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Soundcraft Notepad 5 Audio Interface Review

Rate this interface

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 75 64.7%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 31 26.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 9 7.8%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 1 0.9%

  • Total voters
    116

amirm

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This is a review of the Soundcraft Notepad 5 audio interface (ADC, DAC, Mixer, Mic input). It was kindly sent to me by a member and costs US $131 on Amazon.
Soundcraft notepad 5 audio interface Review.jpg


I really like the form factor and packaging of the unit. Controls feel good and functionality seems great for such a low price.

For DAC testing, I used the Master/Monitor XLR outputs. For ADC, I used the Line In 1/4 jack.

I first started using the Notepad 5 with Windows 10 Class Drivers. While everything worked, clock stability was extremely poor, making the operation useless. So I then downloaded the latest driver and control panel. That got rid of 95% of instability but occasionally, it would lose lock just the same resulting in horrendous distortion/jitter. I had to power cycle the unit to get it stable again.

Note: it seems Soundcraft is owned by Harman. Our company Madrona Digital buys fair bit of product from various Harman groups so keep that in mind as you read my subjective remarks.

Soundcraft Notepad 5 DAC Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard where I adjusted the channel gain/master volume control for nominal 4 volts output:

Soundcraft notepad 5 audio interface DAC Measurements.png


As you see, there is severe channel output mismatch as far as levels. I played with every knob and could not find a way to modify channel balance. The manual seemed useless as it is for the entire range of products where some of them have balance control which this one lacks. That aside, distortion is quite high and simply not competitive with even consumer DACs let alone professional ones. We are down to some 14 bits of distortion-free range.

Noise performance is nothing to write home about either:
Soundcraft notepad 5 audio interface DAC DNR Measurements.png


Which you also see reflected in IMD distortion test:
Soundcraft notepad 5 audio interface DAC IMD Distortion Measurements.png


At this point I decided to end the suffering and move on to the ADC portion.

Soundcraft Notepad 5 ADC Measurements
This subsystem seems better designed than the DAC:
Soundcraft notepad 5 audio interface ADC Measurements.png


We are still shy of 16 bit fidelity and as such, rank pretty low in our stack sort of SINAD:

Best audio interface review 2023.png


I swept the input level to see if we are saturating the input and thankfully we are not:
Soundcraft notepad 5 audio interface ADC THD vs Level Measurements.png


The highest sample rate supported is 48 kHz so I used that to get the widest bandwidth:

Soundcraft notepad 5 audio interface ADC Frequency Response Measurements.png


As you see, even then we don't have flat response to 20 kHz.

Finally, dynamic range is decent but should be better:
Soundcraft notepad 5 audio interface ADC DNR Measurements.png


Conclusions
Soundcraft nails the functionality and feel of the device. Alas, the ball is completely dropped with respect to DAC performance. The ADC is better but still nothing to write home about. No wonder the company specifications has no performance metrics. I guess if you only use the Notepad 5 for input, it is passable in that regard. Just use a different DAC as you would be misled by the channel balance. What to do about the clock synchronization lock, I don't know.....

I can't recommend the Soundcraft Notepad 5. Stop buying $5 cups of coffee for a while and save that money to get something better!

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

xaxxon

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Do we have a review for a good product similar to this?
 

SoundsGood2Me

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Thanks Amirm!

But it's $100

Pretty decent for something w/physical controls

Volume knobs and their assembly don't come cheap.

Appreciate all your measurements tho!!!

You've Turned Me On several times now
 

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unpluggged

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It's primarily an analog mixer with a USB interface (often included only for on-the-go convenience at this price level), so it would be much more important and interesting to have its analog performance measured.
 

Doodski

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Thanks Amirm!

But it's $100

Pretty decent for something w/physical controls

Volume knobs and their assembly don't come cheap.

Appreciate all your measurements tho!!!

You've Turned Me On several times now
Tubular dooD! Lol... :D
 

Hipster Doofus

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Thanks for the review…..

boy …but you can’t help hoping that this pretty machine would work…no wonder we are such easy marks..
28DF9CD6-3D61-4F2D-84B8-9C361CB2F70C.jpeg
 

Tom C

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So, maybe OK for an aspiring singer/guitar in a live venue, with a little digital music played during the break. With the occasional “here’s my performance last weekend at SugarShakers” upload to FB page.
 

respice finem

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At this price, it looks too cheap to be true when you look at it. And indeed...
 

dshreter

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Heresy, I know, but are any of the flaws audible in a live venue or if the output were loaded to, say, YouTube?
The channel imbalance seems dramatic, everything panned right would be noticeable I would think.
 

Rja4000

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Thanks Amir for this review.

For this kind of device, ADC is more important than DAC.

Also, mic input is probably (noticiably) better than line input, even at line level.
They state an EIN A of 127dBu A at 150 ohm in the manual, which is not too bad.
You should see a better SNR.

I try to standardize somehow interface mic input testing to a similar gain / level.
I set the gain to have max 100mV before saturation or at 0dBFS, note and publish the gain marking, then measure SNR at -10dBFS and SINAD at -0 5dBFS.
This gain level, at least, gives a realistic use case for a dynamic microphone use.
Noting the gain marking allows proper comparison of interfaces with various (and often not published) ADC Max Voltage.

Also, checking SNR (A) with a 150 ohm load for a few gains around this refetence gain helps getting an idea how the dynamic range evolved with gain.

If you have a chance...

4914967.jpeg
 

noel_fs

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and thats probably amazon's recommended, nowdays amazon isnt much different that aliexpress

their search engines just try to get you to buy the cheapest low quality products with the highest profit margins
 
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