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Black Lion Revolution 2x2 Review (Audio Interface)

Julian Krause

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Hi Julian,

I can confirm that the mic preamp on the Revolution 2x2 is noisy at max gain. I have returned my unit but made a level matched recording with a ribbon microphone in parallel with an Audient id14mkii. Going by ear I would say that the Revolution is approximately 10 dB noisier than the id14mk2. You can hear the samples at gearspace: https://gearspace.com/board/showpost.php?p=15400062&postcount=303. At the end of the samples you can hear difference the noise level.
Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. Your recordings confirm my suspicion and a quick measurement showed that your Revolution 2x2 had about 8 dB more noise than the iD14 MKII. This is very much in line with what I measured with my device! Thanks again!!
 

JDP

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Yes, listen to some clueless YT amateur with no credentials parrotting marketing garbage. That review is the biggest cringeworthy crock of... I ever heard.

But he has these nice LED lights in his studio, must be a pro, right?

The sad part is that he has 20k confused followers, truly a blind leading the blind.

You get to choose what you want to believe - hard science or those mesmerizing LED lights in some random guy's room who makes a living with youtube unboxing videos.

Oh wow, someone emailed me that my channel was being trashed here so I had to check it out! I'm actually kind of honored my small channel got mentioned somewhere, even if in a negative light, that's a milestone in itself! It's definitely true that my videos revolve around my opinions, but doesn't that carry weight? Back when I was clueless on gear I used to go to my local Sam Ash and chat it up with the pro audio manager (he's actually really knowledgable to this day) and his opinions greatly impacted my purchase decisions. I'd roam through Gearslut- err Gearspace and read up on opinions all day, chat it up with a Sweetwater rep, do tons of research before making my final decision, including YouTube reviews. So, years later, now that I'm someone who has had years of experience with interfaces and gear, even if they're just my opinion, are they absolutely obsolete? I really did hear a noticeable difference in my monitors when I plugged the BLA in! My vocals actually do sound good to my ears where a unit that may have had better specs on paper (like the iD14Mkii and Motu M4) produced bland results. Now po tay to, po tah to, you may like the way the M4 sounds on your voice, but for me, this was my preference, so I'm going to recommend what works for me.

Fun fact, I don't claim to be an expert, before Jacob Dark I was actually going to name my channel Everyday Jake because I'm just your average guy who happens to have a lot of experience with gear, but then came across Everyday Dad and so, yea, that was out the window.

All that said, my channel is still what it is, a small, minuscule blip in the great universe that is YouTube and as such, I want to do everything I can do to make my videos better in any way I can, even so that by the numbers guys like yourselves find my content respectable. I see all these charts and readings and I think it's amazing you go into such detail on things I've been oblivious to, so my question is, where do I begin? Where do I sign up to learn how to use such tools and take measurements like those you offer? My channel is literally 50% of my income (I have a disability so a normal job is out the question), so how can I maximize my potential and take my content to the next, analytical level? Thank you, and appreciate it if anyone actually points me in the right direction! :)
 
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Veri

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Was going to make sarcastic comments but if you're doing your best to earn money making videos then more power to you. All I'm going to say is the simple statement of "I really did hear a noticeable difference" doesn't really prove anything in terms of the Black Lion sounding any different from say, a Motu.

Sure, you may think one has more "flavour" than the other. Do you have anything to make that quantifiable or provable, repeatable... if no, that doesn't really mean anything. Our ears are terrible for "measurements". Take away the bias, the sighted listening and rely on proper controls and you may not make confident claims that one is "bland" and one is not. I've not found any of the Motus I've listened to to sound "bland", so what gives...
 
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amirm

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Welcome to the forum. Sorry it is under these circumstances. :)

So, years later, now that I'm someone who has had years of experience with interfaces and gear, even if they're just my opinion, are they absolutely obsolete?
Obsolete? No. Unreliable, yes. You followed the wrong model to duplicate (opinions that others posted on youtube, etc.). There is a proper way to evaluate audio equipment and that is not it.

I really did hear a noticeable difference in my monitors when I plugged the BLA in! My vocals actually do sound good to my ears where a unit that may have had better specs on paper (like the iD14Mkii and Motu M4) produced bland results. Now po tay to, po tah to, you may like the way the M4 sounds on your voice, but for me, this was my preference, so I'm going to recommend what works for me.
We believe that is what you perceived. Alas, the mind is extremely good with respect to handing fictitious perception. Please watch this video of mine:

 

JDP

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Was going to make sarcastic comments but if you're doing your best to earn money making videos then more power to you. All I'm going to say is the simple statement of "I really did hear a noticeable difference" doesn't really prove anything in terms of the Black Lion sounding any different from say, a Motu.

Sure, you may think one has more "flavour" than the other. Do you have anything to make that quantifiable or provable, repeatable... if no, that doesn't really mean anything. Our ears are terrible for "measurements". Take away the bias, the sighted listening and rely on proper controls and you may not make confident claims that one is "bland" and one is not. I've not found any of the Motus I've listened to to sound "bland", so what gives...
Appreciate the more power to you comment, I'm trying! As far as proof the only possible way would be to have you sit in my seat, in my room, with the exact same song, listen to it with interface A, then interface B to hear the difference. I hear what you're saying about proof, but if someone asks me (I have local cats ask me all the time to help them build their studio) which interface I think is a better choice, and they're both the exact same specs on paper, even if one has superior specs, I'm going to tell them I think they should get the one that gave me a better experience. Maybe the better spec device caused crackles and pops, maybe it was even a Windows issue but the lesser device was flawless, all of that goes into my recommendation. "Well, interface A is better on paper but it gave me issues so I can't recommend it. Interface B on the other hand was flawless and I actually like the character the pres give my vocals." Just examples, the one thing I can say, without a doubt, is I would never recommend a product I thought was a bad buy. I have a review of the Secretlab Titan that was horrible for me and that video has the most dislikes of all my videos because I was honest about my experience. At this point, I'd really just like to learn how to take these measurements, fully understand what the numbers all translate to, to make better future content. I have a lot of brands I'm working with now, so upping my content quality is always a goal.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Appreciate the more power to you comment, I'm trying! As far as proof the only possible way would be to have you sit in my seat, in my room, with the exact same song, listen to it with interface A, then interface B to hear the difference.
No, there is another way. Match the levels carefully between the two interfaces. Then make sure you can't see which one is playing and have someone else switch them on you randomly 10 times. See if you are right at least 8 times. Since you already know how to shoot videos, leave the camera running the whole time and we will take that as first order proof of a difference.

All of the above is well within your means so hopefully you go through the exercise. It will massively transform your perspective in this field as I explained in my video.
 

JDP

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Welcome to the forum. Sorry it is under these circumstances. :)
Haha, no prob, I don't take offense, I just want to get better.

Obsolete? No. Unreliable, yes. You followed the wrong model to duplicate (opinions that others posted on youtube, etc.). There is a proper way to evaluate audio equipment and that is not it.


We believe that is what you perceived. Alas, the mind is extremely good with respect to handing fictitious perception. Please watch this video of mine:

Give me some time, I'll check it out and reply, thanks!
 
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amirm

amirm

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Just examples, the one thing I can say, without a doubt, is I would never recommend a product I thought was a bad buy.
Well, this one is definitely a bad buy. It costs twice as much as its competitors yet performs worse. I realize you think your ears told you otherwise but as we have explained, your analysis is unreliable. Our is not.
 

JDP

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Well, this one is definitely a bad buy. It costs twice as much as its competitors yet performs worse. I realize you think your ears told you otherwise but as we have explained, your analysis is unreliable. Our is not.
Watched most of it, wife will be home soon so have to do house things, but let me ask this, I'm currently reviewing an audio interface, what specific tests would you want to see in an audio interface review? I get the feeling learning this stuff will take time but if I know what to research I at least have a starting point. Thanks again.
 

P_M

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The multitone distortion test ignores noise. That's what's going on there.
What about linearity ?
If the tests (DR, Multitone, Linearity) have different compositions (some consider noise some dont) then how can they be normalized into one unit of measure (enob) ? sorry still not following.
 

AnalogSteph

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but let me ask this, I'm currently reviewing an audio interface, what specific tests would you want to see in an audio interface review? I get the feeling learning this stuff will take time but if I know what to research I at least have a starting point.
What kind of tests you can carry out will depend on the tools at your disposal. User interface, build quality, driver stability and quirks, that sort of stuff should take little more than your own senses. Roundtrip latency can be measured easily by routing just one channel of a stereo pair through the interface under test and determining the delay in your DAW of choice, you just need a good test signal with an abrupt start (maybe a snare hit or similar) or other distinctive characteristic that is easily identified visually in waveform view.

If max output level and line input level are close, doing loopback testing using RMAA and/or REW will tell you something about the qualities of A/D + D/A combined. By turning down the output, you may be able to test even the mic input from minimum to maximum gain (noise will generally be excessive unless you have an analog attenuator, but it should give you a pretty good idea about preamp and ADC nonlinear distortion and frequency response).

Getting an idea of mic input noise generally is quite helpful. Subjectively, a lowish-impedance dynamic mic (the Shure SM7B being a very common and notorious example) should give you a decent idea, particularly if you have a few different candidates to compare with... that should weed out any real turkeys quickly.
Ideally though, you want to determine the input noise level for a typically 20 kHz bandwidth with a known source impedance plugged into the input (either a short or 150 ohms, typically).
That takes an absolute level calibration. For this, you would first take an output of low impedance and measure its output voltage at a known, near 0 dBFS level (as determined e.g. with a multimeter that requires at least a low-voltage AC range, preferably one TrueRMS capable - take note of the valid frequency range, the simple ones are generally optimized for mains frequencies). Then you would reduce digital generator level by a known amount, enough to not overdrive the mic input (maybe arouind -10 dBFS in). This then allows you to reference input dBFS levels to analog voltage levels, for both signal and noise. Once you have that, you unplug your reference source and swap to your short or 150 ohm resistive noise source.
Determining input dBFS levels can be done using rather rudimentary software tools, even Audacity will do if its meter dB range is set large enough. At 44.1 kHz, applying Audacity's A-weighting EQ curve should give decently accurate A-wtd results as-is, at higher rates a steep 20 kHz lowpass would be required in addition as A-weighting is not defined beyond that.

I suggest you take a look at @Julian Krause's channel, he's got a pretty decent set of tests he runs these days (he's also got a video where he explains how to determine input noise).

If you want to fully characterize a modern high-performance interface, ideally you want a full-blown audio analyzer like an Audio Precision, a dScope or a R&S UPV or UPL, but those costs thousands or tens of thousands of dollars even used. The tighter your budget, the more limited you'll be and the more resourceful you'll have to get. The converter performance alone isn't actually that expensive - an RME ADI-2 Pro FS should generally be as good as any of them, for example (while still offering substantial flexibility in terms of levels), a QuantAsylum analyzer isn't a slouch either (their new QA402 should have been out by now but seems to have been delayed), and if you just need a superb DAC you don't need to spend more than a few hundred either - but it's the signal conditioning and automation that'll cost you dearly. For just a few spot checks, you can often cobble something together quite inexpensively.
 

AnalogSteph

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What about linearity ?
If the tests (DR, Multitone, Linearity) have different compositions (some consider noise some dont) then how can they be normalized into one unit of measure (enob) ? sorry still not following.
Converter dynamic range / ENOB is limited by the greater of:
* low-level nonlinearity
and
* output noise.

Delta-sigma converters are almost entirely noise-limited - their linearity graphs tend to be quite uneventful. The same is not generally true for traditional multibit (e.g. R-2R) converters, where for low-level signals distortion products of various kinds will dominate instead. (This is why modern-day multibit delta-sigma converters will be picking one of multiple few-bit converters at random to turn what would otherwise be converter nonlinearity into random noise which can then be shaped out of the audio band.)
 

dougrus

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We believe that is what you perceived. Alas, the mind is extremely good with respect to handing fictitious perception. Please watch this video of mine:

[/QUOTE]

Super informative.... thanks so much for this.
 

dougrus

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Thanks... great forum. I have been pecking around and there are so many informative threads. I need a new interface and was about to drop some $ on this. I am certainly reconsidering my options.
 

AdamG247

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Best of luck and feel free to ask about your possible choices. Great many here happy to help and have the requisite knowledge to do so correctly.
 

dougrus

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Thanks, Ill take you up on that :) My shortlist was MOTU M4, SSL2, Audient iD14 and The BLA discussed here. They all, aside from what I am seeing now regarding the BLA, seem to get solid accolades so I was looking at features that may sway me one way or the other. They all seemigly have what I need. With the exception of an occasional stereo pair on an acoustic guitar, Im usually just recording one channel at a time and overdubbing.

If I should post this in its own thread, let me know and I will do so.
 

jonljacobi

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Lots of things weigh in perception. Color, heft, general appearance, time of day, memories, etc. Noise also colors everything we hear in daily life. That said, I am surprised the BLAR did so poorly with standard metrics. Quite a bit of hype on this unit. I’d love it if someone like Jacob went the blind listening route on YouTube.
 
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