Audio Interface Importance For Modelling Software

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AndyJPAndyJP Frets: 96
edited October 3 in Studio & Recording
Hi all,

I've got a Focusrite Saffire 14 audio interface. Have started using modelling software again for recording, currently Amplitube 4.   Is there any benefit to upgrading my Audio Interface to something with higher quality inputs and converters?

Cheers,
Andy
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  • stratman3142stratman3142 Frets: 590
    edited October 3
    That's an interesting question and I'd be interested in views on this as well. I've used three interfaces over the years and can't say I've noticed anything obvious, but I've never used anything high end such as RME.
    It's not a competition
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  • RandallFlaggRandallFlagg Frets: 4209

    Me too, I have the Saffire Pro 14 as well, had it for years.

    I suspect that it's plenty good enough and the only advantage of upgrade would be more I/O but stand to be corrected by anyone who knows their onions.

    By Jove!

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  • AndyJPAndyJP Frets: 96
    It's an interesting one eh?  

    Happy enough with 2 inputs. But wonder if sound quality would improve with a better interface..
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  • FretwiredFretwired Frets: 12277
    edited October 3
    Not really .. the modelling is done by the computer. As long as you have an interface which can handle a guitar input and can create a hot enough signal you'll be fine.

    I have Amplitube 4 loaded on two computers - one has a budget £70 audio interface and the other has a pro interface. The recorded tone is the same.
    My pump-action drivel gun is smoking hot today!
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  • CirrusCirrus Frets: 3309
    It's a firm maybe from me. An audio interface has a sound. The better designed it is, the more transparent it is. For example, I didn't rate the line 6 m-series effects - always felt muddy and very hard to get the right blend of wet signals etc. The same effect models on the DL4/DM4 etc pedals sounded great to me. The difference? The conversion - which you have to realise is an analog process - it's input and output buffers, IC chips etc.

    The catch is, you need a good listening environment, experience in knowing what you're listening for, and hands on time to notice the difference. For example, if you made me do a blind test of a drum part recorded on my old cheapo Edirol interface or MOTU 828 vs my RME 800, I doubt I'd be much good. But I know that, over the course of years, the RME 800 just makes things a little easier in terms of getting clarity in the final product, the MOTU made me work a little harder. And when I've worked in studios with better converters, say, Rosetta or Prism stuff... well, sometimes the extra sense of clarity, stereo imaging and how solid the low frequency stuff sounds is palpable, even if I'd be totally unable to actually quantify that in sound adjectives.

    If it's not in a good sounding room with good monitoring though, you're going to struggle to hear the difference. And if you can't hear it, you can't capitalise on it in terms of your balance/ tone/ mix decisions, so it gets a bit pointless.

    Let me finish with a little anecdote that demonstrates what I'm talking about.

    The first time I recorded drums in my university was in a half decent studio - very isolated live room/ control room, so you could watch a drummer smashing a kit through the glass and not hear anything except a very dull thud from the bass drum if you sat in silence. The actual gear was nothing special - a soundcraft ghost 48-track/ 8 bus desk, Motu 828 rack unit with the old PCI card PC connection, and PC running cubase. Monitoring I think was Genelec.

    When the drummer played and I heard the live sound pickup through the AKG C414 overheads (not the over-hyped current production ones), the cymbals sounded so alive, vibrant and real. All the enharmonic, metallic overtones were there swishing around. If you closed your eyes, you could genuinely imagine the drummer was in front of you in the room.

    I wasn't primed to expect this, but when we listened back to the recording we'd just made, it was worse. The cymbals were the biggest difference - their sound, so vibrant, alive, three dimensional, had been flattened. On the top end it was like the converter had said "ok, all these complex harmonics up here? That's basically white noise, so we'll go with that." So you could hear the distortion and loss of information in the top end vs the live monitoring. And the only thing that had changed was that the sound had done a round trip through the MOTU and Cubase's mix engine (which in theory should have been transparent, an argument for another day!)

    But again, that was a full range, dynamic, complex instrument in a well designed listening environment. For guitars at home, in practice, I'm gonna guess it's not really that high up on the list of things that matter.
    Captain Horizon (my band);
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  • blobbblobb Frets: 482
    The only difference will be quality of the mic pre-amp, (which is already pretty good with focusrite and more relevant when using mic's), No of in/outs and driver quality, inc. latency.

    If you are getting a good signal level and good latency then you won't hear any difference. Monitors on the other hand......
    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • guitarfishbayguitarfishbay Frets: 6138
    A nice DI box can help on the way in.

    I recommend http://www.orchid-electronics.co.uk/classic_DI.htm

    I compared between the DI on my Focusrite Scarlett (which is probably very similar to your saffire) and found that the DI box gave a cleaner signal sounding (as in clearer, less muddy) than the onboard DI.  Plus the option for greater headroom.

    @Cirrus points about the environmental factors are spot on too.

    I think when it comes to recording, the best way to spend your money is to prioritise big change stuff first, and work backwards.  Honestly if you are serious about recording, it's almost always best to start off with the room, setup, acoustic treatment, and speakers.  The main reason to upgrade an interface when starting out would be just practical limitations - e.g. needing more inputs/outputs.  Everything you hear is a result of the speakers and the room, changing interfaces is usually a lot more subtle than changing environmental factors
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  • AndyJPAndyJP Frets: 96
    Lots of good info here. I'm not convinced I need a better interface tbh...

    @guitarfishbay cheers for the tip. My focusrite is hooked up direct to my laptop.   How would thye DI box fit into that?
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  • guitarfishbayguitarfishbay Frets: 6138
    You'd go guitar - > DI box -> Interface (via XLR in), instead of using the jack straight in to the instrument in of the interface.  
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  • AndyJP said:
    Hi all,

    I've got a Focusrite Saffire 14 audio interface. Have started using modelling software again for recording, currently Amplitube 4.   Is there any benefit to upgrading my Audio Interface to something with higher quality inputs and converters?


    So many variables to consider!

    Upgrading an audio interface from something around £100 to something costing £1000+ would give you more accurate sound. In my experience the higher end interfaces mean a clearer top end, more definition in the mids, and far less mushy bass. However if you're using laptop speakers as your monitors, you're not going to hear this very well. No point spending a fortune on an audio interface if you've got shite monitors. 

    I wouldn't upgrade your interface for now. I would go with an external DI box and spend decent money on this. Orchid is recommended, I'm running a Little Labs Redeye, and Radial are an obvious choice. 
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