Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Talk about your MIDI interfaces, microphones, keyboards...

Moderators: khz, MattKingUSA

Which budget USB interface would you buy?

Alesis IO2 / IO2 Express
3
20%
Lexicon Lambda
1
7%
Presonus Audiobox
1
7%
Steinberg UR22
0
No votes
Mackie Onyx Blackjack
1
7%
Presouns Audiobox 22VSL
1
7%
Edirol UA-25/UA-25EX
0
No votes
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
6
40%
Other (Please post which interface you'd buy)
2
13%
 
Total votes: 15

luispa
Established Member
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:33 am

Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by luispa »

Hi folks,

After years using Firewire interfaces (Yamaha GO 46, Alesis IO14 and Alesis IO26) I realized I need and USB interface for using it with my tablet and my laptop. I should buy a new laptop soon and there're not too many models with Firewire or ExpressCard slot so I guess Firewire is getting obsolete for laptops, I could be wrong but most of newer laptops only have USB ports. I'll keep my Firewire interface for using them with my desktop.

Since Most of times I use my laptop for recording 1 or 2 channels only I don't need more than that.

My new interface should...
- Allow to record at least 44.1/48K and 24bits. Two channels or more.
- I don't care about if the interface is USB 1.1 or USB 2.0.
- Work on Android devices (http://www.extreamsd.com/USBAudioRecorderPRO/)
- Have nice and neutral Preamps and Phantom Power because I use condenser mics.
- Have headphones output with power enough to let me use my Audio Technica ATH-50 headphones. I'm a saxophone player so the headphones output should be as powerful as possible to avoid the playback tracks sound weaker than my saxophone.
- Low noise floor and good SNR.
- Hardware monitoring (zero latency)
- As cheap as possible, best price/quality ratio.

These are the interface I'm considering:
- Alesis IO2 / IO2 Express (http://www.amazona.de/test-alesis-io2-express/2/). I'm more than happy with my Alesis IO26 and IO14, if this interface share the same preamps and converters it would be a great product but I can't find that information. This is one of the cheapest alternatives (around $50 used on eBay).
- Lexicon Lambda. I heard wonderful things about this interface but I can't find a serious review with Rightmark tests. As the IO2 this is one of the cheapest alternatives (around $50 used on eBay).
- Presonus Audiobox. Not heard good opinions about this interface, but I never used one nor found a serious and objective review. (around $50 used on eBay).
- Steinberg UR22 USB 2.0 (http://prosound.ixbt.com/hardsoft/steinberg-ur22.shtml / http://en.audiofanzine.com/usb-interfac ... eview.html). This interface works on Android devices and probably on Linux. (Around $80 used on eBay).
- Mackie Onyx Blackjack (http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/dec10/a ... ckjack.htm / http://www.musicradar.com/reviews/tech/ ... ck-289531/). Despite it weird aspect with that metal piece it seems to have a good reputation.(around $100 used on eBay)
- Presouns Audiobox 22VSL (http://voicecouncil.com/review-presonus-audiobox-22vsl/). It seems similar to old Audiobox but 96/24 capable due the use of USB 2.0. (around $100 used on eBay).
- Edirol UA-25/UA-25EX (http://www.k5.dion.ne.jp/~amelabo/equipment/UA25.html / http://av.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/20080728/44k.htm). Not stellar performance on Rightmark tests but very popular and reliable. (around $100 used on eBay).
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (http://www.practical-music-production.c ... t-2i2.html / h[url]ttp://html.midifan.com/review/2i2/%5BMME%5D%20Scarlett%202i2%20USB%202448.htm[/url]). Lot of good subjective reviews but Rightmark test leaves a lot to be desired. (around $100 used on eBay).

If I'd consider a not bus powered unit I'll surely get an EMU 0404 USB. I'd like to know your opinions about the listed interfaces, mostly if somebody had the chance to compare between them.

Thank you very much in advance,
Luis Pablo

luispa
Established Member
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:33 am

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by luispa »

I found additional information:
- Presonus Audiobox: http://www.presonus.com/products/AudioBox-USB/techspecs http://www.presonus.com/downloads/produ ... al_EN1.pdf - Specs on page 56.
- Lexicon Lambda: http://rdn.harmanpro.com/product_docume ... iginal.pdf - Specs on page 36.
- Alesis IO 2: http://alesis.com/stuff/contentmgr/file ... manual.pdf - Specs on page 14.

Based upon the information in the previous links I made this comparative chart:

Weight
Alesis IO 2: 1.5Lbs
Audiobox: 5Lbs(1)
Lambda: 1.9Lbs

Mic. Preamp Max. Gain
Alesis IO 2: N/A
Audiobox: 35dB
Lambda: 44dB

Headphones Max. Power
Alesis IO 2: N/A
Audiobox: 30mA/Ch(2) at 60 Ohms
Lambda: 20mA/Ch at 50 Ohms

Mic. Preamp SNR
Alesis IO 2: 95dB
Audiobox: 95dB
Lambda: N/A

THD+N
Alesis IO 2: 0.007%
Audiobox: 0.008%
Lambda: 0.005%

EIN
Alesis IO 2: N/A
Audiobox: -115dB
Lambda: -120dB

(1) I'm not sure about this, I got this info from the website.
(2) In the website says 60mA/Ch at 60 Ohms

Do you have the lacking information (N/A) or more information?

Thank you very much in advance,
Luis Pablo

emarsk
Established Member
Posts: 96
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:50 pm

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by emarsk »

You have very conflicting requirements:
- "as cheap as possible" vs. "low noise floor", "good SNR", "nice and neutral preamps"

For what is worth, I have an Alesis iO2 Express, a Lexicon Omega and a PreSonus AudioBox 1818VSL.
The Alesis is cheap and small and USB-powered, but it's quite noisy and the preamps are, well, cheap. Did I mention that it's cheap? Well, this pretty sums it up.
The Lexicon is bigger, not USB-powered, more expensive, the preamps are better. The potentiometers are still crap.
The PreSonus is the best one I have, but of course it's the most expensive, and it's not what you want.
Please, avoid some common spelling errors:
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

luispa
Established Member
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:33 am

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by luispa »

Thank you for your reply Emarsk!

I know you get what you pay. So, in your opinion the Alesis IO2 is worthless even at such low price. Maybe, the Presouns Audiobox at the similar price tag would offer a better performance. I heard very good reviews about the Steinberg UR22.

User avatar
English Guy
Established Member
Posts: 507
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:28 pm
Location: England

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by English Guy »

I have an alesis io2 express and have been very happy. The issue with noise on mine is only if the gain is cranked up past about 1 or 2 o'clock. This is a problem on quiet mikes but if you can provide a decent input level this is not an issue. Last time I plugged it into my android tablet it was not recognised, but that was a long time ago. The sampling is 48khz 24 bit and not changeable.

I have heard that build quality varies, but I have had one a couple of years with no problems. I did invest in a plastic container to store it as I did consider that damage to knobs/switches in storage was a risk.

luispa
Established Member
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:33 am

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by luispa »

Thank you for your post English Guy!

luispa
Established Member
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:33 am

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by luispa »

I found EMU Tracker Pre is also supported by Linux and fit my requirements so I should include in the list. I'll try to include it in the poll. Android support is almost there.

emarsk
Established Member
Posts: 96
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:50 pm

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by emarsk »

luispa wrote:So, in your opinion the Alesis IO2 is worthless even at such low price.
No, no, on the contrary, I'm quite happy with it: it's small and USB-powered, I keep it on my small desk and it's always ready to go.
But it IS a cheap device, don't expect too much from it. It may or may not be enough for you. It's enough for me, because when I'm doing "serious" recordings I use the PreSonus.

That said, my mouth gets a good amount of watering when I see this, but that's definitely expensive…
Please, avoid some common spelling errors:
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

luispa
Established Member
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:33 am

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by luispa »

emarsk wrote:No, no, on the contrary, I'm quite happy with it: it's small and USB-powered, I keep it on my small desk and it's always ready to go.
But it IS a cheap device, don't expect too much from it. It may or may not be enough for you. It's enough for me, because when I'm doing "serious" recordings I use the PreSonus.
Thank you again. Are you able to switch between 48khz and 44khz? English Guy posted he's unable to switch to 44khz.

User avatar
English Guy
Established Member
Posts: 507
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:28 pm
Location: England

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by English Guy »

Thank you again. Are you able to switch between 48khz and 44khz? English Guy posted he's unable to switch to 44khz.
There is no facility to switch to 44khz. As I understand it (& someone please correct me if I am wrong) you could run the software at 44khz but the computer will be converting as you go and that increases system load. It is best to run the software at the same as the interface.

Why (if you do not mind me asking) is 48khz an issue? Surely the better sound quality is a bonus.

emarsk
Established Member
Posts: 96
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:50 pm

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by emarsk »

luispa wrote:Are you able to switch between 48khz and 44khz? English Guy posted he's unable to switch to 44khz.
At last I remembered to check: yes, I can start jack either at 48kHz or 44.1kHz, both work. I'm on Linux kernel 3.18, if this is relevant.
Please, avoid some common spelling errors:
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

User avatar
English Guy
Established Member
Posts: 507
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:28 pm
Location: England

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by English Guy »

emarsk wrote:
luispa wrote:Are you able to switch between 48khz and 44khz? English Guy posted he's unable to switch to 44khz.
At last I remembered to check: yes, I can start jack either at 48kHz or 44.1kHz, both work. I'm on Linux kernel 3.18, if this is relevant.
If can clarify, you are unable to switch sample rate on the device itself. Yes you can set jack to a different sample rate, for drawbacks see my above.

luispa
Established Member
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:33 am

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by luispa »

Thank you again for your replies. What about the Avid Fast Track Duo? And what about the Steinberg CI1? I saw good comments about thess interfaces. Is there anybody using them on Linux?

glowrak guy
Established Member
Posts: 1559
Joined: Sat Jun 21, 2014 8:37 pm

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by glowrak guy »

Native Instruments usb device gets a lot of favorable comments on audio and build quality:

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audi ... 1870555867

Includes a few plugin lite versions that will work with wine, and a $30 voucher to use on some other plugin purchase,
Razor and Prism are fine choices, and work in wine through Reaktor Player.
Cheers

1984
Established Member
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Apr 16, 2014 4:30 pm

Re: Advice on buying an USB audio interface

Post by 1984 »

I tested
  • * presonus audiobox
    * steinberg ur22
    * focusrite saffire 6 usb
with the following results.

The ur22 didn't work out of the box and would have required to patch the kernel. Maybe the patch is now applied to the regular kernel, though. Because I wanted the audio interface to work out of the box I didn't test this further but read a lot of good reviews about it. So I had to decide between the audiobox and the saffire 6. The saffire 6 has more features but the instrument input of the audiobox had a much better sound in my (not very experienced) opinion, so I decided for the audiobox and am happy with that decision. Though, one downside is that the mixer doesn't completely mute playback/input when the knob is completely turned to the other side.

Hope that helps.

Post Reply