventilator with unaffected piano.)

 

The reason NOT to go the soundcard route is if you plan to omit the laptop. Even in that case, some units like the MOTU 828 work fine without the computer, as long as you don't need to adjust much (you can do adjustments on front panel, I think, but it's fiddly).

 

The mixer has XLR outs as well as 1/4". Does that mean the mixer basically has a built in DI?
Nope.

 

First, not all XLR outputs are balanced. Most likely these are, but you need to check the specs and make sure.

 

Second, balancing is only one of the 3 things a typical DI does in addition to the connecter change:

 

1) unbalanced-to-balanced conversion, if necessary

2) gain reduction (usually 20 dB, often plus additional pad) for feeding into mic inputs

3) ground lift

 

If the XLR outputs are balanced, you don't need 1. You *usually* don't need 2, since most PAs have pads on the inputs -- but if they're +4DBu outputs, the PA's mic-channel pads might not be enough pad.

 

When you need a ground lift, you need a ground lift. This is to isolate the grounds between the two systems. Sometimes you get a buzz with ground connected; sometimes you get a buzz with it lifted. I don't quite understand why, but that seems to be the case.

 

So, you'd still want a DI box in the kit; I recommend a Radial PRO D2, stereo passive unit with good specs for $99. There are cheaper ones that work quite well too; the transformers aren't as good.

 

I benchmarked my Radial and my ART DTI using RightMark Audio Analyzer. You can see a difference, but it's not as big as I'd expected, and I confess I can't hear a difference in an A/B comparison using headphones. Perhaps it's my aged and abused ears.

 

Oh -- here are the benchmark results:

 

http://learjeff.net/RMAA/MOTU%20828,%20Radial%20PRO%20D2,%20ART%20DTI.htm

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Thanks for the response and explanation Jeff.

 

I used the 1/4" output last night. No problems. I do find that I need to have it turned down to about 75% to get a clean signal. With the macbook's output all the way turned up, I was getting distortion. Maybe that's a reason that I should look to using an interface.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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My big reason for not getting an interface right now is that I am using an old 2007 Macbook and I think it might add latency to this old machine. I also realllly don't feel like dropping $3K on a new Macbookpro though I'll probably have to sooner or later.

 

I love spendin' money but I'm already getting a CP4 and need to get this rack mixer and rack and power conditioner so the coffers are a bit dry at the moment.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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My big reason for not getting an interface right now is that I am using an old 2007 Macbook and I think it might add latency to this old machine.

EXACTLY the other way round... ;). An interface will reduce latency on your old Macbook, and bring it on par with newer models. But latency is secondary - a good interface will let you play more resource hungry plugins at lower buffers, should the need ever arise.

 

Interface performance actually compensates for older, slower processors...!

 

Other benefits:

  • Multiple outs with independent volume control. Think separate mixes for monitors and FoH. Also inputs for FoH sends, which you can submix to your monitors
  • Volume knobs!
  • More professional outs

As Sven pointed out earlier, an interface can double as a mixer. In fact, it's really a mixer on steroids - software gives you much more flexible routing options than any hardware unit. You save money and have one less device to carry. Unless I'm missing something, this seems like a no-brainer.

 

- Guru

 

P.S. You could be quite happy with your laptop + VB3 + no interface right now. I'm making the reasonable assumption that eventually, you'd like to use some other, more resource-hungry plugins... ;). The interface investment will pay off in the longer run.

This is really what MIDI was originally about encouraging cooperation between companies that make the world a more creative place." - Dave Smith
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Also, the interface can muck up the machine with it's new drivers, might sample in order to perform mixing (and therewith add a little delay), and adds distortion, no matter how you twist and turn it. There's no reason to assume and external interface will outperform the built in audio interface, unless you know that is so per detail, often not that big a chance.
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