Interface vs digital mixer for recording/mixing

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losangeles
KVRist
Topic Starter
87 posts since 5 Nov, 2022

Post Tue Dec 06, 2022 8:08 pm

Im hoping someone with more of an in-depth understanding of the differences and possibilities of each can expand on this:

Suppose I’m interested in a hybrid setup (DAW + analog instruments and processors). Am I better off getting a semi-pro level digital mixer like the A&H Qu series to replace my analog mixer, or just purchasing a unit like an Apollo x16?

I know the Qu doubles as a class compliant audio interface for Macs (which I have), and has analog inputs and lots of routing- but is there anything I could do with the Apollo or would get quality-wise that I wouldn’t with a digital mixer?

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Uncle E
KVRAF
13986 posts since 22 Nov, 2000 from Southern California

Post Tue Dec 06, 2022 10:12 pm

The Apollo plugins sound better and have more variety than the Qu's processors. The Presonus digital consoles allow you to upgrade the internal processors with plugins, maybe consider one of those? The Presonus plugins are not on the same level as the Apollo but they're better than the Qu, plus you get the variety of the Apollo.

FWIW, I run an analog mixer together with an Apollo. Which analog mixer are you using now?

losangeles
KVRist
Topic Starter
87 posts since 5 Nov, 2022

Post Tue Dec 06, 2022 10:33 pm

Uncle E wrote: Tue Dec 06, 2022 10:12 pm The Apollo plugins sound better and have more variety than the Qu's processors. The Presonus digital consoles allow you to upgrade the internal processors with plugins, maybe consider one of those? The Presonus plugins are not on the same level as the Apollo but they're better than the Qu, plus you get the variety of the Apollo.

FWIW, I run an analog mixer together with an Apollo. Which analog mixer are you using now?
Thanks for your reply. So it sounds like the benefit of the Apollo is mostly in its processing engine and corresponding plugins? If this is the case, would it be worth upgrading the interface hardware or just getting some high-end plugins with my current interface (Scarlett 18i20)?

My mixer is an Allen and Heath mix wizard4 16:2

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Uncle E
KVRAF
13986 posts since 22 Nov, 2000 from Southern California

Post Tue Dec 06, 2022 10:57 pm

Yes, the engine and plugins. The problem is money, everything they make is expensive, especially the plugins. Plus, the only real benefit of running the plugins on an Apollo is that you can use them real-time. If you have a good computer and are able to use native plugins real-time in your DAW, this might not matter much to you.

The Apollo itself is good, not great. You can get a better interface for the money.

While my review isn't glowing, I still consider this to be a better solution than the Allen & Heath Qu. A Presonus StudioLive or SSL BiG SiX would be a different story.

losangeles
KVRist
Topic Starter
87 posts since 5 Nov, 2022

Post Tue Dec 06, 2022 11:21 pm

Uncle E wrote: Tue Dec 06, 2022 10:57 pm Yes, the engine and plugins. The problem is money, everything they make is expensive, especially the plugins. Plus, the only real benefit of running the plugins on an Apollo is that you can use them real-time. If you have a good computer and are able to use native plugins real-time in your DAW, this might not matter much to you.

The Apollo itself is good, not great. You can get a better interface for the money.

While my review isn't glowing, I still consider this to be a better solution than the Allen & Heath Qu. A Presonus StudioLive or SSL BiG SiX would be a different story.
Ah, I see, this is very useful- thank you so much. As it turns out, my laptop is quite powerful. I run an 8 core M1 pro with 16GB memory- so perhaps I could consider just the plugins in and of themselves; if I do go with a new interface, then I could get one better spec’s than the Apollo, perhaps.

As a tangent- are the encoders (and any other noteworthy differences) between units like the higher Scarlett series, Apollos, and other higher end interfaces differentiable nowadays (in practice- not with esoteric tests)? Especially for the money? I’m willing to pay for quality gear that sounds better, but not if it’s hardly discernible.

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Uncle E
KVRAF
13986 posts since 22 Nov, 2000 from Southern California

Post Wed Dec 07, 2022 12:13 am

Encoders, are you referring to the analog-digital converters? Yes, still big differences. Focusrite Red sounds better than Scarlett, for example. BUT, just because a converter sounds better doesn’t mean your final mixes will sound better/sell better/be more popular/etc.

Did you check out the SSL BiG SiX? It’s pretty sweet.

losangeles
KVRist
Topic Starter
87 posts since 5 Nov, 2022

Post Wed Dec 07, 2022 6:52 am

Uncle E wrote: Wed Dec 07, 2022 12:13 am Encoders, are you referring to the analog-digital converters? Yes, still big differences. Focusrite Red sounds better than Scarlett, for example. BUT, just because a converter sounds better doesn’t mean your final mixes will sound better/sell better/be more popular/etc.

Did you check out the SSL BiG SiX? It’s pretty sweet.
Wow, I had somehow missed that up until now, but it seems like a great option. One last question regarding encoders- I see many of the more expensive interfaces/mixers describing their encoders as “studio quality.” What is the metric for this designation? For instance, what quantifiable metric is used to compare converter quality or precision? I’d like to see how far away my Scarlett is from these others compared to the price difference.

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Uncle E
KVRAF
13986 posts since 22 Nov, 2000 from Southern California

Post Wed Dec 07, 2022 7:35 am

The differences between converters these days are in their analog circuitry. Thus, most digital specs you read are pointless. Everything is 24-bit/96k/120dB or better SNR/etc. because they’re almost all using the same chips. Companies like Burl, Lynx, RME, SSL, and Metric Halo sound better because their analog circuitry is better. With that said, if a company uses ESS converters, such as MOTU, that also makes a difference and is an easy and cheap way to get improvements.

Anyway, you’re in luck because your Scarlett has optical I/O. You can easily expand it for not a lot of money with an RME converter or a MOTU 8A. Or just get the BiG SiX if you’re happy printing EQ’s and dynamics on the way in.

sjm
KVRAF
2211 posts since 17 Apr, 2004

Post Wed Dec 07, 2022 7:52 am

Personally I like using a mixer with an audio interface; it's what I've been using for 15 years or more. Downside is all your eggs are in one basket, so if it breaks, everything breaks. Upside is that it's typically going to be cheaper to buy one device than 2 devices (mixer + separate audio interface) that have a lot of redundancy.

I don't use the in-built FX much, I see them more as a nice-to-have bonus than anything else. But they do come in useful when you aren't tracking, as you can use them without a DAW. I've never used the Apollo stuff, so I don't know if you can use it standalone. That's part of what I like about the digital mixer, it's great for jamming without the computer. Back when I still used audio interfaces, that wasn't an otpion, though things may have changed since then. Obviously you can also do that with a mixer connected to an audio interface.

Maybe take a look at the cost to you - which will depend on what you already have - and see if there's a significant difference in price. Then see if that price difference gives you any advantage that's worth it. Do you care about the FX on the mixer; do you care about standalone (and if the Apollo does that, it's not an advantage); do you care about spending a lot of money on plugins for the Apollo?

A lot of these are going to be highly dependent on how you like to work. All options will get audio to and from your DAW, if that's all you care about.

losangeles
KVRist
Topic Starter
87 posts since 5 Nov, 2022

Post Wed Dec 07, 2022 9:27 am

Uncle E wrote: Wed Dec 07, 2022 7:35 am The differences between converters these days are in their analog circuitry. Thus, most digital specs you read are pointless. Everything is 24-bit/96k/120dB or better SNR/etc. because they’re almost all using the same chips. Companies like Burl, Lynx, RME, SSL, and Metric Halo sound better because their analog circuitry is better. With that said, if a company uses ESS converters, such as MOTU, that also makes a difference and is an easy and cheap way to get improvements.

Anyway, you’re in luck because your Scarlett has optical I/O. You can easily expand it for not a lot of money with an RME converter or a MOTU 8A. Or just get the BiG SiX if you’re happy printing EQ’s and dynamics on the way in.
Thanks for all your advice, I am in a better position to decide and judge now.

losangeles
KVRist
Topic Starter
87 posts since 5 Nov, 2022

Post Wed Dec 07, 2022 9:28 am

sjm wrote: Wed Dec 07, 2022 7:52 am Personally I like using a mixer with an audio interface; it's what I've been using for 15 years or more. Downside is all your eggs are in one basket, so if it breaks, everything breaks. Upside is that it's typically going to be cheaper to buy one device than 2 devices (mixer + separate audio interface) that have a lot of redundancy.

I don't use the in-built FX much, I see them more as a nice-to-have bonus than anything else. But they do come in useful when you aren't tracking, as you can use them without a DAW. I've never used the Apollo stuff, so I don't know if you can use it standalone. That's part of what I like about the digital mixer, it's great for jamming without the computer. Back when I still used audio interfaces, that wasn't an otpion, though things may have changed since then. Obviously you can also do that with a mixer connected to an audio interface.

Maybe take a look at the cost to you - which will depend on what you already have - and see if there's a significant difference in price. Then see if that price difference gives you any advantage that's worth it. Do you care about the FX on the mixer; do you care about standalone (and if the Apollo does that, it's not an advantage); do you care about spending a lot of money on plugins for the Apollo?

A lot of these are going to be highly dependent on how you like to work. All options will get audio to and from your DAW, if that's all you care about.
Yes, I’m still considering a mixer; I’ll have to weigh all the options in light of some of the things mentioned here. Thanks so much for you input.

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Uncle E
KVRAF
13986 posts since 22 Nov, 2000 from Southern California

Post Wed Dec 07, 2022 10:04 am

sjm wrote: Wed Dec 07, 2022 7:52 am I've never used the Apollo stuff, so I don't know if you can use it standalone.
They can be used standalone. The hands-on control is limited (monitor, headphones, mic pre's, and DI's), you can control them with any MCU-compatible midi controller or the Lemur app BUT I think you need to have your computer on to do it:

https://uadforum.com/community/index.ph ... ate.52895/
losangeles wrote: Yes, I’m still considering a mixer; I’ll have to weigh all the options in light of some of the things mentioned here. Thanks so much for you input.
I'm going to go out on a limb and recommend the Softube Console 1. It doesn't address ANY of your specific concerns but it's a great alternative to a mixer and provides you with Apollo quality (or better) at a much lower price. Plus, you can use it with your Scarlett.

losangeles
KVRist
Topic Starter
87 posts since 5 Nov, 2022

Post Wed Dec 07, 2022 12:46 pm

Uncle E wrote: Wed Dec 07, 2022 10:04 am
sjm wrote: Wed Dec 07, 2022 7:52 am I've never used the Apollo stuff, so I don't know if you can use it standalone.
They can be used standalone. The hands-on control is limited (monitor, headphones, mic pre's, and DI's), you can control them with any MCU-compatible midi controller or the Lemur app BUT I think you need to have your computer on to do it:

https://uadforum.com/community/index.ph ... ate.52895/
losangeles wrote: Yes, I’m still considering a mixer; I’ll have to weigh all the options in light of some of the things mentioned here. Thanks so much for you input.
I'm going to go out on a limb and recommend the Softube Console 1. It doesn't address ANY of your specific concerns but it's a great alternative to a mixer and provides you with Apollo quality (or better) at a much lower price. Plus, you can use it with your Scarlett.
One last thing that I forgot to ask priorly: I remember many years ago Allen and Heath were pretty close to top of the line for mixers- is that not the case anymore? I know Neve and SSL are top of the line nowadays.. but what happened with AH’s reputation? Or was I misinformed from the start?

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thecontrolcentre
KVRAF
33492 posts since 27 Jul, 2005 from the wilds of wanny

Post Wed Dec 07, 2022 1:00 pm

A&H started manufacturing in China about 10 years ago. I got one their last ZED14 mixers made from British parts (according to the shop). It's a nice analog desk. Their rep seems to have suffered since.

losangeles
KVRist
Topic Starter
87 posts since 5 Nov, 2022

Post Wed Dec 07, 2022 2:14 pm

thecontrolcentre wrote: Wed Dec 07, 2022 1:00 pm A&H started manufacturing in China about 10 years ago. I got one their last ZED14 mixers made from British parts (according to the shop). It's a nice analog desk. Their rep seems to have suffered since.
😓😩 ah… now it all makes sense 😔

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