Best USB audio interface in 2018 ?

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by eayottes, May 27, 2018.

  1. eayottes

    eayottes SS.org Regular

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    I'm currently using a Steinberg UR22MKII. I've been satisfied in terms of latency, but I'm annoyed by the fact that any guitar with active pickups yields a hot signal even with input set at a minimum (a complaint that apparently has been made by many other users).

    Since I haven't been looking at USB audio interfaces for a while, I'm wondering what are the best options for metal guitar in 2018. I need only two inputs but I want quality, i.e. no latency and no hot signal nonsense like with the UR22MKII. I use Reaper with BiasFX, PodFarm and free VSTs to record (LePou, etc.).

    I'm thinking about the Apogee Duo. Have any of you tried it in Windows10 with Reaper ?
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2018
  2. Nlelith

    Nlelith SS.org Regular

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    I don't have any personal experience with these, but these are common recomendations from geeky guys over on a foreign forum:
    Arturia AudioFuse
    Zoom UAC-2
    Focusrite Clarett USB
    Focusrite Scarlett Solo

    Some are more expensive than others.
     
  3. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    I don't know of any Apogee "Duo"

    There is the Apogee DUET. I own one, and it works great - and it can handle an EMG81 without clipping on input. However, the DUET is now 5 years old. Still great quality, but you should know that it's most likely coming towards the end of its life cycle, and the software is quite dated in terms of looks. And finally, I'm fairly sure that the Duet is for Mac only...

    You might want to consider the Apogee ONE sinceiIt works on PC. Single input, which is all you need for guitar. And it has a built in microphone which is actually great quality and not just a gimmick. I've used it to record voiceovers for things and it is surprisingly good.

    Apogee stuff is fairly expensive for the specs. But the quality and support is great.

    Aside from that, the default recommendation for interfaces is the Focusrite Scarlet 2i2. Its cheap, and loads of people are using them successfully for metal guitar recording.
     
  4. Masoo2

    Masoo2 SS.org Regular

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    If you're not wanting to spend a ton of money, I've heard excellent things about the Audient line and they should be a good step up above the entry level Focusrite/Roland/Steinberg stuff.

    Apogee would be a good choice but keep in mind it's a bit weird given the form factor and cables used.

    I have a Focusrite 2i4 and I'd never recommend one again. Yeah, it can handle a hot DI signal fine, but the DI quality is absolute garbage. Johnny of ForTiorI made a video comparing his Scarlett DI quality to his POD HD and a DI box. The difference was insane.

    I'm now looking into the Audient stuff but also the UA Arrow as I'll be switching to Mac soon.
     
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  5. chopeth

    chopeth SS.org Regular

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    I have the ur22 too and I'm quite happy with it. Are you sure you aren't going to have the same problem with other interfaces when you plug your active guitar? Btw I had no idea about it, I guess I haven't connected my only guitar with EMGs since I bought the steinberg.
     
  6. eayottes

    eayottes SS.org Regular

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    Yeah, I meant duet, sorry about that. The One and Duet are Win10 compatible since 2017 according to the company website.

    I've tried the Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 and it did not play nice with my hardware and software (weird latency, clipping). Even the folks at Focusrite and Positive Grid told me to go for a different audio interface based on my "bug reports".

    Masoo2, thanks for the Audient recommendation. I'll definitely check them out.

    Chopeth, I was in the same boat as you until I decided to start recording with my new guitar which has Fishman Fluence active pick-ups. I was rather surprised to see a lot of people experiencing the same issue.
     
  7. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    Ah yeah, I see the update on the Apogee website now. Still, even though I own a DUET, I wouldn't buy into a 5 year old tech product at this point if I was you. I also haven't tested with Fishman pickups (only EMGs), so I can't guarantee that it's going to handle them well.

    The DUET is about £500/$600, right? So if that's your budget, you have other sexy options from companies like RME or Universal Audio on the table.

    Or, consider keeping your UR22 and simply getting a DI box to handle the super hot signal from the pickups. Much cheaper, and also a useful tool for other things.

    And finally, for what it's worth, I don't find a bit of DI clipping to always be bad. Obviously a constant brick wall of gain is bad, but if you're occasionally clipping on heavy palm mutes, it's probably not worth worrying about because it won't affect the sound once it's been run through amp sims etc. You want a fairly hot signal anyway, to maximise the signal to noise ratio going into your amp sims.
     
  8. gienek

    gienek SS.org Regular

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    Ive got UR22 and got Dactivators 8 (goes quite hot) and its completly fine on instrumental input (Hi-z engaged). Did you try to turn off this? Also i think active route signal should be put in Mic input, but i have no experience in this.

    +1 for DI Box, since Steinberg is good for money and its not guarantee that better interface wont clip.
     
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  9. mpexus

    mpexus SS.org Regular

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    Scarlet Solo 1st gen and no issues with any pickup so far not even EMG's 81/85/60
     
  10. eayottes

    eayottes SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for the tips guys. From what I understand, the problem is due to the gain range on the hi-z input starting at too high for the Steinberg UR22MkII.

    Since I'm a total noob, here are some questions on DI boxes. Will a DI box affect the signal in a way that will hamper my recording ? Should I get a passive or active DI ? Any specific recommendations ?

    To be honest, I'm on the fence between buying a DI box and upgrading my audio interface, since that was part of my plans for a while. Is the Apollo Twin (USB) worth its price ?
     
  11. Kaura

    Kaura SS.org Regular

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    Do you have the 1st or 2nd gen version of 2i4? Just curious since I just upgraded from a 1st gen 2i2 to 2nd gen 2i4 and the difference between them is so obvious. Everything sounds so much clearer and brighter now. Maybe even so much that I have to tweak my GR5 presets.
     
  12. Masoo2

    Masoo2 SS.org Regular

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    2nd gen but even if the DI quality is fixed, I've had so many driver problems with them that other people seem to have as well and I'd just like to move on to something different as to get out of the Focusrite ecosystem. It really just left a bad taste in my mouth (as did my friend's solo, his crashes at least once a day and mine is at least once every two days).

    A UA Arrow is definitely the jump compared to an Audient, but both seem like they'd be great upgrades.

    Maybe I will go to the 2nd gen if I find one for a R E A L L Y good price with returns available.

    +1 to just getting a DI box if you're content with how the interface performs with mics and drivers. Go active IIRC. Radial has some goods ones.

    Just be prepared to spend at least $150 on the DI box.
     
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  13. eayottes

    eayottes SS.org Regular

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    I think I'll do both. On the short term I'll got with a cheap used DI and in the longer term I'll go with a UA Apollo Twin (USB)
     
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  14. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank SS.org Regular

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    I can highly recommend the Apollo's, coming from different stuff, mainly RME in the past, it was worth it for the D/A alone...
    Stable, VERY nice pre's and good Mixer (I also used it for FOH), too.

    And if you have more or less constant clipping you're recording WAY to hot, it just makes sense to clip really high quality converters when you wanna reach certain goals.
    When you care shoot for -12 to -6 peak and -18dbFS.
     
  15. eayottes

    eayottes SS.org Regular

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    I just bought a used passive DI box for about 20 bucks (artproaudio PDB) on my way back from work. I've tested it for about 2 hours and I must say I can now adjust my signal to get peaks in the range you mention (-12 to -6). Before, I did not get constant clipping, but the DI box definitely changes my sound positively, getting rid of crackling and other unwanted artifacts.

    Since I'm a total noob, I'm wondering what to expect from a higher quality USB interface (e.g. Apollo Twin). I've watched videos and read articles/spec sheets, but I'm curious to eventually hear how my sound will improve and how such a change would impact the time I spend EQing as well as my overall mixing workflow (keep in mind I'm not an audio engineer and am new at this).
     
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  16. Sogradde

    Sogradde SS.org Regular

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    For the record: He compared a 1st generation Scarlett, also the DI box led into the XLR of said Scarlett.

    I own a 2nd generation Scarlett 2i2 and the DI tracks are absolutely okay. I still use an active DI box (Radial Pro 48) because I prefer the DI tracks I get out of that.
    Newer Focusrite stuff is absolutely fine Imho.

    When it comes to DI boxes, AFAIK the rule of thumb is: "Active DI box for passive PUs and passive DI box for active PUs". I don't own a guitar with active puckups anymore so I can't comment on that.
     
  17. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    I’ve used MOTU interfaces for several years now with no issues. I often wonder why they don’t get recommended more often because I find them to be really good products. I used to use the 8pre when I needed a lot of inputs for recording drums, but now I mainly use an Ultralite which has proven to be a fantastic piece of hardware over the years. Also, never had any clipping issues even with high output or active pickups like I did on the Scarlet or Presonus boxes I’ve owned.
     
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  18. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    1. There is no such thing as "no latency."
    2. I honestly don't understand the clipping issue. You're plugging in directly? Just adjust your gain, guitar volume, etc., until the clipping goes away. What am I missing here?
    3. A simple passive DI box should also help.
     
  19. GuitarBizarre

    GuitarBizarre Listen to physics.

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    The clipping thing was an issue with some guitars on the first gen Scarlett 2i2. It's why I and many others spent more on a 2i4 which had a pad switch - even at minimum gain on a 2i2 it was possible to clip the input, and the pad switch solved this.

    The second gen 2i2 and solo etc, don't need the pad switch engaged to get around this issue, since focusrite adjusted the inputs to gain headroom.
     
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  20. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    ...but the UR22 mk II also has the pad switch, at least on one of the two inputs... I don't see how it could be clipping if set up properly.
     

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