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Comparison: ADC interface for Hifi Recording < 1000$. USB Pre2, ADL Esprit, RME Babyface, ADL...

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 

Hi there fellows!

I noticed, that there is not much discussion around about gear to properly record from an analogue source to digital. I intend to do mainly recording of my vinyl. I use Vinyl Studio, a nice software for that task, that saves me a lot of time and hassle! And for abused disks, it does a fairly good automated "digital cleaning".

However, about the Hardware I have a couple of question marks. I used a E-MU 0404 USB 2. I was pretty happy with its sound. However, I burned it (as I used a custom linear power supply and I confused + and - ...!!!).

Anyway, the E-MU 0404 USB is certainly nice, especially for its price. But it was not 100% up to the rest of my equipment, that is, a ~1500$ turntable+Cardridge, and a ~2500$ pre with a very nice MC pre built into it.

So... My question is, what gear would bring the best out of my disks. I intend to record them at 24bit / 96khz stereo to my Sony Vaio over USB 2 (or USB 3).

Please DO NOT debate here about the question, if 24bit / 96khz is overkill or not for Vinyl archiving!!! I will do it that way, it won't hurt, HD-Space is there. And DON'T debate about if its true or false, that a linear power supply is superior to a switching and under what conditions. I will upgrade anyway to linear. That are both nice topics, but for other threads! Thanks...

But PLEASE DO discuss about the A/D - Converter to use!!!

Here is a Specs comparison of my favourites for now - of course from the point of view of recording at home from the hifi-equipment to the computer. Everything else is only considered "nice to have".

 

    1. Furutech ADL Esprit - already selling at about 990 € in Europe, and shipping in mid may in the USA.

 

What I like:

  • MULTIBIT AD converter chip cirrus logic CS5361 - what I like very much as an idea, after my nice experiencies with multibit equiped DACs (I own one from audio-gd and I heard two two of them from resolution audio, all PCM 1704 based. They sound awesome. Maybe there are sigma-deltas out there that sound nice, too, but I just never heard any of them that sounded as colose to natural as the multibit-dacs I know. But however, I don't know if this makes a difference for the other way, the AD-conversion, too...)
  • Nice RCA connections.
  • Serves as preamp and apparently decent headphone amp, too, if occasionally needed.
  • Serves as DAC too, if occasionally needed (but delta sigma...)
  • External Power Supply (not noisy usb power).
  • I expect it to be better than the ADL GT40, thas has good reviews (see below)
  • Designed with HiFi in mind (not so much musicians).

 

What I don't like:

  • rather expensive
  • no experiences or reviews around, as all new.
  • Switch mode power supply will probably have to be upgraded...

 

 

     2. Sound Devices USBPre 2. 650 US$

 

What I like:

  • RCA input (although it's more designed for musicians than Hi-Fiers)
  • Some good experiencies available
  • Instrument / mic recording, when occasionally needed

 

What I don't like:

  • No information about the chips used in it (multibit? Delta Sigma?)
  • USB-powered. Will need a linear USB-Power-adapter (like the aqvox)
  • No HiFier - Reviews or experiences around...
  • Some relevant budget is spent into the mic preamp and not into the AD-conversion
  • Designed with on-the-road musicians in mind - so maybe no emphasis on hifi demands

 

   3. RME Babyface 750 us$ + 40$ for RCA connection cable

 

What I like:

The good reputation of RME...

  • Instrument / mic recording, when occasionally needed
  • RCA connection

 

What I don't like:

  • No idea about the chips built into it.
  • USB Powered (same as USBPre 2)
  • No HiFier - Reviews or experiences found.
  • Some relevant budget is spent into the mic preamp and not into the AD-conversion
  • Designed with on-the-road musicians in mind - so maybe no emphasis on hifi demands

 

 4.  ADL GT40 € 510,00 / $525.00 (bizzarre price policy, a bit old times to sell it pricier in Europe)

   

What I like:

 

  • Nice RCA connections.
  • Serves as preamp and apparently decent headphone amp, too, if occasionally needed.
  • Serves as DAC too, if occasionally needed (but delta sigma...)
  • External Power Supply (not noisy usb power).
  • Nice reviews in What HiFi and others
  • Designed with HiFi in mind (not so much musicians).
  • Comaratively affordable

 

What I don't like:

  • Delta-Sigma AD-chip
  • Switch mode power supply will probably have to be upgraded...
  • Supposingly not as good as the ADL Esprit
  • Phono preamp uses up budget, and I don't need it.

 

What's your thoughts??? Any other suggestions? Any personal experiences??? Any links to good reviews?

 

Cheers!!!


Edited by ursdiego - 4/23/12 at 3:04am
post #2 of 34
Thread Starter 

Hey fellows, nowbody interested in recording from A to D out there?

 

Maybe I put it up into the wrong cathegory.

 

@admins: If you see this, can you control the cathegory? Maybe its more suitable in the computer audio section. Please move it, if you feel that this would be adequate...

 

Cheers!

post #3 of 34

Hi there ursdiego!

I´m afraid that I don´t have a lot to contribute, but I felt that I needed to give you some support. It warmed my heart to find your entry here on Head-Fi! I am in very much the same situation as you are and I have made the very same observations that you have: that there is an apparent lack of information and reviews about hardware suitable for serious - but not over the top - vinyl ripping. Most ADCs seem to be either of the cheap/multichannel kind or aimed at musicians on the move or at studio pros or at hi-end aficionados with bottomless pockets (Weiss etc). 

I have previously considered the Apogee Duet but was afraid it was a bit too flimsy and that I would have to pay for its portability (which I don't need) and I also liked that it was Firewire but that option is apparently obsolete. Today I'm considering the ADL Esprit (as well as the GT 40) and I eagerly await the first proper reviews.

In the meantime I still shake my head in disbelief at the lack of interest in the subject in the established hi-fi mags such as Stereophile, TAS etc.

Keep up the good questioning!

Staffan Fritz

post #4 of 34
Thread Starter 

Hi there, Staffan!

 

Nice to see that I am not alone!

 

You are very right.

 

There are lots of interfaces around, and lots of reviews.

 

Unfortunately, my new Notebook does not have any Firewire anymore (to my big surprise actually, I didn't even check befor buying, it's an expensive Vaio and I just took that for granted). Not even an express card slot...! So I am stuck to USB 2 - or eventually USB 3, although this would probably be overkill. Actually, I don't know about the ADL Esprit: The picture of the USB port looks like USB 3... But the specs say USB 2. Confusing, but not important for me, I have both on my notebook. However, sound-quality-vise there seems not to be a difference between FireWire and USB. With USB 1 there was a latency-issue at the times, but this does concern only usicians with real-time monitoring needs etc. However, no Mac and no firewire, so Apogee is fine, but not for me.

 

Back to the lack of useful reviews:

 

All those reviews that acutally refer to A-D conversion are made by and for musicians. Which is great, but usually, they have their emphasis very much more on included software, measurable linearity, latency, etc... About the music quality, they refer to a linear frequencies and decibels, listen once or twice, state that its "clean" - and that's about it. Then they pass to phantom power considerations...

 

When it comes to more typical Hi-Fi equippment like the ADL GT 40, our well known hifi-review-freaks give nice notes about sound quality, but when you read the review carefully, they have almost not done any tests for the A-D-conversion. The nice sound quality only refers to the DAC-functionality!!! The few that refer to AD, talking about the GT 40, only do so with the built-in Turntable-Preamp, which I would not use (as it is obviousely less good than the one I already have). So, acutally no valuable information about the sound quality of the AD-converter.......

 

Not even a reasonable comparison between the NAD PP-3 and the ADL GT 40 can be found out there, even though these two do just the same: vinyl to bits ripping.

 

I will proabably just buy the Esprit one day, but I wait too, for the first reviews to come out, just to be sure that it is not a total flop... Whithout expecting however lots of information about its A-D-quality, I will just test it myself. At least specs-wise it seems the best option out there.

 

Aditionally, I will buy myself a replacement for my e-mu 0404, as I do occasional recording from Microphone and guitar. That will give me at least two bits to compare. I will keep you posted, but do not expect this within the next couple of months... (I work sometimes, too ;) )

 

So much about complaining about the odd sleeping reviewers out there ;-) !

 

Cheers! Urs


Edited by ursdiego - 4/21/12 at 7:49am
post #5 of 34
Thread Starter 

... just had a convenient occasion to get a Motu Microbook second hand. Its version 1, which does support "only" up to 24bit / 48 khz. I don't expect it to be "THE" Analogue-Digital solution, but it got pretty nice reviews, and I will give it a fair chance. However, I hope it serves as in between solution until some reviews of the ADL Esprit help me to decide. I will try to get a decent lienar power supply though, because feeding power through USB is just not really fair, I think. I'll keep you posted...


Edited by ursdiego - 4/22/12 at 8:25pm
post #6 of 34

I am waiting for the ADL Esprit to come on the market in the US.

I owned the GT040 for a while, and found it good, but far from great. The USB interface worked well... mostly, but was quirky. It crashed the sound device program on both my computers if I changed bit rate or sampling rate without shutting down recording program (Soundforge 10) first.

The output from the USB was virtually identical to the analog out (when fed through my Xonar STX). I found that the sound, either analog or digital, was thin. The highs are overly bright. Emphasis is on the hight and upper mids, with a quick drop off in the lower mids and bass. There was no weight or richness to the sound. An analog feed directly to my Xonar from my turntable is much more full sounding and has body and slam that the GT-40 seems to strip.

 

There was also a slight warbling, high-pitched noise from the digital out on both computers.

 

So... I'm going to try the Esprit to see if the DACs (or unit as a whole) are any better... I certainly hope so.

post #7 of 34
Thread Starter 

Yeah let's take it easy and wait until testing right is possible. And yes, I really hope too, that the Esprit is better. Given the fact, that they make an economie on the phono preamp and almost double the price, there can a nice jump to be expected. However, I am quite surprised about your impressions, given the fairly good reviews the GT 40 got until now! However, I do believe, what you write, it sounds quite plausible to me. It would just be too nice to be true, if such an "all in one" - solution (even including a MM and MC phono preamp) in such a littel case with such an economic price would do it all on an "audiophile" level. Given the fact, that already a decent standalone phono preamp for either MM or MC often costs more.


Edited by ursdiego - 4/25/12 at 9:30am
post #8 of 34

Well, my expectations were pretty high. I have a fair amount of experience digitizing my LP's, and have gone through several equipment turnovers. The problem with me, is that I am extremely critical. I seriously analize the sound, comparing it to several iterations of recordings. I don't toss older recordings even if they are inferior, so I have several of my best test tracks. All at 24/96, and some are very good. It was definitely a pre-amp thing. As I said, digital or analog, it just had lost all it's heft. The one thing it did have going for it was clarity. It was wide open and bright, which can add detail to most things, but it lost it on the bottom.

 

But you are right, this little package is a great thing for someone who might have an inferior sound card, or just a laptop. Others may not be as analytical as I am, and may never hear or notice the issues I had. And for them, this is a nice, inexpensive, multipurpose device.

The Esprit will hurt me... a lot. But judjing only by the DAC and other specs, it may be a far superior (and perhaps more 'audiophile') device. If that's the case, it may be worth the extra cost.

 

One thing I forgot to mention is that on playback through the device, even older less strident recordings became overly bright. This was when using it as a DAC, or just a headphone amp. That said, it is a pretty powerful little thing, and had more than enough power for even a 600ohm set of cans. But the combo of the DT-800/600 was terrible, as the Beyers are very bright to begin with. The only pairing I found good... and quite good... was the UM2's (which tend to be somewhat restrained in their highs). So that was a good match. But be careful... highly efficient IEM's, as a slight turn of the dial, and your ears will be in trouble.

post #9 of 34
Thread Starter 

Hi there again shane55! Give me a hint, honestly, I'm not quite sure if I understood your setup... You recorded from your turntable through the phono-stage of the GT40 and fed that into your computer sound card either through usb or through the analogue connection? Is this correct? In either case, the sound that came out, was almost identical, with the couple of critical points you mentioned. This would mean, that you ripped your LPs twice through the same phono preamp, and through two different AD - converters, once the one inside the GT40 and once the one in your sound card. This would mean to me, that the AD-converter of the GT40 seems to work accurately, as compared to the one of your sound card. However, the phono stage is the point of critics. This is actually a similar conclusion as in the whathifi review, however, there they focus more on openness lacking in the phono stage. I suppose, the GT40 comes with a switching power supply, and I wonder, if a decent linear supply might help (however, good supplies have quite a price tag...).

 

This gives even better hope for what will come with the Esprit!

Have you ever tried ripping through another phono-preamp before feeding it into the GT40?

post #10 of 34

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ursdiego View Post

Hi there again shane55! Give me a hint, honestly, I'm not quite sure if I understood your setup... You recorded from your turntable through the phono-stage of the GT40 and fed that into your computer sound card either through usb or through the analogue connection? Is this correct? In either case, the sound that came out, was almost identical, with the couple of critical points you mentioned. This would mean, that you ripped your LPs twice through the same phono preamp, and through two different AD - converters, once the one inside the GT40 and once the one in your sound card. This would mean to me, that the AD-converter of the GT40 seems to work accurately, as compared to the one of your sound card. However, the phono stage is the point of critics. This is actually a similar conclusion as in the whathifi review, however, there they focus more on openness lacking in the phono stage. I suppose, the GT40 comes with a switching power supply, and I wonder, if a decent linear supply might help (however, good supplies have quite a price tag...).

 

This gives even better hope for what will come with the Esprit!

Have you ever tried ripping through another phono-preamp before feeding it into the GT40?

 

As to your last question... sure, if I understand what you are asking. I played many of my older files through the GT40, being fed by either USB or analog from my computer. The sounded identical to each other, and sounded the same as those I recorded using the GT-40 as a phono preamp. I have used a couple different preamps and soundcards and results are very consistent. When any signal, digital or analog is put through the GT-40 it seems to come out the other end thinner, and less weighty.

 

And yes, all of your first statements are correct. I have ripped my LP's (or individual songs) several times through various combinations of preamps. The soundcard is not the issue. I have fed it with other preamps and the results are consistent. The feed to my laptop with the GT-40 had the same qualities as when it was fed into my soundcard. I also listened directly to the GT-40 through the headphone out, as the LP was being played, and it had the same affect. A 'thinning' of the sound.

 

I don't think I can explain it more than that... sorry. But yes, that's why I'm hoping the Esprit will be much better.

post #11 of 34
Thread Starter 

You explaned very well and I indeed appreciate your appreciation of the sound quality! Now looking forward to get an Esprit into my hands...

post #12 of 34
Thread Starter 

Hi there everybody!

 

Just two more contenders that have to be mentionned, although of course, they are at a higher price level:

 

Benchmark ADC 1 USB $1795

 

What I like:

  • Very nice reviews
  • USB

 

What I dislike:

  • Price!!!
  • Still don't know about the A/D-chips built in...
  • Only XLR analogue input (no unbalanced standard Line In)

 

LavryBlack AD11 1395 Euro

 

What I like

  • Very nice reviews
  • USB
  • Mic-preamp for occasional recording

 

What I dislike

  • Price!!!
  • Still don't know about the A/D-chips built in...
  • Line level input only via those oversized 3.5 mm TRS / jack

 

And of course, metric halo would be a nice point to compare with, too, however, there is no USB-version, and my new notebook just does not have Firewire anymore, nor an express card slot (a shame, but it seems, this is the standard today, they replaced everything by a usb 3.0 port however)

 

Well then... still waiting for a review of the ADL Esprit, hoping of course, that it outperforms these two high-enders :)


Edited by ursdiego - 5/14/12 at 3:01am
post #13 of 34

Hi hope I can add something

 

i joined today to be able to let you have my experience of two GT40s in two weeks. Both now back with the distributor with a sound sample and graphs showing a fault with them, which I have found mentioned in a few online sites - small mentions compared to the glowing reviews on sites which clearly haven't used them for audio recording. I found your thread when trying to work out why I was having problems...

 

Happy to try and share graphs and audio samples, but may need help as I'm new and don't know what is allowed!

 

My experience with 2 separate Furutech GT 40 devices over the last two weeks was initially OK but then unhappy as both exhibited a noise (like bad static but very persistent and harsh) over signal just on the USB output at irregular but frequent intervals (I could never finish a whole LP). Whilst the noise is present on USB the headphone output is clean (no noise present). This noise grows from low to very disruptive over a short time. Several recordings have been ruined but have allowed me to prove the condition to originate from the Furutech.

I have a sample of the noise from a recording first from a Linn turntable and secondly from an ipod  the noise goes on until you power the Furutech down. I'm happy to share with anyone who can interpret it.

I also have graphs showing the fault on frequency and spectral views of the noise and clean signals a few minutes apart. The graphs clearly show the impact of the interference and it’s harmonics going up to 40K with the clean signal looking quite good but limited as it was from an ipod.

These graphs were when I was trying to eliminate everything but the ADC. So the Furutech was taking an signal from an ipod classic headphone out and recording via USB to a macbook on battery power. The USB lead was a Furutech formula 2 (but has also occurred with a standard USB lead). Everything therefore was on battery apart from the Furutech.

Every device in the chain has been changed including power outlet and ring main. I only use high quality interconnects and have swapped them. The only consistent item has been the Furutech. Recordings have been successfully completed in the same location by using a Tascam DR07 PCM recorder with absolutely no interference. 

 

It took me a while to prove to the distributor that there was an issue, they then agreed to pass on my report. I also sent it direct. I will gladly share any response from the manufacturer. But to be honest I am not expecting them to accept that my experience plus others I have found on the Internet are a major issue. But it was infuriating to me. Plus time and money lost.

 

So like you I'm now wanting a replacement but am not going to be looking at another Furutech. I would love the benchmark but it is three times the price.

 

Hope this at least alerts people to look out for the issue. It sounds good but the noise issue kills it for me.

post #14 of 34
Thread Starter 

Thanks 1000, for that contribution.

 

Well the Esprit should of course be better, given the higher price for lesser features... Hopefully this will solve the noise issue, too.

 

So I remain waiting for useful review. Does anyone know of experiencies of users, maybe on other forums, or maybe even of pro-reviews?

 

Cheers!
 

post #15 of 34

I also think companies correct their errors from products to products. The GT40 was their "first" try, it can't help.

 

I will try my GT40's ADC and tell you if I get a better or similar experience.

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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Dedicated Source Components › Comparison: ADC interface for Hifi Recording < 1000$. USB Pre2, ADL Esprit, RME Babyface, ADL GT40. Other Analogue-Digital USB Convertsers??? Experiencies??? Comparisons??? Reviews???