What's the best compact 8×8 audio interface on the market?

Feb 12, 2011 at 4:18pm

What's the best compact 8×8 audio interface on the market?

Hi everyone,

Now that Pro Tools runs on non-Avid hardware I thought I’d finally take the plunge and buy an interface that’s small enough to take with me on the road (it has to fit inside my laptop bag, which the 1980′s VCR-sized Digi 002 Rack I have at the moment certainly doesn’t)

I keep bumping into suggestions that the RME Fireface 400/Fireface UC are the best compact, multi-in, multi-out interfaces on the market. I want around 8 inputs and 8 outputs (although I’d probably settle for 6), and MIDI, and the greatest sound quality available (this would be my main studio-recording as well as live-performing interface)

What else should I be looking at before I buy one of these? Let’s assume for now that my budget is wide open (although in truth it isn’t, of course)

And is USB vs. FireWire just a matter of personal preference at this point?

Many thanks for any hints!

Feb 12, 2011 at 6:20pm

I’m pretty happy with my Alesis io26, which I’ve been using with PT 9 for a few weeks now. The pre-amps seem pretty decent and it will fit in a Digi 002 bag, no problem. I also like the fact that phantom is switchable in pairs.
There is one minor niggle in that the sync always defaults to ADAT, but it’s only a matter of opening the Alesis Firewire control panel and setting to internal and you’re away.
My only gripe with Firewire is the fact that most Macs just come with a single FW800 port now, meaning you need a 9 to 6 pin lead and if you’ve any other FW peripherals (I have a FW1082 controller) you’ll need a powered hub. The hub I have now sometimes barfs if you plug in a bus-powered drive, which is a pain,

Feb 12, 2011 at 9:27pm

I should probably get something smaller than that, along the lines of the MOTU Ultralite or the RME Fireface mentioned before.
Something that’s, say, half the size of a 15″ MacBook Pro.

I don’t need external controls, I think.

Just 8 analog ins and outs (only two of which should be mic preamps), of the highest possible quality, in the smallest possible box.

Thanks for the feedback!

Feb 13, 2011 at 10:15am

Concerning firewire, it is going to leave this world soon, and although there exist firewire to usb converters, this doesn’t seem the way to go. In my opinion this is just not a good time to invest in a firewire device which is expected to work at least for the next 5 to 10 years, although some will claim that usb is not reliable for multiple channels audio. Concerning the rme fireface and motu ultralite, preference is very subjective as you can find in many online discussions. I have never been disappointed after a year working with the former. The only objective difference I can point out is that the fireface has an anti theft hook. :)

Feb 13, 2011 at 12:45pm

I use the Fireface 400 and Ultralite (mk1) and I’m happy with both. The RME is obviously more powerfull in term of I/O, but lack an UI to control it in standalone mode (i.e. unconnected to a computer). I never tested the DSP features of the latest Ultralite version, but it may be usefull…

Feb 14, 2011 at 11:33am

The general opinion seems to be that the RME interfaces are the highest quality, but one thing I’d like to try is to control my analog synths through Volta (or Max) which the RME’s outputs aren’t suitable for. The MOTU’s outputs are all capable of sending DC control voltages..

Feb 14, 2011 at 11:51am

i never touch motu again, i had the 828 and 828mkII, both died without any reason.
jvkr has a point..for example the new airbooks only have usb ports…


Feb 14, 2011 at 1:28pm

On the flip side – Motu – I’m on my second 828mk2. They replaced the first one with a brand new one when it died after 4 years, for £130. I thought that was pretty good service.

Jun 23, 2011 at 11:58pm

question for Roger Carruthers–

how’s your alesis io 26 holding up??– it seems to be robust/cheap and versatile for its price, but searching the web reveals lots of technical problems, particularly with drivers on later versions of mac os– I’d be interested in your experience with it as an interface for max audio io, particularly wrt latency, reliability (ie not dropping out of the firewire bus, not causing max to crash) etc

Thanks, Terry

btw if anyone knows his email– I could contact him directly… ta

Jun 24, 2011 at 1:08pm

motu 828 mk2/mk3, motu ultralite or motu traveller better than this, for me, only metric halo


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