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Fraud and Idiotic Audio Interface Descriptions

Brandon Drury —  February 16, 2008

Here’s how it works. I get up in the morning (or afternoon, unfortunately) and check the recording forum here at RecordingReview.com. There are usually a handful of new members who are asking for specific advice about a specific product. Typically, the audio interface is the least understood link in the chain so I take extra time to help with the audio interfaces.

Today on the forum a dude asked how many simultaneous inputs the Alesis Multimix 16 Firewire mixer / audio interface could send to the computer at once. In other words, how many tracks can he record simultaneously?

I head over to Musicians Friend and read the description. Of course, it’s all useless marketing hype with no clear indication of the features. (This is normal, UNFORTUNATELY!).

So, I head over to the Alesis website.

_Compact, affordable 16-channel analog mixer and Multi-channel FireWire Audio Computer

Compact? Really? WOW! (highest form of sarcasm possible). Thanks!

Affordable? Really? WOW! (like I can’t see the damn price is $500 at Musiciansfriend) Thank!

16-channel analog mixer? Okay, that’s useful. That means it probably has X amount of mic preamps and X amount of line level inputs, but that tells me something.

Here is the part that pissed me off so badly, that I actively refuse to EVER recommend another Alesis product again for the rest of my life. You have not only lost me as a customer for life, you have completely lost all of my recommendations.

“Multi-channel Firewire”

Let me say that again.

“Multi-channel Firewire”

On their own website they leave out the single most important piece of information possible for an audio interface. Are they out of their damn minds?????? How is it that a manufacturer of an audio interface can’t see the worth in being clear enough to illustrate the most important feature in an audio interface? I’m positive that there are some extremely intelligent electrical engineer and software engineers have designed this audio interface. I surely can’t do it! I tip my hat on my bald head to them.

However, what incompetent moron is in charge of writing the product descriptions for the Alesis website and Musiciansfriend? Fire them immediately! They are costing you money! Fire them. Go a step further. Put a hit out on them! This is so big of a mistake that it had to be on purpose. No one with any understanding of the product would possible leave out the number of simultaneous inputs. This has to be part of some bigger New World Order conspiracy or something. It makes no logical sense.

It’s Not Just Alesis – It’s M-Audio, Presonus, Mackie, Digidesign and Every Other Manufacturer Of Audio Interfaces
I’ve been planning on updating the Home Recording Soundcard Wizard to include the latest audio interfaces that have came out recently. Every time I start to go through each audio interface and deduce what features it has (yes, I have to use some kind of deductive reasoning to figure out the stupid features of a given product) I end angry. I’m angry because I want the information on my Soundcard Wizard to be accurate. I owe that to the visitors of RecordingReview.com. However, when they simply do not tell you ANYWHERE the number of simultaneous inputs and other features on the description of an audio interface, I don’t know what to do!

I believe in capitalism. (Don’t get started on another anti-socialist rant). I believe that the market caters to the demands of the customer. If a business does something in a strange way, it’s probably due to the fact that customers want it that way. What possible customer would have any interest in pulling out their credit card for a product that they have absolutely zero idea even does what they think it does?
This blows my mind!

Misleading Input Figures
Another problem which is almost as huge as not stating the number of inputs at all is the problem of over-inflating the number of inputs. Digital inputs should not count as the number of inputs in an audio interface! Why can’t the ad for the Presonus Firestudio (which I happily own) say “Featuring 8 analog inputs out of the box, but expandable to 26 simultaneous inputs with ADAT Lightpipe”. Instead, they just say “24 inputs”. Then they say “26 inputs”. (I guess they forgot to count S/PDIF the first time!) There is absolutely nothing on the Musiciansfriend Firestudio ad to suggest that without buying a bunch more stuff, you can only record 8 inputs at once. NOTHING! A beginner is completely screwed. You are going to pay $500-600 minimum for an 8 channel preamp / analog to digital converter with Lightpipe. Nowhere does the Firestudio say that it’s going to cost an additional $1000 to get up to 24 simultaneous inputs. Why keep this a secret? Since no one is being up front and honest about their audio interface products, it seems that if there was one company who laid it all out there, the buying public would be shocked by the straight forward nature of the company and the company would explode with sales!

I remember when I first bought my M-Audio Delta 1010 back in 2001. I was shocked to see that it did not have 10 inputs. It had 8 analog inputs and 2 S/PDIF, but no one told me that I would need to buy more stuff to take advantage of the other 2 inputs. If this wasn’t fraud, it was flat out intentional deception. (I think that is fraud!).

A Picture Is Worth A Million Trillion Words
I’m the kind of guy who likes to read. I LIKE books. (As long as they involve Nazis, the Cold War, or socialism.) I don’t mind reading a description of an audio interface. However, because the ad for the typical audio interface is so disgustingly uninformative, I have to look at the damn picture! Why! Am I 4 years old? I can color in the lines now. I should not have to recourse to looking at the back of the unit to figure out what an audio interface can and can’t do. The ad says “4,000 inputs made of gold for pristine fidelity” and the back of the unit has 8 holes for XLR mics and an ADAT input.

The bigger problem arises when the USB and Firewire mixers don’t specify how many ins and outs their audio interface portion contains. There is no back of the unit to look at! Obviously, the text in the ad and the website is going to be useless. It’s a guessing game as to whether the unit has 2 inputs or 16 inputs!

So, in this case a picture is not worth 1,000 words. Not when the words are useless! In fact, a picture is worth an infinite amount of words in this case, but I’d rather sound like a mafia dude who says “million trillion”.

Make It Easy On Beginners!
I’m curious just how many people start to consider jumping into home recording and then get confused by the unnecessary complications of audio interface ad writers that they say “Screw it!”. I bet the audio interface world is losing millions of dollars each year because they don’t accurately describe their products.

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 RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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24 responses to Fraud and Idiotic Audio Interface Descriptions

  1. Go Brandon! I also have noticed recently that the “alternate” picture views on the online gear sites almost never show the back or whatever side you need to see to look at number of XLR inputs. It is usually some useless angle that doesn’t show you anything more than the first picture. This is a recent development. It seems to me there always used to be a “rear” view, not anymore.

    Yeah, my Digi002 rack has “18 inputs!” and how many XLR preamps built into it????? Just 4. I hope the Mackie 12 channel interface lives up to its hype. 12 mic preamps in is really cool and pretty much all a band needs to record live.

  2. I would agree that most ads are aimed right at the beginner who thinks, “A home studio for $200, I could save my band thousands if I get this.”

    Your rant against the Multimix Firewire is not entirely true. According to the manual it can send 12-16 individual tracks to Cubase. The Multimix USB,(which is $200 less) sends 1 stereo mix.
    I may be reading it wrong, but either way, you got a point on the rant. But a spin on this is if companies make a true “home studio in a box” with every type of preset known to man, that puts a lot of hard-working/studying engineers out of business. The challenge to go and learn a few things before expecting a Nickelback-quality recording can be a good thing.

  3. Please be aware that you are not the only victim of manufacturer’s marketing-speak. The fact is, we have nothing to go on other than what they tell us, nor do we have the time or bandwidth to hand-test every piece of equipment out of a 45,000+ product inventory with hundreds of new products showing up every day. Whenever possible, we post a PDF of the product’s owner’s manual on the detail page for those who require more information. However, if the manual isn’t available at the time we create the detail page, most likely it will not find its way to our site. After all, we can’t track thousands of products over numerous manufacturer’s sites at random to see if they happened to post the manual on any given day — nor do they notify us when they do. Another thing they don’t bother to tell us is when they’ve made changes to a product or its specs. We have to find out the hard way; at the expense of our goodwill with a disappointed customer. For future reference, if our, or a manufacturer’s product detail page doesn’t provide all the information you seek, I’d suggest checking the Support or Downloads page on the manufacturer’s site to see if they’ve posted owner’s manuals.

    By the way, the link you posted to Musician’s Friend connects to the MultiMix 16 USB, not the FireWire.

    That said, the information you wanted is on the Alesis site under Support – Downloads. The MultiMix 12 FireWire manual, which also covers the MultiMix 16 says the following:

    Channels sent from the MultiMix to the
    Computer

    The Firewire port sends every individual mixer channel as well as the MultiMix’s MAIN OUT/2-TRACK OUT left and right signals to the computer. This means that, for the MultiMix 12 FireWire, 12 individual channels are sent to the computer along with the MAIN stereo pair (14 channels in total.) For the MultiMix 16 FireWire, 16 individual channels are sent to the computer along with the MAIN stereo pair (18 channels in total.)

    Individual channels
    The INDIVIDUAL channels sent to the computer send the signal
    after the preamp gain knob, the high-pass filter, the three-band EQ, and the channel fader. The effects of the AUX send knobs are NOT included in the outputs of the individual channels.

    MAIN MIX channels
    The MAIN mix channels sent to the computer exactly mirror the MAIN output of the mixer. If you are only interested in making stereo recordings, consider recording the MAIN channels in your recording software.

    I’m sorry you’ve been inconvenienced, and hope that this information will bring us to an accord of sorts — after all, asking that I put out of work, made homeless, and starve to death, or better yet, shot by a hit man over a $500 toy is just a tad harsh…

    Best Regards,

    -B-

  4. I’m a beginner trying to pick out an interface and I didn’t think about it until I read this, but I almost always ignore the writing on the page and just click the picture so I can see how many inputs a unit actually has. Adds unnecessary confusion and frustration to the whole process.

  5. Props to you, this was very good.

  6. I totally agree with you, actually about five years ago I got screwed into buying the eight channel alesis usb multimix and couldn’t for the the life of me figure out why i couldnt record using all eight channels. These companies just do whatever to make you think the product is better than it is……

  7. http://www.echoaudio.com echo cards give very good specs.

  8. I agree. When I got my fw410, I was pissed that it can only record 2 analog inputs at a time (though I do record off of Toslink … almost never … so that’s good).

    I think some of it is getting better. I was pleasantly surprised to see M-Audio’s NRV10 properly described as an 8×2 analog mixer and 10×10 software assisted interface.

    The worst one I’ve seen so far is the A&H Zed-14. It’s USB equipped, but I had to read in a review, that the USB only carries the buses. Not individual inputs. I couldn’t find that ANYWHERE on their website, not even pdfs and white papers.

  9. I may be reading it wrong, but either way, you got a point on the rant. But a spin on this is if companies make a true “home studio in a box” with every type of preset known to man, that puts a lot of hard-working/studying engineers out of business. The challenge to go and learn a few things before expecting a Nickelback-quality recording can be a good thing.

    Presets don’t work, but assuming that they did, I see absolutely no correlation between audio interface manufacturers being up front and honest and about the specs and features in their audio interface and getting some kind of audio hand out.

    I think that’s my point. I’ve got my hands tied doing so many things to improve the quality of the recordings coming out of my place that I don’t have time to dig and dig and dig to investigate the most important features.

    Brandon

  10. StudioBellwood April 3, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I almost feel like i wrote this article yesterday, after hours of researching audio interfaces (primarily by presonus and mackie). Mackie’s firewire mixers don’t have direct firewire connection. You have to buy a flippin’ $500 card to insert into the back of the mixer to connect to your pc through firewire. THEY DON’T FLIPPIN SAY A THING ABOUT THIS A-N-Y-W-H-E-R-E!!! You have to put the peices together yourself. so, i’m sure many people have spent $1300 on the mackie 1640, only to realize that it really did not have firewire i/o built in. (……….)

  11. Cheers to you, Brandon, for voibalizin’ what a million trillion folks like myself have been thinking about the absolutely insufficient descriptions of these audio interfaces. I’ve only been registered to this site for a day, and the two posts that I’ve read so far have convinced me that I did the right thing in signing up. Great job.

    I’d also like to give some props to Barry for coming on and trying to clarify the issue. Maybe Musician’s Friend needs a” Live Chat With Barry” button!

    Anyhow, I’ll be going to the introductions to officially say hi to everyone, but in the meantime…

    Hi!

    -Rich

  12. Just wanted to give you all a heads up — I’m making it my personal mission to hunt down and provide clear and precise information (as much as manufacturer’s will provide) on all audio interfaces on the Musician’s Friend website. It’ll take me a bit of time, but I wanted you all to know that it’s happening starting today.

    To begin the debunking process, different types of I/O will not be lumped together as an overall channel or input count. Stereo S/PDIF, TDIF, or AES will not be counted as two inputs or two channels, but a single stereo channel, and the number of actual simultaneous channels (not “up to”) that can be recorded and played back will be listed at various sample rates.

    I’ll also do my best to debunk marketing-speak that implies more than what the unit actually has to offer. Basically, I’ll try my best to present specs and features on a “what they actually built is what you get” basis.

    Please let me know what information you’d like to see (post in comments field) and what brands you’d like me to start with. For now, I’ll go alphabetically and begin with Alesis. Your input will be vital in terms of helping me to help you select the right interface and solve this dilemma once and for all.

    -B-

  13. Barry, Nice work man, I’m so glad that you are here doing this. I just happen to be in the market for a small 2 to 4 input interface and I’ve been surfing around for hours on Musicians Friend, ZZ Sounds, Sweetwater, etc. and can’t decide what brand or model to go with. I’m already savvy enough to read between the lines and not get caught in the marketing lies. But as a fairly seasoned newbie, maybe even a novice intermediate, I’m no closer to choosing a product than I was 6 hours ago. Your wizard is great, that narrowed down the field greatly. Can’t wait to continue reading your reviews/comments.

  14. Thanks Damian,

    Perhaps this might help: Before you decide on an interface, think about what kind of recording you’ll be doing. E.g; guitars, vocals, bass, keys, etc. For example, if you record vocals and guitar simultaneously, you’ll need two channels of simultaneous recording, which any interface can handle. The question is how you wish to record guitar; direct, or with a mic. If you want to mic both yourself and guitar, you’ll need 2 XLR inputs with phantom power available for condenser mics. If you go direct with the guitar, then an instrument DI on one channel will work.

    If you’re recording a stereo keyboard and vocals simultaneously, you’ll need at least two line level inputs plus an XLR in. That means that you’ll need an interface with at least one stereo channel and one mono channel, or three separate mono channels (actually a 4-channel unit). Just because a unit says it has two instrument DIs and two XLR ins does not mean you are home free. If it’s a 2-channel unit, you’ll probably have to choose between XLR or 1/4″. Besides, you’ll want channel separation, so a 4-channel unit (not 4-input) is what you’ll need. Of course, this is only an issue if you want to record more than one thing at a time. The important distinction between number of simultaneous inputs and number of channels is how many discreet tracks you can record at once. E.g.: A 4-simultaneous input, 2-channel interface means that all four inputs wind up on two tracks, so, for example, your guitar will also be on your vocal track. This makes signal processing and mixing a problem.

    Here’s where things can get dicey: Preamps. Most preamps on 2-channel interfaces don’t have a lot of gain, which means that you won’t get enough level if you use a low-sensitivity dynamic mic such as a Shure SM7B. Even the SM57 and 58 put out a fairly low voltage, so you’ll need to look at the specs to see how much gain the onboard preamps have.

    If you can afford it, I would suggest the Apogee Duet. You’ll get converters that are used to make records, excellent, transparent preamps with 75dB of gain (which means you can use ribbon mics) and selectable phantom power. There’s also two instrument DIs. Keep in mind that in order to offer Apogee sound quality at such a low price (in relation to their other gear) there are some workarounds, such as breakout cables for connecting instruments and mics, as well as some extra button pushing to get through channel and output control. A minor trade-off if you’re going for sound quality and reliability. Also, it does play well with Logic and Garageband. As an aside, the breakout cables shouldn’t be an issue if you leave your mics and/or and instrument connected at all times (just place a sock or something similar over your mics to protect them from dust). The advantage of staying connected means you’re always ready to record. If you need to change instruments, it just means keeping the breakout connectors where you can get to them easily (extension cables are one solution). Again, if you can afford it, and don’t anticipate your I/O needs changing, this is the unit to go with.

    Another option:

    I recently tested the tc electronic Konnekt 6, which did sound quite good and offered some very well thought-out professional features. It also has a 12dB gain boost for low-sensitivity mics, and the preamps sound quite good. The I/O is pretty much what you’re looking for, plus you’re getting tc electronic reverb, which is also quite good. Another nice feature is that it has a button that pulls up or hides the software control panel, which is quite convenient when recording and changing settings. Ergonomically, the unit is very well thought out, plus, if your needs change and you’d like to add more I/O, all tc electronic interfaces share can work as expansion units and all share the same converters and preamps. Keep However, and this is a big however, it did start to act buggy with Logic 7 in terms of clocking issues at 96kHZ. Of course, this may be due to the fact that I have a lot of different systems loaded into my Mac for testing purposes. Conflicts can arise. What I would suggest is that you try the Konnekt 6 but make sure you can return it (return policies change on computer recording gear. For example, software alone is not returnable but hardware is — just double check to be sure that the Konnekt 6 is covered by the full 45-day return policy.)

    If sound quality is what you’re after, you won’t be disappointed with either.

    I suggest these because both Apogee and TC equipment are used at the highest levels of recording — so you’re getting technology derived from high-end equipment. But remember, these are still in the budget realm and not the same as buying their high-end equipment. The advantage is that the thinking that has gone into them is done by those who make professional equipment, not hobbyist gear. Plus, they have a reputation to uphold.

    As far as hobby gear is concerned, I’d go with the PreSonus Inspire 1394. Again, gain might be an issue depending on the mics you’re using, but PreSonus gear sounds pretty good, it gives you four simultaneous inputs (two mono and one stereo channel, or two stereo channels) with XLR and instrument inputs, and if your I/O needs change, you daisy chain up to four of them for 16 simultaneous inputs.

    Okay, getting late, gotta go. Hope this helps.

    -B-

  15. Wow, people just love a conspiracy don’t they? If you actually possess the appropriate level of knowledge that you SHOULD have when you set out shopping for a major purchase, I really don’t think you’ll find it that hard to extract the information you need from any catalogs. As an owner of some old ADAT gear and some lightpipe-equipped preamps, yes, digital inputs DO count as inputs and I need an interface with them. And can anyone back up the claim that rear shots are becoming a rare breed? I’ve NEVER had a problem getting a look at the back panel of ANYTHING I was interested in, in any catalog, and whatever I can’t ascertain from a written description, I can get instantly from a rear photo!

    Multi-channel Firewire.

    Let me say that again.

    Multi-channel Firewire.

    That’s right, I actually had to read the product description to find out its I/O capabilities. I don’t think I can ever buy from Alesis again.

    Compact? Affordable? A company is using subjective adjectives to SELL a product? Well shit on me!

    Seriously, quit your pissing and moaning, buy whatever interface works for you, and find something better to do. You know, like… actually making music?

  16. Brandon,

    Great post and responses. As a noob, I’m struggling to understand the various aspects of home recording, and one of my questions about audio interfaces was how many inputs pass through as individual tracks to my recording software. It’s obviously bad that the manufacturers aren’t clearer about this.

    Anyway, thanks for this website. It’s an oasis of clarity in a desert of obfuscation.

    – Caz

  17. Caz —

    Basic rule of thumb for I/O — generally, the rackmount or desktop units make it fairly easy, but here’s where manufacturer’s try to “improve the truth:” (Actually it’s their marketing people) When they say “X” number of simultaneous inputs, they’re usually including both digital and analog — and here’s where it gets tricky — they count digital stereo as two channels. This is bogus, since you can’t process or pan each audio stream of a stereo channel individually. Technically stereo is two channels, but in terms of multitrack recording (which is really multi-mono) you can’t it as one stereo channel.

    So, when you look at a unit such as a Digi 003 that says 18 simultaneous channels, they’re counting the S/PDIF stereo input as two channels.

    Basic I/O rules:
    1. An XLR input equals a mono channel for mic input (or balanced line), but mainly mics.

    S/PDIF coaxial (with RCA or phono plug connector) is a stereo digital format. You can only record 1 stereo stream in or out. Manufacturers will call S/PDIF 2 channels.

    S/PDIF optical: This looks like ADAT lightpipe but is a stereo format. (Also known as TOSLINK). Again, this will be counted as two channels.

    ADAT lightpipe. You can record 8 individual tracks (your interface will have a software routing matrix) at 24-bit/48kHZ. If your unit does SMUX then you can record at 96kHz, BUT your channel count is cut in half (one mono channel becomes two 48kHz streams, but it’s still mono)

    2. A 1/4″ TRS or TS input is a line level input and may give you an accurate count of mono channels unless two are grouped together; then you have a single stereo channel.

    Hint: When you look at a mixer that calls itself a 12-channel mixer, count the number of channel faders. (Don’t include the master fader). So, for example, if you only see 8 channel faders, it means that you have 4 mono channels and 4 stereo channels. The giveaway is that you’ll see two 1/4″ inputs on the channel strip but only one fader and one balance control. (Remember, pan and balance are two different things.)

    Rackmount interfaces generally don’t group 1/4″ analog inputs in stereo. Usually, it’s one 1/4″ input per channel. Some will give you the option of XLR and 1/4″ on the same channel. This is for mic input or line/instrument input. You cannot use both simultaneously (unless the manufacturer says you can).

    USB — USB can transmit multi-channel audio. The manufacturer will tell you how many channels to expect. Your computer’s performance will affect the actual number of simultaneous channels you can record and playback simultaneously. The same holds true for FireWire.

    FireWire — FireWIre offers more bandwidth than USB at the moment. However, the channel count is manufacturer determined. Read carefully. For example, Mackie FireWire will say 18 channels of audio but if you read further, you’ll see that it’s 16 in to the computer and two (stereo) out for monitoring purposes.

    So, getting back to our 18 simultaneous channel Digi 003 example: Looking at the back panel of the older Digi 003, you see 4 XLR inputs (8 on the newer version). That means you have four mono mic preamps. Each of those channels also has a 1/4″ line in. There are a total of 8 – 1/4″ inputs each with a channel number. That means you have 8 mono line inputs. There’s also ADAT lightpipe and S/PDIF I/O. That gives you 8 mono input channels at 24-bit/48kHz and one stereo S/PDIF (which Digi counts as two input channels). Your total according to Digi is 18 simultaneous input channels via FireWire into the computer. In reality, you have 16-mono/1-stereo inputs over FireWire. Breaking it down further, you have 8 analog, 8 ADAT optical at 48kHz, and 1 stereo S/PDIF. Pretty much all computers can handle 18 channels of FireWire audio reliably. The question is whether you need that much simultaneous I/O. Most folks record one channel at a time — but that’s a discussion for another day.

    Bottom line: When manufacturers say “up to” x amount of channels, “up to” means “under certain conditions,” which include sample rate and stereo input. So, if they say that unit “Y” is a 24-bit/192kHz interface that gives you “up to” 32 channels of audio, it is guaranteed that it’s 32 channels at 48kHz, 16 channels at 96kHz, and 8 channels at 192kHz.

    One more thing — when you see what appears to be “false advertising” on a retailer’s website, as the OP says above, in reality, it’s really not — just some underpaid content researcher whose job is to go the all the manufacturer’s website and cut and paste their marketing speak until a staff writer can get around to sorting it our for the customers. In the case of Musician’s Friend, who now has 70,000 products in inventory (last year it was 45,000), it takes a bit of time to get around to checking out every detail page for accuracy.

    I hope this helps.

    -B-

  18. TheMenaceIsLooseAgain March 5, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Right on man! Nail on the head and driven home!

    A guitar is a guitar: Pickups, brige, body, neck, tuners, scale length, volume and tone knobs, input jack, etc. Common terminology that makes sense.

    Manufacturer’s should (would be a dream if they were required to) list in layman’s terms:
    -You can record X number of inputs simultaneously and they will end up on X number of separate tracks; Not 20 inputs and they all end up on two tracks
    -Give examples: Say you want to transfer 4 track tape to PC – give an example and prove that the interface can do this with each track being recorded to it’s own individual track in a DAW
    -Stop with all the technical terminology and state in layman’s/musician terms

    Audio Interface Design
    -If making a USB interface, make USB 2.0 universal – no reason to still be doing 1.1
    -Look at the Echo Gina: One 1/8″ in, One 1/8″ out. Yes, no deception there, but what use is this to a guitar player, bass player, etc.?
    -Sure make the bare minimum stuff (1 or 2 stereo inputs), but a standard should be 4 simultaneous inputs (RCA, 1/4″, XLR, etc.) that wind up on 4 separate tracks in the DAW.
    -Beyond that whether it’s 6+, make it clear that they wind up on separate tracks
    -Make a Midi in/out standard on all 2+ in/out interfaces

    As a guitar player they state so much useless information that makes your head spin (which is fine for those which need the information), they forget to include a simple explanation that any Midiot can uderstand

  19. Well I think for me as an owner of a side video production thing in my basement in the past and a small 4 track studio and ADAT, and some other bigger pieces like a 32 channel board that I mostly rented out. The description is pretty good for what I need to know. About the only thing confusing to me for a short time was the USB or Firewire limitations. Knowing how many channels can flow to the computer and the computer power with the drives you’re using is pretty important. But I’m not looking for the Alesis product to do everything and replace a 24 channel mixer. But I guess it depends on your end use and needs. As for stereo mono arguments. In some cases like video every channel you record can almost be stereo and you end up taking two channels from many sources. Stereo video mics or worse. Those pairs break down on the timeline in the computer to mono signals to be routed whereever you want. So stereo is two channels and prety much equal to the need of most tasks. It depends on how many stereo setups you want to put into the product I guess. Once it’s in the DAW, it can all be broken down.

    There’s a lot of great deals on older equipment out there and the ability for a small project or home studio to layer and keep recording from a small mic setup is pretty amazing. Having all the tracks play back later and be automated is the real need for most small studio setups.

    If you’re looking to replicate a huge 24, 32, 48 or larger discrete recording studio with all seperate inputs, then you looking at something completely different or a much larger piece of hardware. I don’t think Alesis needs to put in 20 channels of mono into a sub $800 street priced product with moving faders to be successful.

  20. I am after an interface that has at least four inputs and at least four outputs. The reason I want something like this, apart from recording some live performances (an instrument to its own track in GarageBand), is to transfer my old analogue four track masters to computer. I want to be able to mix and edit them in Garage. Each track, like they are on the Tascam, would have its own track. They wouldn’t be bounced together onto a single track.
    I have been doing my head in trying to figure out if I can do this and if so, how and with what. I hope someone can help. Surely I’m not the only one on the planet who is trying to do this.
    Cheers,
    HArry

  21. Albert MacDonald October 11, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Well, I think I’ve found a very interesting website here. I’ve been looking for a lightpipe add-on to my RME Fireface 400 to give me extra inputs. Focusrite seems to be a good solution with their Octopre MKII. They are famous for their pre’s but they aren’t any different than the cheapies when it comes to describing their product. I ran across the line “Lightpipes are mirrored at 48kHz”. Because I prefer 8 inputs, not some double-speak with an additional price tag at the end, I thought I’d try to find the meaning. I don’t need to find out that this will only output 48k.
    Any help would be appreciated. You’ve gained a new fan.

    Albert
    Toronto, ON Canada

  22. “Lightpipes are mirrored at 48kHz”

    Interesting. I don’t know what “mirrored” means unless there are both analog and digital outputs on the gadget. “Mirrored” is still a hyped, unnecessary word choice in that context. I don’t encounter too many converters that only do 48k, but I have seen them.

    I recommend this as it was an incredible lesson for me: http://www.recordingreview.com/blog/audio-engineering-principles/read-manual-buy/

  23. Albert MacDonald October 14, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Since my first post, I’ve been educating myself on this “mirrored lightpipe” thing and have found the answer.
    When using any adat lightpipe connection, the lightpipe is only capable of sending a max of 48k per channel. So what Focusrite has done is use 2 inputs and sums them to 96k. It either does this automatically when it sees 96k or there is a switch on the unit (likely a switch). This means that you now have 4 inputs instead of 8 at your disposal.
    For me, an extra 4 inputs are fine but I’d hate to have found this out after a purchase if only because I was buying 8 inputs…a testament to the legitimacy of your article. Thank you for your interest and response.
    Albert

  24. Mirrored simply means that at 48kHz, the output of ADAT port 2 is the mirror image of (the same as) ADAT port 1. Keep in mind that the limit of ADAT lightpipe protocol is that it can pass up to 8 channels of 24-bit/48kHz audio and not one byte more. In order to record at 96kHz, multiplexing is required (SMUX), which combines two channels of 48kHz to become one channel of 96kHz. Basic rule of optical audio transmission: as your sampling rate doubles, your output channel count halves.

    The main feature of the Octopre is to give you 8 channels of 96kHz audio. In order to do this, it must have 2 ADAT lightpipe ports. This means that at 48kHz, you have 16 channels of audio. However, since the unit only has 8 preamps, you have 8 extra channels of outputs at 48k. Rather than simply disable one of the ports, which might cause extra patching, the same 8 channels of audio output is made available at both ADAT ports. This means you could record the same 8 channels to two different recorders if you were so inclined. However, based on the limits of ADAT optical protocol, in order to have 8 channels of 96kHz audio into your DAW, you’ll need 16 channels of lightpipe available for SMUXing.

    MADI, the professional optical protocol shares the same limitations – it’s just the nature of the beast – the difference being that you can transmit up to 64 channels of MADI optical at 24-bit/48kHz; 32 channels at 96kHz; and 16 channels at 192kHz.

    Again, “mirrored” is merely British tech speak for “the same as.”