Pro Audio Catch All

Did a search and didn't see any kind of pro audio so I thought I'd start one.

So I'm thinking about putting together a home studio setup again. Last time I was buying this type of equipment was around 2005 so I'm assuming modern stuff is at least somewhat improved from what I was using back then.

My main question is USB vs Firewire audio interfaces. I've used both but always found I got better sound from firewire. Are modern USB audio interfaces any good or is it still best to go w/ firewire? I think Ideally I'd like to get a mixer/interface combo. Something along the lines of this.

Also has anyone used REAPER as their DAW? It seems pretty affordable if you get the reduced price license, but I wanted to know how it compares to more expensive DAWs.

Radical Ans wrote:

My main question is USB vs Firewire audio interfaces. I've used both but always found I got better sound from firewire. Are modern USB audio interfaces any good or is it still best to go w/ firewire? I think Ideally I'd like to get a mixer/interface combo. Something along the lines of this.


Latency issues aside (which are probably irrelvant between Firewiare and USB3 these days) surely the main thing affecting sound quality is the quality of the DAC?

DanB wrote:
Radical Ans wrote:

My main question is USB vs Firewire audio interfaces. I've used both but always found I got better sound from firewire. Are modern USB audio interfaces any good or is it still best to go w/ firewire? I think Ideally I'd like to get a mixer/interface combo. Something along the lines of this.


Latency issues aside (which are probably irrelvant between Firewiare and USB3 these days) surely the main thing affecting sound quality is the quality of the DAC?

I think latency was my biggest issue w/ USB interfaces (circa 2005). I agree that w/ USB3 that is probably taken care of.

Interesting point w/ the DAC. It seems like for the price range I was looking at ($300-500) they all have 24-bit DACs. I'm wondering if I should go w/ a smaller interface w/ a 32-bit DAC.

Radical Ans wrote:
Interesting point w/ the DAC. It seems like for the price range I was looking at ($300-500) they all have 24-bit DACs. I'm wondering if I should go w/ a smaller interface w/ a 32-bit DAC.

Unless you're doing HD audio (like for Blu-Ray) I wouldn't really bother. Just make sure you have an external DAC and you should be good to go. You don't want it in the same box as the rest of your computer equipment; there's a lot of EMF in there.

I've fallen in love with these speakers and the GWJers to whom I've recommended them have all come back singing their praises. Absolutely the best monitors you can buy for such a price, IMO, and produced right here in Tennessee. The 5s are the sweet spot; the 6s get just a tad muddy in the lower register. Phenomenal soundstage, though.

I've not used REAPER, so I can't speak to that. If you're looking for something pretty simple to mess around with at first, Reason is a lot of fun, though. It's come a long way from v1.0. Most people in town have switched over to Logic for home work (Pro-tools is still de rigeur for studio use) nowadays.

Radical Ans wrote:
DanB wrote:
Radical Ans wrote:

My main question is USB vs Firewire audio interfaces. I've used both but always found I got better sound from firewire. Are modern USB audio interfaces any good or is it still best to go w/ firewire? I think Ideally I'd like to get a mixer/interface combo. Something along the lines of this.


Latency issues aside (which are probably irrelvant between Firewiare and USB3 these days) surely the main thing affecting sound quality is the quality of the DAC?

I think latency was my biggest issue w/ USB interfaces (circa 2005). I agree that w/ USB3 that is probably taken care of.

Interesting point w/ the DAC. It seems like for the price range I was looking at ($300-500) they all have 24-bit DACs. I'm wondering if I should go w/ a smaller interface w/ a 32-bit DAC.

The bit depth of the DAC once you've hit 16-bit and above will have almost no further impact on output quality (CDs sound pretty great). It's the quality of the hardware which converts the signal from digital to analogue that's the important bit.

You work in 24 and 32 bit audio prior to output or mixing down as it gives you more head room for effects/audio processing not because it "sounds better"

Minarchist wrote:
Radical Ans wrote:
Interesting point w/ the DAC. It seems like for the price range I was looking at ($300-500) they all have 24-bit DACs. I'm wondering if I should go w/ a smaller interface w/ a 32-bit DAC.

Unless you're doing HD audio (like for Blu-Ray) I wouldn't really bother. Just make sure you have an external DAC and you should be good to go. You don't want it in the same box as the rest of your computer equipment; there's a lot of EMF in there.

Assuming your sequencing is happening on a computer/laptop. A decent separate soundcard/DAC is the way to go.

Also if you're doing the sequencing on the computer then I'd keep the effects on the computer too and not buy a desk with integrated effects; unless YOU REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY liked the effects. If you buy something inexpensive with many, many features then don't expect any one of those features to be up to much. Also keeping the effects on the computer means you can swap in and out which ever effects plugins you want for relatively little (often no) cost.

Speaking from a DJing perspective I have never bought anything by Behringer that didn't turn out to be badly made and ultimately not worth the money. Things might be different on the studio side of their business but I know some friends who agree with me there too.

For off-board audio cards many people I know sing the praises of m-audio. One of those USB cards will definitely be my next audio purchase when I get round to it.

DanB wrote:
For off-board audio cards many people I know sing the praises of m-audio. One of those USB cards will definitely be my next audio purchase when I get round to it.

Yeah, I'm still running an old Delta 1010 and I love it.

Conventional wisdom used to be that firewire was the way to go, not due to sound quality but because FW offered better bandwidth than USB, and you theoretically take less of a CPU hit than you would with USB. With modern CPUs and USB interfaces that's less of an issue, and USB is often less finicky to get up and running at low latencies than firewire. For instance, lots of FW audio interfaces will only play nice with specific firewire controllers. If your motherboard doesn't have a FW controller that is manufactured by Texas Instruments, you'll be looking at buying a PCI firewire card in order to avoid pops, clicks and glitches. As others have mentioned, your best bet for good sound is not FW vs USB, it's buying a nice interface with good preamps and good converters.

Reaper is fine, if a little obtuse, and it's entirely possible to do pro quality work with it. It kind of depends on what you want to do--if you're looking at a one man band thing with lots of virtual instruments, you'd probably be better off looking at a DAW like Cubase or Sonar (or Logic if you're on a Mac). If you're just looking to record a band and lay down a lot of audio tracks, than Reaper will do the job, as will Pro Tools, Studio One, Record, and just about anything else.

Oh yeah, forgot about Ableton. I've heard a lot of good things about that.

Podunk wrote:
Reaper is fine, if a little obtuse, and it's entirely possible to do pro quality work with it. It kind of depends on what you want to do--if you're looking at a one man band thing with lots of virtual instruments, you'd probably be better off looking at a DAW like Cubase or Sonar (or Logic if you're on a Mac). If you're just looking to record a band and lay down a lot of audio tracks, than Reaper will do the job, as will Pro Tools, Studio One, Record, and just about anything else.

Oh yeah, I forgot this part of the question. I've spent a some time on and off with Cubase over the years, it's definitely good and very powerful and if music production were my main hobby it would be my go-to choice.

But after spending a lot of time with Ableton Live I can't recommend it enough. It has a really intuitive interface and workflow, very easy to get going and be productive. Whereas I've always felt both Cubase and Logic have pretty steep and lengthy learning curves. Live also gives you a lot of the plugin/VST versatility that cubase and logic provide.

Also do you really need an mixing desk to begin with? My vision of a starting set up would be these four items:
PC, DAW of my choice, monitors, and off board m-audio audio interface

You can get the audio interface with a couple of inputs for instruments and mics if you don't need to sequence 12 live instruments simultaneously and then get the mixing desk down the road.

Podunk wrote:
Oh yeah, forgot about Ableton. I've heard a lot of good things about that.
Of the more "pick up and play" style DAWs (like Reason, Acid and FLStudio) it's the one that is the most powerful, most intuitive and produces the most professional end product. And it has a really smart Live performance mode, although I've personally only tinkered with that side of it.

I can't agree with the statement that a 16-bit DAC is good enough in this day and age. 10 years ago that may have been true, but when I A/B'd my first 16-bit DAC against a 24-bit DAC, without even using reference monitors I could tell the difference. There's no reason to get 16-bit unless your choice is between a very high end 16-bit DAC (like a Lucid or Apogee) against a very cheaply made 24-bit. So - get an external device that allows 24/96 recording. M-Audio is fine, but depending on your budget. I've been very happy with my VERY inexpensive Presonus Firestudio Mobile. I still prefer firewire over USB, due to latency, bandwidth, etc. But anymore this is a bit of a moot issue and USB2 has resolved most of the inherent issues in USB1 devices...

Depending on your type of music - Ableton is great for more electronic/loop-based type productions. I don't like it as much for 'traditional' composing when compared to something like Cubase or Sonar.

So I'm starting to lean towards this guy. It has both firewire and USB2 and multiple inputs which is pretty much exactly what I'm looking for. Plus I've heard good things about MOTU.

I use Reaper most of the time. I have the Lite version of Ableton Live and while I think it's great for messing around with and experimenting (or playing live, but I don't do that), I prefer working in Reaper as my brain works better with it. I went with Reaper because I didn't like Cubase's workflow and everything else was too expensive at the time. You just can't beat the price of Reaper.

Of course, it all comes down to what you're planning on doing and what works best for you. For the most part that means downloading stuff and giving it a try. Ableton Live is definitely worth a look because it's probably different than what you used before. Then try Cubase, Sonar, etc.

MOTU is outright terrible if you want to use Linux, though, just be warned. Linux isn't usually the go-to environment for that sort of thing, but the MOTU people are actively scornful of and dismissive toward their potential Linux users; getting even documentation out of them has been, reportedly, utterly impossible.

I use Reaper quite a bit, and I will recommend it to anyone that will listen. The devs are responsive to their community, they push patches all the time, and they charge a pittance for a fully-featured DAW. You can try an uncrippled demo (that doesn't really ever expire), but $60 is criminal for that software. It's stable, does everything I've ever wanted, and has an easy interface for anyone familiar with DAWs in general.

It is comparable or better than most of the more expensive packages. I've used Protools HD and Cubase professionally and dabbled with Acid, Garageband, and Logic. I'll take Reaper!

Symbiotic wrote:
I can't agree with the statement that a 16-bit DAC is good enough in this day and age. 10 years ago that may have been true, but when I A/B'd my first 16-bit DAC against a 24-bit DAC, without even using reference monitors I could tell the difference. There's no reason to get 16-bit unless your choice is between a very high end 16-bit DAC (like a Lucid or Apogee) against a very cheaply made 24-bit. So - get an external device that allows 24/96 recording.

Ah yeah I was really only thinking about playback and reproduction. If you're recording instruments you probably want a 24-bit interface

I would advise everyone working with digital audio read this nice piece on bit depth and sampling rates
http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/dem...

Symbiotic wrote:
Depending on your type of music - Ableton is great for more electronic/loop-based type productions. I don't like it as much for 'traditional' composing when compared to something like Cubase or Sonar.

This is a very good point.

One other thing I like about Reaper is the skins, like this one.

Malor is right - but there aren't many Pro Audio manufacturers who give priority to Linux. If you love to tinker and fiddle with drivers all day, some of the Linux audio distros are fun. But if you just want to make music out of the box, I wouldn't recommend Linux of any flavor. MOTU stuff, for Windows and Mac, is great.

Well, there's a difference between 'not giving priority to' and 'sneering at', and MOTU is reported to be in the latter camp. For devices that expensive, I don't think complete documentation of the hardware is an unusual or unreasonable request.

The MOTU stuff that i've used in the past has been solid.

Currently I have an RME interface (the "Babyface") that I quite like, but it's only two channel analog in and out. Depends on what your needs are. You didn't mention whether you'd be using microphones, so I don't know if you'll be needing more mic preamps than two.

Minarchist wrote:
I've fallen in love with these speakers and the GWJers to whom I've recommended them have all come back singing their praises. Absolutely the best monitors you can buy for such a price, IMO, and produced right here in Tennessee. The 5s are the sweet spot; the 6s get just a tad muddy in the lower register. Phenomenal soundstage, though.

Thanks for the recommendation of the emotiva pro speakers... they look good, have you compared them to other studio powered speakers, like KRK or even Genelec? Price is definitely very affordable.

gamerparent wrote:
Thanks for the recommendation of the emotiva pro speakers... they look good, have you compared them to other studio powered speakers, like KRK or even Genelec? Price is definitely very affordable.

Yeah, I've compared them from everything to HR-824s and the (terrible but venerable) NS-10s to the KRK Rokit 5's I have sitting here on my desk (company-sponsored). They win over all of them, IMO. Some people might like the HR-824s better, but I still find them a bit boomy and muddy, and at three times the price...