These days you can look under a rock deep in the forest and probably find some kind of generic audio interface. This is not what we’re doing here. In this post, we will talk about the highest quality, the best analog-to-digital conversion, the best dynamic range, best signal-to-noise ratio, best onboard preamps, and best design and usability.
Disclaimer: This is not a technical review, only my personal experience with these companies and some of their products.
After over 15 years of looking for that “PRO SOUND”, I can confidently say that the little percentage of difference in quality makes up for the disproportionate difference in price. To put it simply, there are a lot of romantic sound engineers that think their talent is all that is needed to get them inside the HIGH-END SOUND CLUB. So, yes. Your talent is the best quality tool you have,
but if we’re talking about that small difference that will put you up there with the best, this is coming straight from the tools you’re using along the process.
Every company has its standards. I will always go with the biggest names that were strong enough to give us the best quality products and not lose their pants in the process. So I’ve tried a lot of low-priced devices that gives an ok quality that you can work with, but on this post, you won’t find those.
This is simple. If you already make music and you know your style and genre, then you know exactly how many ins and outs you will need, if you’re not yet making music, I’m not sure this is for you.
You have to earn it through years of experience on shity equipment so you’d be able to actually tell the differences.
I really believe that. So this will be short. There are multiple quality audio interfaces out there to give you exactly what you need. If you’re not producing music yet, it is ok to start with an audio interface for beginners.
A few engineers and producers I’ve met in the past had the idea that the output quality is the same on all the audio interfaces. This is not true. After years of sitting in great quality studios with the best output chains in the market, I know that when you reach the final part of the mixing or mastering process, you can hear even the smallest changes in compressors, EQ’s, reverbs, delays, phase shifting and even the smallest change in level.
To be able to actually hear these small changes in that last critical stage of your mix or mastering, you need a very good if not high-end output chain. This means great room and acoustics, great monitors, great cables, great connectors, and of course a great audio interface. Without those, it will be a lot harder to get inside the HIGH-END SOUND CLUB.
The reality is, you can be the Stig itself (Top Gear’s driver) but you won’t be able to enter a Formula 1 race with your Prius and that is a fact.
Can I Get a Pro Setup for a Consumer Price?
First, you need to know that if you want high-end gear, you will need a decent budget, that is also a fact. We can’t and don’t really want to change it. Designing a high-end audio product takes the best human resources and the best quality physical components.
So is it possible to get a lot closer to the high-end sound club without breaking the bank? HELL YEAH!
Fortunately, several years ago a few of the high-end companies have realized that the market is changing rapidly and decided to give us high-end level audio interfaces that are just inside the average consumer’s budget. If you consider yourself a pro or one who’s striving to sound like a pro, you better be smart with your purchases.
Start with a Good Input Chain
A good input chain consists of a good microphone, good cables, a good preamp and a good A\D convertor inside of a high-quality audio interface. I always suggest starting your budget planning with those.
Times Are Changing
I’ve started making music on ancient Macintosh computers from the ’90s. It was so much fun to record through the onboard audio interface, I felt like I got the world by the balls. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get “That” sound on my system. Thank god, these days are long gone.
Everybody knows Apogee Electronics. They are one of the leading companies when it comes to high-end audio interfaces. In 2008, they completely changed the game for us home producers when they introduced the Duet 1, which was wonderful and still is to this day. I bought it without even trying it or thinking about it. I wanted these Apogee converters in my studio.
Second-gen is obviously better, although I’m sure there are many people who prefer the sound of the original. The Duet is portable, beautiful inside and out, and for some people, it’s more than they’ll ever need. Oh yeah, and it only works on Apple systems.
When it comes to quality products, no one does it like the Germans. RME is a German company founded in 1996 and since then they are giving us nothing but the best.
The first RME interface I’ve ever used was the RME HDSP 9632 back in 2003. Before that, I was using an M-Audio interface. This is when I first realized the difference in quality between the different companies. After the M-Audio, the RME immediately sounded more robust, it gave me more details, and the recordings sounded a lot more like what I was getting when directly monitoring out of my mixer. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the mighty FireFace 400 and FireFace 800 which were beautiful. The sound quality you get out of these units is amazing, and the built quality is second to none. They literally last forever.
The Baby Face Pro is just as impressive as its bigger and beefier brothers. It started with the first generation of the Baby Face which I think was very much inspired by the Apogee Duet 1 in style, in portability, and in quality. it also was a small desktop style kinda interface made of very good materials. The first generation was pretty good but the Babyface Pro is a whole different story. It’s obviously aimed to be a serious tool for professionals on the go, or producers and sound engineers with small professional studios who are not willing to compromise on sound quality.
This name does not need an introduction but I’ll try, Some of the best timeless classics come from Universal Audio. Over the years they proved themselves to be one of the most respected names in the business. Some of the best plugins and analog outboard gear on the market come from UA. Their audio interfaces and technology are exactly what you would expect from them.
This one is sexy as hell. The design, the look, the sound. This cool interface is built to last for years and years, that’s for sure. It is the successor to the ApolloTwin that came out in 201* and made a lot of good noise. The ApolloTwin MKII is giving us a lot of connectivity and functionality, amazing preamps and overall great sound. Also, those 2 mic inputs feature the upgraded analog to digital converters coming from the much more expensive Apollo 8p. But what’s special about is it’s equipped with a quad-core processor that is a powerhouse for running UA Plugins which is a big one on the pros list.