Got this question from a reader deciding on a firewire audio interface:
“I have hard time deciding which audio interface to choose:
I would like to know your opinion about which interface to choose.
The interface’s main purpose is to record vocals (almost no live instruments) – so I want to know:
1) Is there any different between the *recording quality* between the two?
I would guess that they are very similar in recording quality. I doubt you’d notice much of a difference in a blind shoot-out. Focusrite has a reputation for having great pre-amps, but don’t just automatically assume that their’s will sound better.
It’s like Geico having the reputation for being the cheapest car insurance company when they’re actually not. Or Southwest Airlines being the budget airline, when they don’t even put their prices on flight search engines because they’re never the cheapest.
For that price you’ll probably get a really nice sounding product, whichever one you choose.
2) I don’t have preamps and the “Saffire 56” does have emulations of multiple preamps in addition to the standard included preamps, does the MR816x have the same functionality?
The MR816X does not have any preamp emulation included.
One of Focusrite’s main selling points is the cool preamp emulation you get with the two Liquid Channel inputs, allowing you to get convincing emulations of vintage preamps. And if you’re on a low budget then getting multiple sound options might be something you’d like.
In this category I would go with the Focusrite. Yes, I still doubt the preamps differ that much from one device to another, but the Focusrite gives you more options to choose from.
3) My main software is Cubase, What are the advantage of the integration of Cubase with the MR816x? – Is it that helpful so that it beats the “Saffire 56”?
Steinberg makes Cubase so I guess they’re pretty good at making their own audio interfaces work with their own software.
That said, most audio interfaces should work just as well. It’s usually just a matter of plugging them in, maybe installing some drivers and then you’re good to go. However, some of the Focusrite reviews said they were having problems with connecting the device to their computer.
Maybe they were just unlucky (or don’t know what they’re doing, many user reviewers are stupid because the writers are idiots).
For Cubase integration the Steinberg audio interface is probably easier to set up. Then again, the Focusrite shouldn’t give you any issues either.
4) Does this card work with Protools?
Anything works with Pro-Tools today so there’s no need to worry about that.
5) Why choose one over the other? In the long run, what interests me the most is that my voice recording will be recorded the best way it can.
The decision comes down to the details and added features. The Steinberg is cheaper but doesn’t have all the features of the Focusrite. That said, you need to think of it in terms of benefits to you.
If you’re paying extra for those features, you better make sure you’re actually going to use them. Otherwise you’re just wasting money.
If you want reputable preamps that are guaranteed to sound good, with the added option of some preamp emulation, I would go with the Saffire.
If you want a solid, great sounding device with seamless integration with Cubase, then go with the MR816X.
But Why Spend So Much Money on a Firewire Audio Interface?
Now, I’ve answered all these questions but I have one of my own.
If you’re only recording vocals, why do you need an audio interface with 10 microphone inputs? If you’ll only record the occasional vocal, isn’t a cheaper interface with fewer mic inputs just as good? And why choose Firewire when USB keeps getting better and better?
You can get the cheaper Focusrite Saffire Pro 14 for only $234. Sure, it doesn’t have the Liquid Channel preamps, but it’s got everything else and you’ve just saves yourself $700!
And if you decide to go with a USB audio interface instead, I’ve got some recommendations for you in my Essential Audio Interfaces under $500.
I personally have the Apogee Duet 2 and I really like it. It’s pretty expensive but it definitely has the best A/D converters of any 2 channel interface I’ve tried.
When it comes to buying gear, I always look at various reviews and forums to see what other people say. Now, I take all of that with a grain of salt because a lot of people have no idea what they’re talking about, but it helps to give you an overall impression of what the audio interface can do for you.
We all have different preferences when it comes to audio equipment, but there is some stuff that everybody should have.
If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck when it comes to audio equipment, check out the first few chapters of the Recording Strategies in the Strategies bundle:
Image by: Aramek