Sub-$500 Firewire shootout: MAudio Firewire 410 vs. Focusrite Saffire

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by zenpicker, Oct 31, 2005.


  1. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    Which is the better option for a sub-$500 Firewire A/D interface? Think I've narrowed it down to those two. Anyone have an opinion on the quality of the A/D converters or the general reliability of either company's products? The Saffire's about $100 more but has some additional capabilities in terms of plugins and software integration.

    One other question: I need more of a Pad than a Gain on each channel as I am coming from a preamp with a strong signal level. I see a pad button on the MAudio but not on the Saffire. Am I missing something?
     
  2. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    Re your 2nd question, the pad is used for the mic input, to avoid overloading the circuit. If you're using an external mic preamp, you'll want to connect it to the "line in" of the interface. If for some reason you still need a pad, like if you're trying to overdrive you're mic preamp, you can buy in-line pads or a ATTY (in-line volume control).
     
  3. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    Got it--thanks.
    So, what do we think of the Saffire vs MAudio? Particularly interested if anyone's ears have an opinion about the A/D conversion quality. Six of one, half dozen of the other?
     
  4. Ken

    Ken Member

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    I had the Saffire and I had so many problems with it, mostly software configurations causing the unit to go wacky, I called USA phone support and they told me that I should sent it back...

    Sounded very good when I got it to work correctly though.

    They still have bugs in the new units.

    With that being said, I picked up the Presonus Firebox along with the Presonus Tube Pre....I have been very pleased so far in the limited time I have had lately.
     
  5. DaveDaveDave

    DaveDaveDave Member

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    I know it's not exactly what you were asking, but the Yamaha i88x is a pretty amazing deal for $500 It doesn't have any onboard mixing save for monitoring any single pair of inputs live, but the addition of an 01x takes care of that. I only have 1, but you could use 4 together to have 32 analogue ins and outs, along with 8 REALLY nice preamps. They also have spdif and adat.
    As for mLan driver issues, they're all pretty steady now.
    Hope this helps,
    Dave
     
  6. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    Yeah, some people on the gearslutz forum rave about it. Actually zzounds has it for $400. My dumb questions:

    1. Can I bypass the onboard preamps, good as they may be, in favor of my outboard tube preamp? I assume so. I.e., if Gain knobs are set to 0 do I get the signal level coming in from my pre? I don't want to go through two stages of preamp.

    2. Any reason why I can't use this with Adobe Audition as my recording software?

    3. If I only need two XLR inputs--ever--is this worth the money over something like the Presonus? Are the A/D converters that much better?

    Sounds like this is the right unit for me if the answers to those questions come out right. I'm a bit ignorant in this arena so I want to make the right choice here. Thx!
     
  7. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    OK, now I'm scared.
    I checked the Yamaha forum to see what was bubbling up about the i88x and there seem to be lots of problems on the software and Firewire front. E.g.,

    http://www.mlancentral.com/forums/s...=219370&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=1

    Dave, you mention that mLAN drivers are pretty steady now. Should the above thread give cause for concern? It does sound like there was a firmware upgrade that resolved some performance issues.

    Yamaha does not mention Adobe Audition on their mLAN partner list, which is also a little worrying...

    Torn.
     
  8. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    You can bypass the preamps. Notice the funny looking XLR jacks on the front. They also accept TRS balanced line ins.

    I wouldn't worry too much about mlan. I used that old presonus mlan interface and didn't have any problems. And from what I've gathered, the newest patch fixes all the early issues that the mlan forum talks about.

    Given the choice b/t the firebox & i88x, I'd take i88x in a second.
     
  9. flicker180

    flicker180 Member

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    i actually have a firewire 410 that i'm trying to get rid of. only thing that doesn't work is the power LED (which burned out within the first week for whatever reason).

    dave
     
  10. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    Cool. Any comments on the Adobe Audition compatibility question? I know the MAudio 410 works fine with AA. If they're both mLAN, does that tell me i88x would work too? I've posted a question on the AA forum but no answers as of yet.
     
  11. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    I just ordered to i88x, so we'll see how it goes. Zzounds opined that if the MAudio 410 is Audition-compatible then the i88x would be, which sounds right to me in that they are both standard Firewire interfaces with supplied drivers. Can't wait to take it for a spin!!
     
  12. DaveDaveDave

    DaveDaveDave Member

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    Yep, there's the occasional hiccup on the boards. One of the most important things you can do is make sure that your firewire interface is using a bus-mastering Firewire card with a TI Chipset. I think some folks are a little crazy trying to do Flash Bios updates when their system isn't quite solid enough to do them yet.

    I've run the i88x on a 2.4ghz PIV, a 3.2 ghz PIV and with a Mac Powerbook 1.67. So far so good... I gan get latencies down at 5ms with 16x8 channels if I run the 3.2 ghz box in full tweak mode.

    Even if you were running it on a sub-par machine, you should be able to get decent latency if you run less channels - just double check your firewire interface, and make sure you can run decently before trying a flash-bios update!

    :(
    Uh oh. I just googled up on Adobe Audition - no ASIO driver support? What? If that's still true, you might be returning the i88x as soon as it gets there, as it only really works with ASIO.... I'm pretty surprised about that - I thought the only DAW package out there that didn't use ASIO was Protools -EVERYTHING else does - Digital Performer, Sony SoundForge, Traktion, Sonar, Ableton Live, Cubase SE, SL, SX, Nuendo, actually, even ProTools TDM and LE *do* work with ASIO now, according to Mr. Google.
    Hmm. I'd consider upgrading your DAW software regardless of whether you keep the i88x - have you ever tried the Mackie Traktion 2 Demo? Pretty impressive for $100...

    Oh, the Yamaha i88x does come with a DAW package, but it's pretty lame - still, it does work... :)

    Hope this helps!
    Dave
     
  13. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    As long as the i88x includes a wdm driver, he should be good for 2 channels, I believe.

    Good point about the fw chipset. Very important since mlan supposedly syncs the clocks on the hardware within the system.

    EDIT: Here's a SOS review of the i88x

    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan05/articles/yamahai88x.htm
     
  14. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    God I hope so, since I have the thing coming in the mail now and I have just confirmed that Audition doesn't do ASIO. That is extremely upsetting, and there are a lot of upset people on the Audition forum. I didn't understand the dependancy until now, unfortunately.

    I did look at the i88x installation manual online and its "mLAN Auto Connector" utility does allow you to toggle between ASIO and WDM. Hopefully that's our answer. I only need to use the two primary inputs, as my application at this time is just stereo miking of my guitar, so I hope WDM can handle it.

    We'll know soooooon.....
     
  15. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    Dave - you mention

    I went looking at the XP Device Manager for this and all I get for my Firewire controller is "OHCI Compliant IEEE 1394 Host Controller," with driver by Microsoft. Any way I can find out about the chipset?
     
  16. DaveDaveDave

    DaveDaveDave Member

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    Hey Zen

    Well, the firewire card you have might just work fine anyway. Try DoubleDawg to see if you can set the PCI latency to a higher value - if you can, chances are you'll be ok because it's a bus mastering card. If not, you can find firewire cards all over the place for $30 or so, in both PCMCIA and PCI form factors.
    po
    As for Audition, I really do think that you're going to have problems there. The Jan '05 SoundOnSound review mentions this aswell. The i88x manual only references the term WDM once in each language in the appendix :(. Yamaha's stated rational for their lack of WDM recording support is that the windows audio system doesn't support dynamic audio ports - but that seems silly to me because ASIO doesn't really support that either.
    At least there's a copy of Yamaha's SQ01 in the box - perhaps that can help you...

    I feel kind of bad that my recommendation might wind up causing you a little trouble - so I'm eager to help!

    Dave
     
  17. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    Dave - thanks for the continuing info, and no worries about the recommendation. As an IT professional, albeit a software guy, I should have paid more attention to WDM vs ASIO. Never occurred to me.

    I am slightly encouraged that the Yamaha install guide, vs. the user guide, shows a diagram of the configurator with clear WDM options. Certainly implies support, though who knows how good that is. My hope is that my relatively light requirements (two channels in, no MIDI) will work OK with WDM, but we'll see.

    Too frigging bad about Audition, man. Otherwise I really like the product. I've used Sonar (ugh), Sound Forge, the old-old Cool Edit and a bunch of freeware things, and Audition has the nicest interface. I like their noise reduction stuff too. I guess the decision point will be whether to buy it again when they finally do come out with ASIO support. I bought it for half price through one of these OEM resale distributors and I doubt I will qualify for any kind of upgrade price if they offer one.

    It never ends. Vita brevis, gearitis longus.
     
  18. DaveDaveDave

    DaveDaveDave Member

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    I agree, Sonar blows.

    I can't really talk to the noise reduction stuff, but Traktion 2 just blows me away in terms of the interface - I love the way that there's only ONE screen, save for plugin screens - and that's it. You can see everything all at once. If you download the demo, you'll see how amazingly easy it is to get rolling really quickly.

    I'm actually a Cubase SX user, and I like it a lot. The SE version is also quite affordabe at $100, but I think it's missing a lot of features that SX has.

    Hmm... looking at this: http://www.adobe.com/products/audition/overview.html
    I see a bit about the noise reduction capabilities. Looks like awesome stuff to have built in. No doubt there's other pluggins you could use for other DAWs, like Bias SoundSoap, etc - but they would cost a little more again - jeez.. .this might be adding up to some $$$ for you isn't it ;)

    BTW, what box are you running the i88x on (cpu, memory, etc)?
    .

    Dave
     
  19. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    If by any chance you subscribe to the webzine http://www.acousticplayermagazine.com, they have a home recording tutorial (three-part Quicktime video) that features Audition and gives you a nice little view of it. Worth a gander if you can log in. They do show the noise reduction and it's damned easy. Of course, I may be a Cubase or Traktion user soon by necessity anyway....

    I'm noodling on which of my boxes to use for recording, and may buy a new one, but for now it's a contest between a Dell Latitude X300 laptop and a Sony Vaio PCG-GRT170 laptop. Both are underpowered for serious work but will probably handle my modest two-channel needs. The X300 is 1.2 ghz and I've got 632 mb memory on it. The Vaio is similar though I don't have the specs right here. The Vaio's problem is that the fan sounds like a jet engine, a real problem for open-mike recording. My Dell is really quiet by comparison.

    Hoping to use the Dell for now, I guess, and buy something beefier if I need it. Stuff is so cheap these days. I might spend the $$ on a remote control surface instead, though, if the laptops can limp along.

    Your thoughts?
     
  20. DaveDaveDave

    DaveDaveDave Member

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    I'll definetly check out that demo, thanks.

    The sony sounds much better powered - at 2.8ghz. I have the same noise problem with my Toshiba P25 - I upgraded it to a 3.2ghz cpu and 2 gigs of memory - it can handle a lot now, but it's tough to track in the same room with it, so I've been obsessing over "silent" PCs and such.

    We bought a Powerbook 1.67ghz box, and I'm let down by the performance, but the noise level is exceptionally low, so sometimes I track using the Mac and mix loud using the toshiba. I'm anticipating the new x86 based Macs next year, hoping that there'll be a dual core near-silent machine for me in the near future - perhaps an iMac. I've also been thinking about stuff like these guys make: http://www.hushtechnologies.net/
    and even one of these
    http://www.zalman.co.kr/eng/product/view.asp?idx=64&code=020
    but spending $1200 on an empty computer case seems a little outlandish.

    incidentally, one of the things that I love about Steinberg is that all their products run both on Mac and PC, and they have this Studio Manager software, which saves all mixer/effect/synth settings along with the Cubase project files. This makes going back and forth between multiple machines really smooth.

    I guess I've gone "the hat and the t-shirt" route with the Yamaha mLan stuff, because for a control surface I use the Yamaha 01x.
    It's a neat box in that it's got an interface, control surface and outboard dynamics, eq and effects.
    Honestly, there's a few problems with that box that really bug me (Track VU meters don't work with Cubase, floating offset in recordings
    (avg 30ms or so...), and the preamps are nowhere near as nice as the i88x's). It's also a bear to use the effects, and switching back and forth between 44.1k and 96k is a REAL drag (output channel assignements change!) - but it's still a great box. I really don't need the 24 analog ins I've got with the combination of the i88x, 01x and some other outboard gear - but it's nice that the i88x can sit in the rack at home fully connected. For "field" recording, I've got the airport-style wheelie bag for the 01x, which also fits the powerbook and a couple of mics, so I can drag a whole DAW down the street and unload the car in one trip, guitar, 01x and all....
    But, if you're talking purely control surface, I don't think there's anything that touches a Mackie Control Univeral in it's price range - scribble strips, VU meters and Timecode display - those features are hard to come by in a control surface for under $1500...

    Whoah.. what a ramble.. no mas cafe!
    Dave
     

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