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Small laptop interface?

Discussion in 'Backline' started by ballstix, Apr 14, 2013.

  1. ballstix

    ballstix Member

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    Hey all,

    Sorry to make yet another interface topic, but I'm having trouble finding a really solid option for something to temporarily replace my desktop setup. I'll be abroad for at least a year with just a laptop, and here's what I'm looking for:

    -USB connection
    -1 really good instrument input that can support my 7-string Painkiller without clipping (cross referencing the Saffire spec it seems like it can output ~16.4 dBu)
    -1 half decent preamp for a microphone
    -Runs on Windows
    -Low latency for amp sim recording

    That's really all I need. The issue I'm having is that it seems like component quality scales with size, and that there aren't a whole lot of miniature interfaces with good converters. I know the Babyface is supposed to be good, but I'm concerned it might not have enough headroom for my guitar DI?

    Currently looking at:

    -RME Babyface
    -MOTU Track16
    -Roland Quad Capture

    any other ideas?
     
  2. MatrixClaw

    MatrixClaw Member

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    Focusrite Forte.
     
  3. ballstix

    ballstix Member

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    I was looking at the Forte, but its max input level on the Hi-Z input is +10dBu, which, if it's rated in the same way that the Saffires are measured, isn't enough for my guitar :(.
     
  4. MatrixClaw

    MatrixClaw Member

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    Something's wrong with your guitar then.

    I have a guitar with a set of Nailbombs and another with a set of Painkillers and I barely had to turn the gain halfway up to get optimal signal through my Saffire Pro 40. The Painkillers are very high output pickups, can't image ANY interface not having enough gain for them...
     
  5. ballstix

    ballstix Member

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    Oh, no, I'm saying it doesn't have enough headroom. I'll clip the input with the input level at its lowest setting.
     
  6. MatrixClaw

    MatrixClaw Member

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    Huh? That's odd... :zombie: Again, something must be wrong with your guitar, then.

    I haven't personally tried the Forte, so I can't really speak for its Hi-Z inputs, but the Pro 40 will not clip with Painkillers if your guitar is wired correctly. The only instrument I've ever had that clipped the inputs of my Pro 40 was an Ibanez bass that turned out having electronics issues. I did have issues with a guitar loaded with EMGs clipping, but it turned out the pickups were just way too high.
     
  7. ballstix

    ballstix Member

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    What settings do you use with your Pro 40? I have one as well, and with my guitar I enable both the Instrument and Pad and set the gain around 3 or 4, which works pretty well. Without the pad, though, it clips on hard transients with the gain at 0 on instrument mode.
     
  8. MatrixClaw

    MatrixClaw Member

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    I don't have the Pro 40 anymore (using an SSL Alpha Link AX w/ Audient ASP008 and Focusrite ISA 428 now), but I never had to use the pad switch for any guitar plugged into the Instrument Input, unless their was an issue with the electronics, or the pickups were too high. I'd be running it with the Instrument switch in, and gain around 5-6 for my Nailbomb and Painkiller loaded guitars, same for pretty much everything else I've put in it, except for basses, which can be a little higher output, due to their active electronics.
     
  9. ballstix

    ballstix Member

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    Strange, I've tried multiple guitars and basses and cables and they pretty much all need the pad engaged or else it'll clip...that said I could always use a real tube screamer without true bypass or something as a "pad," because I do like the Forte otherwise.
     
  10. Old Man Doom

    Old Man Doom Member

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    Presonus VSL22
    http://www.presonus.com/products/AudioBox-22VSL/techspecs

    I use this as my main interface and I really love it. The XMAX instrument input is +15 dBu and has a gain range of -30 to +50 dBs.
    I got rid of my first focusrite because I was having similar problems (instrument clipping even with the gain at 0) and I replaced it with the presonus.
     
  11. ballstix

    ballstix Member

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    That seems like a solid low cost option. How does it actually sound, though (pres, converters)?

    Also, just noticed the Echo 2. Anyone have experience with that?
     
  12. Spectivum

    Spectivum DisMember

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    Another low cost option is E-MU 0404USB
     
  13. ballstix

    ballstix Member

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    After looking some more, the Forte pretty much seems like my top choice (quality/price point) as long as it has enough headroom for a DI. I tried to contact Focusrite about the pad switch, but haven't had a reply--does anyone know if the -10db pad can in fact be used when the input is set to instrument mode? It's really unclear on their spec sheet.
     
  14. Danihell

    Danihell Member

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    Focusrite has already contact you? i need to know if the pad is enough to guitars...
     
  15. ballstix

    ballstix Member

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    I ended up calling and the rep said that the pad will add an extra 10dB of headroom to the instrument input, totaling a max input level of about +20dBu, so we should be good to go. I'm gonna buy one pretty soon and see for sure, though; it seemed like there might still have been a little uncertainty.
     
  16. Danihell

    Danihell Member

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    thanks,

    Oh it seems i have a hard choice now, apogee duet 2 vs focusrite forte ???

    I read somewhere that focusrite as low power on phone outs...dunno
     
  17. ballstix

    ballstix Member

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    Well, I bought the Forte since I got confirmation that the pad would give me 10 more dB of headroom both via Focusrite support over email and on the phone, BUT the pad doesn't actually do anything at all unless it's set to use the microphone input. The unit sounds good, but needless to say I'm pissed because my guitar is basically unusable with it if I'm using the 7th string. Hoping Focusrite will either change this with a software update (probably impossible) or pay for my refund shipping.
     
  18. Danihell

    Danihell Member

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    yeah that sucks dude, but try add a simple pad...
    actually i ended buying the apogee and not a single problem till now.

    what i like in the forte is the daw controller, but i can live without that in my mobile rig
     
  19. ballstix

    ballstix Member

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    Yeah...I just wish that they'd actually know about their products rather than incorrectly advising their customers. It seems like the best thing is to just do all guitar processing externally and use a D.I. box to capture a high quality signal, but the fewer things I have to carry around while traveling, the better. Not really sure what I'm gonna do.
     
  20. Pickasso

    Pickasso Member

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    Try:

    *1/4" to Xlr cable, so you can use the breakout mic input as a test.

    * Drastically lowering the guitar pickup height. Basically as low as it can possibly go....
    I have a Focusrite Saffire pro 14, and a guitar with a Duncan Invader. Unusable due to clipping until I lowered the pickup height. It looks Ridiculous, but sounds great. The Saffire has 2 modes selectable via the software driver: instrument or line input. Instrument sounds vastly better, but would clip badly at zero gain setting. Lowered the Invader pickup, good to go.
     

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