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RME Babyface Vs... others.


Bobadohshe

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I need to get an interface for using my new MBP live with Mainstage ASAP.

 

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 costs $199.00

The RME Babyface costs $749.00

 

What is reason for that $550 difference? And are the things that make the Babyface better truly worth THAT much more of a price difference? I have zero use for recording with this interface, this is solely to run Mainstage as efficiently as possible.

 

I know there are several satisfied Babyface users here, maybe they can 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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From a quick comparison, I think the main difference in the two is the ability of the RME to record a number of 192 digital inputs.

 

The specs of it are better, too, but as I've mentioned a number of times, even at 192 kHz sampling frequency, those specs aren't always what matter (i.e. they aren't always true in important interpretations). The Focusrite has only 96 KHz maximum sampling frequency.

 

It should be technically possible to get much cheaper stereo DA converters with properties like ground separated USB and no thrills except maybe an output volume control. Preferably with some choices about the "mode" of the DAC, in terms of what internal filtering it does (it always does, but there are ultra short and normally short possibilities).

 

Loading the output in the way the distortion measurements of the analog part become reality is also a matter that isn't addressed: maybe the gain control and input impedance of your mixer of powered speakers must match some ideal.

 

T.

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This thread, if we were an auto forum, would be akin to "Honda Accord vs. Mercedes SLK ... why the price disparity?".

 

Just sayin'. :snax:

 

That being said, however, in your specific situation, you won't see $550 worth of difference.

 

How many outputs do you need? The Babyface only has 2 (4 if you count the stereo headphone out, which I tend to not do), the Focusrite you mention has 4, but they're unbalanced RCA.

 

So, maybe a better use of your time would be to discuss what you're trying to accomplish, and we'll posit actual solutions for you. :2thu:

 

 

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I went with the RME UFX interface because of audio quality but quality of driver software was equally important to me. RME has a long established history of developing driver software with some of the lowest latency in the industry. They also support discontinued interfaces much longer than most.

 

When you look at this chart, which company is consistently at or near the top? Now in your particular instance, you might find no difference in latency between the Focusrite and RME, but I use a lot of different audio software and going with RME made sense for me.

http://dawbench.com/images/dawbench-llp-05-12-2.jpg

 

Busch.

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So, maybe a better use of your time would be to discuss what you're trying to accomplish, and we'll posit actual solutions for you.

 

Mentioned it in OP but will elaborate:

 

I want to use Mainstage with a powerful brand new Macbook Pro. The sole purpose of this laptop (for now) is for live performance with my Top 40 band. These aren't trivial gigs, they're high stakes corporate gigs. I want it to be reliable. I only need 2 outputs for a stereo feed to FOH and I don't need many inputs. I plan on using one of the inputs for a vocoder channel and I might use another input for a guitar down the line but not right away. That's it.

 

I also need the included MIDI input which both of these interfaces have. I don't want to use a separate USB MIDI interface which is just one more thing to set up. My Motif XS will be sending program changes to my entire rig and I'll be using the Motif to control Mainstage. I have already gotten going on programming and integrating Mainstage into my existing master setups.

 

I understand that the RME is more tank like and has a great reputation. I don't mind paying for quality, in fact I like it. But will paying so much more money really benefit me? Does the RME have superior computational power and reliability? I don't care about the preamp quality (I'm sure neither sets of preamps here are terrible anyway).

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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Unless there's specially designed tech in there, it can be argued that a DAC delay of more than mSs should be a norm, when newer chips can be used, which do more accurate analog signal reconstruction. I don't know the Mainstage modules, so it could be they are prepared for certain types of DA converters, but normally: higher rate is better.

 

Latency isn't the main thing if it's not all to bad: *constant* latency is an important musical parameter for players.

 

T.

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Some uninformed comments:

 

From what I understand, Eddie Jobson eschewed interfaces completely for his UK reunion tours, using the headphone out jacks for wonderful sound (at least from the concert I attended).

 

But he doubled up on laptops for the sake of redundancy and stability.

 

So...is MainStage 3.0 now stable and reliable enough for high stakes corporate gigs to not require fallback solutions?

 

If not, maybe I'm suggesting considering a Mac Mini as a redundant fall back rather than spending $$ on an audio interface?

 

Or am I completely backwards on this...which I may be, since I stopped using MainStage after version 1, and have been hardware only ever since.

..
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But will paying so much more money really benefit me? Does the RME have superior computational power and reliability?

Answer in the chart Busch linked above - Yes. There's a tangible, practical benefit: you will be able to run more resource hungry softsynths and effects at lower latencies with the RME.

 

Example: Say you find that perfect patch which involves layering multiple instances of Omnisphere and U-He with a Ravenscroft AP. At 64 samples, the Focusrite will sputter and choke. You'll have to raise the buffer size to perhaps 256, and welcome to latencyville. The RME, OTOH, will handle your patch at 64 samples like a champ. No latency at all.

 

That's exactly what that chart displays - not just the latency, but the number of plugins that can be handled without glitches. As you can see, interfaces differ widely in that ability.

 

- 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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The other thing to consider - if you are wanting to use your interface for recording and not just as an output system for gigs - is analog signal path and clock. The price difference reflects better components. OK converters with the best analog signal path and a great clock will always kill great converters with a crappy analog signal path and a bad clock. Period. Buy the interface you want to use long-term if you're looking to record analog audio, or as was mentioned above, use the headphone jack if you're only using your MBP as a synth.
A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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Couple of practical considerations.

 

Having a large 'master' volume control on an audio interface is IMO an invaluable asset for on the fly adjustment when playing live. I find that no matter how much time I spend balancing the volume of individual channel strips at home there is always an instance live where a synth lead sounds to hot in the monitor or a VB3 solo needs an extra boost.

I find the volume knob on my M-Audio interface to be invaluable in these circumstances.

 

There is also the issue of ground loop and hum. I originally purchased my interface to get around this issue on a Windows laptop. My OSX laptop doesn't have this issue so I could dispense with it using MS but you never know when it might pop up at a venue.

 

I also figure, but have never done any benchtests to prove, that the DAC's on an audio interface have to be better quality than those on soundcard integrated into the mother board.

 

I don't feel comfortable relying on a headphone jack as a connection. I prefer a USB connection on the side of the laptop which is better protected against accidental damage.

 

Also as AG points out an external audio device should have greater capacity under load before it chokes.

 

The issue buying now is that USB 3 which supports much higher data transfer rates although ubiquitious on laptops is not available on any medium or low priced interfaces - yet.

 

Personally I would not make a large investment in a USB 2 device. Maybe buy a lower cost one now and upgrade to USB 3 when it becomes available on Audio interfaces.

 

 

 

 

MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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But will paying so much more money really benefit me? Does the RME have superior computational power and reliability?

Answer in the chart Busch linked above - Yes. There's a tangible, practical benefit: you will be able to run more resource hungry softsynths and effects at lower latencies with the RME.

 

Example: Say you find that perfect patch which involves layering multiple instances of Omnisphere and U-He with a Ravenscroft AP. At 64 samples, the Focusrite will sputter and choke. You'll have to raise the buffer size to perhaps 256, and welcome to latencyville. The RME, OTOH, will handle your patch at 64 samples like a champ. No latency at all.

 

That's exactly what that chart displays - not just the latency, but the number of plugins that can be handled without glitches. As you can see, interfaces differ widely in that ability.

 

- Guru

Actually, that's not quite accurate.

 

Latency doesn't correlate with available CPU power. Having more CPU speed does make it easier for the software to deliver low latency, and good low-latency software can use fewer CPU cycles. But that difference is trivial.

 

In general, more CPU power gives you the ability to run more softsynth voices/plugins/etc. Lower latency only (maybe) makes a difference right at the hairy edge, when you're using all your computer has to offer -- but regardless of buffering, even with the best drivers, if you push one or two voices too many, you'll get dropouts, NOT due to soundcard issues, but simply because you're asking your CPUs to crunch more numbers than they have the ability to do.

 

In general, a lower-latency audio interface won't allow you to run much more softsynths.

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In my experience of using interfaces from RME, Focusrite, Presonus, M-Audio and Motu, the RME performed the best with the minimum of fuss and just kept on working. No clicks, pops or drop outs. It just worked!

 

Can't ask for much more than that

Nord Stage 2EX | Nord Wave | Mainstage 3

K&M Spider Pro | JH Audio JH5 IEMs | Behringer XR18 | Radial Keylargo

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As you can see, interfaces differ widely in that ability.

 

- Guru

Actually, that's not quite accurate.

In general, a lower-latency audio interface won't allow you to run much more softsynths.

The hard data suggests otherwise. A bit of background about the source of the Dawbench test Busch and I are referencing:

  • Developed by Vin Curigliano (AAVIM, Australia)
  • Independent testing by Pete Kain (ScanProAudio, UK)
  • Used as reference 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 extensive discussion on the SoS thread (warning - 10 pages and counting!). This is the most objective, transparent, reliable info on interfaces available ATM.

 

Take a look at the raw numbers for the RME Fireface:

 

http://s22.postimg.org/lugwq0rkx/RMEbabyface.png

 

Now compare the same with the Focusrite Saffire USB:

 

http://s27.postimg.org/tz3ofmber/Focusrite_USB.png

 

Bottomline:

 

The RME can run 3 times as many Kontakt plugins as the Focusrite at 64 samples (180 vs 160). Twice as many effect plugins (123 vcs 68). All else being equal. And it does it with almost half the latency (5.6ms Vs 9.9ms).

 

Klonk for data on other interfaces.

 

- 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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Yep, if pristine quality, troublefree operation and low latency are goals, I'd consider Apogee, MOTU and RME, for the reasons cited.

 

Recently, one of our KC brethren posted a picture of him gigging with a UAD Apollo, not sure if it was the thunderbolt version. I don't recall who at the moment (memory being the first thing to go ...). Might be worth a conversation ... just to understand his selection process ... he likely considered several options.

 

Just a curiosity, you didn't mention an output for monitors. Are you using IEMs?

 

Best,

 

Jerry

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Some motherboard DA converters are pretty good, I use Asus 192/24 mobo built in audio half the time, and that isn't bad at all, except for having a strong grounding issue which every computer/amping has (get a separation transformer from an army dump store or something, or put a notebook on batteries, unplugging the supply).

 

About the buffering and connection of the converter with the computer, it's not hard to do a couple of channels over USB 2.0, more than enough bandwidth, but you have to convince the computer and the driver and OS-kernel to service the connected device fast enough in all desired circumstances, and it is possible to get non-standard Usb connectivity, of course for fire wire it's a bit different (because it run in a sort of constant stream mode).

 

A lot of audio software will do all sorts of tricks, even though I strictly don't know what mainstage for instance does, usually there are various trade-offs which digress from the simple "note pressed" -> "software responds with more or less constant delay" --> "samples are output properly output queue" for all notes in a chord.

 

If all you'd want is strictly some samples that get taken from memory, and as soon as some midi message arrives they're to be streamed to some interface buffer, the fastest way could be to include the samples in the sound card like Soundblaster could trick already ages ago. Also, some effects could run on the sound card's DSP, but it would be nice if the manufacturers would agree with the software makers to standardize such simple ideas.

 

To solve the real sampling issues, keep dangerous sound components under some amount or reliable control, and make the whole machinery work smooth, a whole lot more is needed, and once more: a lot of sampling and music related issues aren't solved by some form of low latency (even though my 1 audio sample latency prototype synth plays smoother than most things, so I do understand that urge).

 

T.

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Recently, one of our KC brethren posted a picture of him gigging with a UAD Apollo, not sure if it was the thunderbolt version.

 

I remember the thread and was well jealous. I'd love to get a UAD interface but I don't have $2K sitting around for this purpose.

 

Just a curiosity, you didn't mention an output for monitors. Are you using IEMs?

 

not at the moment. Would just go stereo 1/4" into stereo mixer which would then go to FOHA.

 

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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So, maybe a better use of your time would be to discuss what you're trying to accomplish, and we'll posit actual solutions for you.

 

Mentioned it in OP but will elaborate:

 

I want to use Mainstage with a powerful brand new Macbook Pro. The sole purpose of this laptop (for now) is for live performance with my Top 40 band. These aren't trivial gigs, they're high stakes corporate gigs. I want it to be reliable. I only need 2 outputs for a stereo feed to FOH and I don't need many inputs. I plan on using one of the inputs for a vocoder channel and I might use another input for a guitar down the line but not right away. That's it.

 

I also need the included MIDI input which both of these interfaces have. I don't want to use a separate USB MIDI interface which is just one more thing to set up. My Motif XS will be sending program changes to my entire rig and I'll be using the Motif to control Mainstage. I have already gotten going on programming and integrating Mainstage into my existing master setups.

 

I understand that the RME is more tank like and has a great reputation. I don't mind paying for quality, in fact I like it. But will paying so much more money really benefit me? Does the RME have superior computational power and reliability? I don't care about the preamp quality (I'm sure neither sets of preamps here are terrible anyway).

 

For your purposes, I'd bet the Scarlett 2i2 would work just fine.

 

There is a bunch of technical stuff going on in this thread that might come into play if you're running five instances of Omnisphere or something like that on your laptop. But if you're not, and you're not recording, and don't need a gazillion inputs, just get the Scarlett. Unless you have more money than you know what to do with.

 

And get the 2i2 from someplace like GC, which has a liberal return policy, so that you can bring it back if for some reason it doesn't meet expectations.

 

One more thing: With a Mac, you don't even need drivers or anything to run a 2x2 interface like the Scarlett. It is just plug-and-play.

 

Michael

Montage 8, Logic Pro X, Omnisphere, Diva, Zebra 2, etc.

http://www.youtube.com/keybdwizrd

 

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If reliability is a priority, get the RME. I've used dozens of them in keyboard rigs for theater shows over the past year. Out of 60 or so units purchased so far this year I haven't seen a single issue apart from a player bumping the Firewire cable.

 

RME also kills when it comes to sound quality, build quality and latency. And should you need it, their support is top notch.

(I thought I had an issue on my last show, turned out to be me just being an idiot.)

 

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If reliability is a priority, get the RME. I've used dozens of them in keyboard rigs for theater shows over the past year. Out of 60 or so units purchased so far this year I haven't seen a single issue apart from a player bumping the Firewire cable.

 

The thread from a month or so ago where you described all your RME rigs throughout the world is what has inspired me to seriously consider RME in the first place. If you feel good enough about these interfaces in the very best theatre pits, I know I can feel good about them on my gig.

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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Couple of practical considerations.

The issue buying now is that USB 3 which supports much higher data transfer rates although ubiquitious on laptops is not available on any medium or low priced interfaces - yet.

 

Personally I would not make a large investment in a USB 2 device. Maybe buy a lower cost one now and upgrade to USB 3 when it becomes available on Audio interfaces.

 

This was my consideration earlier this year when I built out a powerful dedicated music PC for live performance. My preference would have been a PCI-E interface or a USB 3.0. But since neither option was available at a reasonable price, I opted for the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4. Considering that my computer, a small cube with a 3.4ghz core i7 overclocked to 4ghz with 16gb of ram and a 256gb SSD cost approx. $1,700 (with a 15" touch screen monitor), I found it difficult to spend $750 on technology (pci or usb2) that was already out of date, from my prospective.

 

Technically I am not sure what the bottle neck would be to keep latency the lowest possible. From what I have read, processor GHz is important. And if the Audio Interface is important, it was my thinking that a PCI-E interface would be the quickest. This option was about $1,500 from RME about the same cost as my whole computer.

 

Even though I would have preferred to go RME, I could not justify the cost / benefit of the RME options compared to a $200 Focusrite Scarlet 2i4, which has served me well for live performance. Never has there been any issues either related to the interface or the computer power while keeping latency timings tight. Maybe it will be time to re look at the RME products now that it is a year later? PCI-E options? Would they be the quickest?

Yamaha S90XS, Studiologic VMk-161 Organ

Small/powerful (i7, 32GB, M.2 SSD) PC controlled by 10" Touch Screen

Cantabile, Ravenscroft 275, Keyscape, OPX-II, Omnisphere 2, VB3, Chris Hein Horns, etc.

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For your purposes, I'd bet the Scarlett 2i2 would work just fine.

 

There is a bunch of technical stuff going on in this thread that might come into play if you're running five instances of Omnisphere or something like that on your laptop. But if you're not, and you're not recording, and don't need a gazillion inputs, just get the Scarlett. Unless you have more money than you know what to do with.

 

And get the 2i2 from someplace like GC, which has a liberal return policy, so that you can bring it back if for some reason it doesn't meet expectations.

 

One more thing: With a Mac, you don't even need drivers or anything to run a 2x2 interface like the Scarlett. It is just plug-and-play.

 

The Scarlett sounds ok just like most of the cheaper interfaces out there like those of Presonus or Steinberg. But none of them sounds GREAT. These cheaper interfaces are consumer level. Babyface is professional level which doesn't cost 2k. Simple as that.

LIFE IS SHORT, GO GET THE GEAR YOU WANT ;-)

 

 

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Bobadeath said that he has a MBP. Midi isn't something that we must worry because all the new keyboards has usd/midi and if you have an old synth, like me, you can buy with 10 euros/dollars a simple usb to midi interface...

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If reliability is a priority, get the RME. I've used dozens of them in keyboard rigs for theater shows over the past year. Out of 60 or so units purchased so far this year I haven't seen a single issue

 

 

I read this, and thought "...who the hell buys 60 audio interfaces in less than a year....?"

 

Answer: Dave Weiser :roll:

 

 

SSM

Occasionally, do something nice for a total stranger. They'll wonder what the hell is going on!
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From what I've seen RME does not make "small" interfaces (i.e., 2x4, 4x6, etc.). This thread got me looking since I'm thinking of expanding my audio options for live gigs. The MOTU Microbook II seems to be a pretty good fit and covers the OP's needs in terms of I/Os, and it's not too hard on the wallet at $250.
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