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RME fireface 400 preamps vs M4/ Volt/ Audient/SSL

kosmatoo

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Hello,
I have RME FF 400 which was my main interface, however since I switched to PC laptop (my old macbook is too slow) with no firewire port I ended up in need to buy new interface.

I wish I've stayed on old setup but RME's are bit too expensive for now. Now I got 2 options. Buy new interface on USB and use it as my main interface or buy something that connects RME FF 400 via ADAT and still use it's inputs and preamps. I'am going in circles unable to decide which solution would be best. I was thinking about SSL 2 then Black Lion (I know your review ;)), then UA Volt 476, and now Motu M4. Also Audient id22 as it has as the only one of those ADAT in and out which would let me use my old RME FF400. What I'am looking for is best preamps setup here.
I have no way to compare all these new interfaces with my RME FF400. preamps quality.

My question is, if I buy Motu M4, or UA Volt or Audient id22 will it have better/worse/similar preamps as old RME FF 400? Out of these only audient id22 gives me option to connect RME. I wonder if this solution is still worth it. I don't need for now too many inputs, 2 good preamps in interface plus two line inputs is enough. I've read your reviews on these interfaces and watched some Julian Krause videos, still I dont know how to compare it in terms of preamp quality to RME FF 400. I'am thinking about M4 mostly but I'am afaraid a bit about it's drivers for Win 10 AMD Ryzen processor. Next thing that annoys me is that from youtube videos mostly I like the sound of UA Volt 276/476 which normally I wouldn't consider at all. So I'am a bit torn apart here. One more thing is that good output for my APS IO monitors would be big plus. I record mainly tenor saxophone via Electro voice RE20 dynamic mic and my tenor guitar sometimes. Also any other suggestions what device with ADAT would work here are welcome. I know Digiface USB would work but it's price is too high (I can buy good new interface for that), used Audient with ADAT would do the same for half that price or less. If any of these new interfaces would do the job better then RME 400 than there is no need to keep it via ADAT.
Thank you for any suggestions and help.
 

Blumlein 88

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Have you looked at the Babyface from RME?

In general any on your list likely have similar preamp performance. The Audient if you want ADAT might be the choice because of that. The Babyface has ADAT too.
 

DVDdoug

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Electro voice RE20
You might want to check the gain compared to your old RME. Dynamic mics are in ballpark of 20dB weaker than condenser mics and some interfaces don't have enough gain (depending on the loudness of what you're recording, of course).

Next thing that annoys me is that from youtube videos mostly I like the sound of UA Volt 276/476 which normally I wouldn't consider at all.
Most preamps (or interfaces) don't have any particular "sound". There are some preamps (usually tube preamps) that supposedly have a certain "vibe"... maybe "pleasing distortion" or maybe they distort in a "pleasing way" when overdriven. Or, maybe it's the same preamp Frank Sinatra or The Beatles used and it's mostly mythology. ...Rarely does anybody say what it is about the sound (distortion, etc.)... It's usually just something mysterious and magical.

There can be a difference in noise level, but there's more than one way to measure noise so you need independent comparable-measurements done by the same tester/reviewer.

And with USB powered interfaces, sometimes noise from the USB power gets into the preamp electronics or other analog electronics (usually it's a high-pitch whine). that gets tricky because USB power tends to be noisy (not an issue with digital audio data) and then you don't know if your computer's USP power is extra-noisy or if the interface doesn't have good-enough filtering... If the interface has its own power supply, that's one less thing to worry about.
 
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Blumlein 88

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Doesn't this combination work?
I did exactly that with a TC IMpact Twin Firewire interface. Worked fine until Apple dropped all support for 32 bit software. Then it didn't work I believe because TC never updated to a 64 bit driver. Now RME keeps software supported so there is a good chance that would work if they have a 64 bit way to interface that. I just looked and they list a driver with support up until Monterey. MAC OS 12. I do believe it was Ventura that that would no longer do anything in 32 bit. So maybe there is more to it so that firewire isn't supported at Ventura and newer.

EDIT: I just checked some more, and Apple changed with Ventura or later so recognizing an audio interface via Firewire and adapters is not possible. Some people have written some work arounds, but it seems from reports it is iffy whether it works or not. Maybe contact RME to see if they know if the Fireface will work via Thunderbolt to Firewire adapters.
 
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kosmatoo

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Doesn't this combination work?
No, I have no thunderbolt port in my PC laptop so it will not work.
My old RME still works with my old very slow macbook pro so I have no driver issues, just super slow old macbook.

I'am tempted towards Motu M4, just afraid about drivers for Windows 10 AMD Ryzen processor, is it true that it's solved now and drivers work well?

You might want to check the gain compared to your old RME. Dynamic mics are in ballpark of 20dB weaker than condenser mics and some interfaces don't have enough gain (depending on the loudness of what you're recording, of course).
That's something I will look at for sure.
Most preamps (or interfaces) don't have any particular "sound". There are some preamps (usually tube preamps) that supposedly have a certain "vibe"... maybe "pleasing distortion" or maybe they distort in a "pleasing way" when overdriven. Or, maybe it's the same preamp Frank Sinatra or The Beatles used and it's mostly mythology. ...Rarely does anybody say what it is about the sound (distortion, etc.)... It's usually just something mysterious and magical.

There can be a difference in noise level, but there's more than one way to measure noise so you need independent comparable-measurements done by the same tester/reviewer.

And with USB powered interfaces, sometimes noise from the USB power gets into the preamp electronics or other analog electronics (usually it's a high-pitch whine). that gets tricky because USB power tends to be noisy (not an issue with digital audio data) and then you don't know if your computer's USP power is extra-noisy or if the interface doesn't have good-enough filtering... If the interface has its own power supply, that's one less thing to worry about.
Preamps is one thing, however in this video for ex. (from 6:40) if you compare bass sound recorded via line inputs, UA Volt sounds the best for me. Is it at all accurate and reliable comparison? :

Also on this funny page are samples of same guitar melody recorded via different interfaces and I find UA Volt sounding the best again.

I know it;s subjective what sounds good for each person. It's just that I dont thik UA Volt is good interface but from how instruments sound on it, it seems to me the best. Now should this be the main factor as why to choose one over the other, I'am not sure at all and it brings confusion. What are your thoughts on this?
 

nagster

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I did exactly that with a TC IMpact Twin Firewire interface. Worked fine until Apple dropped all support for 32 bit software. Then it didn't work I believe because TC never updated to a 64 bit driver. Now RME keeps software supported so there is a good chance that would work if they have a 64 bit way to interface that. I just looked and they list a driver with support up until Monterey. MAC OS 12. I do believe it was Ventura that that would no longer do anything in 32 bit. So maybe there is more to it so that firewire isn't supported at Ventura and newer.

EDIT: I just checked some more, and Apple changed with Ventura or later so recognizing an audio interface via Firewire and adapters is not possible. Some people have written some work arounds, but it seems from reports it is iffy whether it works or not. Maybe contact RME to see if they know if the Fireface will work via Thunderbolt to Firewire adapters.
got it. I'm not familiar with Mac. thank you.
As you said, RME or the RME forums are the better place for compatibility questions.
 

nagster

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No, I have no thunderbolt port in my PC laptop so it will not work.
My old RME still works with my old very slow macbook pro so I have no driver issues, just super slow old macbook.

I'am tempted towards Motu M4, just afraid about drivers for Windows 10 AMD Ryzen processor, is it true that it's solved now and drivers work well?


That's something I will look at for sure.

Preamps is one thing, however in this video for ex. (from 6:40) if you compare bass sound recorded via line inputs, UA Volt sounds the best for me. Is it at all accurate and reliable comparison? :

Also on this funny page are samples of same guitar melody recorded via different interfaces and I find UA Volt sounding the best again.

I know it;s subjective what sounds good for each person. It's just that I dont thik UA Volt is good interface but from how instruments sound on it, it seems to me the best. Now should this be the main factor as why to choose one over the other, I'am not sure at all and it brings confusion. What are your thoughts on this?
got it.
If there are no ports such as 1394, Thunderbolt, USB4 or ExpressCard, it will be difficult to connect 1394 devices.
 

Blumlein 88

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got it. I'm not familiar with Mac. thank you.
As you said, RME or the RME forums are the better place for compatibility questions.
Okay, I too used my TC IMpact Twin on Windows via firewire. That laptop finally gave up the ghost.

In any case, you need a newer interface so fine.

I'd base it upon the features and look/feel of what you like best. I prefer a sloped panel with controls on top like the SSL or Audient. You may not, and I wouldn't rule one out if it is like the Motu form factor. I've looked at specs of those you list and see no big advantage one vs another. The Motu M4 is maybe slightly better on raw specs. Don't know how it works in terms of issues with the software. Probably fine. The Babyface looks to be everything you need, but is three or 4 times the cost.

You might consider the Focusrite Clarett 2pre. Better than Scarlett line. Has an optical input. Still that will run you $500, and I'd buy the Motu first as long as it was from somewhere I could return it if the software turns out to be a problem. Though I think that issue has been over-blown with Motu. I think in the below $300 range of interfaces they are all surprisingly good these days with no stand outs very much.

Using recordings over youtube to compare interfaces really is not a good methodology. Did you prefer the Volt with compressor and processing engaged? The guy's comments about different sound qualities are frankly just bunk. In electronics bias unconsciously works its way into all of our brains. Most likely if you heard a signal thru all of these you would not be able to identify any device if you weren't able to see which was which. Don't take it personally, happens to all of us.

So based on your comments the Audient has the connections you need. If you think the Volt sounds better, then go with the Volt. There just isn't much difference among these. Good news is there probably is no bad choice here.
 
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kosmatoo

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Thanks for advice.
Yes, i think in volt compressor helped with liking it.
You're right, each would be good, so probably i'll stick with motu M4 choice.

Babyface would be best but for now more bodget option wins.
Thanks.
 
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kosmatoo

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Hello,

Little update and one question. So I got Motu m4 and I'am in the process of comparing it with my RME FF400.

First thing that struck me before even test recordings is that I've noticed how my monitors play music via Motu and FF400. I've listened to same songs from YouTube via both interfaces and I have to say that RME FF400 sounds much more balanced and musical to my ears than Motu M4. Motu seems to sound bit "noisy". I mean by that that some frequencies (mids or highs) are bumped too much, some like low bass are poor and more flat in comparison with FF400. The difference is evident, not just slightly different. Also my girlfriend who is not used to FF400 sound confirms that m4 plays worse and RME much more enjoyable to listen. If it were new monitors I would suspect they may need some time to play to get it right, but I doubt it will change with interface. Now, that's a bit problematic because after first recording tests preamps seem to be at least as good as in RME FF400 or even better as I still need to record few more instruments to have a fuller picture.

Now if only monitor output sound will make me return it back that would be a pitty as M4 seems to be really nice apart from that monitor sound.

Do you have any suggestions on how to test it maybe or just a simple confirmation that it may sound totally different on monitors than FF400? I doubt M4 is faulty, it seems that this is the way it sounds. Thanks for any help here.
 
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Wakemeup

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got it.
If there are no ports such as 1394, Thunderbolt, USB4 or ExpressCard, it will be difficult to connect 1394 devices.
Hi there, saw your post and thought this thread on the RME user forum would help.
https://forum.rme-audio.de/viewtopic.php?pid=162238#p162238

I’m still using my FF800 on a current Gen MacBook Air using two adapters. Obviously I’m using a Mac and you’re asking for Windows, but perhaps there are other solutions posted on the site.
 

Matmah

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Hi there, saw your post and thought this thread on the RME user forum would help.
https://forum.rme-audio.de/viewtopic.php?pid=162238#p162238

I’m still using my FF800 on a current Gen MacBook Air using two adapters. Obviously I’m using a Mac and you’re asking for Windows, but perhaps there are other solutions posted on the site.

Couldn't you use an Audient ID24 and connect to the FF800 via ADAT? Would also give you some extra I/O if you needed it.
 
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kosmatoo

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I
Couldn't you use an Audient ID24 and connect to the FF800 via ADAT? Would also give you some extra I/O if you needed it.
Hi,
If this question was to me the answer is I was just considering using Audient to connect ff400 but decided just to buy new or used(rme) interface insead of such workarounds.
 

Matmah

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It was kind of an answer to Wakemeup and possibly you. I thought it was worth posting just in case it helps someone else who comes across this post.

I've got the UCX II, and I'm just about to buy the Audient just so I have a headphone amp in different location. I did actually look at the FF400 as a solution, but i decided to go with the Audient in the end as it is more desktop friendly.
 
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kosmatoo

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Couldn't you use an Audient ID24 and connect to the FF800 via ADAT? Would also give you some extra I/O if you needed it.
Few questions here - If I would buy and use Audient id22, connect it via usb to laptop and then via ADAT to FF400, would I still be able to use outputs from RME to monitor sound on my monitors? Can it be configuered like that? I don/t want to use audient outputs for monitoring sound.

If I use Rme inputs in such configuration, how would I set for ex. mic input gain on Rme inputs? Via audient software settings? Normally (on old mac with firewire) I do that in Fireface settings window. How would that work with Audient connected via ADAT?
 
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