Audio interface / monitors refresh - would it be worthwhile?

jenksdrummer

Member
Messages
312
I have 3 Presonus Firestudio Projects, a PCIe Firewire card, and M-Audio BX8A Deluxe monitors. TBH, I haven't used any of it in years, but did confirm the FSP units are working a couple years ago while checking out some different software since Sonar is pretty much defunct last I checked. At the time I didn't have a desk capable of rackmount, and now I do, along with a newly built PC, so I'm a bit inspired to ask...

What's out there and is it "that" much better? I know that is a loaded question; use-cases, etc...but I can write a novel here and I'd probably get the same answers, so saving everyone by auto-TLDR. ;)
 

MrTAteMyBalls

Member
Messages
4,664
How old are those???

It seems like to me the DAC and general quality of newer interfaces....even cheap ones, is significantly better than what was available 10 years ago.

Will it make a huge difference in your recordings??? Perhaps not.

The other consideration is driver support. If that stuff is too old there won't be reliable drivers for it.

That said, for under 200 bucks you can get a great sounding USB interface. Even the cheap behringer UMC ones sound good.

I have the Motu M4 and it is a step up from the behringer I used for years. It is so clear sounding on playback and plugging in my guitar direct sounds so nice and clear with all the top end detail still in tact. My behringer direct in sounded midsy and dull in comparison.

If you liked Sonar you can try Cakewalk by bandlab. It is full featured and totally free.

I hated it, but if you are used to Sonar it might be familiar for you. I found it complicated to use and it just killed my workflow.
 

DunedinDragon

Member
Messages
1,375
There's been some fairly significant progress made on studio monitors in the last few years in terms of smaller size with bigger sound. That being said, I still use my Yamaha HS7 speakers I bought well over 10 years ago and can't say I've heard anything better.

As far as audio interfaces they've gotten cheaper for simple things but more complex in terms of routing your input and output signals, but unless you're in a high grade studio setup I doubt you'll notice much difference in terms of quality of preamps. But depending on your needs you may want to explore some of the more sophisticated setups depending on what you intend to do. Most of what I do in the studio nowadays is MIDI and the controllers/MIDI keyboards are incredibly more sophisticated and may be worth your attention. When it comes to analog recording I do just fine with my USB output from my Helix for both instruments and voices.

I was in a similar situation as far as my DAW. I was using Sonar Platinum for years but I finally bit the bullet and converted to Ableton Live and full KONTAKT plugins and it changed my life. I do a lot of backing track work so the KONTAKT libraries provide me with access to a whole world of high quality, realistic sampled instruments I can incorporate into my recordings such as a 140 piece orchestra, pedal steel, country fiddle, Hammond B3 organ, harmonica, jazz horn section, string sections, choirs, vintage electric pianos (rhodes, wurlitzer, etc), hyper realistic grand and upright pianos and some unbelievably realistic drum kits. In my opinion that's where the REAL fun is in studio recording nowadays.
 

mikebat

Member
Messages
12,073
If it was non computer related, like the speakers, stay with what you know.

If it is something related to software, like an interface's drivers, you may have no choice but to get something new. But.... if everything works, get on with it and make some music.
 

msquared

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
1,006
There hasn't been enough of an advance in technology since those were new that you'd notice much difference in quality. Unless you were going to move up to a higher price point I'd stick with those.

I liked Sonar a lot 20 years ago but have long since moved to Reaper.
 

amper

Member
Messages
1,928
There's absolutely no reason to replace what you have, if it isn't broken, or it isn't doing something you need it to do. Both the PreSonus interfaces and the M-Audio monitors are great quality units, albeit not as "popular" as some other brands.
 

amper

Member
Messages
1,928
It seems like to me the DAC and general quality of newer interfaces....even cheap ones, is significantly better than what was available 10 years ago.
Except that it isn't significantly better. Even 20 year old DAC units are capable of as good quality as current models, although 20 years ago, the standard was still 24-bit/96 KHz or less for most people. Today, 192 KHz is common, but that doesn't make it "better". 24/96 is already well beyond what any human can perceive.
 
Messages
492
I'd replace the DAC at a minimum. Get a small Focusrite box and ride the free DAW software that comes with it. At least you'll have driver support for your new computer.
Studio monitor are another thing. I think you can improve what you have in the $350 range perhaps (JBL)...but as a general rule, a higher budget for the speakers will give you better sound...and the Focusrite should be able to keep up with monitors in the $1000+ range...
Get a good microphone, too.
 

soundchaser59

Thank You Great Spirit!
Gold Supporting Member
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13,295
I would think the bigger "wild card" in all of this is that "newly built PC." All those pieces of gear may still be perfectly capable, but it doesn't mean much if they aren't able to keep up with your "newly built PC" or if they aren't compatible, etc. The biggest thing I've run into with trying to upgrade hardware is making sure everything is fast enough. If everything is compatible with usb3 you're set. If you have something that is old enough to be limited to usb1 you'll run into issues. Sometimes the difference between usb2 and usb3 can mean annoying latency or inspired creativity. If your newly built PC was made with your gear in mind you'll be fine with what to you have. Do a few projects first to help you spotlight what the deficiencies are that get in your way.
 

hawk45

Member
Messages
118
I started off my AI and monitor journey a few years ago and got a set of JBL 305's on sale (Christmas) and a Focusrite 2i2. The monitors are great for the price and use them for playing guitar via AI into my Neural DSP plugins as well as for recording/producing into Ableton Live 11. I have them close so no need for bigger monitors yet and think they are a good buy for $300 a pair on sale. I've been on the fence about getting the matching sub woofer but haven't' felt the need for it yet. On the audio interface side, now that I am adding more physical gear I wish I would have stepped up to the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 or 8i6 with midi input/outputs for the $100 extra the first time around.
 

JMPGuitars

Guitar Nerd
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
300
I used Sonar for YEARS. I was annoyed when that all went down. I bought Studio One Pro, Reaper, Samplitude Pro, etc... And Studio One Pro has been my main DAW since. It has a great workflow, and it's way more stable than Sonar ever was.

Get Studio One, and try it out with your equipment. If you don't use any of it much, there's no point in upgrading anything...and I still wouldn't upgrade any of the hardware unless you feel like something is lacking.

If you think the preamps sound fine on your FSPs, but not exciting, then get some other preamps to use with it.

I only upgraded my monitors because one of them died. I'm using Rokit 8 G4s now, and they're excellent.

Thanks,
Josh
 

RockMaster

Member
Messages
154
I started off my AI and monitor journey a few years ago and got a set of JBL 305's on sale (Christmas) and a Focusrite 2i2. The monitors are great for the price and use them for playing guitar via AI into my Neural DSP plugins as well as for recording/producing into Ableton Live 11. I have them close so no need for bigger monitors yet and think they are a good buy for $300 a pair on sale. I've been on the fence about getting the matching sub woofer but haven't' felt the need for it yet. On the audio interface side, now that I am adding more physical gear I wish I would have stepped up to the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 or 8i6 with midi input/outputs for the $100 extra the first time around.
I have JBL 308p MKIIs, Scarlett 2i2 (2nd gen) and Scarlett 8i6 (3rd gen). The only thing I regret is instead of 8i6 not going with Scarlett 18i20 because now I could really use those 8 inputs with the ability to expand to even more with ADAT.
 

jenksdrummer

Member
Messages
312
Thanks for all the comments everyone! A bit more info :)

The Firestudio Project units I have are all firewire; I can daisy-chain them, and have 24 channels of 24/48K; or if I knock it to 16ch (or 8ch) they'll run at 24/96. I have a PCIe firewire card. I've ran all this under Windows 11 in the past few months so so, with my previous PC build, so I'm not terribly worried about compatibility short of perhaps that Firewire Card won't agree with my new system board; but I think that's unlikely.

I figure I have a 'want' for, at most 13ch of input, to cover drums and all the mics I could possibly want to use; though, there's the 2-mic methods of which its simplicity + a really good room absolutely gives great results; though can be a bit...'airy' compared to a close-mic situation with the trade off of phasing/etc.

Mix that with I was using vDrums for a bit...was...and I had gone through and bought a good chunk of software/samples/etc to turn my expensive kit basically into a giant midi controller...to which, I can still shuck midi at that software/plugin rather than record live drums (just very tedious!). Thing is, I did all that before under Sonar and had it kind of down on workflow. I gave Studio One a shot, but it seems I've gotten to the age where I don't want to learn new stuff, just want to do stuff - lol...

So, if I look at new, on one hand, I'd want to be able to replicate what I have, but on the other, I might not need to; I'm still sorting that out.

Which, leads to why I asked the question in the first place - upgrading to current hardware; is it worthwhile over what i have or is it say 90-95% there? Or at what price-point would I end up needing to spend to modernize and exceed what I have? In terms of connectivity, I have USB-C, Thunderbolt-III, and Firewire-800 capabilities all available with what I have now, but that Firewire card is swappable for a different tech, I have options in terms of PCIe slots.

Use-cases are a bit aside from discussion to a point; which I know, isn't smart, but as mentioned I'm still debating a bit as to how many channels do I really need. I was pretty happy with 16, but got a 3rd unit mainly because I knew the FSPs were going EndOfSale, so thought to get another, and did once use up 23 channels to record my band at the time, live, which was interesting for sure. Hello phasing - lol.

As for monitors, I'm thinking the Presonus Eris E8XT + the 10" sub; Sweetwater has a package...thought being that I can get a 2.1 setup, get extended low-end monitoring (40hz I think is where my BX8a's tap out, which is great for a low E on bass guitar AFAIK, but I have a 5 string bass and sometimes tune down off that)

Another thought I had, what about the digital mixing boards used with live sound? I recall when I was performing a lot, one of the soundmen we hired had a digital Presonus unit and was able to kick out individual channels of recording from that; to which I could use to create a live-demo/press-kit.

To that, you can probably tell I'm a bit of a Presonus fan; case of sometimes you find something you're happy with and it works; so you don't look elsewise. :)
 

MrTAteMyBalls

Member
Messages
4,664
Thanks for all the comments everyone! A bit more info :)

The Firestudio Project units I have are all firewire; I can daisy-chain them, and have 24 channels of 24/48K; or if I knock it to 16ch (or 8ch) they'll run at 24/96. I have a PCIe firewire card. I've ran all this under Windows 11 in the past few months so so, with my previous PC build, so I'm not terribly worried about compatibility short of perhaps that Firewire Card won't agree with my new system board; but I think that's unlikely.

I figure I have a 'want' for, at most 13ch of input, to cover drums and all the mics I could possibly want to use; though, there's the 2-mic methods of which its simplicity + a really good room absolutely gives great results; though can be a bit...'airy' compared to a close-mic situation with the trade off of phasing/etc.

Mix that with I was using vDrums for a bit...was...and I had gone through and bought a good chunk of software/samples/etc to turn my expensive kit basically into a giant midi controller...to which, I can still shuck midi at that software/plugin rather than record live drums (just very tedious!). Thing is, I did all that before under Sonar and had it kind of down on workflow. I gave Studio One a shot, but it seems I've gotten to the age where I don't want to learn new stuff, just want to do stuff - lol...

So, if I look at new, on one hand, I'd want to be able to replicate what I have, but on the other, I might not need to; I'm still sorting that out.

Which, leads to why I asked the question in the first place - upgrading to current hardware; is it worthwhile over what i have or is it say 90-95% there? Or at what price-point would I end up needing to spend to modernize and exceed what I have? In terms of connectivity, I have USB-C, Thunderbolt-III, and Firewire-800 capabilities all available with what I have now, but that Firewire card is swappable for a different tech, I have options in terms of PCIe slots.

Use-cases are a bit aside from discussion to a point; which I know, isn't smart, but as mentioned I'm still debating a bit as to how many channels do I really need. I was pretty happy with 16, but got a 3rd unit mainly because I knew the FSPs were going EndOfSale, so thought to get another, and did once use up 23 channels to record my band at the time, live, which was interesting for sure. Hello phasing - lol.

As for monitors, I'm thinking the Presonus Eris E8XT + the 10" sub; Sweetwater has a package...thought being that I can get a 2.1 setup, get extended low-end monitoring (40hz I think is where my BX8a's tap out, which is great for a low E on bass guitar AFAIK, but I have a 5 string bass and sometimes tune down off that)

Another thought I had, what about the digital mixing boards used with live sound? I recall when I was performing a lot, one of the soundmen we hired had a digital Presonus unit and was able to kick out individual channels of recording from that; to which I could use to create a live-demo/press-kit.

To that, you can probably tell I'm a bit of a Presonus fan; case of sometimes you find something you're happy with and it works; so you don't look elsewise. :)
If the ones you have still work and the drivers function on windows 11 then I would just hook them up and get cooking.

To get that many inputs at a noticably better quality is gonna cost more than it would be worth, IMO.
 

jenksdrummer

Member
Messages
312
If the ones you have still work and the drivers function on windows 11 then I would just hook them up and get cooking.

To get that many inputs at a noticably better quality is gonna cost more than it would be worth, IMO.
Exactly the answer I was looking for (yes/no if it's worthwhile) - many thanks! :D
 
Messages
2,185
FWIW I just upgraded a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 to an RME Babyface Pro. So far I've only compared the DAC of the two units. The RME is better, sure, but not by a huge margin. It's actually a surprisingly small upgrade. I'd be perfectly happy still using the Saffire, which is over 10 years old at this point. I bought the RME primarily for long-term driver stability now that the Saffire is no longer supported past Catalina OS.

Upgrading my speakers and room treatment, by comparison, was a huge upgrade in sound quality and accuracy during mixing.
 

DunedinDragon

Member
Messages
1,375
Thanks for all the comments everyone! A bit more info :)

The Firestudio Project units I have are all firewire; I can daisy-chain them, and have 24 channels of 24/48K; or if I knock it to 16ch (or 8ch) they'll run at 24/96. I have a PCIe firewire card. I've ran all this under Windows 11 in the past few months so so, with my previous PC build, so I'm not terribly worried about compatibility short of perhaps that Firewire Card won't agree with my new system board; but I think that's unlikely.

I figure I have a 'want' for, at most 13ch of input, to cover drums and all the mics I could possibly want to use; though, there's the 2-mic methods of which its simplicity + a really good room absolutely gives great results; though can be a bit...'airy' compared to a close-mic situation with the trade off of phasing/etc.

Mix that with I was using vDrums for a bit...was...and I had gone through and bought a good chunk of software/samples/etc to turn my expensive kit basically into a giant midi controller...to which, I can still shuck midi at that software/plugin rather than record live drums (just very tedious!). Thing is, I did all that before under Sonar and had it kind of down on workflow. I gave Studio One a shot, but it seems I've gotten to the age where I don't want to learn new stuff, just want to do stuff - lol...

So, if I look at new, on one hand, I'd want to be able to replicate what I have, but on the other, I might not need to; I'm still sorting that out.

Which, leads to why I asked the question in the first place - upgrading to current hardware; is it worthwhile over what i have or is it say 90-95% there? Or at what price-point would I end up needing to spend to modernize and exceed what I have? In terms of connectivity, I have USB-C, Thunderbolt-III, and Firewire-800 capabilities all available with what I have now, but that Firewire card is swappable for a different tech, I have options in terms of PCIe slots.

Use-cases are a bit aside from discussion to a point; which I know, isn't smart, but as mentioned I'm still debating a bit as to how many channels do I really need. I was pretty happy with 16, but got a 3rd unit mainly because I knew the FSPs were going EndOfSale, so thought to get another, and did once use up 23 channels to record my band at the time, live, which was interesting for sure. Hello phasing - lol.

As for monitors, I'm thinking the Presonus Eris E8XT + the 10" sub; Sweetwater has a package...thought being that I can get a 2.1 setup, get extended low-end monitoring (40hz I think is where my BX8a's tap out, which is great for a low E on bass guitar AFAIK, but I have a 5 string bass and sometimes tune down off that)

Another thought I had, what about the digital mixing boards used with live sound? I recall when I was performing a lot, one of the soundmen we hired had a digital Presonus unit and was able to kick out individual channels of recording from that; to which I could use to create a live-demo/press-kit.

To that, you can probably tell I'm a bit of a Presonus fan; case of sometimes you find something you're happy with and it works; so you don't look elsewise. :)
I think you just hit on a key item when you mentioned a digital mixing board. With all the inputs you're planning on using simultaneously a digital mixing board would be a good candidate since it could also potentially double as a control surface for your DAW. However these can get pretty expensive once you get into the larger number of channels. For example, something like a Soundcraft UI16 has no console and can be run by any tablet that has a browser since has it's own web server built into the unit and it's just shy of $500. Unlike others in this area it provides a direct ethernet connector so your console device doesn't have to rely on WiFi. However, it may or may not have the ability to double as your control surface for you DAW which would be a HUGE benefit. Going to a higher number of inputs and outputs such as the UI24 takes a big leap up in price to $1200. My QSC TM-30 has a built in digital display console and can double as a control surface but it's street price is around $2500. One of the extras you get with a legit mixing board is a significant number of outputs for things like monitors or in ears if you're recording a live band. And they all pretty much across the board provide for a live multi-channel capture of live performances going direct into the channels of the mixer on a solid state USB drive which can later be imported channel by channel into your DAW.

That gives you the lay of the digital mixer land so you can compare it with what you'd be looking at in the dedicated audio interface world.
 

msquared

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
1,006
Which, leads to why I asked the question in the first place - upgrading to current hardware; is it worthwhile over what i have or is it say 90-95% there? Or at what price-point would I end up needing to spend to modernize and exceed what I have?

To that, you can probably tell I'm a bit of a Presonus fan; case of sometimes you find something you're happy with and it works; so you don't look elsewise. :)
You are already 95% of the way there.

ADC/DAC technology was pretty good back then and hasn't made major strides. Most improvements in this space have been in manufacturing and any functional distinctions we see as consumers are barely measurable.

Presonus gear is fantastic for its price point. I've had great luck with it over the years. I did a recording gig last year and all of the drums were run into a DigiMax. I was surprised to see those still racked up and running but the final product sounded great!
 

slayerbear17

Member
Messages
4,445
I was using fire wire up until about a year ago. My Alesis OI26 which was almost 20 years easily sounded as good as my Motu 828ES. We sold not too long ago a Sony fire wire tape camera, Buyer knew what he was getting, His words " I can't justify paying $800 more for a camera when I can buy this one and still get the same results with my setup"

I'd only be worried about driver support. Alesis was great for that.

I still use Fire wire interfaces which operate as stand alone Adats coupled with my Motu 828ES for 24 inputs. $175CAD got me 16 more inputs via Focusrite and Motu.
 




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