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RME Babyface Pro FS Portable Interface Review

hyperplanar

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Thanks for measuring this Amir. I guess it's not SOTA performance but certainly more than good enough for real world use. I've had the non-FS Babyface Pro for 4 years now, and one should consider the additional perks that it has to offer:
  • legendary level driver stability and support period (recently there was even an FPGA update improving the original Babyface Pro's SteadyClock system)
  • the driver supports multi-client, in other words you can have multiple ASIO and WASAPI streams playing simultaneously. Most interfaces mute all other sounds when ASIO is being used
  • almost endless zero-latency FPGA mixing/routing capabilities accessible from TotalMix FX. Basically a full digital mixer
  • 3-band parametric EQ + 12/24 dB/oct low cut per channel (I do wish there was a way to allocate more bands per channel. Tough trying to do room or headphone EQ with 3 bands and having a bunch of unused DSP because I don't use the ADAT channels. The max Q is also only 5.0)
  • precise digital gain control for the mic preamps (good luck trying to balance a stereo recording's levels on something like the 2i4... speaking from experience)
  • individually digitally switchable 48V phantom power per mic input
  • extremely high build quality, convenient form factor, and comes with a hard case
Love this little guy :)
EACBCB3B-966A-4B6D-BD34-94A9D2798DDF.jpeg


Oh yeah, here's a fun little feature. Since the clock for the ADC/DAC is produced using direct digital synthesis, you can actually continuously vary it in realtime. So if you're playing music from your computer, you can slide the pitch up or down just like a turntable!
1585714029236.png
 
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Zensō

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Thanks for the review. I’m glad to see the measurements confirm my satisfaction with this device. I use it for monitoring electronic music production in Ableton Live, driving a pair of Adam A5X monitors and DT1990 Pro headphones. The RME drivers are arguably the best on the market; stable and with very low latency. An added benefit is that it works well as a portable interface for my iPad Pro. An all around versatile and competent device.

E42021C6-04E0-4AA5-82F2-9C48D8CDB25C.jpeg
 
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MC_RME

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Thanks for this review, Amir!

This unit is USB bus powered. As such we had to make sure it will not cease operation the moment you record the take of your life. The whole unit is carefully balanced between power consumption and performance. The reason for the two headphone outputs is part of that - a high power headphone output can easily shut down USB bus power with higher levels on low impedance phones. So we added two outputs with separated driver stages. One gives a high output level, but its output impedance (a 10 Ohm resistor) limits the available current. Note that changing this to 0 Ohm would not have resulted in higher output power as measured on a 300 Ohm load! Only higher levels could do that, and these are not possible without upping the power consumption. Also the effects on frequency response and damping are no problem with phones of 80 Ohms and up.

For low impedance headphones 10 Ohms is too high, so we added a second output (3.5 mm) that is limited to a 6 dB lower output level, but near zero Ohms output impedance. From my practical experience with a lot of different headphones, you will not have a problem with either low or high impedance ones, and you could even connect two at the same time (thanks to the separated driver stages).

One feature I would like to point out, related to the SNR measurement: The XLR output max level is +19 dBu balanced. This new FS version has a switch on the bottom that reduces the output level to +4 dBu max. This is very useful as active monitors these days are very sensitive. At +19 one would have to reduce the level in the digital domain a lot, loosing about 15 dB of SNR. Thanks to the switch the full SNR is moved down to that lower level.
 

Veri

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That's very interesting. @amirm can you re-measure with the +4 dBu switch? :D
 

Blumlein 88

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Speaker! Though perhaps in the future for specifically Recording/Mixing/Mastering studio type interfaces - to have the professional option measured like the MOTU 624? Even if it needs an asterisks next to the name in the chart. I think if I remember right you did a 4V that was around 112 and another measurement that was 117 or something. Figuring that most people looking at RME or MOTU or LYNX or etc would want to know how they compare to other pro equipment instead of consumer standards. There's lots of pro audio speakers being measured here ... Genelec/Adam's/Neumann's anyways.

Lots of great measurements lately! Thanks for all the work!
*If you find anyone close to borrow you some electrostatic speakers or Magnepan speakers they would interesting to see how they measure/what you think of how they sound. Simply something completely different than all box speakers.
Here is the review done of the Motu 624.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/motu-624-audio-interface-review.9824/
 

Blumlein 88

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Yup! I'm just saying - there's two measurements for the 624: 4V and max output -

I'm just suggesting to save time - for future Pro Audio interfaces to simply do max output measurements instead of 4V consumer standards. That's probably what most people using such interfaces or the designers designed it for anyways in a studio.

(Or If there's a specific pro audio standard these interfaces should be measured at if not max output - perhaps RME knows?)
+4 dbu nominal sensitivity is sort of a pro standard. It expects 20 db of headroom above that or a max output of +24 dbu or about 12.28 volts.

As most forum viewers here are not in pro audio, if you had to pick one then maybe 4 volts is okay. I'd like to see that plus max output when pro devices are being reviewed. But then people will ask for that with consumer devices which put out more than 4 volts. It increases Amir's workload obviously. Since pro devices are less commonly reviewed I'd certainly like max output included too.
 
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Veri

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Do you want that or another speaker tested?
Wouldn't mind either way, I'm only curious of the '15 dB of SNR' MC_RME mentions. :)
because that would definitely bring it to state-of-the-art performance
 

Blumlein 88

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Wouldn't mind either way, I'm only curious of the '15 dB of SNR' MC_RME mentions. :)
because that would definitely bring it to state-of-the-art performance
He's not saying you gain 15 db snr. Only that at reduced output you don't lose any of the existing snr. In other words, the snr is the same at high and low output levels. If you run high output with low signal level via attenuation you'll throw away some snr that way. It would be poor gain staging.
 

Seige

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Thank you for the measurements @amirm. I have been very happy with the non FS model for the last four years, i.e. the ADC section. The original headphone output was a bit lacking (high impedance and noise), so the redesign of the new model is appreciated.

One issue I have is the plastic used in the XLR connectors and power supply jack, which seems to be fragile and brittle. I am not changing my setup often, but I have noticed wear (abrasion) on all sockets immediately. Maybe something to consider, especially since it is intended as a portable interface.
 

Veri

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For those wondering. The RME Babyface Pro components: 4-channel DAC AK4413, two-channel ADC AKM AK5388.

U0HqGDN.jpg


If that's what is used in the 'FS' version too, then they beat AKM's datasheet THD specification. Just like they did with the RME ADI-2 :D. Stellar job, RME.
 

RigorDude

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RME sets the performance bar at "very competent" and easily meets that with Babyface Pro FS. Yes, it would be great to have state-of-the-art performance but what is there is sufficient for its target application....

There is a ton of functionality here that I have not included in my testing.

Thanks for this review. I'm the poster who wondered about the ADC performance of affordable digital EQ.

Edit....

A couple of questions, if I may, about the ADC SINAD graph:

1) Approximately what SINAD figure corresponds to 16-bit resolution? I'm guessing that several of the converters on the left side do better than 16 bits, but that some of the ones on the right do not.

2) Am I correct that you did not test the ADC performance of the MiniDSP units you reviewed, since they aren't included in the graph?
 
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phoenixdogfan

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Can this be used as a digital crossover, and does it have a software suite which will allow it to match the miniDSP 2 x 4 HD's fuctionality?
 

hyperplanar

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Can this be used as a digital crossover, and does it have a software suite which will allow it to match the miniDSP 2 x 4 HD's fuctionality?
You could if you have some third party software that does the crossover functionality, and then drive the mains from the XLR out and a sub from the unbalanced out. But it’s a portable interface so clearly not an ideal solution for this purpose.
 

Fone

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I have the RME BabyFace Pro model.

There is a DC power input jack on the side. I wonder if better performance would be measured if the box were connected to a high quality power source.
 
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amirm

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There is no sign of any power supply issue. So I would say performance won't be improved with external power. If anything, you have another way to create ground loops.
 
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