Audio Interface choice

Which USB midi audio interface would you suggest I use with a surface pro 6 or PC Laptop in a live situation. I’ll be using 2 keyboard controllers.

Thank you

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Hey Stan

welcome to the forum! Can you be a bit more specific: do you need multi-channel output (e.g. multiple stereo pairs sending your two keyboards to the desk separately); do you need audio input (e.g. for playing a guitar through an amp plugin); what is your budget?

And: what keyboard controllers do you use? Some of us use MIDI via USB directly with their keyboards, others swear on traditional MIDI cables.

Depending on this, there are a variety of options; I’m sure we can find the right piece of kit for you…



Wow everything you mention in your first paragraph is what I need. I play guitar and sing as well. As far as my budget goes, I’m willing to spend a few hundred dollars. My controllers have both USB and 5 pin midi connections.

Thank you

The RME Babyface is generally considered to be top tier goodness, with high performance, great drivers and probably the lowest latency around. But they ain’t entirely cheap. In the somewhat lower budget range I’ve loved my Focusrite Scarlett (I have the 2i4 1st Gen, and the 2nd Gens have even lower latency). There are some other options around in the Focusrite price range but it works very well for me. This is all based on mixing “inside the box” and running a stereo out. If you want to go multi-channel with your outputs things are going to get a little pricey.

For what it’s worth, I think I run at about 9ms latency for live playing and I have no problems, but some might find that a little long possibly.

I also run Focusrite (18i8) and love mine as well. I run between 7-9 ms latency. I don’t know if there are still interfaces being made that derive power from USB only, but steer away from those if they are available. Do some research before pulling the trigger on a purchase. I play guitar through mine.

Thanks the input FredProGH. The RME is pricey and the Focusrite seems to be in my budget range. I just want to make sure that whatever I decide on can accommodate my setup of two keyboard controllers and guitar,

Hey Torsten, what is your suggestions, you seem to have a similar setup.

Hey Corky why do you say to steer away from the USB powered units?

When I was doing all my research a few years ago, there were powered, and usb powered audio interfaces. Your audio interface is the heart (well, 1 of the several hearts) of your setup. Plugging it into a wall power source insures steady flow of power to that interface. That way it won’t crap out on you during play. USB only supplies so much power, and if you split it between midi devices, you can easily have dropouts from the interface. So, I purchased a powered interface and have no dropouts. The same thing with usb powered midi devices, only so much power can be split between devices running off a laptop, which is why I use a powered USB hub. It supplies the extra power to the midi devices, thus relieving laptop power strains. Hope I explained it well .

This is my simple small club setup:

Running 2 key controllers, and guitar thru my Focusrite. In another situation, I run another keyboard, 2 mics, and a bass thru the Focusrite. The beauty of it all is that I can have multiple setups, for many different situations. The only drawback to the 18i8 interface is I sometimes need more outputs when other band members want effects thru Cantabile, but it has served me well for over 3 yrs now.

Nice setup. Well it looks like the Focusrite i818 will handle my set up. What PC Laptop do you recommend? I notice some people use the surface pro.

If all you need is 1 input for the guitar and stereo outs (or even quad outs) the 18i8 is probably overkill :wink: You could save maybe half and go 2i4 or 2i6.

I agree with Fred, it is really according to your need. I needed the multiple inputs when I bought it. If you are only needing 1 or 2 inputs, no sense in throwing away the cash, but sometimes situations may change, as they did for me. Try to imagine if you may need the multiple inputs/outputs in the future.

PC laptop? There are several discussions in the forum on this. Might want to do a search on the threads.

Thanks guys for welcoming me and pointing me in the right direction and for your honesty with regards to he audio interface.


My main setup consists of two keyboards, both connected via “traditional” MIDI cables to an iConnect MIO MIDI interface. I prefer the MIDI cables to USB connection, since I can easily swap out any keyboard without having to change anything in my Cantabile configuration. There is no hardware reference in my MIDI config; the input ports are simply called “Main Keyboard”, “Upper Keyboard”.

I like the MIO interface, because it allows me to route MIDI between two connected USB hosts - makes it a breeze to connect my Cantabile laptop and my LivePrompter tablet.

On the audio side, my main setup is an RME Babyface (1st gen) with a Behringer ADA8200 to give me multiple output ports. I send three stereo pairs to the desk: keyboards, guitar, break music - all from my Cantabile laptop. On the input side, I plug my guitar directly into the Babyface instrument in. At 128 samples buffer, the latency is acceptable for playing my guitar through a virtual amp (Scuffham S-Gear).

I also send one audio output from the Babyface to my VoiceLive vocal processor to supply the chords from my guitar for harmony creation. I decided to route this through Cantabile, so that I can automatically mute the guitar input for those songs where I don’t play guitar. When I used a simple signal splitter, some rogue guitar signals in non-guitar songs kept confusing my VoiceLive.

The Babyface, mio, and ADA8200 are integrated in my “live rack” - the Babyface is powered by a “wall wart” within the rack.

For my smaller setup in my R&B project (and as a fall-back for my main rig), I use a Zoom UAC-2 (bus-powered, so far without problems) - simple stereo USB2 interface with great latency performance. For this, I simply aggregate all output (keys, guitar, break music) to a single mono output, keeping the other mono out for the guitar signal to the VoiceLive.

I experimented with other audio interfaces, e.g. Presonus AudioBox (simple, cheap stereo interface, but unsatisfactory low-latency performance), MOTU UltraLite (nice multi-output interface in a small form-factor, but driver stability issues), but my current battle-tested setup is the one I feel most comfortable with.

Budget-wise, the UAC-2 (around 200 EUR) is great value-for-money; combined with a mio 2 (70 EUR), you have a great and super-stable combination for a two-output-channel setup. For multi-channel, you’ll have to expand your budget quite a bit (UAC-8 for 600 EUR?).



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I’d just like to add that I recently used this device live with great success - no issues/errors at all. if it doesn’t apply or isn’t want you want for your setup then my apologies in advance. Again, it worked great so that is why I’m sharing.

Alyseum u3-88c

Roland Fantom X7 Keyboard/Workstation (mostly acting as a MIDI controller)
Roland PK-5a pedals (MIDI controller)
Moog Little Phatty Stage II (received some MIDI data for some stuff too hard for me to play and play bass at the same time).
Moog Taurus 3 (again, received some MIDI data when it was just easier to do so rather than using the foot pedals directly)
Dave Smith/Oberheim OB-6 module - (received MIDI data for primary synth/keyboard sounds).
Surface Pro 3 with Cantabile 3 Performer - the brains of the operation.
Alyseum u3-88c - USB 3 cable connected to Surface Pro 3 - then standard MIDI cables to all above mentioned devices from Alyseum.

Ironically, my VST use was minimal. I mostly wanted to control my hardware synths and trigger Media Players. I first tried a MOTU MIDI Express XT which was a total disaster because the Surface Pro 3 only has a USB 3 port and the MOTU unit is USB 2 - They just don’t play well together… anyway I then found the Alyseum unit and all my MIDI over USB issues went away.

So if your computer has USB 3 only I strongly suggest the Alyseum unit (assuming you don’t mind connecting everything else with standard MIDI cables).

I hope this information helps you (or anyone else with similar needs).


+1 on the Focusrite 2i4. Four channels and low latency at a great price. I managed to get two interfaces for the price of one last year (one as a backup)

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Thanks Torsten! You have quite a setup there. Very impressive. You guys have given me some great ideas. I’d like to pick you brain on the Helicon Vocal Live set up you have. I have the Helicon Voice tone harmony G. No rush. I’m just wondering if I could set it up similar to your set up.

Thank you DeadBolt, I’m going to check into that. I’m curious about how you are using the Roland PK5a Pedal in your setup. I also have a PK 5A pedal. I was using it with my Roland VK-8, which I sold. I now have the Crumar Mojo 61.


So with the PK5a I used two of its modes - Mono and Effects (sorry I’m not in front of it now so if I mess up exact terminology that’s why)… Anyway, I used the Mono mode and the PK5a’s default MIDI channel for Mono to send MIDI thru the Alyseum to the Surface Pro 3 and Cantabile. From within Cantabile I routed that to either a VST or a hardware synth. Then with the PK5a Effects mode again using its default MIDI channel I triggered Media Players I had set up in Cantabile, assigned to whichever specific pedal or pedals I wanted to use on the PK5a. (Using the effects mode this way was a tip I got from Tim Starace of YYNOT - He has a video on that on one of his Facebook or Youtube pages)…

Hope that helps