Departing With M-Audio Delta 1010 Audio Interfaces

Brandon Drury —  January 9, 2008

I’ve used my M-Audio Delta 1010s for the recording of more songs than I can count. I lost track at 700 songs. Now it’s time to part ways with the Delta 1010s. Last night I pronounced one of my Delta 1010 PCI cards dead. This brings my rig down from 20 inputs to 10 inputs. That won’t cut it for recording live bands. So now I’m making a mad dash to figure out what can get me 20 inputs and be in my Monday for my next live band session.

I can go a zillion routes. First I want to talk about what I didn’t like about the Delta 1010s.

Delta 1010 Is Not Portable
First of all, they were very unportable due to them being PCI cards instead of Firewire, which I would prefer. I have had to turn down a few “on location” gigs because it took such an outstanding amount of time to move my rig around. So, it’s worth a few extra bucks for the ability to grab a laptop, a 6 space rack, and a few mics for a live recording.

No Fancy Headphone Monitoring Matrix
The Delta 1010s offered no headphone mixing matrix. I used my Mackie 1604 for the longest time for monitoring in a live band situation. I could get 4 mono and 1 stereo mix out of the Mackie, but I really hate mono headphone mixes. I think it’s much more difficult to hear with a mono headphone mix and I think this effects recordings in a negative way. So, this time around I really want the ability to setup stereo headphone mixes.

I always felt a little weird when I knew the guitar players in the band really couldn’t hear what was going on. While I could continue to wing it with the current mono setup, it would be preferred to have the ability to do anything I wanted in terms of headphone mixes.

Note: I will still be monitoring through Cubase when doing any overdubs. All of this headphone monitoring matrix stuff is there exclusively for the recording of live bands. I like adding compression, adding reverb, and controlling levels real time through Cubase in almost all cases. However, I’m limited to a single mix in Cubase. While theoretically, I could use aux sends within Cubase, these add significant latency to the signal.

It seems silly to pay $600 for an audio interface that does not have extensive headphone options.

No Built In Mic Preamps
The Delta 1010s had no mic preamps built in. This led me to buy external mic preamps and a mixer. I really don’t need built in mic preamps these days, but I do have to admit that I like the idea of simplicity with the built in mic preamps. While I do have a few high end and middle of the road mic pres which always get used first, there were times when I would end up resorting to my Mackie pres if I ran out of channels. I would use built in mic pres in the the audio interface as a last resort as well. Going back to live recording and such, I like the idea of being able to plug in one single cable into an audio interface and being done with it.

TONS of Cables
I’ve had hell with cables since I started recording. I think this is common. When I have 16 mics in use, I have 16 mic cables that go to my preamps, 16 cables that go from my preamps, cables that go to the mixer for headphone mixes, cables that go from the preamps to my Mytek converters, cables that go from my Mytek converters to my audio interfaces. This may not sound too complicated, but my floor ends up looking like a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I just happen to hate snakes, too! The problem is most of my cables are 8 feet long for various reasons and this means I have 8 feet of cable whether I need 1ft or 20ft. This really makes a huge mess, makes it hard to troubleshoot bad cables, and causes big problems with cables getting accidentally yanked out. I would much rather forgo this complexity, if possible.

If I’m recording 16 mics, there is no way of getting around those initial 16 XLR cables. However, I’ve got a feeling that if I can take the Mackie out of the equation entirely for monitoring, I will not only have a cleaner looking rack that is MUCH easier to deal with and troubleshoot, I’ll also totally reduce the number of problems that occur in the first place. I can’t think of a live session (or even a session where we were just recording drums) where every cable and connection worked perfectly. I’m always playing around with my rack. Note: Some of that is do to the fact that I have to hook/unhook my snake on my Neve preamps when I switch from tracking in the control room vs the live room. Way too much of this is due to some random cable causing problems. The fact that I have wasted the bands time dealing with my issues so much usually compels me to knock time off the recording bill. These hours add up!

It may seem like I’m putting too much emphasis on simplicity, but I find that when I’m trying to get great tones for a live band, I usually have anxiety x 2,000. Everything goes wrong. There are cables everywhere. The band is tripping over them. The guys in the band will start telling jokes and yelling and hollering. (This isn’t a bad thing except when I’m trying to find a bad cable in a stack of 4 billion wires and cables). In the end, every little incremental improvement I could make for this sort of thing is an enormous blessing!

Not Enough Simultaneous Inputs With One Card
The M-Audio Delta 1010s allowed 8 analog inputs and then 2 more inputs via S/PDIF. This is a fairly normal configuration for a multi-channel audio interface. At least, it was a fairly normal configuration. I used 2 Delta 1010s to get enough inputs. While this wasn’t a bad way of handling the situation, when you double the amount of components in a rig, you double the changes of something going wrong. So here I sit with a dead PCI card, but 2 breakout boxes that work fine. If the Delta 1010 had ADAT Lightpipe inputs, I could continued using my one audio interface and simply run a single cable into the back of the Delta 1010 for an additional 8 inputs.

Required features:

  • Stereo headphone mixes
  • Portability
  • Less cables
  • More simultaneous inputs

So, I’m looking for an audio interface that can take care of all these requirements. I have to admit. The Delta 1010s were very reliable. I got over 6 very reliable years out of the Delta 1010s and I even squeezed a few great recordings out of them here and there. However, the Delta 1010s were just little short on features. At $600, I’m of the opinion that the Delta 1010s can not compete with other model audio interfaces. I had thought at one time that the price was dropped down to $400. This seemed a bit more reasonable.

Some may wonder about the sound quality of the M-Audio Delta 1010. I’d say it’s as good as anything else out there in home recording land. Of course, I upgraded my converters to the very expensive Mytek converters, but no client has been able to tell the difference.

This article isn’t really meant to deter or encourage anyone to use a Delta 1010. I’m simply describing my own personal experiences and thoughts. If your needs are similar, you may save yourself a little bit a of trouble by learning from my mistakes when choosing an audio interface.

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.

6 responses to Departing With M-Audio Delta 1010 Audio Interfaces

  1. sounds like you’re being too hard on the 1010′s. i got the cheaper version (the 1010LT without the breakout box) on ebay for $150 and it’s been great for 2 years now. there are 8 outputs and a simple monitor mixer, so depending on monitoring you can rig 3 other stereo mixes and plug headphones in through an adapter. and there are built in preamps on the first two inputs, complete with xlr inputs on the back.

    after looking it up, it looks like the cheaper version has the preamps, while yours didn’t. weird. in any case, 2 is hardly enough

  2. sounds like you’re being too hard on the 1010’s.

    I wasn’t being hard on the Delta 1010s. They’ve been great to me for years. I have no complains about them, per say, but their features are what you would expect in 2001, not 2008. That’s all.

    I recommend the Delta 1010 to anyone that gets their needs met by them, but for about the same amount of money their are great options out there.

  3. The 1010 has slightly better converter chips and lower noise than the 1010lt.

    I’ve just been through the same process as you, going from two 1010 PCI to a Presonus Firestudio. I bought a Digimax FS for another 8 ins as well.

    How do you find the preamps on the Firestudio? I’d say that a SM57 sounds better than my old system of a Mackie 24-8-2 into my 1010s. There is not a huge amount in it though, and I’d think it is slightly noisier.

  4. I have been using a Delta1010 for years and for the most part meets my needs. The earlier versions had a Lifetime Warranty so if you had one die, you might check into that. I need more channels when recording a band. My question is whether to get another 1010 or go for the new technology. With the Motherboards having less slots getting 2 1010s in the same PC will be challenging. I see the Tascam has 16 inputs running USB. Most other interfaces have 8 inputs. May boast about more but most of that is thru S/PDIF. How would I utilize S/PDIF technology? Can’t I also us it with my 1010? Can anyone provide guidence?


  5. The Delta 1010 is a fine interface, but it certainly doesn’t have the features that many newer interfaces have. In particular, the lack of inputs can be limiting to some. As you pointed out, the number of PCI slots on most modern motherboards is getting smaller.

    For a person who already has a Delta 1010, you can get two more inputs via S/PDIF with an additional AD converter. (It’s super easy. Just hook it up via an RCA cable and set the external converter as the master clock and the interface as the slave.)

    10 inputs is nice, but it still doesn’t get up to the high teens (which I dramatically prefer). There are many other options particularly if you go the ADAT Lightpipe route, which adds 8 inputs per ADAT In (@ 44.1Khz).