Now that I’m retiring my single functional M-Audio Delta 1010, I have replaced it with a Presonus Firestudio / M-Audio Octane preamp. You can read all about why I decided to leave my M-Audio Delta 1010 audio interface in Departing With M-Audio Delta 1010 Audio Interfaces http://www.recordingreview.com/blog/departing-with-m-audio-delta-1010-audio-interfaces/ This article is about why I chose the Presonus Firestudio.
As I mentioned in the previous M-Audio Delta 1010 article, I need the following features:
- Stereo headphone mixes
- Less cables
- More simultaneous inputs
On top of that I want to add:
- Don’t want to spend a zillion dollars
Finding The Right Audio Interfaces
I put quite a bit of research into finding the right audio interface for me. It was very important that I had the ability to fire up as many headphone mixes as necessary. I’m not big on giving out headphone mixes to each and every band member, but in the end the customer / client is always right. If they want fancy headphone mixes, I’m all for it. If I can make them feel more comfortable when they play, they will probably play better. They will probably end up coming out of my studio feeling happier about the entire experience. As outlined in my previous blog, it was very important for me to setup a stereo headphone mix(s) as I think it makes it easier to hear what is really going on. So my first goal was to find an audio interface that had a powerful headphone mixing system with zero latency. (That’s another thing. I feel very strange sending drummers a mix from Cubase even if it is only 2ms behind. Then again, no one seems to complain.)
I was delighted to see that many manufacturers have powerful solutions for the headphone mixing thing. RME, MOTU, Presonus, M-Audio, and probably many others all had solutions.
After that, I had to make sure I found a Firewire unit. This really didn’t knock the selection down too much. Most of the audio interfaces that had the headphone routing system also had Firewire. I’m not exactly sure why. I guess Firewire is more popular than PCI these days. (Forgive me, while I’ve helped a million trillion people select audio interfaces on the recording forum, I haven’t bought one for myself in almost 7 years. Most of the people I help are usually going for simpler setups than I require.)
So from there, it was just an issue of price. I immediately ruled out any sound quality differences. When it comes to the sound quality of an audio interface, the main factors are the built in preamps (if applicable), the analog to digital conversion when sending signal into the audio interface, and the digital to analog conversion when sending signal out of the audio interface. That’s pretty much it. There are guys who are big on modding power supplies and things of that sort, but I usually don’t dig that far. I’m more worried about the plywood I have nailed up all over the place in my live room. I have my Mytek converters which are extremely expensive and the difference between them and my M-Audio Delta 1010s was very subtle. I’m positive that dumping the extra cash on RME wouldn’t result in an improvement that would justify it’s expense to my clients and therefor it doesn’t justify it’s expense to me either. Maybe the RME would last longer and be more durable, but you never really know with this stuff. The way my luck has been, anything I use is going to break!
I ended up selecting the Presonus Firestudio. It has just about everything I need for $700. I really wish it had dual S/PDIF inputs so I could use all four channels of Mytek conversion. I guess my second Mytek AD96 is going to be taking a break for a while.
I like the fact that I can add 16 additional channels via ADAT Lightpipe. I really don’t have any need for 26 simultaneous inputs today, you never know what the future will hold. I like the idea that I can borrow an 8 channel preamp with ADAT outputs and immediately expand my rig when necessary.
Now the hard part: Finding an 8 channel ADAT converter.