Q: FF400/800/Firestudio to HDSP 9632/Digiface via ADAT/SPDIF

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Timur
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Q: FF400/800/Firestudio to HDSP 9632/Digiface via ADAT/SPDIF

Post by Timur » Tue Jan 01, 2008 11:17 pm

Hey there,

I am considering to buy a combination of RME interfaces for both Desktop and Notebook usage. Unfortunately there is no all-in-one interface offered by RME that fits my needs. I am sceptical about Firewire (especially in combination with a new Macbook Pro = Agere), there is no multiface kind of solution with pre-amps and MADI is too expensive and too bulky/inflexible when mobility is needed.

My current plan would be to buy a FF400/FF800 or alternatively a Presonus Firestudio. All offer slightly better preamps compared to my desktop mixer (Eurorack 2004A), HI-Z input(s) and Midi port(s). I'm not yet sure if the FF is the right thing for me so I do have some questions though:

1. Live performance (buffers and CPU load)

Are there any drawback when connecting a FF400/800/Firestudio to a HDSP9632 or Digiface via ADAT or SPDIF instead of Firewire? Is this constellation more or less reliable (jitter, dropouts) and performaning (latency/buffers) than when using Firewire or using a Multiface via it's native connection? My idea is to gain better performance by using the digital connection to a PCIe card instead of using Firewire. I don't know the timing specifics of the different digital protocols, so maybe someone could give some hints?!

2. High Impedance Inputs

The FF800 offers only one HI-Z input, the FF400, this might be a reason to prefer the FF400. On both the impedance is only 470 kOhm while real guitar preamps (and the NI Guitar Rig/kore 1 interface) usually work at 1 mOhm. Why is the impedance so low and is it going to be a problem for plugging in guitar/bass and especially acoustic guitar/cello via piezos?

3. Midi drivers

The manual mentions a situation in Cubase/Nuendo where [Emulated] DirectMusic drivers are recommended by RME. I find this rather disturbing since emulated DirectMusic drivers are nothing but software-wrapped WindowsMidi/MME drivers that only lead to loads of problems with most DAWs. Does that mean that the FF does not come with native DirectMusic drivers? And if so, do the PCI(e) (Digiface, HDSP9632) products offer native DirectMusic Midi drivers or only WindowsMidi/MME?


One additional question regarding the quality of pre-amps in general:

The specs of both FF's pre-amps show about the same EIN (-129 dB) to those of my mixer (-129.5 dB), but THD seems better. While EIN is measured in dBu and thus mostly becomes a problem with too low mic-levels aka high amplification and can lead to worse SNR I wonder about THD.

Unfortunately the specs of my mixer only give specs for THD and not THD+N. I do wonder how much audible the differences in specs are in practice?

Mixer: 0.007%
Firestudio: 0.003% (AD)
FF400: 0.001% (AD) - does this include the converters or only mean the pre-amps?
FF800: 0.0007% (AD) - same question
Octamic 1: 0.006% at +30dB gain

I suspect that the pre-amps of the old Behringer mixer are not up par with the FF ones even when EIN is lower/better. But given that the FF pre-amps are said to be based on the Ocatmic's pre-amps I wonder which THD value is correct? Also I'd like to know: How much am I gonna hear this at +30dB pre-amplification?

Does it make any pre-amp quality difference wether the FF is powered via Firewire or via its dedicated power-plug? Pre-Amps need quite some voltage and I wonder how good and stable Firewire is able to deliver that?

leedsquietman
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Post by leedsquietman » Tue Jan 01, 2008 11:44 pm

All I know is that I know lots of people who have various RME interfaces and every single one of them is delighted with it. They cost a lot but you get quality for your money. The pres are considered very good, even in their lower end product range and excellent in the higher range.

My friend has an FF800 which he can run comfortably at 64 samples for ultra low latency recording and given that he is a drummer and records drums professionally for a living that speaks volumes.

I have to agree with you though that it is hard finding an RME interface that suits every need, compared to some other manufacturers.
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dcease
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Post by dcease » Wed Jan 02, 2008 2:39 am

i like my ff400, but the preamps are fairly noisy past +40 db, and even make noise with no cord plugged in, that can even be picked up in live. it works at 64 very well, and even 32 with no plugs and minimal channels running. with the dsp, this doesnt even matter, and the latency is unnoticeable. i can even run my uad reverb, and it does not bother me at all, as i just monitor the input directly, and reverb isn't there right away any how, in a send fashion, and blend away. im sure it does make some difference in having it plugged into the mains or not, but probably not much, although i didnt check the preamps like this, just the lines. i prefer to keep the mains, but understandably, there are those times when this is not possible.

come to think of it, every preamp i've ever heard is noisy, but the ff400 is different to analog pres. i dunno, ive had mine for a month, so time will tell if i like the pres.

i do like the di inputs, though. enough input for me, and the sound was as good as my solo610, and cleaner, if thats your thing. as far as the other stuff... as far as i know, the main unit sets the bar for the daisychained device, and they act one in the same, up to a certain level (like 3 or 4 units), and by adat, that would be dependant on the ff400's ad conversion, thereby increasing latency in some way

if you want i could run my sm7b through the pres and try buss powered/mains, and different levels. i did try the sm7b on the pre, and it was workable, but again, this was mains. that damn mic needs a little extra juice to get real loud, but i haven't gotten that mic to overload yet. probably similar to a ribbon in that respect(power).

leedsquietman
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Post by leedsquietman » Wed Jan 02, 2008 3:32 am

I think if you tried the pres in a Presonus or MOTU interface (and they are better than most of the competition in the sub 1000 dollar interface category), you would appreciate the FF400 pres more.

What do you need to record that needs the gain cranking higher then +40 db - are you recording acoustic guitar or doing some kind of distant ambient micing, because my Mackie mixer with an SM57 never needs more than 20-25 db of gain before it's clipping for vocals or micing up an electric guitar. I did once need to crank it 40 db when recording an acoustic with a Rode NT1 for best effect.

Just curious. I think it goes without saying though that if you're needing 45+ db or more of gain, that you are going to increase the noise floor quite a bit, whatever interface you're using.
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Pitch Black
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Post by Pitch Black » Wed Jan 02, 2008 4:35 am

Re: ADAT/Lightpipe... I'm running a FF400 on a MacBook Pro, and a Multiface 1 on a Powerbook G4. I have ADAT/lightpipe going both ways back and forth between them, and using the FF400 as a wordclock master via a BNC cable.

Both units/setups are totally happy and reliable. I mix on my MacBook Pro, while routing 8 channels of audio to/from the G4 for additional processing.
MBP i5 2.53GHz | OSX 10.12.6 | Live10.0.4 | Fireface800 | Push 2
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Timur
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Post by Timur » Wed Jan 02, 2008 11:00 am

I think if you tried the pres in a Presonus or MOTU interface (and they are better than most of the competition in the sub 1000 dollar interface category), you would appreciate the FF400 pres more.
The specs on the FF400 are better than those on the Presonus, but according to RME specs can betray. The FF800's specs are better than the FF400 ones, but due to overal design (power-circuit, pcb-layout etc) it seems that some people even prefer the FF400 ones.
i like my ff400, but the preamps are fairly noisy past +40 db, and even make noise with no cord plugged in, that can even be picked up in live.
I can undoubtely hear noise out of my Behringer pre-amps past about +20 dB gain. With headphones I start to feel a faint anticipation past +15 dB, with my active HS80M speakers the noise-floor of the speakers is too loud below +20 dB gain. I'm usually using about +30 dB to +35 dB depending on the mic and recording distan

Sales Dude McBoob
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Post by Sales Dude McBoob » Wed Jan 02, 2008 3:35 pm

Product specs can only tell you so much. It's important to keep in mind that they are measured by machines and instruments. The methodology behind how specs are obtained often vary drastically. The manufacturers themselves are the ones conducting these tests, so it's in their best interest to make sure the specs are impressive.

Actually listening to preamps is another story.

I had the opportunity once to shoot out the preamps of an M-Audio Octane ($500) vs. an RME Octamic D ($1200) vs. a Universal Audio 8110 ($5000). We had a drumset miked up and we swapped out the mic cables on each unit and recorded a beat into Live, one after the other. Then we listened back and were able to jump from take to take with the different preamps.

The quality of the sound got better in the order of price, so the M-Audio box didn't sound as good as the RME, and the RME wasn't as nice as the Univeral Audio. What was shocking was how well the M-Audio stood up to the RME and Unviersal Audio. All of the boxes sounded good. What made one better than the other was just little subtleties. The RME just sounded faintly better than the M-Audio, and the Universal Audio just sounded faintly better than the RME.

That said, I'm sure all of those boxes would have beat the pants off of your Behringer mixer.

I have plans to purchase a Multiface II in the near future. I agree, I wish there were more choices in the PCI / PCICMIA / Express Card market. It's a bit frustrating. For me the Multiface II makes the most sense. I will just have to bite the bullet and bring a separate box with preamps in it when I need to record microphones in the field.

I had an experience recently where I was recording 9 tracks (8 microphones and one line signal from a mixer) at 48kHz 24 bit. I was using a Digi 002 and my M-Audio Octane and recording directly onto the internal drive of a MacBook Pro. I didn't want to record onto a external FireWire drive because I was worried that I'd overload the FireWire bus on the laptop.

At one point 55 mintues into the set, the band got really loud, and the spike in the flow of data was too much for the FireWire cable to handle. The hardware lost connection with the software and the recording stopped. Lucky for me the band was doing two sets that night, and this was the first. For the second show I changed the sampling rate to 44.1 16 bit. That worked fine, but there was a lot less detail in the sound to my ears.

I think that's crap. With that much nice gear, and that nice of a computer, I want it to work and sound good. That's why I'm going with Multiface. It'd be cool to get the OctaMic D someday so I could do higher sampling rates through ADAT.
Are there any drawback when connecting a FF400/800/Firestudio to a HDSP9632 or Digiface via ADAT or SPDIF instead of Firewire?
First off, are you sure this can be done through ADAT? I know you can use some of the MOTU interfaces as lightpipe expanders, but I'm not sure about Presonus and RME. Second of all, in this scenario you are plugging these interfaces into a desktop machine with a PCI card. This is where, to me, it would be more streamlined to have a Multiface with a preamp box and/or a lightpipe expander box like the OctaMic D.
Does it make any pre-amp quality difference wether the FF is powered via Firewire or via its dedicated power-plug? Pre-Amps need quite some voltage and I wonder how good and stable Firewire is able to deliver that?
A FireWire port will give the preamp just as much juice, so in my experience it wouldn't make any difference.

Timur
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Post by Timur » Wed Jan 02, 2008 8:09 pm

Sales Dude McBoob wrote:That said, I'm sure all of those boxes would have beat the pants off of your Behringer mixer.
I will see tomorrow when I'm gonna give them a try in a shop.
I have plans to purchase a Multiface II in the near future. I agree, I wish there were more choices in the PCI / PCICMIA / Express Card market. It's a bit frustrating. For me the Multiface II makes the most sense. I will just have to bite the bullet and bring a separate box with preamps in it when I need to record microphones in the field.
I will always need mic preamps (I'm a vocalist after all), but also HI-Z instrument inputs. This is why I thought about buy the FF for mobility and when I need tighter latency and less CPU load at home or on stage I would connect it via ADAT/SPDIF/AES to a Multiface or Digiface (or HSDP 9632 in a desktop computer, cause these are quite cheap atm). I'd love to get a Micstacy, that beast can swallow everything, but at 3000+ Euro is a big NOPE! :(
I think that's crap. With that much nice gear, and that nice of a computer, I want it to work and sound good. That's why I'm going with Multiface. It'd be cool to get the OctaMic D someday so I could do higher sampling rates through ADAT.
Yes, sounds exactly like the king of thing I do not ever want to happen right in the middle of a gig. Unfortunately the Multiface needs external preamps and they even cut the ADAT-Sync port to make more room for Neutrik plugs on the analog ports.
First off, are you sure this can be done through ADAT? I know you can use some of the MOTU interfaces as lightpipe expanders, but I'm not sure about Presonus and RME.
No, I am not sure, that was one of my original questions! ;) I don't care if it's ADAT or SPDIF/AES. Both can deliver 24 bit/96 kHz and should be fine as long as timing work properly. With a FF connecting digitally to a Multiface/Digiface you are effectively using the FF as a standalone pre-amp/AD converter (both the FFs and the Presonus offer standalone mode even, but you need to keep them connected via Firewire for configurations). This means that I could be using the PCI/PCIe interface of the Multiface/Digiface including zero-CPU load and lowest possible latencies and get rid of Firewire all along.

Problem is that I don't know how ADAT or SPDIF/AES works, but since these are kind of made for this situation I would expect them to deliver what I am looking for.
Second of all, in this scenario you are plugging these interfaces into a desktop machine with a PCI card. This is where, to me, it would be more streamlined to have a Multiface with a preamp box and/or a lightpipe expander box like the OctaMic D.
The Multiface/Digiface come with a PCI-Epresscard option and as such offer a perfect solution for Macbooks. Once Apple delivers their new Macbook Pros with the new Intel CPU I'm gonna buy me one. Beside the necessity for making music it's also been long enough that I am one of the most talented PC expert in my area who still doesn't own a laptop at all. :lol:
A FireWire port will give the preamp just as much juice, so in my experience it wouldn't make any difference.
How much power (watt) can a Macbook Pro PSU deliver? I imagine that powering 8 mic-preamps plus full loaded MBP at once could lead to power fluctatios which in turn lead to sound-fluctations. The new PCI express HDSP card for Multiface/Digiface cannot deliver its own power to the boxed anymore, instead an external PSU is coming with them. So when connecting both boxes (FF + Multi/Digiface) it doesn't matter anyway.

I am a bit disappointed by (or is it of? with?) the RME forum. A RME technician has asnwered several other posts already but I did not get a single answer to my questions there. One would think that they should know best!? I doubt that the shop I will visit tomorrow can answer me such specific technical questions about drivers and specs.

Hidden Driveways
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Post by Hidden Driveways » Mon Nov 24, 2008 7:56 pm

Sales Dude McBoob wrote:I have plans to purchase a Multiface II in the near future.
Damn, I've been saying this for a long time. I'm going to do it soon, I swear!

Does anyone have any recent experience with the OctaMic D? I'm trying to talk myself into going into debt for one. I'm curious how it handles I/O.

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