Upgrade interface opinions requested

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Mannynyagain
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2018/11/08 16:30:28 (permalink)

Upgrade interface opinions requested

Hi,

I’ve been recording at home for about 15 years now. I don’t do a lot of recording, only when I write a new song and that’s once or twice a year. I know the quality of my recordings do not come close to most of what I hear in the songs forum. I chalk that up to my lack of skill, inexperience, some degree of laziness and basic poor judgement.

Okay - with my mea culpas out of the way, I was wondering if the actual sounds I’m getting on vocals, guitars and bass could be improved by upgrading my interface. Currently I have a audiophile 2694 PCI card and a little Mackie vkz3 mixer. The vocal mic is an akg C3000. The 2694 is about 13 years old and the Mackie just a few years old.

Would there be any appreciable difference if I switch to one of the new usb interfaces with for example Presonus or Mackie Onyx ?

I realize is a very subjective issue but technology has changed and maybe for a small investment some of my tracks (vocals especially) might sound a bit more professional.

Any insight would be appreciated. I know “learn to use what you have” is an absolutely valid response - I tell myself that all the time. In fact I’ll be the first to say it - “hey Manny, learn to use what you have”.

Hello from New York
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    batsbrew
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/08 20:16:48 (permalink)
    hey manny,
    do a search,
    there are so many threads about this kind of thing,
    it's hard to reiterate the same info over and over and over....
    that said,
    i used to have the maudio 2496 card, went to a maudio audiophile 192 card,
    and after that, bought a RME Babyface Pro.
     
    that's my very strong suggestion.

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    #2
    Mannynyagain
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/08 20:42:38 (permalink)
    Understand what you’re saying. Btw, your tracks sound amazing.

    Hello from New York
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    Leadfoot
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/08 21:05:56 (permalink)
    I used an M-Audio Delta 1010 rackmount for about 12 years. A couple years ago I bought an Audient iD22. They clarity and body of my tracks improved very noticeably. I'm so glad I made the change.
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    stratman70
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/09 01:54:41 (permalink)
    I also used a 2496 for many years. Like you I am in a home studio. I have upgraded but not all that far. I bought a Echo Layla 3G and am still using today with Windows 10 pro and a hi powered new PC build.
    The interface and the mic are OK and should be ok, everything else being equal.
    Better equipment does NOT always mean better recordings. I still have some of my recordings with my AP2496 and they aren't bad at all.
     
    The mackie onyx does have some pretty good mic pres so that would definitely be a plus.........Interface, ?
     
     

     
     
    #5
    Mannynyagain
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/09 02:36:25 (permalink)
    Thanks to you all. I currently just run my Mackie 402 into the 2496. The preamps in the Mackie seemed fine to me but I’ve read that the onyx are considerably better and I can’t seem to get tracks that sound nearly as good as many of those using sonar just like I do. I know my engineering sucks but I thought maybe the straight signals I’m working with (Mackie into 2694) are lacking clarity and that a newer interface might be a benefit- being an upgrade to a Mackie VLZ4 (with onyx Pres) or a Presonus - I really don’t know.

    I did start searching and found lots of info but nothing that gives me an indication that an older mixer + 2694 can be improved upon by newer gear. Which leaves the weak link in the chain as “me”. Every wants a simple answer and unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be one.

    Leadfoots response seems to push me into the onyx realm. Hey, better Pres for $100 is not a big investment.

    Hello from New York
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    #6
    Jim Roseberry
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/12 13:51:11 (permalink)
    The difference between Mackie preamps isn't going to be "night vs. day".
    The newer designs are slightly better.
    If you're wanting to experience a major improvement from your mic preamp, you'll want to go with a higher-end outboard model. 
    I picked up a Neve Portico-II a year or two back. 
    One of the best gear investments I've made.  Literally everything sounds better running thru it. 
    It's like getting a gear upgrade across all your mics/instruments.
    The downside (of course), is cost.
    IMO, All onboard preamps are slight variations of "pretty decent" (not amazing, not horrible).
    You won't find a lot of color/personality with any of them.
     
    In the OP's scenario, the A/D converters are currently in-the-box.
    A new audio interface (converters outside-the-box) would yield lower noise-floor.
    You may not notice the difference across a single track, but take that 6-8dB improvement (exact amount depends on the audio interface) multiplied across 24+ tracks... and it starts to add up.  It's like peeling a veil of noise away from the project.
     
     

    Best Regards,

    Jim Roseberry
    jim@studiocat.com
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    #7
    Mannynyagain
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/12 22:06:12 (permalink)
    Thanks for your input. After lots of searching and reading reviews , I think I may just drop the whole 2694 pci environment and go with a Audient id14 or id22 (if I decide to spend the extra bucks). Worst case scenario is I say (for 1 millionth time) I made a poor choice.

    Hello from New York
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    #8
    Wayfarer
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/13 00:02:54 (permalink)
    Mannynyagain
    I was wondering if the actual sounds I’m getting on vocals, guitars and bass could be improved by upgrading my interface.


    Not one bit.
     
    Bill
    #9
    Mannynyagain
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/13 12:17:29 (permalink)
    Wayfarer
    Mannynyagain
    I was wondering if the actual sounds I’m getting on vocals, guitars and bass could be improved by upgrading my interface.


    Not one bit.
     
    Bill


    Maybe not, but I’m going to find out.

    Hello from New York
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    #10
    batsbrew
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/13 16:15:20 (permalink)
    whenever you upgrade your front end,
    and particularly, your CONVERTORS....
     
    you improve your clarity of every track you make.
     

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    Mannynyagain
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/13 17:39:52 (permalink)
    Ha, Jim , I just realized that you built my pc for me about 5 years ago. It’s still running great (it’s been rock solid - not a single problem) and like to upgrade the interface. Thanks for your input.

    Hello from New York
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    #12
    Mannynyagain
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/13 17:43:11 (permalink)
    Bat, I’ve been doing lots a reading / searching. I did check out the rme babyface - a bit over my budget but I can afford one the lower priced Audient units so I may go that route. Thanks again for your input.

    Hello from New York
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    #13
    Jim Roseberry
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/14 14:28:13 (permalink)
    For a simple/inexpensive audio interface, Audient is a great choice.
    You can't go wrong with anything RME; Babyface Pro is rock-solid... but that's significantly higher cost.
     
    Glad the machine is still working well for you!  

    Best Regards,

    Jim Roseberry
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    #14
    Mannynyagain
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/22 00:23:58 (permalink)
    Wayfarer - You may be right. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and watching reviews and there is definitely a sense that the PCI card is better in some ways and that I might not improve anything by going to a USB based interface. Yeesh - maybe my cheesy little $ 100 mixer needs and update OR maybe nothing needs improving except my mixing. Frustrating and informative. I’d love to spend an afternoon with a good engineer - that might be the best investment I make.

    Hello from New York
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    Wayfarer
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/22 02:26:29 (permalink)
    Have you got a looper pedal? If so, do a test by recording keyboard, guitar and whatever other instruments you normally record with one at a time into your looper and listen to it play each back through your studio monitors. Then record what the looper is playing into your DAW and switch back and forth between the looper playback and the recorded playback to see if there is any difference between them. Do these recordings in mono with no effects. If the recorded playback sounds exactly the same as your looper, then you have to ask yourself, how do you improve on "exactly the same"? If you honestly do hear a difference, then yeah, upgrading may be helpful in your case.
     
    If you want to try it in stereo also, do it at 16/48. At any resolution higher than 44.1 there probably won't be any oversampling employed, although that wouldn't likely change anything anyway. 24-bit is okay too as long as you aren't using any effects.
     
    Bill
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    Mannynyagain
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/22 17:29:59 (permalink)
    Wayfarer
    Have you got a looper pedal? If so, do a test by recording keyboard, guitar and whatever other instruments you normally record with one at a time into your looper and listen to it play each back through your studio monitors. Then record what the looper is playing into your DAW and switch back and forth between the looper playback and the recorded playback to see if there is any difference between them. Do these recordings in mono with no effects. If the recorded playback sounds exactly the same as your looper, then you have to ask yourself, how do you improve on "exactly the same"? If you honestly do hear a difference, then yeah, upgrading may be helpful in your case.
     
    If you want to try it in stereo also, do it at 16/48. At any resolution higher than 44.1 there probably won't be any oversampling employed, although that wouldn't likely change anything anyway. 24-bit is okay too as long as you aren't using any effects.
     
    Bill


    Don’t have a looper pedal but I can do the same with my electric piano and drum machine. Good idea. Thanks for the info.

    I did do the comparison on several sources. To my aging ears there’s little if any discernible difference between the source and recorded-then played back material. I’ll stick with the 2496 and upgrade the mixer and get a compressor.
    post edited by Mannynyagain - 2018/11/25 16:40:22

    Hello from New York
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    #17
    AT
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/23 16:09:19 (permalink)
    There is a difference between the lower priced audient pres and the rest of the line, I believe. Or maybe the conversion. Audient has an online chart I recently found. Check their site.

    The audient id44 sounds beautiful. Very round and analog. Haven’t tested the pres one on one. But I, too, use the rnd portico is, which is in a different league than ic interface pres (or mackie’s). FYI the TAscam uh 7000 has pres (and conversion) that also stand head and shoulders above similar interfaces, esp. the precise pres. As soon as I have the hours on the audient, I plan on integrating the two, if the tascam will sync. It has great hardware but subpar software.
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    Mannynyagain
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/23 20:31:50 (permalink)
    AT
    There is a difference between the lower priced audient pres and the rest of the line, I believe. Or maybe the conversion. Audient has an online chart I recently found. Check their site.

    The audient id44 sounds beautiful. Very round and analog. Haven’t tested the pres one on one. But I, too, use the rnd portico is, which is in a different league than ic interface pres (or mackie’s). FYI the TAscam uh 7000 has pres (and conversion) that also stand head and shoulders above similar interfaces, esp. the precise pres. As soon as I have the hours on the audient, I plan on integrating the two, if the tascam will sync. It has great hardware but subpar software.


    Yeah, I checked out that chart and it appears (according to specs) that the 22 or 44 have better specs. At this point I’m thinking that maybe the problem (for my crappy recordings) is me. Maybe my money would be better spent on a good compressor for vocals. Or better yet , a case of proper twelve.

    Hello from New York
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    AT
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/23 23:19:04 (permalink)
    It is never a bad investment in upgrading hardware.  Because it also takes practice.  The few dBs difference between the two audient units won't make a spits difference, in the end.  If you have a good song, it should be there, no matter how rough.  If you want a finished product, not just demo, you have to learn to track and mix to do it at home.  It isn't rocket science, but just time to figure out how you hear things and make that work for you.
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    Wayfarer
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/24 15:54:10 (permalink)
    Mannynyagain
    Maybe my money would be better spent on a good compressor for vocals.


    Best I've ever used on vocals: DBX 160A
     
    Actually I use the older 160XT, but they're basically the same.
     
    Good mics will help you more than anything, and good doesn't mean expensive or popular. My favorite mic on bass and baritone vocals is a cheap MXL-V63M. The most popular mic MXL made was probably the V67, and in my opinion it was a dog. I couldn't wait to sell mine. Just remember that 95% of what you read in forums is nonsense. Just try out some different equipment and make your own judgments.
     
    Something else that's gotten a lot praise are ribbon mics. I gotta tell you, I'm not a fan of them in general. They're great for stage work, mic'ing a sound-stage at a play etc. because they have this great ability to still sound full and clear at a distance of several feet--something a condenser mic just can't do, but for up close recording like we mostly do with instruments and vocals, I'll take a condenser every time. This is my old RCA BK11 mic. Some say it was the best ribbon mic ever made. I sold it to some steel guitar player in Switzerland for over a thousand bucks. It was an okay mic, but outside of a stage, I had no use for it. I don't miss it at all. Expensive doesn't mean good. But you already knew that.
     

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    Mannynyagain
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/24 17:01:08 (permalink)
    Wayfarer
    Mannynyagain
    Maybe my money would be better spent on a good compressor for vocals.


    Best I've ever used on vocals: DBX 160A
     
    Actually I use the older 160XT, but they're basically the same.
     
    Good mics will help you more than anything, and good doesn't mean expensive or popular. My favorite mic on bass and baritone vocals is a cheap MXL-V63M. The most popular mic MXL made was probably the V67, and in my opinion it was a dog. I couldn't wait to sell mine. Just remember that 95% of what you read in forums is nonsense. Just try out some different equipment and make your own judgments.
     
    Something else that's gotten a lot praise are ribbon mics. I gotta tell you, I'm not a fan of them in general. They're great for stage work, mic'ing a sound-stage at a play etc. because they have this great ability to still sound full and clear at a distance of several feet--something a condenser mic just can't do, but for up close recording like we mostly do with instruments and vocals, I'll take a condenser every time. This is my old RCA BK11 mic. Some say it was the best ribbon mic ever made. I sold it to some steel guitar player in Switzerland for over a thousand bucks. It was an okay mic, but outside of a stage, I had no use for it. I don't miss it at all. Expensive doesn't mean good. But you already knew that.
     



    Yeah, I think my akg c3000 is okay for vocals and acoustic guitars. The DBX 160 is a bit pricey for me but the 166xs is doable. As with any reviews on a given piece of equipment I see good and not so good reviews. The 166xs has some presets for vocals that would probably help the inept musicians/home recording guy (and that sounds very attractive to me ).

    I’ll know my budget once Christmas is past - gift cards, money coming in and money going out. Once the dust settles I’ll see what I have left!

    Hello from New York
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    #22
    Wayfarer
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/24 17:39:49 (permalink)
    Unfortunately, I think compressors are one of those "you get what you pay for" items. There aren't many in the sub $500 range that are worth dragging home. I also have one of those Behringer MDX2600 Composer Pro XL stereo units. It's along the same lines as the 166XS. Despite its rave reviews, it's fine for limiting, but it's compression just sounds lifeless, whereas a 160a will actually liven up vocals and acoustic guitars more often than not. Good luck with it though. I haven't actually heard the XS version of the 166. Maybe they've improved it.
     
    I know some people use that AKG on acoustic, but I've never had much luck with getting a great sound out of an acoustic string instrument using a 1" condenser. 1/2" just seems to work so much better.
     
    Bill
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    Leadfoot
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/24 17:52:37 (permalink)
    If you're looking at sub $500 compressors, I'd definitely take a look at the ART Pro VLA II. It does really well on vocals. Change out the stock 12AX7's for some vintage Mullards or RCA's, and it sounds even better.
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    Wayfarer
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/24 20:42:35 (permalink)
    Interesting.
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    Kev999
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/24 22:14:13 (permalink)
    Mannynyagain
    ...The DBX 160 is a bit pricey for me but the 166xs is doable. As with any reviews on a given piece of equipment I see good and not so good reviews. The 166xs has some presets for vocals that would probably help the inept musicians/home recording guy (and that sounds very attractive to me )...

     
    I have a DBX 166XL. It's OK for electric guitar but I wouldn't recommend it for vocals.
    post edited by Kev999 - 2018/11/25 06:26:03

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    DeeringAmps
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/25 00:55:23 (permalink)
    With vintage Mullards and RCAs you won't be sub $500 anymore.
    Just sayin'

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    Leadfoot
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/25 01:19:00 (permalink)
    Well I just happen to be in possession of half a dozen RCA long plates from the 60's. :)
    But the compressor sounds pretty good stock too.
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    DeeringAmps
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/25 14:03:19 (permalink)
    Check it out
    RCA 7025
    only $199.95 each.
    Gawd dam bargain!

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    Jim Roseberry
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    Re: Upgrade interface opinions requested 2018/11/25 14:15:28 (permalink)
    Wayfarer 
    Something else that's gotten a lot praise are ribbon mics. I gotta tell you, I'm not a fan of them in general. They're great for stage work, mic'ing a sound-stage at a play etc. because they have this great ability to still sound full and clear at a distance of several feet--something a condenser mic just can't do, but for up close recording like we mostly do with instruments and vocals, I'll take a condenser every time. 



    Ribbon mics are often used in situations where you're dealing with an instruments with harsh/abrasive upper mids.
    If you have strident sounding horns, cymbals, guitar cab, etc... a ribbon mic can help smooth that out.
     
    I had a Royer 121 for a while (used it on guitar cab).
    I liked things about it, but I thought the mids sounded a little "plastic" for lack of a better word.
    Much prefer the combination of a dynamic and condenser mic on guitar cab.
    The Royer 121 has massive proximity effect.  
    If used for close mic'ing, you'll definitely have to use a high-pass filter.

    Best Regards,

    Jim Roseberry
    jim@studiocat.com
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    #30
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