If you're looking for a new desktop audio interface and have around $1000 to spend, chances are you've come across a number of potential contenders from brands such as Apogee, RME, Universal Audio, Audient, Focusrite and Arturia.
Firstly, it should be said that each audio interface in this list will have its own strengths, and depending on your own requirements, each will present advantages or disadvantages in terms of features, quality or price.
For example, one of our best-selling desktop audio interfaces, the Universal Audio Apollo Twin Solo MKII, offers onboard Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and real-time monitoring through UA's legendary plugins at zero (or near zero) latency - this is a unique feature available throughout the Apollo series of audio interfaces.
As illustrated in the image below, the new Arturia AudioFuse offers the most versatile connectivity yet found in a portable audio interface. This, along with it's other impressive specs and great build quality, makes the AudioFuse an obvious choice for someone who needs all those holes!
Alternatively, the RME Babyface Pro offers renowned, German-made reliability and rock-solid drivers for seamless compatibility across all major operating systems - these are qualities that some people simply aren't willing to live without.
The Audient iD22 and Focusrite Clarett 2Pre lag slightly behind the others on the list, but hold their own in terms of quality, and value. For example, both Audient and Focusrite are leading the pack in terms of A/D Dynamic range!
But In terms of sheer overall audio quality, it's perhaps not surprising to see that Apogee, with its industry-leading converters, still comes out slightly on top when compared side-by-side to the most popular premium two channel interfaces on the market. As is illustrated in the chart below, the Apogee Element 24 is the best performing interface in every category.
The Total Harmonic Distortion (THD+Noise) and Dynamic Range measurements above provide a good overview of how well a circuit is performing, as they measure the fundamental quality of the circuit (but at opposite extremes) – THD+N with a maximum signal input and Dynamic Range with no signal input. Both specifications given together can provide a good evaluation of the converter’s performance across the entire range of operation.
In closer detail, Total Harmonic Distortion (THD+Noise) measures the difference in dB between a signal level (usually a 1kHz tone close to 0 dBfs) and the summed level of all distortion and noise generated by a circuit when converting that signal. The specification is expressed as a negative number – it means that the total distortion and noise is 110 dB lower than the signal. The lower the distortion and noise, the less audible it is.
Dynamic Range measures the difference between a circuit’s noise floor with NO signal being converted and the circuit’s POTENTIAL maximum level. It’s expressed as a positive number range, but again, the larger the number, the less audible the noise is.
In summary, based on the above figures, if you're buying an interface purely for its converters, Apogee proves to be a great choice, and taking a closer look at these specs really illustrates the value on offer within the whole Apogee Element range of Audio Interfaces.
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