Best audio interface for permanent install – 2011 update
We are planning a permanent interactive installation featuring spatial audio and want to select the right hardware. I have some experience with MOTU (good and bad) and am aware that several manufacturers now make firewire/USB interfaces with the features we need.
Our primary requirements are:
16x balanced output through combination of units
Driver stability through hard resets, power failures, etc in long-term install
Please comment if you have experience regarding quality and stability of the following hardware
M-Audio ProFire 2626
Focusrite Saffire Pro
The MOTU 828 is a workhorse. I’ve not used the PCI/Firewire version but I have nothing but good things to say about the old PCI-based version.
I use MOTU Ultralite mk3s, daisy-chained via Firewire, with my Powerbook and MBP, but I’ve never been able to get them to play nice with my PC. Many folk will tell you that MOTU is a no-go if you use a PC, but in my experience this is just down to Windows’ shitty firewire drivers…
My main PC has a PCI-424 card driving a MOTU 24IO. This is the most stable interface I’ve ever used. In terms of bang-per-buck it doesn’t get much better either… 24 balanced ins, 24 balanced outs, all on TRS jacks… no pre-amps, no clutter, no extra baggage. Plus the old CueMix software is pretty damn good. The newer DSP-enabled MOTU cards come with "CueMix FX" which is sluggish and buggy. Avoid.
Of course, if you need mix/instrument preamps then the 24IO won’t do you much good. It’s all line-level, baby.
I wouldn’t trust M-Audio for an installation. In fact, I wouldn’t trust M-Audio gear to prop open a door.
A lot of interfaces (Presonus and Focusrite included) which boast loads of inputs and outputs require you to have expensive AD/DA converters with ADAT connectors in order to use them. If you have a purely analogue setup you may be disappointed.
If, on the other hand, you can make use of these digital inputs, and you need the preamps, then the Focusrite looks to be the daddy for my money.
I have 3 MOTU’s – 2408MK3/MK2 and an ultralite. The first two are PCI but the Ultralite is very serious about needing a Texas Instruments Firewire Chipset on PC. I have not done long installations but what I can say is that the 2408MK3 is left on for about 10 months of the year and no problems over the last 4 or so years. Hasn’t skipped a beat yet. I think I would be tempted to go with a PCI card if possible. None of the MOTUs like hot-swapping.
The newer M-Audio is not so hot after being bought by Avid. I dislike the Digidesign attitude to registration, driver update, and you have a single customer support query which expires in a about 3 months then you have to pay for support. Very poor.
No experience with the others. I know a few people with the Focusrite and they seem happy but more so for the MIC inputs/price not for running Max.
i’ve never had a problem with my m-audio 2626 in the 2yrs i;ve owned it. it was purchased specifically so my primary interface, an apogee ensemble, would never have to leave the house. my 2626 has traveled extensively and has been used in a variety of situations all without fail. i have never had any problem with drivers or any need to contact support.
my complaints are that the mic pres are too noisy and when compared to the ensemble, the the a/d is obviously lacking but this is to be expected since it costs 1/4 the price.
fwiw: i’ve only used the m-audio on mac and the posters above all mention pc. its never been on for more than a few hours at a time.
I think the main question that should be the basis for you decision is: who will be running this equipement? If you want ease of use I would steer away from the MOTU family because incase of needing a reset may pose many difficulties to an amateur because of its vast functionality.
Also, how much flexibility do you want? M-Audio works with basically everything, while the presonus works great for some software and not as well with others.
I think the discussion of the "best" interface is a long argument that any sound person can weigh in on. Thinking more practically, I think, will lead you to the best solution.
the previous is probably a very sound answer.
having just helped setting up an installation running on mac/motu+behringer ada8000 and maxdriven. while the motu does its job mostly well under challenging conditions (cold and humid), when it fails, it also destroys the max input/output mappings, which are quite crudical and has had me pulling my hair on the other end of the telephone while trying to give remote support in getting it up again.
i have an echofire12 (12i/o) for installations which has never failed me.
Seems like the anti-MOTU info is centered around PC hardware, and their underdeveloped firewire implementations.
I am deeply in love with my RME fireface, but would not recommend it for the inferior PC firewire chips.
M-audio sound likes garbage, and is about as stable as a two legged stool.
just my tuppence
j2k aka cfb
i have two motu’s (828 and 828mkII), both died, never again..
I have used MOTU 828 and 828mkII extensively for installations over the last ten years, some of them running for months at a time. After some minor driver issues the first few years I have not experienced any problems.
I’ve been using an 828mk2 firewire for years in studio, gigs and installations. It never let me down and I’d recommend it to anyone. (Mac OS X)
Dear all, thank you for this valuable input. I appreciate that the question was somewhat open and also appreciate the varied approaches to an answer.
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