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audio interface


vanderSchoot

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Hello i am about to purchase a new computer after some good advise over here.

 

The sole purpose will be normal home use, no games or extensive video/photo shop.

The only thing i want to run is Garritan CFX as a stand alone (ARIA player) with my Kawai controler.

I will use a seperate SSD drive for Garritan, 16gb of internal ram and an I7 Intel processor.

 

I am leaning towards a fairly cheap audio interface like Steinberg, Focusrite or Roland.

However since i am a totally ignorant computer user, i don't want to be unpleasantly surprised with another weak chain in my set up to prevent latency and other possible crackles/noise.

I know you can set the buffer sizes accordingly, but i just want to play this thing at its maximum potential without any possible regrets or limitations.

 

Now Focusrite will release the Clarett/thunderbolt series in a couple of weeks and my question is....well i don't really know if my question is valid.......

 

Will i benefit from the Focusrite Clarett, when my only needs for the time being will be to run Garritan CFX as smoothly as possible ?

Or is a Steinberg UR22 just as capable for this limited use of vst's ?

Sorry if this sounds stupid....i have read as much as i could over the last few months, but it is simply a bit over my head.

 

Every advise is more than wellcome, so i can finally pull the trigger and assemble my new computer...that is the company which i am about to purchase it from.

 

Thanks in advance !

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The thing with audio interfaces is that there are two considerations.

 

1. You pay for inputs and outputs. You don't need a lot of Mic Pre amps and various output types for your setup. In fact, you just need the DA converter and stereo pair of analog outs. So this makes you look at things like the Steinberg UR-12 or UR-242. Assuming these two interfaces have the same converters in them, the UR-242 is overkill and you'd just as well get the UR-12.

 

2. On the other hand, if you are picky about signal chain and looking for something that may (if you have the golden ears) deliver just a bit better audio quality you could look at Audient ID22. $599. It's overkill. But it's a very nice sounding interface with good build quality in a compact format. 4 outputs so you can send to amp and FOH, no DI box needed.

 

I've used most of the usual suspects and am a fan of the Audient for build, sound, and price. But the UR-12 will do the job well enough (same is true for the Focusrite 2i2, Komplete Audio 6. Roland DUO Capture EX is OK. I found it a little hissy in the high end - YMMV).

Yamaha CP88, Casio PX-560

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Even running just one VST, for consistent low-latency performance, there are some other things to take into account.

 

Google DAW Bench and look at their low-latency performance comparisons. To quote from http://dawbench.com/audio-int-lowlatency3.htm:

 

"The USB2 interfaces are now taking more of the share of new releases in the market as Firewire becomes less prominent. This is a 2 edged sword IMO as the FW interfaces for the most part measurably better at [low latency performance] now, and most USB2 offerings are not anywhere near reaching equivilent performance. RME being the only exception."

 

If you'll be running Win7 (unlikely if it's a new computer... but...) check out DPC LAtency Checker:

 

http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml

 

to see if there are any processes that may cause hiccups in your audio stream (like wifi or bluetooth or some USB device).

 

Then buy your audio i/o from some place with a good return policy :)

 

I make software noises.
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This is true, if you are on Windows platform, you may have to tweak a bit to get lowest possible latency with consistent, reliable audio streaming. The quality of the devices installed drivers will also be a factor. Regardless, you'll want to test everything out when you get home and see if you are happy.

Yamaha CP88, Casio PX-560

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Most all thunder bolt interfaces only work with Mac at this point in time USB2 is not the way to go for low latency. Presonus has come out with a USB3 interface but USB3 gives more bandwidth, better I/O performance not latency.

how the driver is written has a large impact on the latency of an interface, although most all USB use the same driver that is scripted to work for their particular device.

The PCI/PCIe card reigns king, then fire wire. When TB becomes more common on PC maybe they'll start writing drivers for windows.

Here's a good read on interfaces from a thread at Gearslutz started by a guy whos ID is TAFKAT. It's pretty intense but will give you a better ideal of whats going on.

Also take a look at DAWbench for a graphic on low latency, it's been a while since any updates but still good to know.

Triton Extreme 76, Kawai ES3, GEM-RPX, HX3/Drawbar control, MSI Z97

MPower/4790K, Lynx Aurora 8/MADI/AES16e, OP-X PRO, Ptec, Komplete.

Ashley MX-206. future MOTU M64 RME Digiface Dante for Mon./net

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Thanks everyone,

 

Great input which helps me to narrow down the problems i could face.

I am going to re-read everything (incl. all the provided links) and i am sure i will be able to get the best solutions available.

 

Again thanks for your time and efforts, it has been really helpfull !

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Does anybody know how the latency in AVB-soundcard is compared with usb or thunderbolt? Is the new MOTU Ultralite AVB a good choice if I want low latency? -And why is you other people here gold and platinum and senior members when I am only a member???
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Oh ho ho, just saw that Audient has scaled down the iD22 to an iD14. $299.

 

If it's the same chipset, quiet operation, and build quality as the iD22, this is worth a look - even though the outputs are now just a stereo pair.

 

 

re: Torur's question,

If you are using a recent Apple Mac Book Pro with thunderbolt, the thunderbolt stuff is worth a look - not because of the massive streaming channel counts you can get with it, don't really need that to play AU's/VSTs, but the latency on these devices can be pushed down very low because thunderbolt offers PCI/PCIe type performance in a cable. Universal Audio have a nice compact design in the Apollo Twin SOLO and the Apollo Twin DUO. MOTU has an 828x thunderbolt interface that is worth a look, but way more i/o than you would need for a AU/VST rig.

 

I'm not that familiar with MOTU's newer AVB interfaces. Are you saying they offer a break out box and PCI card for it? If so, I would presume it can deliver better performance than most USB interfaces. I'll take a look at it when I get a chance. MOTU has been doing nice cost effective interfaces for the Apple platform for a long time, and they are always quick to adapt to Apple's OS changes and hardware. Some users have complained about their PC drivers, but I use an 828mkIII with a Lenovo Thinkpad in one of my mobile rigs and it works great (minus having to disable the bluetooth radio because it causes problems). But that was a simple trouble shoot with a DPC Latency Checker.

Yamaha CP88, Casio PX-560

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Here's a Lynx E22 2inx2out analog, 2inx2out AES spdf PCIe card. Lynx makes good quality low latency I/O for Mac and PC.

Triton Extreme 76, Kawai ES3, GEM-RPX, HX3/Drawbar control, MSI Z97

MPower/4790K, Lynx Aurora 8/MADI/AES16e, OP-X PRO, Ptec, Komplete.

Ashley MX-206. future MOTU M64 RME Digiface Dante for Mon./net

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  • 2 weeks later...

I finally ordered a PC, but i took a different approach after all.

I went to this company which has years of experience in assembling systems for musicians and pro users like tv studio's etc.

 

After some two hours conversation I was adviced to get an RME internal soundcard/interface instaed of a cheap external one.

They know how to arrange all components from the highest quality and purpose together so that there will be no unknown latency issues.

 

They receive raving feedback on Dutch forums, so after all it seems like the safest bed.

 

They will install everything I need, I just have to collect my new computer next week and give Garritan CFX a good run hooked up to a Kawai VPC-1.

When i will be satisfied the purchase is on, when not (impossible according to them) they will adjust things untill there will be no noticable latency.

But they assured me the final phonecall will be made when they have checked and run everything in meticulously fashion.

A 2 TB conventional harddrive and two seperate SSD drives, one for Garritan and one for start up procedure.

16 GB DDR3 internal memory.....and all other components of pro quality.

A big relief, because computers and trouble shooting isn't my thing really....and the final pricetag isn't going to kill my financial resources completely....something I was very worried about though.....

 

Again thanks to all for your advise, at least i know much more than a few months ago which is a big bonus !

 

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RME on a dedicated Audio PC is a great choice.

The outfit that is building this PC for you should will handle DPC Latency tests and if RME is famous for one thing, it's their drivers. Always up to date and always really tight. PCI will give you the lowest latency possible I am sure.

The price of having them assemble it is a little extra out of your pocket, but that's trouble shooting time saved. And how valuable is your time, right? But make sure you get the full service a purchase like this deserves. If you're not happy, or its not working as you expect, they've sold you something that is supposed to be flawless for your needs.

 

 

Yamaha CP88, Casio PX-560

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RME on a dedicated Audio PC is a great choice.

The outfit that is building this PC for you should will handle DPC Latency tests and if RME is famous for one thing, it's their drivers. Always up to date and always really tight. PCI will give you the lowest latency possible I am sure.

The price of having them assemble it is a little extra out of your pocket, but that's trouble shooting time saved. And how valuable is your time, right? But make sure you get the full service a purchase like this deserves. If you're not happy, or its not working as you expect, they've sold you something that is supposed to be flawless for your needs.

 

Spot on comments....thanks !

 

It will be the last piece of achieving the best possible piano sound just for my own pleasure at home.

I did the same with searching for the perfect Hammond sound which I was able to obtain after, Hammond Suzuki, Nord, Numa and finally HX3 which i have for over a year now, without having one single complaint or anything left to desire.

The sound is just right in every possible way and it gives this huge amount of ''never looking for something better again'' in the organ department.

 

I hope Garritan will provide me with the same amount of satisfaction.

Just a single library to dream away while playing, not being concerned about the next big thing.

There will always be the next big thing.....i know, but i enjoyed my Yamaha CP70B for 20 years without ever regretting it.

 

I want to enjoy playing instaed of spending extreme ampounts of time trying to find something better.

I believe this set up will do just that.

In the band i use, Nord, Integra-7, HX-3 and i don't need or want anything else because it does everything i need in a top notch quality.

Only playing at home with headphones wasn't up to par.......

When it will be, i can ignore instrument advertising, music stores and forums in search for something better at least a couple of years :-)

 

That is something that will be the biggest achievement of all....hahaha.

 

 

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I have a presonus firestudio mobile On a mac mini but new macs abandoning firewire, I was wondering if in the end I really need an audio interface at all.

I do everything in the box and do not need mic/line inputs to record stuff.

if you take in account drivers etc, would going out directly from the mac better in terms of latency ? I'm not even sure if an external audiointerface will help on the cpu load, since USB2 for example does use cpu....

thanks for the links of forums and the audient links...was not aware of that brand.

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This is tricky to test. You'd first have to do a round trip test to see how much latency there is in audio out to audio recorded back in. Then you'd have to test MIDI trigger to audio loop back for both interfaces. It's a theoretical pain in the arse if you realize the difference is just a few samples or 1ms which you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between anyway.

 

But more importantly, in my mind, would be the sample rate you are running at and the quality of the digital to analog conversion. A better card like the PCI RME or a Lynx is more than likely going to perform better for latency, but they will also sound better if you run at a higher sample rate and the DA is better.

 

But you're using a Mac MINI, so no PCI. And then the question is, are you using this for live play or for recording. Because nit picking hairs in a live venue with a band is pointless. But if it's your recording rig, or you do solo piano work with this setup you might actually like the conversion of some of the higher end interfaces over the on board card. But like I was suggesting, on the other side of the coin, if you're gigging with the band, I don't think you're going to hear a difference as long as you wire this right. Grab the MINI's 3.5mm out and run it to a proper direct box, like the Radial ProAV2. This will give you a nice balanced signal to FOH via +4db XLR and 1/4" monitor outs to your amp on stage. Play like this for a while and see if you are happy with the sound and latency of your virtual instruments. If you are, leave the firewire interface home. You don't need it.

Yamaha CP88, Casio PX-560

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I actually on play at home and occasionally converting my projects down to wav/mp3. I use logic, plus a gew more soft synths and effects.

I did a test just connecting the macmini out to my krk rockit and eveything seems playing Ok with 44khz and 256 samples , at leat for the fewrojects i have ready , which are no more that 10-15 tracks. Audio quality to me seems good too.

With more complex projects the builtin input may not hold though.

Thanks for the insightful response.

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In all honesty my old Gigastudio rig used an RME when 6.0 msec @ 44.1k was as good you could get and that is about the same as your drummers ride cymbal finding your ear.

 

I have an XITE-1 DSP rack with .07 msec. @ 96k and it feels the same as 6.0 msec.

 

Buy an RME.

Decades of craftsmen designing Drivers.

 

Otherwise audtion anything that goes for less than 500 USD and see if it's acceptable.

 

Buy a Spacestation v3 if you want to perform live.

 

Magnus C350 + FMR RNP + Realistic Unisphere Mic
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Think of it the DA converter also may have some internal delay of tens or a few hundred of samples (so at 44.1 maybe a couple of MSs) for so called "reconstruction filtering. You could argue: that's not alright, but it is needed (theoretically) to create a proper analog output signal from the samples coming into the DAC, so in fact, the longer this filter is (assuming it's done right) the better you're going to sound. Also, the better you want to sound, in some cases the higher your sampling rate should be, assuming the software you use can handle.

 

Finally, there's such a thing as a FIXED delay that, for musicians rather than flashy button pushers, is more important, and interesting to measure. Having a very short delay, but as soon as you play more notes the delay changes, is very frustrating, and teaches you wrong playing patterns.

 

T.

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This is one funny thread. The OP just wants to play a single virtual instrument at home. "my only needs for the time being will be to run Garritan CFX as smoothly as possible."

 

My 2007 MacBook Pro ran my piano (Native Instruments Akoustik) with over 100 voices, release samples, sympathetic resonance, etc., along with several other softsynths, reverbs, eqs, etc. at a 128 sample buffer, through the built-in audio output with no problem, and it sounded fine! That's an eight-year-old computer with a Core 2 Duo processor (running on only one core!). And, it was my everyday computer too.

 

But hey, it's your money. Of course if you need multiple inputs and/or outputs then you'll need an external interface but otherwise I would absolutely try the built-in audio first.

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Vandershoot (the OP) made a personal decision to have a Window PC built just for his playing pleasure. The choice of an RME sound card was good IMHO because of RME's reputation for sound quality and excellent low latency drivers.

 

Macs running OSX/Core Audio will generally do a pretty good job right out of the box with real time streaming audio tasks.

 

A few posts up Stoca changed the OP's topic with questions of his own which were answered. It was only afterward that he revealed that he is not working on a live rig, but rather only plays at home. It's easy to assume when someone asks a question here he/she is talking about a live rig - it seems to be the norm.

 

The Core2Duo chokes on the newest of piano libraries at low buffer settings. But yes, I used mine for a long time too and the internal audio was acceptable for most things. But if you're looking to split hairs and look for something that sounds and performs better, there are a lot of interface suggestions in this thread.

Yamaha CP88, Casio PX-560

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I just wanted to plug the Spacestation v3 so Aspen makes some kick butt ROI, then brings us Spacestation Mid/Side Sub from Hell....

 

Hell just get an old EMU SoundBlaster...

Magnus C350 + FMR RNP + Realistic Unisphere Mic
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I was confused, I thought Vandershoot was using a Mac Mini. My mistake there, but my main point stands modern computers are pretty powerful and most should have no issues running a single virtual instrument, even one that needs a decent amount of power like a disk-streaming piano. Vandershoot did say it was for home use in the first post of this thread. I was just suggesting he try using onboard sound first, since it costs nothing but a little time.
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