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Is an audio interface necessary for in the box mixing?
Last post Mon, May 23 2016 by ALKoide, 9 replies.
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Posted on Mon, May 16 2016 20:35
by Dennis B
Joined on Mon, Apr 11 2016, New York, Posts 8

Could use some feedback on whether or not I actually need an audio interface anymore.  Most of my projects are midi sequences using various sound labraries.  I mix "in the box", so I would imagine an audio interface has no bearing on this.  Would having an audio interface take any strain off my computer?  Would monitoring the sound from the internal outputs of my Mac be any less quality than my older MOTU Ultra lite?  Any other benefits I might not know about?

Thanks

Dennis

Posted on Mon, May 16 2016 20:44
by MassMover
Joined on Mon, Sep 29 2008, Posts 236

The Quality during playback is better with a designated interface, but the internal audio should be good enough to work with. When you finally bounce your project the mixdown is done by the CPU alone, so in the final result there should be no difference.

With internal audio you might need to set the buffer size to a higher amount (to take some strain off the CPU), which gives you a latency when playing live on your keyboard. When you record your midi tracks in realtime this can be distracting.

Posted on Wed, May 18 2016 22:20
by GoranTch
Joined on Tue, Mar 14 2006, Berlin, Germany, Posts 524

I am not an audio engineer, but I think your question (at least partially) boils down to the quality of D/A converters - if those found in your internal audio chip are low quality, the analog signal coming out of its outputs (that is, the signal that leaves the D/A converter) will also be low quality. That is why good D/A conversion is essential for a good audio interface.

Posted on Thu, May 19 2016 08:17
by Francesco Pirrone
Joined on Tue, Sep 30 2014, Posts 245

Hi Dennis,

this is a good question. 

I agree with our fellow composers, the actual bouncing is carried out from the CPU alone.

However, i am unsure whether the D/A conversion of an internal soundcard will not be affecting the quality of your playback, thus affecting the final mix. This is why we tend to rely on interfaces when using high quality samples such the VSL. You will benefit of good ASIO drivers as well, which should deliver a better workflow within your DAW.

Additionally, even if you are doing MIDI all the time (so am i) you might have opportunity or need to layer a real instrument in the future, or you might wish to do some voiceover. The interface preamps might come in handy that day.

Ultimately, the decision is down to you.

I hope it helps.

Best Regards

Francesco

Composer and Score Mixer -> www.francescopirrone.com
Posted on Thu, May 19 2016 13:32
by Dennis B
Joined on Mon, Apr 11 2016, New York, Posts 8

Thanks Francesco.  I actually have a MOTU UltraLite.  However, it only connects via Firewire.  My Macbook Pro does not have a firewire input,  so I was wondering whether it was necessary to spend $ on a new interface.  I also thought of getting  a "firewire to usb adaptor".   Would that effect computer performance at all?

Thanks for taking time to help.

Dennis

Posted on Thu, May 19 2016 14:34
by GoranTch
Joined on Tue, Mar 14 2006, Berlin, Germany, Posts 524

Originally Posted by: Francesco Pirrone Go to Quoted Post

However, i am unsure whether the D/A conversion of an internal soundcard will not be affecting the quality of your playback, thus affecting the final mix.



It must affect the quality of the playback (unless Dennis has a quality set of digital monitors and can therefore rely on their in-built D/A converters).

Originally Posted by: Francesco Pirrone Go to Quoted Post
This is why we tend to rely on interfaces when using high quality samples such the VSL.


Exactly, at least half-way decent D/A conversion is a must for a reliable monitoring environment.

Posted on Thu, May 19 2016 16:03
by Francesco Pirrone
Joined on Tue, Sep 30 2014, Posts 245

Originally Posted by: Dennis B Go to Quoted Post

Thanks Francesco.  I actually have a MOTU UltraLite.  However, it only connects via Firewire.  My Macbook Pro does not have a firewire input,  so I was wondering whether it was necessary to spend $ on a new interface.  I also thought of getting  a "firewire to usb adaptor".   Would that effect computer performance at all?

Thanks for taking time to help.

Dennis

You are welcome, Dennis.

I have no experience of adaptors. With a Firewire-to-USB 2.0 converter you should be able to reach the same speed of USB 2.0 soundcards, which could do. Have you managed to find any reliable and cheap adaptors?

Francesco

Composer and Score Mixer -> www.francescopirrone.com
Posted on Thu, May 19 2016 20:04
by DG
Joined on Wed, May 12 2004, Posts 8608

Certainly the quality of D/A conversion must be taken into account, but the listening environment is way more important than that.

DG

Nuendo 6.03, 4.3
2 x Intel Xeon x5675 3.07GHz Hex Core
48GB RAM
Windows 7 (x64)Pro
RME Multiface II
Intensity
ATI HD5400 series graphics card
Posted on Mon, May 23 2016 06:04
by ALKoide
Joined on Mon, May 23 2016, Utah, Posts 3

The term Audio Interface is a bit of a misnomer and I found this out the hard way.  What you are really wanting, if you are entirely in the box, is a proper DAC as most interfaces do not come with good converters with the exceptions being Avid (seemingly a sinking ship now with precipitously declining customer support quality), RME, Apogee and Antelope.  One of the dead give aways as to whether or not an interface as opposed to a dedicated DAC has solid converters is if there is an audible difference between 44.1kHz and 96kHz.  If you are hearing one then either the converters are poor quality or something else is adding jitter to your audio chain prior to the output reaching the speakers (i.e. you might need a master clock).  I spent years being deceived by the idea that 96kHz sounds better when, in fact, there is no audible difference if the signal chain is clean and jitter free.  This said, I would strongly recommend you invest in a DAC.  I personally have the Antelope Pure2 and Antelope Satori.  I spent years going through cheaper units (MOTU, PreSonus, and MAUDIO) only to have a friend point toward the Lavry white papers on sampling rates.  If the Pure2 is out of your price range, consider a RME BabyFace Pro.  Do not make the same mistakes I did and repeatedly go cheap on your DA conversion.  

Tony

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