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Best laptop recording interface for <$800?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by tjs, Feb 22, 2006.

  1. tjs

    tjs Senior Member

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    I'm putting together a portable recording rig, and I'm looking for the best laptop audio interface (Firewire, USB, PCMCIA) for under $800. I need at least 8 analog inputs with preferably 4 mic preamps, although I would be willing to consider an interface with only 2 mic pres (but still 8 analog inputs) if there was a noticable increase in quality involved. I would also be willing to consider something along the lines of an outboard multi-channel mic preamp (i.e. Octopre LE) and a separate interface, if that would provide a higher quality system within my budget.

    My primary concerns are reliability, compatability, and above all, quality (particularly with the mic pres and the converters); bundled software might be a tiebreaker but is otherwise not a consideration. Also, $800 is an absolute ceiling, as I am already stretching my budget to reach that point.

    Some of the interfaces meeting my requirements that come to mind are the Presonus Firepod, the Mackie Onyx, a used MOTU Traveler (if I can find one), and possibly the upcoming Focusrite Saffire Pro 26. The Octopre LE w/ the A/D card and a separate interface card might be a possibility as well, but would probably put me over my budget, not to mention in the pricerange of the Saffire Pro.

    So what would the recording gurus of this forum recommend?
     
  2. jokerjkny

    jokerjkny Member

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    Firepod
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  3. CapoFirstFret

    CapoFirstFret Member

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    I'm having really good results with the M-Audio 1814..I was required to buy M-Audio because of school requirements, but I'm relaly enjoying the easy to use interface, and the sound is top notch
     
  4. MK50H

    MK50H Member

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    Hi, I'm trying to do much the same at the moment. For me Firewire is the only way to go. I'd really like a MOTU Traveler, but it is just too much $$$$ for me.

    I'm trying to find a MOTU 828 MkII, seems to be good quality, been around a while and I think that it is highly regarded by most. The slight downside (that I can live with) is that it is NOT bus powered.

    I guess it depend upon if you'll be near a mains supply when you're out and about.
     
  5. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    MOTU is coming out with a new firewire interface that's half a Traveler, but it's also half the price.

    Check it out at MOTU's website. I'm going to get one for my son when it's released.
     
  6. jokerjkny

    jokerjkny Member

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  7. MK50H

    MK50H Member

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    Check out the 1616M, I should straight away say that I don't have one, but at first glance it appears to be a 1820M with a PCMCIA/Cardbus card.

    The price is good and the specs look great (the pre's and convertors are reputed to be top notch!). It comes with bundled software too.

    I think that you need to check that there are no incompatibilty problems with your laptop, here is a discussion forum for the 1616M where I reckon you could get more detailed info.

    http://www.productionforums.com/index.php?f=52

    BTW I have no personal/business connection with E-mu, I just think that the 1820M & 1616M look really very good. I am thinking about the 1820M instead of the MOTU for my desktop.
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    PCMCIA card bus isn't the most desirable way to go.

    Yeah, Joker, that's the one I'm getting my kid.
     
  9. MK50H

    MK50H Member

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    Just wondering why. Is it because the world's turning Firewire?

    Thanks
     
  10. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    >>Just wondering why. Is it because the world's turning Firewire?<<

    I think there are a few reasons, actually: first is the issue of transfer rate: 130 mbps for the fastest PCMCIA cards, like the Hammerfall, and 400 mbps for the standard firewire interface. This translates into a bit more latency with the PCMCIA stuff, I'm told. Also, the higher the resolution and sampling rate, the more data has to be squeezed down that path at one time, especially with multiple tracks.

    Second, most of the companies making hardware boxes are developing their firewire offerings, so there are more choices, and choice is good.

    Third, although it's been standard on Apple machines since 1998 or so, firewire is being adopted by other laptop makers, and is fast becoming a very popular interface standard.

    PCMCIA may be on computers for a long time, or maybe not. However, firewire is clearly more popular among audio companies, and that means future driver updates, etc, are more likely down the road. Your audio interface will likely be around longer than your current computer will. I would think that you want to go with the interface that's most likely to be supported down the road.
     
  11. MK50H

    MK50H Member

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    Great explanation! Thanks for the info.
     
  12. ari

    ari Member

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    Wow, I didn't know that. So if that's the case, then a PCMCIA firewire interface is absolutely useless? A Windows-based laptops still don't have firewire as standard, for the most part...

    ari
     
  13. IndieHead

    IndieHead Member

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    look no further than Line6 Toneport.....

    its amazing value for money!
     
  14. tjs

    tjs Senior Member

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    Thanks for the response, but I need 8 inputs and at least 4 mic pres. Unless I'm mistaken, the Toneport doesn't have that.
     
  15. jokerjkny

    jokerjkny Member

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    good thoughts, les,

    think USB2 is 433 mbps.

    still, i wonder which has the more consistent throughput...
     
  16. tjs

    tjs Senior Member

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    Does anybody have any thoughts on how the pres/converters compare between the Presonus, Mackie, and Focusrite?
     
  17. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    "first is the issue of transfer rate: 130 mbps for the fastest PCMCIA cards, like the Hammerfall, and 400 mbps for the standard firewire interface."

    That doesn't sound right to me. PCMCIA has the same throughput as PCI and since FW is dumped into the PCI bus, that'd make it only as fast as PCI. Maybe that should read MB/s (B=Bytes, b=bits) but then I'm no expert either.

    Regarding the RME stuff, the digiface does 56 channels through a pcmcia card.

    At any rate, if you want low latency AND bus power, firewire is it.
     
  18. ari

    ari Member

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    That's what I thought, too. Emu 1616 can go up to 192kHz sampling. If PCMCIA was slower than firewire, that shouldn't be possible.

    In any case, I just scored a used Emu 1616 so I'll post my opinion if I can get it to work with my old, slow laptop. One cool thing about the Emu is that the PCMCIA part can be used as a stand-alone audio interface (with headphone out) without the breakout box that contains all MIDI and audio I/O. This was a major plus for me -- I can work on editing and tweaking my recordings anywhere with just headphones.

    ari
     
  19. MK50H

    MK50H Member

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    Deleted, as I think I may have caused offence. Sorry guys.
     
  20. tjs

    tjs Senior Member

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