Taking the RME plunge

I am looking for my last audio interface (I hope) and, based on many previous comments here and my own research it seems RME is the way to go. I am currently using a MOTU 828x USB-2.

Here is what I need:
Excellent sound quality.
Rock stable drivers.
No need for a lot of channels, mixing, onboard goodies not related to sound quality, latency, etc. I will only ever be using my Cantabile setup with 2 keyboards.
USB-2, preferably USB-3 or USB-C.

Having said all that what is the difference, if any, between the DIGIface ($629) and the UCX II A/D-D/A converters? Does either have XLR output or just balance 1/4 output? Is the DIGIface able to be mounted in a rack (important). Do both have internal power supply or wall warts?

Feel free to make the case for what you use! For the sake of argument lets assume cost is not a factor, I just don’t want to buy features I will never use; premium sound is the object.

I am an RME fan, but I will say that I was turned on to RME early on, so I don’t have a real comparison. I have (and use):

  • a Babyface Pro FS (home desktop system),
  • another Babyface Pro FS (on the road, solo and smaller gigs),
  • a UCX-II (on the road for larger gigs) and
  • a UFX-II (home video studio, lots of inputs).

Sound quality (I believe - no direct comparison) is excellent.

Drivers are ROCK stable. I did some latency testing (rather involved) and came across a discrepancy of a few samples of discrepancy between what the driver reported and the actual latency. I reported this miniscule issue and it was fixed in a few days. This is the kind of attention to detail one hopes from a vendor.

I did manage, in my quest to reduce latency, to use their excellent Direct Monitoring system and completely cut out the ASIO in-and-out for direct sound from my hardware rendering units (I’m mostly playing a Wind Synth).

The mixing app - TotalMix - was challenging at first to get my mind around, because it is like having not one mixer, but an array of mixers (one for each output channel). After getting used to that, TotalMix is a big win in the management of my rather complex gig setups.

RME makes a case that USB-2 is entirely sufficient for up to “a lot” (don’t recall the upper limit) of channels. I run my Babyface Pro FS into my main gig laptop using USB-C and it’s just fine, but I’ve run it through the USB 2.0 input on the same laptop and see no difference.

The RME user forum is excellent, and it does have (if you dig) the info on which D/A A/D chips are used in which units (and which serial numbers of which units). RME kept producing during Covid, because they had invested in a large stockpile of chips that became unavailable for quite a while.

Cons? Well, the MIDI implementation in TotalMix is confusing and arcane. I’ve had to dig to be able to come up with the MIDI sequences needed to control TotalMix (and the interface) the way I like from Cantabile.

I hope this helps!

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I use RME interfaces in my studio and the others where I work. As has been said, the drivers are absolutely rock soild, the updates are painless and frequent and TotalMix is sublime. I never want to do studio work without TotalMix.

Exemplary performance to the point where you forget the interface exists - it just gets on with the job.

TotalMix can be confusing at first, but once you ‘get it’ it’s the most amazingly helpful, flexible and powerful tool to have at your disposal. Every output can have its own unique sub-mix of inputs and virtual outputs - stunning. I was using my old Fireface 800 for a long time before I got to grips with TM, but now it’s the main reason for my repeated purchases of RME.

I’m happy to help anyone get to grips with TotalMix - just ask.

But…

I don’t use RME for live performance. For that I chose the Behringer XR18, for its number of line inputs and the personal monitoring system. Cantabile controls the mixer for me, opening and closing stage mic’s between songs and generally making my life simple.

I can only echo what @ClintGoss and @The_Elf wrote: RME interfaces are definitely worth the investment - rock solid drivers, excellent low-latency performance, and TotalMix is just incredible (once you get past the very “german engineering” logic).

I am using a Babyface Classic plus and ADAT multi-output converter in my live rack, an UCX II in my smaller live rack, and an UFX in my studio setup - tried other stuff and it just couldn’t compare…

About the Digiface: it has no converters and no XLR or 1/4’’ outputs, because it simply has no analog audio I/O at all (except headphones)! It simply provides multiple ADAT lightpipe inputs to attach external AD/DA converters via optical cables. If you get the Digiface, you’ll also need to buy an external AD/DA converter. You can start with very simple ADDA like the Behringer ADA8200 for around 220 EUR, but you can go completely wild and spend a couple of thousand €/$ just for an A/D converter from the likes of Dangerous Music. The Digiface just connects these to your PC and provides the TotalMix capabilities.

The other thing the Digiface doesn’t have compared to the UCX II is the integrated effects - no EQ or compression on the channels, and no integrated reverb effect. If you just need to route and set volumes, this is completely OK, so for my live setup, I could live nicely with the Digiface (should my Babyface ever break down, I’d get the Digiface for my live rack). Just in the studio, the “comfort reverb” for recording vocals is great to have, and a bit of EQ and compression on the talkback channel is also good.

Regarding connectors: the UCX II inputs and outputs are balanced TRS - no XLR on that one. The Babyface Pro has XLR input and output - XLR only, no combined sockets.

Recommendation: For your purposes, I’d recommend the Babyface Pro - all the RME quality and features (including effects in the mixer!), but not the price-tag of the UCX or UFX. If you need more analog outputs (e.g. running multiple stereo outputs from Cantabile to the desk), then combining the Babyface with a Behringer ADA8200 will give you that for a manageable price-tag - still less than a UCX II.

Cheers,

Torsten

Thanks @ClintGoss , @The_Elf and @Torsten! I knew I could count on good, hardnosed, fact based reviews from each of you. I am currently reviewing each of the models suggested; not sure when a decision is forthcoming.
UFX III checks all my boxes but the price!?! Ah well, you get what you pay for I guess.

true, you get what you pay for - but given your original requirements, the UFX III would probably be completely over-specced for what you ask.

If you say, you just want excellent sound quality and rock stable drivers, but don’t need a lot of channels or “onboard goodies” - why on earth invest in a UFX III that specializes in massive channel count, effects and “professional” connectivity options like MADI, DC-coupled outputs, Word Clock I/O, etc?? A bit like cracking a nut with a (very expensive) sledgehammer…

@Torsten Ha, I knew I should have explained that. You are of course exactly right. What i meant was that there are a couple of assumptions that I didn’t put down originally that I should have. One was something rack mountable (the UCX II looks rack mountable with some accessories) so that knocks out a desktop solution. The other was I hate wall warts for power supplies; I try to avoid them at all costs. Its just a thing with me. Would I pay $1100 to not have a wall wart. Nope. The other thing was USB2 vs USB3 or C. I was hoping to find a solution that used at least USB3.
I am early in the process and I may not do anything right now, but I just wanted to pick the (very knowledgeable) brains of the forum to see what recommendations are out there.
Thanks again for your contribution!!

I get what you are looking for…

Just note: no wall wart for the Babyface - it’s bus-powered. And re rack-mounting: mine has been living velcro’d to the floor of my rack for years now. Also a kind of rack-mounting :wink:

Maybe a used RME UC? No hardware FX, not class compliant usb, but on the other hand rock solid drivers, low latency, rack mountable and more I/O than Babyface. I don’t miss USB3, no reason for it in specific context of live gigging. And a whole lot cheaper than UCX II.
I bought it after bad experience with MOTU UltraLite Hybrid and would never look back.
regards,
Matej

Just to add to the list of people recommending RME, I use an RME Fireface 802 live and it has been absolutely rock solid. This was after some “variable” experience with MOTU devices in the past. RME stuff is expensive, but once you get it, it’s something that will just work, and you can forget about it.

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I saw someone on another forum say about RME quality and pricing “buy once, cry once, and your done!”

As for me, I’m still on my electronically upgraded EMU 1820M (I have 2 of them, plus a 1212M) and even via a PCI to PCIe bridge and the ancient hacked drivers, can run at 2ms latency, stable as a rock, and has a really powerful mixer. Have no idea how its mixer stands up to RME, but I’ve not run into anything it couldn’t handle and I’ve done some crazy routing with it. Of course not much an option for a live rig.

I still have two of the EMU cards.

+1 for RME!

I use a Babyface live, and a FF800 in the studio. Both have been absolutely faultless, in the case of the FF800 for 17 years (apart from a power supply that died). The only thing that I’ll say is that they’ve stopped updating the drivers for the FF now, and the windows 10 issue that screwed up multi client setups hasn’t been fixed, like it has on the Babyface, which is a PITA for me (if anyone knows a workaround for this, I’d be grateful), but this is a 20 year old product , so it’s not much of a surprise they’ve stopped supporting it!

Anyhow, you can’t go far wrong with them.

P

I use RME devices slightly differently.
I have a dual PC rig for redundancy that I can swap between at the press of a button. Each PC has an RME AiO connected by ADAT in and out to a Midas M32C (with the ADAT card).
I would have liked to go all RME but their standalone remote control (MIDI for the UFXs) doesn’t handle messages absolutely, rather relatively. So you can’t say ‘mute channel 1’, you can only say ‘toggle mute on channel 1’.
Midas M32 has exemplary OSC control. And the Motu 828es I was using before also has very good, if poorly documented, OSC.
Cantabile doesn’t speak OSC yet but OSC/PAR vst will translate MIDI to OSC
I went with PCIE RME cards to try to get to 128 buffer sizes in order to process vocals. Alas some heavier songs still need 256 samples.

I will be buying the MOTU 828 (new version) and RME UCX II this week. Each will be tested on my system and one will go back. I really don’t know at this point which one that will be; both units have extremely favorable aspects to them. Its nice to have such choices.

i will report back what I find.

I have both - bought the MOTU when my good old Fireface UFX was being repaired, but really couldn’t get used to it - handling and flexibility just doesn’t compare to the RME experience. Guess which one is now in my second live rack now that the Fireface is back from being repaired…

I still have the 828 sitting around on a shelf - not sure if should sell it or keep it for some future project…

@Torsten was that the newest 828?

nope - the 828es - better converters than the 828x, and the AVB technology. I believe the new 828 also has the ESS Sabre converters.

I never really got comfortable with the networked, browser-based interface - but that may be personal taste. Also, being used to the flexibility of RME’s TotalMix, where creating an individual mix for every output is just a breeze, the MOTU experience felt constraining to me.

Again - all probably a matter of taste and experience.

@Torsten it will be an interesting experiment. I am trying to keep an open mind as either will be better than my 828x. And they should be since 828x came out in 2014.

RME have something special with TotalMix. It seems the best way to handle multiple ins and outs.
However, ASIO software outs seem artificially limited to the number of hardware outs and the default naming of software outs as the hardware outs is initially confusing and unnecessary.
The 828es mixes like a traditional mixer with the added confusion of routing hardware ins to virtual ins before they are mixed.
It’s just as flexible as TotalMix, probably even more so, but by gum it’s fiddly.
Having the small horizontal sliders for aux sends is frustrating. If only they had @brad doing the UI for them with his excellent pop out magnifying sliders and fine control.
Having signals light up on the routing page is a useful touch though, and something I wish the Midas M32c had.