Audio interface upgrade recommandations


I currently use a Roland Octa-Capture which I want to relocate for another project. I need to replace it, and would like to get one that is more suited to my needs. I record mainly vocals and acoustic instruments, and almost always overdub, which means I could go with only 2 inputs most of the time. However, having had the comfort of 8 inputs for so long, I’d like to have at least 4 just in case. I want to be able to record a piano with stereo close miking + stereo room, for instance.

I use a PC with Windows 10. I’d like to have an interface that is at least as good as the Roland in terms of reliability and ease-of-use, but I’d love to have better A/D converters. I have a Focusrite ISA Two preamp so the preamps wouldn’t be my primary concern. I currently have a 7.6ms round-trip latency with 64 samples so I’d like to have no more than that.

Max budget is 900 € / USD 1100. In this price range I have spotted one device that would seem to be a significant upgrade, it is the Presonus Studio 192. There is also the RME Fireface UC but it has only 2 preamps, and is USB2 (vs USB3 for the Presonus). Because I use a desktop computer I could also use a PCIe AI but I am not familiar with this format and unsure about the benefits or even the availability in my price range. Is the Presonus Studio 192 a good choices? Are there any others?

Side question: most interfaces don’t have MIDI I/O anymore. Can I use a MIDI/USB interface (like the M-Audio MIDISport 2X2 AE USB for instance) in conjunction with the AI?

Side question 2: with an interface that has 4 inputs but only 2 mic preamps, can I connect my Focusrite preamp to a line input and record 4 mics simultaneously?

Any help appreciated.

Man, I just got an octa capture and I think it’s amazing! I don’t know what interface would be an upgrade, but as far as your two side questions, yes you should be able to use the m audio midisport with the interface, and you should also be able to hook the preamps up to the line inputs and record 4 mics at a time.

Hey, for your need I think a Scarlett 6i6 (v1 or v2) would do the job (Clarett 4pre USB?)

I also used some M-Audio stuff but driver updates aren’t available very early.
I didn’t had great experience with old Presonus stuff.
MOTU Ultralite family (> mk3) looks also cool!

Or RME Fireface UC, UA Apollo Twin USB, MOTU Track 16 / Audio Express / 4pre, Audient iD44, Steinberg UR-RT4…

Yes the Octa-Capture is good, I haven’t found anything wrong with this interface besides the main volume knob being too small and not looking very sturdy (mine actually starts to produce interference signals when I rotate it, it’s 4 years old). Actually I was even thinking of buying another one, but it was released almost 8 years ago so I’m pretty sure I can find a significant improvement without having to spend a lot more.

Thanks @ncls I’ll look into these models. My first idea was to take advantage of USB3 but there are very few devices with this feature so I’d probably rather look into USB.

There are a bunch of good options. I have used everything from the best to the worst. I am really liking my Motu system. I use 88 channels of conversion. A mix of Motu, RME, and apogee. The Motu holds up just fine.

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Oops, I forgot to check Win10 compatibility…
By the way, whatever device you’ll buy, they sound pretty close: you only get more dynamic (from 100 dB to 120 dB, way more than needed), less noise (from -93 dB to -115 dB, nearly inaudible) and more gain range (from 35 dB to 65 dB, the only real difference).

I’m guessing about “taking advantage of USB3”, I don’t really understand what you mean :confused:

Just thinking that the greater connection speed with USB 3 (rather than USB 2) would help with smooth operation and low latency, but I might be wrong?..

Yes I run Windows 10 and only have USB connections. It might be possible to use an adapter for Thunderbolt (I’d have to check my motherboard specs) but I’m not to keen on using adapters in general.

I have read a huge number of reviews and my mind is set on the Presonus right now, but I’ll sleep on it before placing an order.

Dunno if you’re wrong but Motu offers 18 I/O channels (+MIDI I/O) via USB2 thru its old 828 mk2 USB and I never saw people complaining about latency or performance…
The same for RME Digiface USB (32x32 channels via Adat).

Well, we’ll see tomorrow :blush:

Yes. They’re assigned and configured in two different places both in the operating system and in the DAW.

Basically, MIDI over USB drivers are at the point where the use doesn’t need to be concerned anymore about the interface/midi/USB relationship. If it’ll plug into your computer, your operating system should see it. If your operating system sees it, so will your DAW.

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I recently got an SPL crimson. My aim was to consolidate and be more minimal - I had a bizzaro setup with a naff mixer and a couple of external preamps going into a 16 I/O AD/DA. Like you I mainly record acoustic instruments and vocals and not really more than 2-3 mics at a time.

Really happy with the SPL. It combines a number of high quality inputs and a monitor controller section (plus some headphone monitoring and talkback controls) into one desktop unit.

It will certainly be an upgrade on your Roland in terms of quality in all aspects, perhaps with the exception of latency - you will need to look into that. Its not a problem for me since you can easily monitor the input signal and ‘blend’ it with the DAW signal - SPL spin it as ‘zero latency monitoring’…
It has 2 mic inputs, 2 instrument inputs and up to 4 line inputs (the line inputs override the mic and instrument inputs depending on how you plug it in though…e.g you could have 2 mic inputs and 2 line inputs, sacrificing the instrument inputs (IIRC), so it would pair well with your ISA 2 to give 4 mic inputs).

Also has MIDI and digital I/O to up the channel count.

The quality on it is superb and the preamps are very quiet - good for acoustic instruments. The monitoring section (you can switch between multiple sources and 2 stereo outputs) has been judged just right for a small studio/home setup IMO.

Anyway, think carefully about what features you need as only you can answer that…
If you do look at the crimson, make sure you go for the latest version (SPL Crimson 3) as it has a number of useful additions and improvements

I didn’t know that SPL made digital devices, as they are well known for their analog gear. This Crimson 3 looks great feature-wise, it does seem to be a simple and convenient device. However, this box layout format isn’t convenient for me as space is at premium on my desk, and I can’t afford to place anything else than a rackable unit.

I am happy with my Presonus Firestudio Project… has been working reliably for years…
USB 3 should be working well…

Update: After even more in-depth reading about the Presonus Studio 192 it appears that the poor latency values haven’t been solved with driver updates as I first thought, and most likely will never be. It is a no-go for me.

I am leaning toward the Clarett 8Pre USB instead, even though it lacks some of the features I loved on the Presonus.

Latency is the same in USB 2 and USB 3. While more data can be transferred, the round trip time for a signal is the same.

Looks like the Presonus 192 has built-in EQ and dynamics processing on each channel and would allow to add effects to the zero latency monitoring loop.

It does, but there is no way around the internal DSP, which adds an additional 2ms and overall, the best RTL you can get is barely under 10ms… Not acceptable, especially when you use VSTs or amp simulations.

This thread makes me miss the old audio interface wizard back at RR… that thing was useful (while it was up to date).

Question: does anyone make PCIe interfaces anymore? Seems like everything out there is USB nowadays. I love my Creative E-MU 1616m, which is a card in a mobo slot plus a desktop breakout-box with all the inputs and knobs on it (only 2 inputs, plenty for my one-man operation). I routinely get 4 ms or less of latency while tracking, which is the only time low latency matters to me. When processing I jack it up to 50 ms so that I can have all my processors and plugs running with no issues. I know that someday my interface will fail, and I’d like to know if there are any options to replace it with something similar when that time comes (this unit has long since been discontinued).

In any case, will be very interested to hear how things go for you @Lophophora, in the event that USB becomes my only option in future…

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Yes RME still makes PCIe interfaces, and a few others. It is still the easiest way to get true low latency I believe. But everyone is definitely shifting towards USB.

I just ordered a Clarett 8Pre, seems to be a safe choice and I wasn’t prepared to take any chances, considering that the setting I currently have works just fine. In France we say “the best is the enemy of the good”, which could be roughly translated by “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it”.


Yes, some manufacturers make PCIE interfaces, most of them are high channel count and do not have A/D capabilities.

I’m wondering why more companies haven’t started to use ethernet as the protocol. Yes, it requires a custom high efficiency protocol, but very high channel count interfaces are available that use Dante Net and have been adopted by several companies.

With USB so?
Early products come only with Thunderbolt (I don’t know which one…)

Not sure what you meant here… In my case USB is the only available option so that was a no-brainer.