Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
2pauluzz2
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by 2pauluzz2 » Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:30 am

Thanks everyone. Some good points were raised and I hear all of them.

The bottom line seems to be ( = what I was trying to figure out mostly) that producers on a budget who stay ITB and have no other specific needs can confidently spend money on (or stick with) a brand that is not RME, Universal Audio or Apogee (not to bash, just to name a few), and can still be confident that they will perceive and process their music in more or less the same way as with higher end interfaces.

I feel a lot of money is thrown at these interfaces just because the reviews put them high up, without people actually knowing what they are paying for (or maybe it's just me :wink:).

borg
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by borg » Wed Jan 31, 2018 1:12 pm

https://youtu.be/cIQ9IXSUzuM

a fairly easy to understand 'scientific' approach trying to explain sound quality of the OUTPUTS. As stated earlier, inputs are a completely different story.
andy
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Shift Gorden
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by Shift Gorden » Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:18 pm

Machinesworking wrote:
Shift Gorden wrote: I have a Scarlett 2i4, Scarlett 18i20 and an Apogee Duet. I've noticed no difference between the Apogee and Scarlett's in terms of audio quality. I didn't plug in the Apogee and say "holy crap, that sounds amazing."
Mostly with audio interfaces the output to speakers is all the same, like Tarekith mentioned some have lower noise floors, but mostly all are solid. It's inputs for recording etc. that separate them. Digital to analog converters seem to be relatively cheap to do decently, but analog to digital converters take some expensive parts. If you're talking preamps and desirable coloring of sound, then you can spend as much on that as the sound card and computer itself. Most built in pre amps on sound cards (microphone inputs built in) are pretty bad. The more expensive brands have decent pres, and that's a good portion of the price.

Basically the Scarlett should sound as good during playback, but it's entirely possible the Duet has better Pres.
This is a great thread! And that's a super great point about the pre's. When I bought my 18i20, the guy mentioned how the scarlett can color the inputs - especially if using a mic. At the time, I didn't care, but now I seem to have "collected" a few mics! I have recorded my mics through the Apogee, and the results were phenomenal. Now I want to compare to the scarlett. This totally makes sense.

granted
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by granted » Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:44 pm

For years I haven't bought sound cards for the sound quality. I've bought sound cards for their drivers and build quality. An inexpensive sound card might sound great but when will the cheap capacitors start leaking and fail? When will great sounding inexpensive sound card no longer support the latest operating system update? So yeah the OP is correct, it has little to do with sound quality.

mikb
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by mikb » Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:43 pm

fishmonkey wrote:i think it's also worth noting that the quality of your monitoring system—headphones and/or speakers+room have a large impact on what you hear.

this is especially true of speakers in rooms. many people spend big on interfaces and speakers, and ignore or skimp on room setup, acoustic measurement, and treatment. these have a massive impact on sound quality which dwarfs any difference between budget and high-end audio interfaces.

if you've never experienced the difference between an untreated and treated room, here is an example:

http://gikacoustics.com/wp-content/uplo ... d_room.mp3
This is very true. Let's not forget the microphone quality either. Though, a great audio interface can't do so much for improving a so and so mic. But if you need to get a good mic, which I guess comes after the interface then you might not be able get the audio interface you want at the same time. I've been there myself.
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doghouse
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by doghouse » Thu Feb 01, 2018 7:08 pm

If you are never recording external audio, the sound inside Live (or amy DAW) is totally unaffected by what interface you use to monitor.

Period.

Full stop.

Interfaces matter if you are picky about the quality of the monitored sound and of course if you are recording external audio.

Stromkraft
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by Stromkraft » Thu Feb 01, 2018 8:08 pm

doghouse wrote:If you are never recording external audio, the sound inside Live (or amy DAW) is totally unaffected by what interface you use to monitor.
This is actually belief on your part, as far as I can tell from the info in your post. Easily tested as well by recording with reference gear.
I'll give you most audio interfaces are very, very close in playback quality and that most users are likely to not be able to tell different ones apart in double blind tests. I'd wager there are minute differences with advanced signals. That's part of my personal experience.
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Machinesworking
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by Machinesworking » Thu Feb 01, 2018 8:29 pm

Stromkraft wrote:
doghouse wrote:If you are never recording external audio, the sound inside Live (or amy DAW) is totally unaffected by what interface you use to monitor.
This is actually belief on your part, as far as I can tell from the info in your post. Easily tested as well by recording with reference gear.
I'll give you most audio interfaces are very, very close in playback quality and that most users are likely to not be able to tell different ones apart in double blind tests. I'd wager there are minute differences with advanced signals. That's part of my personal experience.
I think you missed his point, the sound card does zero to a Simpler MIDI track flattened to audio in Live.
it might be coloring the sound in and out of the box, but it's not affecting soft instrument quality in the least.
It can affect your mix, and your ear fatigue, but I think for the most part DA converters are easy, it's the monitors and room that really matter there.

The separation in quality with good sound cards comes in the analog to digital converters, actual parts, and the support for OS's down the line. RME and Metric Halo lead the pack this way, MOTU also have drivers for everything they've put out going back 16 plus years. Apogee abandoned some earlier PCIe cards, i.e. they aren't getting new drivers written for them, so they can screw right off. Same with NI, I've had a few abandoned audio cards from them in Rig Kontrol and Kore... M-Audio also abandon older gear, luckily the only M-Audio thing I own is the ProKeys 88 MIDI keyboard and it's class compliant.

Stromkraft
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by Stromkraft » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:27 pm

Machinesworking wrote: I think you missed his point, the sound card does zero to a Simpler MIDI track flattened to audio in Live.
it might be coloring the sound in and out of the box
I did not miss the point.

Your last sentence covers my observation. This is hardly 100% uninteresting, even though monitors, room and daily form are bigger contributors.
I've been trough quite a few audio interfaces at this point. There are differences, though they are minute enough to warrant getting ignored by most people. Which doesn't mean there are no differences. Also very small differences are differences, negligible or not.

We seem to agree on everything else.
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Machinesworking
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by Machinesworking » Fri Feb 02, 2018 3:50 am

Stromkraft wrote:
Machinesworking wrote: I think you missed his point, the sound card does zero to a Simpler MIDI track flattened to audio in Live.
it might be coloring the sound in and out of the box
I did not miss the point.

Your last sentence covers my observation. This is hardly 100% uninteresting, even though monitors, room and daily form are bigger contributors.
I've been trough quite a few audio interfaces at this point. There are differences, though they are minute enough to warrant getting ignored by most people. Which doesn't mean there are no differences. Also very small differences are differences, negligible or not.

We seem to agree on everything else.
You're still missing it. He meant the recording of audio in Live when a soft synth is flattened is not affected by the sound card. The sound card does no audio processing to the process.

Now the sound of the room, your monitors and to a lessor degree the differences in audio quality of a sound card all affect the way the audio played back in that room sounds, for sure. I think if you're doing only soft synths, and not ever using the inputs on your soundcard, you can get by just fine with a midrange card. If you're using the inputs of your sound card to capture guitar, vocals, synths etc. then really the high end is going to sound much much better.

My point remains though, the DA converters on most sound cards are to specs that are universal, so your monitors and room treatment are going to have a vastly larger impact on the ability of you to get a good mix.

Stromkraft
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by Stromkraft » Fri Feb 02, 2018 6:24 am

Machinesworking wrote: You're still missing it.
No, I do think I'm not. This is what doghouse wrote and I quoted:
doghouse wrote:"…the sound inside Live (or amy DAW) is totally unaffected by what interface you use to monitor"


Your interpretation that this concerns flattening or similar aspects is quite unreasonable given the fact doghouse isn't quoting such a concept, no previous comment as far as I can see mentions this and in addition there is no "sound inside Live", there is only sound going out to the monitors, before the analog domain there is only numbers, albeit marked with other numbers as audio. Likewise "ITB" does not commonly mean "audio inside the computer you don't hear".
Machinesworking wrote:it might be coloring the sound in and out of the box, but it's not affecting soft instrument quality in the least.
Yes, but no-one claimed this, did they?

Of course, I'm not claiming I know for sure what doghouse meant, but I'm not necessarily misunderstanding as the info for making this interpretation of yours is actually missing (the above points). But OK, "sound inside" could refer to the audio concept existing within Live, but, again, as no-one was discussing this why would doghoue mention it? Is this what I'm missing? If so, I apologize, but that's not contained within doghouse's post I think.

2pauluzz2 initially posed this question, which is the ramification of this discussion even though anyone can choose to take this into another direction as usual:
2pauluzz2 wrote:is there an actual difference in "sound quality" in different audio interfaces, when you work ITB exclusively and only need to monitor speakers and headphone?
(My bold)

While I accept your interpretation, and whatever doghouse meant is of course what he meant, I really think my interpretation of doghouse's quote is more reasonable than that this part of the discussion self-evidently concerns flattening in relationship to audio interfaces.

I agree with everything else you wrote. We can disagree on what we believe about this and only doghouse knows for sure.
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fishmonkey
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by fishmonkey » Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:26 am

this kind of interminable semantic nitpicking is really tedious. i for one have not missed it one bit.
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2pauluzz2
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by 2pauluzz2 » Fri Feb 02, 2018 9:47 am

fishmonkey wrote:this kind of interminable semantic nitpicking is really tedious. i for one have not missed it one bit.
I work with a team of software engineers so I've gotten used to it to some extend, but I hear you :lol:

Jokes aside, these guys/gals are making valid points because making sure that we're talking about the same thing is crucial to the issue at hand.

I bet that a ridiculous sum of money gets spent on audio interfaces by people who read online that "X interface by brand Y is the best", not realising they are blowing their savings on 4 high-end pre-amps they'll never use, and branding. Understanding what it is that one is paying for can be quite vital for those ITB producers on a budget who don't need to get stuck in a gear loop, but just need to know that what they are buying is not going to "devaluate" their music.
"Paul" is fine too.

doghouse
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by doghouse » Fri Feb 02, 2018 10:07 am

Stromkraft wrote:
doghouse wrote:If you are never recording external audio, the sound inside Live (or amy DAW) is totally unaffected by what interface you use to monitor.
This is actually belief on your part, as far as I can tell from the info in your post. Easily tested as well by recording with reference gear.
The OP did not mention a need to record external audio!!!!!!!

But most of the replies wrote about recording quality! That is why I made my reply.

I don't care what you believe, but if I monitor Live using a pair of earbuds plugged into the headphone jack on the computer or use the best interface and speaker system possible, it does not affect the sound inside the computer. The sound you hear will be very different, of course.

The interface does become critical as soon as you want to record external audio.

Sorry for derailing this thread.

Martin Gifford
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Re: Truths about perceived quality in audio interfaces for ITB

Post by Martin Gifford » Fri Feb 02, 2018 11:17 am

These sorts of questions remind me of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrK5u5W8afc

Man, that mic sounds like a dream! Where can I buy one? :lol:

In other words, it's more about the talent than the equipment. But I guess if you are an audiophile type who is willing to pay 100% more to get 5% improvement, then it's a different matter.

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