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Test of relatively cheap audio interfaces

posted on #1
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Hey friends,

here's one for all beginners: the German computer magazine c't has in its 2023/2 issue a test of relatively cheap (2 or more channel) audio interfaces. The list is:

- Arturia Minifuse 2
- Audient iD 14 Mk2
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen
- Motu M2
- M-Audio Air 192/6
- Presonus Studio 24c
- SSL 2
- Steinberg UR22C
- Tascam US-2x2HR and
- Universal Audio Volt 2

All of these interfaces are USB "Class compliant" which means that for MacOS, iOS, Android, and Linux they don't even need drivers. For Windows they all provide Asio drivers.

All of these interfaces have at least 100dB of dynamic range which means that they're better than your typical CD which has a theoretical maximum of 96dB.

- Best in dynamic range, with over 120dB: Audient and Motu
- Best for dynamic microphones with low output ( like for instance the Shure SM-7B ): M-Audio and SSL
- Best software DAW (by far as they write): Presonus Studio One Artist, a value of 100$ which comes with the 122€ Presonus Interface
- The Steinberg interface is the only one in this price range which offers internal DSP-based effects like EQ, compressor, reverb, and 4 guitar amp sims in case you want to record with these effects "baked in" - so they list it as good for guitar players. Noise is a bit on the higher side tho.
- Best overall: Tascam and Focusrite

Average price of these interfaces is a bit over 160€, they also list smaller and bigger versions of them all in case you need more (or less) inputs and outputs.

The article is in German of course, but you can buy a digital or printed copy of that magazine at https://www.heise.de/ct/ in case you're interested. See https://www.heise.de/select/ct/2023/2/2232711203621768202 for the beginning of that article, and a picture of those interfaces.

This should be additional info to the second box in https://www.wikiloops.com/music-collaboration.php titled "What you need to take part".

Hope that helps?
Cheers,
Wolfgang
Edited by wjl on January 09 2023 11:37
posted on #2
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They forgot the Behringer UMC404.

[img]https://ae01.alicdn.com/kf/Sc7fde8ed48c44667bddfe8b5fc8f915aW/Behringer-UMC404HD-Audio-Interface-Sound-Card-Electric-Guitar-Live-Recording-External-USB-Audio-MIDI-Interface-Mic.jpg[/img]

That little unit has really great input preamps. It’s a workhorse and not expensive because it’s not the newest shiniest toy. It’s absolutely fantastic.

After 6 years I’ve gone to the Motu M4 which is like a Behringer in features but has the 96k sample rate.
Even though my unit is only 5 months old I’m looking to get the new Motu M6 which has 4 inputs with preamp plus 2 without pre. I actually use four inputs so that matters for me to have those. The M4 has 2 preamp ins and 2 non preamp ins.

[img]https://www.synthanatomy.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Motu-M6.001.jpeg[/img]

Both the Behringer and Motu have phantom mic power and a slick little knob I can blend computer sound level with instrument level if I’m playing to YouTube videos or wikiloops tracks and not recording .

For someone starting out the Behringer umc404 is a serious contender and far more features than a Focusrite. I’ve also had a Focusrite and MAudio but that was about 7 years ago. I considered the Behringer an upgrade over both of them sound wise and feature wise.

I do admit I am curious to try the SSL and the Audient.

I have not heard too much positive about the UAVolt
Edited by LittleWing on January 09 2023 14:09
posted on #3
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You are absolutely right Joe - I bought the Behringer UMC202HD for my brother, and it's not worse than my Focusrite I think - they're really strong contenders, and really affordable as well. Plus with all these knobs and switches you don't need any software to change the settings.
The reason for getting my brother a Behringer instead of a Focusrite was that Stefano aka "Crocoduck", who co-develops the LSP plugins - see https://lsp-plug.in/?page=about for more info - had two Focusrite interfaces failing over time, so he bought and recommended the same Behringer.
My 6i6 (2nd gen) is still working, knocking on wood :)
Oh, and like me my brother's on Linux as well, so we can also confirm "class compliancy" for these Behringers... :)
Edited by wjl on January 09 2023 14:11
posted on #4
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Focusrite are notorious for going out after 2 years but in their defense, any interface can go out if you blow the input doing something stupid. I would imagine Focusrite has alot more units in the market then anyone else so the defective numbers are probably more anyway. Nothing wrong with Focusrite . I have heard they do go out after awhile but that could be alot of reasons not Focusrites fault.
It’s hard to say what people do.
I just feel you get your money worth with Behringer and I read an article somewhere on the preamp op amps they use.I was impressed.

If for some reason Behringer is ever discontinued, the Motu is next nearest in features
Edited by LittleWing on January 09 2023 15:32
posted on #5
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I am a big fan of the Behringer UMC 404 - I don't use it that often anymore as I mainly record the guitar through my Roland - but when using 2 microphones in front of the amp it is a great device. And as Little Wing said, the Volume balancing knob is a really useful feature. One thing that is a problem with the UMC is that for some reason if you try to record 4 microphones on 4 separate tracks, there is a problem with the driver - a friend of mine managed to solve it but I am not sure how. As I am only recording two at a time it does not bother me too much.
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TeeGee wrote:
... One thing that is a problem with the UMC is that for some reason if you try to record 4 microphones on 4 separate tracks, there is a problem with the driver - a friend of mine managed to solve it but I am not sure how. As I am only recording two at a time it does not bother me too much.


Sounds like a driver issue - have you tried with a Linux musicians' distro like UbuntuStudio or AVLinux when booted from an USB stick? I don't have 4 microphones, at least not 4 XLR ones, so I wouldn't know how to test this...

Anyway, I think Behringer interfaces are indeed a very good and affordable entry into our recording world, and c't magazine should have included one into their tests/comparison. These with two inputs (UMC202HD and UMC204HD) are way under 100$/€, and surely worth it.

LittleWing wrote:

I do admit I am curious to try the SSL and the Audient.

I have not heard too much positive about the UAVolt


Same here, I'd love to check the Motu and these ones you mention as well, also a RME one (although that is another price range I think). Same here with the UA Volt, haven't read any favourite reviews yet - and their other ones are in the RME price category, so those wouldn't have fitted the "affordable" overview...
posted on #7
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LittleWing wrote:


Same here, I'd love to check the Motu and these ones you mention as well, also a RME one (although that is another price range I think). Same here with the UA Volt, haven't read any favourite reviews yet - and their other ones are in the RME price category, so those wouldn't have fitted the "affordable" overview...


Yeah well I just purchased 6 Mogami cables and I wont be buying anything musical nor eating for a long time.

When I shopped for the MotuM4, the preamps were the biggest purchase decision followed by number of inputs.

I have the Motu M4 which is TWO inputs with preamp and the other two are regular line level. So that was a step down from the Behringer.
So my concern is I want to leave my guitar effects/profiler stereo output connected (2 plugs) then have my stereo keys connected (2 plugs). This leaves my edrums which I now have to disconnect one of the latter to plug them in.(2 plugs).

I miss that I didnt have to worry about that on the Behringer. However as of December 2022, Motu released the Motu 6 which makes it identical to the Behringer. The Motu M6 retails $399 USD. So that is under $500 now.

The SSL is a legendary manufacturer of pro studio consoles. The electronics are very proprietary and that interface from them replicates an actual SSL console input.
The SSL really has my interest and the reviews from what i see , indicate it really is something to look into and not a gimmick.

I also looked into Motu as a company before I purchased and their engineers are all old school who left other name brand companies so that sold me.

Same thing with KALI monitors. The company engineers and how they started that company sold me over the usual KRK or Yamaha standard studio monitors. They do not disappoint.

The UA Volt I just am not sold on the people who manufacture it yet.
Edited by LittleWing on January 12 2023 14:54
posted on #8
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The new Steinberg UR-xxC series wipes all the other ones off the table! :D

USB3.x highspeed connection, i can run all the VST's i can imagine on only 64 samples! No dropouts or other weird artifacts. And they are cheap! I have returned quite a few interfaces, some costing x5 of the Steinberg, but they all had some or another issue.

I'm going to be so bold to say that it's one of the best USB interfaces you can get! Thunderbolt is the next step up ;)
https://open.spotify.com/artist/1uS65W1wu9Mj1prjv5fF4o?si=IXPCUEo3RquZybR77U0j6g
posted on #9
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eGiL wrote:
USB3.x highspeed connection, i can run all the VST's i can imagine on only 64 samples! No dropouts or other weird artifacts.


You are right eGiL, and I forgot to mention it in my original post:

- the lowest latencies on Windows are achieved with the Steinberg UR-xxC interface, followed by Motu. Also good in that regard were Tascam and Focusrite.
posted on #10
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I just bought a PreSonus Audiobox USB96 and am very pleased so far. No frills, but seems like a solid unit, and it works fine.
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