Interfaces More of a "Here's what we sell than Best Of..." Interface Lineup from Sweetwater

PapaRaptor

Dental Floss Tycoon
Staff member
Sweetwater has put together a relatively quick comparison of audio interfaces. While it's just a paragraph or two about each product, it does give you some shopping ideas for interfaces at or below strategic price points. Under $200, < $500 and <$1000. No overall recommendations, just a listing of what each one does and the respective price points.

Considering the number of interfaces available in all price points, perhaps being included in their list is a recommendation on its own.

 

Jack

Blues Junior
I've been thinking one of those might be a nice Christmas present for myself. I've got an M-Audio 192-14 which has plenty of inputs, but on the mic's I have to turn the gain up to 9.5 to hear anything. (All 5 of my mic's and various cables behave the same, so I don't think they all suddenly developed the exact same problem simultaneously). I called customer service and apparently out of all the tens-of-thousands of units they've sold, I am the only one in the entire world ever to experience this particular problem :unsure:

There's a lot of interesting options on that list I hadn't thought of before. Thanks!
 

Elwood

Blues
I'm always surprised that the PreSonus Studio 68C is not on a list. Usually the lists include one or two PreSonus interfaces on either side of the 68c price point of 300 dolla. The 68c is a very nice interface with an I/O layout that is very desk friendly, and it runs on it's own built in power supply, no load on any USB and it has a power on/off switch! With stepladder led front panel metering for gravy. Works for me, it is one or two on my list, the little Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 is nice too, more portable for iPad use, sounds great, yada yada. I like 'em both and they work together so well in an aggregate setup.
I think if I were to step up it would be to a Focusrite Claret
but on the mic's I have to turn the gain up to 9.5 to hear anything.
Have you considered using a "Cloudlifter"? I am curious to find someone with first hand experience with one. Seems like a good idea, except for when it doesn't. :unsure:

I believe that if I got another interface (not happening, the ones I have sound better than I do) it would be some kind of Focusrite Clarett. @Many Moons uses some kind of Clarett and it sounds great to me! :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:
 

CaptainMoto

Blues Voyager
I'm always surprised that the PreSonus Studio 68C is not on a list. Usually the lists include one or two PreSonus interfaces on either side of the 68c price point of 300 dolla. The 68c is a very nice interface with an I/O layout that is very desk friendly, and it runs on it's own built in power supply, no load on any USB and it has a power on/off switch! With stepladder led front panel metering for gravy. Works for me, it is one or two on my list, the little Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 is nice too, more portable for iPad use, sounds great, yada yada. I like 'em both and they work together so well in an aggregate setup.
I think if I were to step up it would be to a Focusrite Claret

Have you considered using a "Cloudlifter"? I am curious to find someone with first hand experience with one. Seems like a good idea, except for when it doesn't. :unsure:

I believe that if I got another interface (not happening, the ones I have sound better than I do) it would be some kind of Focusrite Clarett. @Many Moons uses some kind of Clarett and it sounds great to me! :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:
I have a cloud lifter.
Used it for years on my sm7b
Sounded good worked great!
It's not in use at the moment.
Keep in mind........the cloudlifter uses 48v phantom, power to boost the signal so, you need to make sure the interface has phantom power on the channel you intend to use.


I'm now using a RME Fireface UFXii with 75db of gain on the mic pres.
Stepped up from a Focusrite Clarett (which was very good)
Some interfaces fall short of that requirment and come in around 50 - 60 db of gain.
The Cloud Lifter provides an additional 25 db, so it's a great tool if your interface is lacking gain.
Aside form the gain on my interface, I also use an external Pacifica preamp for my main vocal mics and guitar DI.
That unit has two preamps with 72 db of gain.


Even the SM57 & SM 58 need a fair about of gain from the preamp.
I think they need around 50 - 60 db, so if your interface only has 50- 60 db of gain , you're really pushing it to get what you need and very likely introducing more noise in the process.

When asked for my opinion on interfaces, I always recomend checking the preamp gain specs, but many people think they can get by with low gain........until they figure out that need more and they are dissapointed.
Do your home work when shopping, more gain is usually a good thing.

The cloudlifter is one of a few such in-line gain boosters that can save the day with low powered preamps.
 
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dvs

Green Mountain Blues
@Jack, what kind of mics are you using? I've been tempted at times to try a preamp like the Cloudlifter Elwood mentioned with my dynamic mics (SM58s) but haven't quite needed it. I do have the gain turned up quite high for those mics, though. The mic gain on my mixer/interface goes from +12 to +55 dB and I'm right up near the top (if the scale was 1-10, I'd be at about 9.5+). For my condenser mics, those seem to work fine at about 75% of the full range, or thereabout. There are also a few channels where the gain can go up to +65 dB, which might be necessary with a SM7B but I don't have one of those and +55 has been sufficient for the SM58s.

Don't know much about your setup, so this might be way off the mark... When you say "to hear anything" are you talking about the recording levels in the DAW, or monitoring your playing while recording (or both)? The recording level doesn't need to be very high, in fact it's usually better if there's a good amount of headroom. For monitoring, turning up the speakers or the output volume (headphones or mains) might be all that's needed.

Recording guitars into the DAW I have no trouble getting an input signal that's large enough - I have to pay attention to make sure I don't get clipping. With vocals, the recorded signal is way down from there - I usually have to boost it by a lot to bring it up where it "should" be (avg -18dB, peaks -6db). Also, when recording vocals I always monitor direct, not through the DAW.
 

BraylonJennings

It's all blues
I've only used a Scarlett and now an Audient id14. I was using outboard preamps with my sm57s and sm58s when I used the Scarlett. The Audient has 58db of gain and I now go direct with either mic or my condensors without any issue, aiming for the same levels as @dvs. My guitar amps have direct outs with more than enough power to drive the Audient while the hi-z input works for direct bass recording using less than half of the available gain. I've considered a Cloudlifter, or something comparable, only because I'd like to try out an sm7, and I think it would improve my acoustic tone at open mics when I'm going direct into the board. Recording acoustics is usually done with a Rode NT1a or an AKG C3000.
 

MarkDyson

Blues Hound Wannabe
Interesting stuff. I have a 2nd gen Scarlett 2i4 that mostly gathers dust. I'm planning to change that. My mic is an SM58, I'm wondering whether the Scarlett has enough gain built into its preamp or whether it would be wise to add some kind of boost.
 

Jack

Blues Junior
Thanks for the info guys! I never knew about db of gain on these things. The M-Audio does only have +62db, so I guess that explains it.

DVS, I've got an SM57, a pair of Rode M5 small diaphragm condensers and a pair of some other brand of medium diaphragm condensers. When I say "to hear anything" I mean both the input level in the DAW as well as what I hear over the headphones, plugged directly into the interface.

I've never heard of the Cloudlifter before, but I see they're about $250 for the 2-channel version. I think I may as well just upgrade my interface. I'll have a nice present to look forward to under the Christmas tree lol.
 

CaptainMoto

Blues Voyager
Interesting stuff. I have a 2nd gen Scarlett 2i4 that mostly gathers dust. I'm planning to change that. My mic is an SM58, I'm wondering whether the Scarlett has enough gain built into its preamp or whether it would be wise to add some kind of boost.
I believe the 2nd gen Scarlett 2i4 has 69 db of gain.
That should be fine for most mics.

For those pondering a CloudLifter, as I said, I've been very happy with mine, however there are lower cost units available
 

CaptainMoto

Blues Voyager
Given this discussion has opened up a potential wave of interface G.A.S.


I'll offer up a few more of my thoughts on that:
It's better to aim high than low
By that I mean, get the right amount of gain but also the right number of inputs/outputs
Even if you're only recording a guitar, I suggest always get at least two input channels.
That will give you flexibility to add a pair of stereo mics and more.
For those who sing and play, two inputs will give you the ability to record two sources simultaneously.

Be sure that the unit has the capability to handle all three input types; Line Level, Mic Level & Instrument Level.
That will give you the maximum flexibility to record any source.
Any piece of equipment that has a volume control on it is probably a line level signal.
You do not need a preamp on the interface for those inputs, just a line in.
Mic and instrument inputs do need a preamp.
Some units have combo input jacks to accomidate all three input types while others have seperate inputs for different signal types.

Most people only need two outputs, but if you get deeper into recording/mixing there comes a point where you might need more Ins/Outs.
 
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BraylonJennings

It's all blues
I'm really surprised to hear how many are having gain issues with a common mic like the SM57/58.
What is your target for gain staging when recording?
I like Doug's suggested -18db average, with peaks below -6db. My Audient interface is listed as having 58db of gain. I've never had an issue with sm57s or 58s straight into the interface for vocals. I never need the gain knob over 50% to achieve adequate levels.
 

dvs

Green Mountain Blues
Thanks for the info guys! I never knew about db of gain on these things. The M-Audio does only have +62db, so I guess that explains it.

DVS, I've got an SM57, a pair of Rode M5 small diaphragm condensers and a pair of some other brand of medium diaphragm condensers. When I say "to hear anything" I mean both the input level in the DAW as well as what I hear over the headphones, plugged directly into the interface.

I've never heard of the Cloudlifter before, but I see they're about $250 for the 2-channel version. I think I may as well just upgrade my interface. I'll have a nice present to look forward to under the Christmas tree lol.
I am surprised you don't get a high enough level even with the condenser mics. They should not need an additional preamp to bring up the level. Also note that the cloudlifter runs on phantom power but does not pass it through, so it won't work with your condenser mics, anyway.

+62 dB of gain on the mic pre input channel should be enough for most any dynamic microphone, even a SM7B. Maybe there's something else going on inside the sound settings or USB driver? IDK.

I use a Presonus StudioLive AR12c as my interface. My wife has a Presonus Studio 1810c in her studio. We're happy with both of these, though I have to say there was a lot we had to learn about each of them before we were really using them "well." But I think that will be true of any of these more fully-featured devices.
 
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PapaRaptor

Dental Floss Tycoon
Staff member
Given this discussion has opened up a potential wave of interface G.A.S.


I'll offer up a few more of my thoughts on that:
It's better to aim high than low
By that I mean, get the right amount of gain but also the right number of inputs/outputs
Even if you're only recording a guitar, I suggest always get at least two input channels.
That will give you flexibility to add a pair of stereo mics and more.
For those who sing and play, two inputs will give you the ability to record two sources simultaneously.

Be sure that the unit has the capability to handle all three input types; Line Level, Mic Level & Instrument Level.
That will give you the maximum flexibility to record any source.
Any piece of equipment that has a volume control on it is probably a line level signal.
You do not need a preamp on the interface for those inputs.
Mic and instrument inputs do need a preamp.
Some units have combo input jacks to accomidate all three input types while others have seperate inputs for different signal types.

Most people only need two outputs, but if you get deeper into recording/mixing there comes a point where you might need more Ins/Outs.
I agree 100%.
Only want to add to this (which you already know, CM):

If an interface is specified to have mic/instrument inputs, the preamp should be built-in to the interface. If it has enough poop to bring those low level inputs up to your requirements is another matter. For recording, you really don't need your peak input levels to exceed -6db on a standardized VU scale. If you're trying to get your inputs to 0db, you are far in excess of what you need and want for an input when recording a digital signal.

@BraylonJennings mentioned the accepted "sweet spot" for digital recordings of -18 to -12db average with peaks to -6db. Most DAW plug-ins are designed to work with individual inputs at that range. If you use any VST plug-ins to process your recording, like harmonizers for vocals or amp/cabinet/stompbox sims for guitar or reverb/delay, those are all designed to work best at average levels between -18 and -12db. If you push your base inputs much higher than that, you will usually experience unwanted and unpleasant results from the plug-ins. There is a lot more to the reasoning for using these levels, but this is probably the biggest reason to stay within those parameters.
 

Elwood

Blues
Since I am getting a used Cloudlifter for just under 90 dollar I am not running much of a risk. I'll try it and see.

I probably don't need it but my Sennheiser 845 needs about 2 o clock on the interface gain (and it is hotter than my Shure PE 50 SP). The PreSonus seems to have about 80 db of gain, the Focusrite shows about 69db. I don't see much difference between the two as far as input settings. I'll just give it a try eh?

One thing that is a little off putting is that MF has lots of used ones....hm....

If anyone is looking for a good deal on a good interface check this out! $250 is a great price!


I'll post back in a week or so with my latest snake oil report. :)

Oh yeah, my AKG P-420 does not need any boost, that's for sure! It just picks up and amplifies any sound within a 2 mile radius. Sounds great though!!!
 

Many Moons

Biking+Blues=Bliss
One thing that is a little off putting is that MF has lots of used ones....hm....
I wouldn't worry about it. It's probably because most recent interfaces do away with the need to use one. Having said that, your recordings are always great, especially your acoustic guitars, so I'm a bit bemused as to why you feel you need one.:unsure: I just roughly glanced over this thread, so if you've already answered that earlier, just ignore me.:rolleyes: (That's what the wife does)
 

Jack

Blues Junior
I am surprised you don't get a high enough level even with the condenser mics. They should not need an additional preamp to bring up the level. Also note that the cloudlifter runs on phantom power but does not pass it through, so it won't work with your condenser mics, anyway.

+62 dB of gain on the mic pre input channel should be enough for most any dynamic microphone, even a SM7B. Maybe there's something else going on inside the sound settings or USB driver? IDK.

I use a Presonus StudioLive AR12c as my interface. My wife has a Presonus Studio 1810c in her studio. We're happy with both of these, though I have to say there was a lot we had to learn about each of them before we were really using them "well." But I think that will be true of any of these more fully-featured devices.
Yeah there may be something wrong with the M-Audio unit, I've had a couple of Scarlet interfaces before and never had this problem. It's a bit of a pain to get the input level set correctly when you're only dealing with the knob moving between 9 and 10 - move it one-third of a millimeter and you've changed it quite a bit.
 
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