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USBPre 2 & Alternative Interfaces


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I'm in the market for an audio interface to record to, and play from, a current model 15" MacBook Pro (via USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt) and, in the nice but not essential category, a current model iPad (via an independent power source for the interface and the iPad camera connector kit). 

 

I already use a Sound Devices 7 series recorder. For the interface, I need only two mic inputs, and output to headphones and two speakers, so the obvious choice is a USBPre 2.

 

However, there appear to be credible alternatives at similar or lower prices - for  example, RME's Babyface, Universal Audio's new Apollo Twin (although it requires AC power, i.e. cannot be powered by the computer), the new Zoom TAC-2, and the discontinued (but evidently well-regarded, and available second hand) Apogee Mini-Me.

 

I like, and am used to working with, the sound from my Sound Devices recorder, and I understand that the USBPre 2 is likely to sound similar. However, if anyone has experience with, or views on, the alternatives mentioned above, or others, I'd be grateful for your opinions. Just want to get a sense if there are alternatives out there, especially given that there are some new interfaces on the market, that I should take a hard look at.

 

Thanks.

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All the listed options are very good alternatives to the USBPre, which is good too. While I have not used any of the specific interfaces, I can say that I have used various RME devices, and they always are great. Stable drivers, clean and very linear Pre's, low latency, very well engineered, and so on. My vote is for RME

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Thanks Constantin.

The RME appears to be very highly regarded, and is apparently as much as US$160 cheaper than the USBPre 2 (which in November of 2012 suddenly went up in price by 31% from $650 to $850).

As far as I can determine, there has never been a discussion on JW Soundgroup comparing audio interfaces, and certainly none comparing what is currently on the market.

While I am personally interested in a two input/output interface, it would be interesting to also see discussion about current audio interfaces that handle more inputs/outputs, whether in this thread or in a separate thread.

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I was in the same boat a while back. Ultimately, I settled on the USBPre2 (and haven't regretted it).

I use RME interfaces in my studio, and really love them. They are SUPER stable, the converters sound fantastic and open, and the clocking is really good.

What ultimately attracted me to go for the SD was that I felt it would ALS be a good interface for the occasional playback gig. I really appreciate having access to all of the vital setting via dip switch. The I/O options are also very good and don't require a fan-out. It powers itself via USB... And can work as a stand alone pre/mixer.

I rented it out to the prop dept recently for a police recon scene, and it was just the look they wanted.

Fwiw: I did buy before the price increase (I don't think I would hesitate if I were to have to do it again, though)

I think you'll be happy either way you go

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Apogee have the Duet II, is nice

 

Thanks. Just spent some time checking this out.

 

The Apogee Duet 2 has been superseded by Duet for iPad and Mac (US$600). The new version connects seamlessly with iOS devices (iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch) in addition to Apple computers.

 

There is also an Apogee ONE (with one mic input) for iPad and Mac ($350). What's interesting about this interface is that it will run not only on a USB connection or mains, but on batteries. According to Apogee's web site, two rechargeable AAs will power the ONE, and provide 48v phantom power to a mic, for over two hours (and depending on how one reads what they say on the question, perhaps over three hours). Which means that one could use the Apogee ONE - a rather compact piece of kit at H 1.25" W 2.25" L 6.4" - with an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad as a mobile field recorder.

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Thanks Audioguy1979, Constantin, Ramallo, Vasileios and Wyatt for your helpful comments.

 

Not the only issue, but here's how these interfaces compare in price:

 

Sound Devices USBPre 2: US$850

Universal Audio Apollo Twin Solo: $700 ($900 for the Duo, but the additional chip is probably overkill for my needs)

RME Babyface: $690

Apogee Duet for iPad and Mac: $600

Apogee ONE for iPad and Mac: $350 (or a couple of them for $700)

 

Next step, a visit tomorrow to an audio shop that carries all of these.

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Checked out all of these products today.

It's come down to RME and Sound Devices.

I'm leaning toward RME because it seems to offer first rate quality, and is actively developing its product, which Sound Devices is not, and costs $690 instead of $850.

Universal Audio's Apollo Twin is also interesting, but is based on a model (it's all about pre-amp plug-ins) that I don't understand well enough to buy into, although a friend tells me that this model is the future.

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All the listed options are very good alternatives to the USBPre, which is good too. While I have not used any of the specific interfaces, I can say that I have used various RME devices, and they always are great. Stable drivers, clean and very linear Pre's, low latency, very well engineered, and so on. My vote is for RME

+1

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Sure,

 

Where I work, we have dedicated one of our carts to ADR/Foley work. It has the following,

 

-1 x Furman Power Rack (rack mounted)

-1 x Sound Devices 702t (mounted on a shelf)

-1 x MOTU Traveller (rack mounted)

-1 x Digi 002R (rack mounted)

 

There is a BNC->RCA AES cable hooked up to the "AES 1,2 output" on the right side of the 702t. This can be plugged into either the 002 or the MOTU's RCA SPDIF input. In Pro Tools, we have our recording track use the spdif input of whichever device the 702 is plugged into (with that devices clock source set to external).

 

When set up this way, you're using the 702's preamps + A/D conversion. The interface is merely being used as pass-thru to get the signal into Pro Tools.

 

I'll post a picture tomorrow.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update...

 

I purchased an RME Babyface.

 

I'm struck by how fundamentally different it is to use an interface controlled by software (like RME's interfaces) and an interface that is wholly analog (like the Sound Devices USB Pre 2 and SPL Crimson).

 

RME uses software (Totalmix FX) that, while versatile, has a fairly steep learning curve, not helped by a manual that, while accurate, is not user-friendly, and a "community forum" run by RME employees who don't seem to get the idea that they are there to assist the people who bought RME products and from whom they earn their paycheck. While I have not asked a question on that forum, I am struck by fairly frequent arrogance and condescension, and ultimately a failure on the part of RME employees to understand that they are in many cases talking down to, and being dismissive of, their customers.

 

There's no question in my mind that Sound Devices's manuals and support are significantly better, but there are things that the RME interfaces can do that a USB Pre 2 can't. That said, while the equivalent RME product (Babyface) is less expensive (I paid US$160 less than for a USB Pre 2), at this point it's clear to me that the time necessary to learn RME's Totalmix FX software makes the price difference insignificant if one values one's time at more than $5 to $10 per hour. On the upside, Totalmix FX offers interesting functionality, and the accompanying meter and loudness software (Digicheck) is excellent. In some ways, I prefer Digicheck to iZotope Insight.

 

I will make a decision this weekend about whether to keep the RME, or return it and purchase a USB Pre 2. Based solely on what I perceive to be the attitude of the two companies, I would go with Sound Devices in a heartbeat, but looking at functionality, it's a somewhat difficult call.

 

I do wonder whether whatever attachment I have to the RME at this point is the result of having been persistent in figuring out Totalmix FX, and so I'll be spending part of this weekend once again reading the USB Pre 2 manual. If the USB Pre 2 will do what I need (and want), the RME is gone.

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well, you  say you have a week. so do your homework as you purport to do. a week is a long time. RME is a Music paradigm company, and Sound Devices is a location sound paradigm company. 

 

Since you have not clearly mentioned details about your specific usage apart from devices you want to connect to - anything that works can work - as has been mentioned before. 

 

-vin

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