Positive Grid Acoustic Expansion Pack for Bias FX

People often mean quite different things when they use the word “clean”. Sometimes its crystal clean like an acoustic, sometimes its warmish and dull with a bit of breakup, sometimes its spanky like a surf guitar that has some breakup when you really hit it. Many times it the sound of some serious high gain tones, but with the guitar’s onboard volume turned down.

When it comes time to get a totally, not distorted, bright, clean tone, no matter how hard you hit the guitar, things can get tricky. Way back in the day, the Marshall JMP-1 seemed magically capable of it, and so it came as no surprise that S_Gear, in VST was also capable of pulling it off.

In a somewhat excited internet rountable discussion about cleans some years ago, Ken McLaren of AcmeBarGig said to try his Redshift pickup replacer or even an impulse to accomplish this. Of course, I had to ask what he was smoking, as obviously this is a dynamic thing, not a tone thing, and impulses were not going to be handling dynamics at all.

But he insisted, and I tried it, and sure enough, for that crystal clean, I have been using impulses ever since! 

Over the past year, I had been loading a custom acoustic guitar response in NADIR in front of BiasFX when using it in VST mode, but always bummed that I couldn’t get anywhere near there in Bias FX standalone

Enter Bias FX Acoustic Expansion Pack!

The Acoustic Expansion Pack for Bias FX features a few tools get make the most out of an actual acoustic guitar recording or pickup and magically, a few tools to turn your electric guitar into an acoustic! For some reason, very little info about this expansion pack showed up on the net in any search I did, so I could be wrong about a lot of the following:

Acoustic Sim. This FX Block had little trouble taking my EMG 707s or Blackouts, at full volume even, and making them crystal clean!

The Mid and Top controls gave a lot of the characteristics you would expect from an acoustic guitar, and made them stronger or weaker. I tended not to mess with these controls much, keeping them at their minimum volume, when I wanted a strict clean tone, but dialed them up a bit to get an actual acoustic guitar tone. 

Volume seemed to be a regular level control, and I’ll leave the debate about nonliniear effects of the various Bias and Bias FX volume knobs for another forum

String Enhance could give you an exciter type of effect, for good or for ill, it was certainly not subtle, you may love it or you may hate it, but its there if you want it.

Now the Body control is where things get really far from the realms of subtlety. This control turns up or down, what I can most easily describe as a mic pointed somewhere along the far edges of the body of an acoustic guitar, but very very close to the body. It was quite realistic. Exceedingly so. However it realistically simulated the sound of a mic in a position I think people mostly wouldn’t like it. Try it for yourself. For me, it was too phasey and “flute-y” sounding and I would just leave it off normally, though strangely, everything I said makes it sound AMAZING on electric bass guitar! I have no idea why, try it. Switching between the body types underneath the picture of the guitar changes the effect that the Body knob controls. If you have the Body knob all the way off, switching these switches seems to do nothing.

Acoustic Image. This FX Block seems very similar to Acoustic Sim, though I just wasn’t able to get as nice a super clean sound, it gave me a few different options of sounding like an acoustic guitar than Acoustic Sim did. I’d really like to see both of these get a bit of work. They are most certainly usable as is, but I think they could be class leaders with a little more tinkering.

Acoustic Preamp – If you are plugging in an actual acoustic guitar, with a pickup, this FX Block will give you the effect you’d expect when plugging into an old Crate Acoustic amp or, paired with the chorus below, something like running a Roland AC60. 

Unlike wither of these, the gain control, and to some extent, surprisingly, the Mid control, will give you some unmistakably tube like distortion. This will not at all give you the “hardness” you may expect and possibly even desire, that a transistor acoustic amp will, and the lack of a Magnetic/Piezo selector switch might make that feel like a double insult.

But that’s before you try the treble control! Want the “spank” of a transistor acoustic amp? Turn it up halfway. Want so much exciter that it takes you into Mutt Lange territory? Keep turning it up. And if you think I’m kidding, here it is on a snare!

An EQ, pretty much as you’d expect. It has two sweepable mid bands with a wide enough Q not to get too “flute-y”.

This is a plugin where you really do feel the limitations of the Positive Grid Paradigm of not having the standard plugin control modifiers, like return to unity gain, return to preset default (or presets at all!), fine tune, direct entry, and perhaps the one that makes it most difficult of all, not being able to see the exact parameter values at a glance. These can all make comparing apples to apples, or really dialing in your sound quite a bit harder than it should be, and hopefully will be looked at across the entire Bias line of products.

Unlike most of the Bias FX modulation blocks, this one has a real mix control! This means that you will likely use this as your chorus regardless of what type of sound you are after. If you don’t care about any of the other acoustic features in this pack, you might just want to buy Bias Pedal Modulation instead, which will get you access to that critical wet/dry control (of course, Positive Grid should have a wet/dry control on EVERYTHING, but until that happens…)

As a chorus, this is pretty nice! No Tempo sync options, no delay control, but it will give you the lush, swirly sound that you are probably after in general, without the phasing problems of the stock Bias FX choruses

Reverb is a decent, basic reverb with no real detailed parameters, but will certainly give you the type of reverb sound you would expect from any of the classic (is it ok to call amps from the 1990’s “classic”?) acoustic amps

Here is a video showing turning a dull, regular electric guitar using EMG 707’s thru a DI box, turning into the type of crystal clean sound I will often use in mixes. After that, I show the effect of the Body control on the Acoustic SIM and the different body styles. Note the phase-y flute-y sound once the body control is engaged. You will be surprised how that can turn into a positive come mix time!

In Conclusion

If you are using Bias FX as a standalone, and really need crystal clean tones, this pack is a no brainer, especially if you want to use a chorus effect, ever. In addition to those two major functions, the other included parts open up a pretty decent extra tone palette.

If you are on iOS, it costs almost nothing, definitely pick it up! Desktop users may want to take a harder look, but if you can swing it, its hard not to have it.

As an exciter, this pack is actually cheaper than some of the others out there. Give it a chance vs the usual suspects when doing your drum or vocal mixes and see how you feel about it.

If you are using Bias FX inside a DAW and have access to other VST’s, you can likely get the contents of this plugin from other VST’s, the acoustic sim from an impulse loader of other acoustic sim effect, the EQ, chorus and reverb from other effects, and likely those will have direct entry, fine tuning, double click to unity, presets, and all the basic functions missing in the Bias world. Even in this case though, give it a try and see if its worth it for you for the all in one convenience of storing an entire chain in one plugin for your templates!

GuitarJack Stage with LBX Stripper

How to set up GuitarJack Stage for four presets, auto engage wah and a spillover delay inside of REAPER using LBX Stripper, using free plugins.

Another installment of Bringing the Studio to the Stage. This time, were setting up four presets using the LBX Stripper script for REAPER

First download REAPER if you don’t already have it https://www.reaper.fm/download.php

Then, make sure you have LBX Stripper installed. Download it from here: https://github.com/L-B-X/LBXStripper/archive/master.zip

In REAPER, go to Options then “Show REAPER resource path in Explorer/Finder, go to your scripts folder and unzip the contents of the LBX Stripper zipfile

Install ReaPack if you don’t have it already, you can grab some of the custom plugins used in this project from there: https://reapack.com/

If you haven’t used ReaPack before, after installation, go to the Extensions menu, and browse the ReaPack packages for any plugins you need

Plugins you may need if you don’t have them already:

  • MIDI Auto Engage – in reapack
  • CC Injector
  • ReaControl MIDI
  • MIDI to ReaControl path

Here are the example project files: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vzik5zi280pc51i/GuitarJack%20Stage.zip?dl=0

After that, just follow along with the video!

Let me know if you have any issues


Bringing the Studio to the Stage! for guitarists

You may have noticed a theme, (that I myself didn’t notice till various manufacturers and friends at NAMM 2018 pointed it out to me) unifying my posts on social media, various forums and even this website lately:

The idea and desire to bring every bit of processing power, DSP, routing philosophy and switching functionality that we enjoy in the recording studio, to our onstage guitar setups.

These include:

  • Your ultimate signal chain you’d use on a mix, without regard to processing power, latency, frequency range and dynamic range response of the playback equipment or other limiting factors
  • Switching between these sounds with no gaps, dropouts, glitches, or delay
  • Controlling the internal parameters of these sounds in an intuitive way (auto engagement of wah pedals as a glaring example)
  • Having every dream rig you ever even imagined available at the touch of a footswitch
  • Being able to have both a perfect monitoring sound onstage as well as your ideal sound projected to the audience from the PA system

The Basics

The very basics of this system would be your guitar, whatever system would be handling the inputs and outputs and the DSP involved (be it a computer or multiFX pedal or modeling amp or mobile device, even your phone!), some way to control it (likely a pedalboard), and the ways to amplify this for monitoring and get it out to the PA system

Design Philosophy

Ideally, especially due to the inherent rule of Murphy’s law and the perceived and often justified unreliability of computer systems, I would like to have the simplest, most foolproof setup possible

My “One Wire iOS FRFR setup” article is a prime example

As wireless as possible would be nice, and I include power wires in this. If it can be battery powered by rechargables, so much the better

An example of one of the possible components would be my Wireless, Battery Powered FCB1010 article

Portability is another big factor. You don’t want to be THAT GUY that takes 20 minutes to set up and still sounds like crap. You don’t want to be that guy that every soundman puts on blast to his peers.

The Two Path Philosophy!

Central to this whole endeavour, is the Two Path Philosophy: In short, there will be an onstage monitoring path, in the role traditionally filled by the guitar amplifier, and a Front of House path, where your signal goes to the PA system. Depending on the actual hardware used, these two paths may need drastically different signals, for instance, a traditional guitar amplifier used for monitoring will want a signal without any speaker simulation on it, while the PA system will absolutely require a cabinet sound to be present. This is a HUGE consideration, and one that the Marketing Machine will ignore or lie about time and again.

If you are coming from an audio engineering background, you will doubtlessly be aware of the constant bombardment of snake oil salesmen, scammers and the nonstop attempt of the Marketing Machine to separate you from your money. I have to warn you, that the guitar world is even worse. Its a mix of the willfully ignorant and deliberately deceptive and finding real answers can be an exercise in tilting at windmills. Good luck, you have been warned.

The Components

Here are the basic components in some detail, some or most of these may or may not be combined into a single unit, so take this for what its worth

Guitar to Interface

This part could be as simple as a guitar cable to your interface. In my case, I usually have a wireless with the receiver velcro’d to my FRFR speaker, which also has electrical power, the interface and the DI velcro’d or hot glued to it.


The way to get your guitar signal into the DSP system. This will usually be a combination of analog to digital converters, digital to analog converters, some sort of interface topology for your computer or mobile device, like USB or Lightning, and hopefully some monitoring and control facilities, like output volume controls (don’t laugh, a lot of them don’t have this basic feature!).

If you are using a modeling combo or MultiFX pedalboard, this could also include the interface. Some of them also include the switching functionality. Some of them can also be used AS a computer/mobile device interface either instead of or even WITH the unit’s internal DSP. (Pod XT Live comes to mind, it has a MIDI controller built in for footswitching, a real ASIO interface over USB and a lot of internal DSP). Many of these devices have an interface for the computer over USB but their drivers and control software do not truly allow you to replace their internal chain (such as the Line 6 Firehawk and Line 6 Amplifi 150) sadly.

Standard 2 channel computer interfaces

In general (and this could change) most people will be looking at the standard 2 channel computer interface for this.


  • The most often picked models will have a DI input of some sort to minimize the amount of gear you need to carry. Again dealing with portability, the simpler the better!
  • This can seem small at this point, but can yield a big stick live, is whether or not the interface includes a hardware output volume knob
  • Direct monitoring: manufacturers of crappy drivers make all sorts of a big deal about this function, but its useless in our case. Any interface under consideration MUST be able to defeat the direct monitoring function, we definitely don’t want (in almost any case), the unprocessed guitar signal running out the outputs in parallel with the processed signal
  • Round Trip latency – This is usually the be all end all, though in real world testing, people are nowhere near as sensitive to reasonable latency as the Marketing Machine and forum trolls would have you believe. I made a Round Trip Latency chart with contributions from users around the world. This is a good resource to compare interfaces, and though it could be seen as a correlation/causation fallacy, I have found, almost without exception, that the faster drivers are more reliable and less resource hungry. Take that to the bank
  • Connectivity – Eeek, due to the competing standards of the FRFR systems’ inputs, and the adaptability issues you can run into with anything aside from XLR, this can be sketchy. For the most part you are going to see 1/4″ females for the output of these interfaces, though some will have XLR (yay! assuming your FRFR has XLR inputs) or unfortunately RCA. Some will only have an output on a stereo 1/4″ meant as a headphone output. Also check just which outputs the previously mention output volume knob controls, it may not be the one you were hoping for
  • Distortion – This can be another biggie. A lot of these interface choices absolutely cannot handle the output of hotter guitar pickups. Some distort in the analog realm, no matter where you set the input gain. Some go over 0dBFS even at the lowest gains, but do not appear to distort in the analog realm

Here are some specific USB interfaces that are commonly seen for our purposes:

Shown also are the Round Trip Latency numbers at 512, 256, 128 and 64 samples. Yes, some can go lower, but that’s largely academic. A lot of the DSP we will be using has an RT CPU processing time around 2 milliseconds so anything under that could be irrelevant. It all depends on what you are doing with the signal

The Top Tier:

These are the three with really low RTL figures, and generally highest regarded (rightly or wrongly)

RME has long set the standard when it comes to drivers and performance, regardless of how much the Marketing Machine would love to replace them. Usually RME and MOTU are going neck and neck, but unfortunately, MOTU’s USB performance seems to trail far, far behind.  This model has XLR outs, MIDI, onboard meters, and a nice fat volume knob, It also has a not so nice, big, fat, 750 dollar price

This model comes highly recommended across reputable sources, though I haven’t tried it personally. It has MIDI, 1/4″ outs on separate jacks, and a big, fat, obvious volume knob. $250

This device’s RTL numbers justify its inclusion to this particular category. I haven’t tried one myself, and the amount of hype surrounding this company, and what sure seems to be Marketing Machine saturation has made me highly skeptical, but the numbers look good. Separate 1/4″ output jacks and a nice, big volume knob. $200

Commonly used models:

The ubiquitous Focusrite units really dominate this market. Forever locked in a war with Presonus over this particular chunk of the userbase, Focusrite’s commitment to user support really seems to help tip the scales in their favor. You will likely be able to find Focusrite products wherever you go and there are always deals online for bundles with these products, in case you need to add recording studio considerations to your purchase as well as the guitar stuff we are focused on here. The 2i2 has separate 1/4″ outs, while the Solo has RCA’s. Both have a nice volume knob and a switch to defeat the direct monitoring. $150 for the 212, $100 for the Solo. Where these seem to fall behind is the RTL at 256 samples, they definitely hold their own at 128. Definitely worth adding to the Focusrite offerings here is the 2i4, which brings MIDI I/O and balanced line outs on separate 1/4″ to the table, at $180

Yep, Behringer. The drivers for these two in particular are actually pretty good! I warn you in the strongest terms not to assume the same for other Behringer drivers. Many require you to use ASIO4All instead. Both units have separate 1/4″ outs and volume knobs, with the 204 adding MIDI I/O. While at extreme low latency settings the focusrite drivers are ahead, at 256 samples, the Behringer drivers pull ahead. $60 dollars for the 202 and $80 dollars for the 204

There are tons and tons of other USB interfaces out there, and if one really screams out at me, I’ll be sure to list it

iOS interfaces

You might well want to read my guide to iOS interfaces for some detail

Sonoma Wireworks StudioJack Mini/GuitarJack Stage – These are the gold standard in iOS interfaces at the moment. HEALTHY output levels, pristine sound quality, stable drivers, lightning powered, with actual stereo outputs, and pass through charging. SJM has stereo outs on a single 1/4″ TRS, while the GJS has separate 1/4″ outs. Unlike most of the rest, these units can handle the Dual Path Philosophy on 1/4″, which can be a real life saver. GuitarJack Stage adds switching and realtime parameter control over MIDI to the equation, plus an expression pedal input. StudioJack Mini goes for $150 while GuitjarJack Stage can be found for $300. iOS has a lot lot lot of limitations for our purposes, the Sonoma Wireworks interfaces certainly help as much as they can to get around them. There are other interfaces out there for iOS, but these two come extremely highly recommended. ASIO drivers let these interfaces double as USB computer interfaces for Windows and OSX as well.

IK Multimedia iRig HD2 – These are probably going to be the most common interfaces you’ll see and come at a decent price. The 1/4″ output is mono, though it does have stereo outs on 1/8″. No ASIO drivers, though it does work with extremely long latency with ASIO4All. $100

DSP System

The “computer” used for processing. Play your guitar thru your interface, interface sends a signal to the computer, the computer modifies your sounds, send it back out through the interface into the speakers for you and your audience to hear.

MultiFX combos and MultiFX pedalboards fall in this category, but for the most part, they are too limited on their own for our purposes here. We’re really looking at two platforms at this time: Desktop/Laptops running Windows and OSX or tablets running iOS.


Although it could be argued that iOS was really first to the party, and that the saturation of iDevices on the market means that apps and hardware would be plentiful and well evolved, in reality the iOS system is far, far behind the laptop offerings. While there is AudioUnits, sort of, there is no VST, or VST type system to route, process and modify audio between applications. InterAppAudio and AudioBus do actually perform some of these functions, but not in as meaningful a way as you would probably expect at this stage in time. Audio apps are not really developed with real world, onstage use in mind, and their lack of market knowledge really shows in many painful ways.

All that said, you might still be perfectly happy with what’s available out there.

Newer iPad models are certainly powerful enough to handle the processing you want to do.

Sadly, though they were so early to the market, Amplitube for iOS is a pathetic shell of its VST or standalone laptop version. You may find Tonestack as a decent approximation though (and it comes with some cool tricks of its own). Bias and BiasFX work almost the same as their standalone laptop versions do (minus the painful exclusion of Impulse Response loaders, though they will load amps made on the laptop with impulses baked in), though these two processes really benefit from the help of other VSTs and DAW’s internal routing to really make a complete package. There are a few IR loaders you can run inside AudioBus or IAA, but I found them to be far too sketchy for reliable use.

Both Tonestack and BiasFX have workarounds, although very limited, that can get them to Two Path outputs. Tonestack has a splitter and you can put a speaker cabinet on one path, while the other path can carry a signal with no speaker cabinet. For BiasFX, you can create one Amp with an IR built in for the PA path and another amp with the cabinet bypassed for the guitar amp signal. Recent versions of BiasAmp 2 may have an issue with this, I’ll keep this updated. The Bias Solutions require that you have Bias Amp desktop installed on your laptop or desktop. All of the Two Path issues require that you have an interface with stereo outs in order to implement the solutions, so keep that in mind.

Tonestack brings auto engage for the wah to the table, and FX ranging from usable to full on VST quality. Bias seems to have the same quality of amps, indistinguishable between the iOS and VST.

MIDI implementation across the iOS apps is not exactly something to be jumping for joy over. Again this really feels like a case of the creators not having to use these things live onstage themselves. While certainly workable, for the most part, these fall far, far short of even a 1990’s multiFX pedal system, which is a sad indictment on humanity indeed.

Personally, my iOS setup has Tonestack as the host app with Bias FX run inside it through IAA, as I just can’t quite get the Tonestack amps to sound the way I’d like

Desktop/Laptop (Windows/OSX)

Switching System

Monitoring System

Front of House System

Example Systems

Line 6 Pod XT Live as interface and pedalboard

View this post on Instagram

Testing the wah auto auto engage

A post shared by Pipeline Audio (@pipelineaudio) on

The REAPER Live Pedalboard Project!

Some of you are aware that a few users here and at the REAPER forum and various Facebook groups have been hard at work creating the framework needed to give ridiculous amounts of control over switching, timing, reliability, convenience and utility itself between MIDI inputs and BiasFX for live use.

If you aren’t into extremely tweaky micro-management and aren’t a control freak with a Napoleon complex, stop reading this and go buy Gig Performer at https://www.gigperformer.com/ Gig Performer can do most of this really easily, with way less hassle on your end. For all I know it could actually do ALL of this, but I wasn’t able to get it there.

None of this would be remotely possible without the hard work of Michael Schell, mpl and Daniel Perry

So here we go. I will link the projects as we create them and hopefully edit and update any major changes so things will always work (hopefully)

First of all, you’ll need REAPER

Then you’ll need to either grab tons of scripts and new plugs we made, or just import the preferences (the much easier thing to do). Simply grab this file, then in REAPER options/preferences/General/Import Configuration
https://www.dropbox.com/s/28d5gm5a3vvj7b4/reaper conifg.ReaperConfigZip?dl=0

Most of this also depends on SWS Live configs to handle various actions

Depending on your MIDI pedalboard setup, you may have some hoops to jump through.

Piz MIDI plugins can remap whatever you want to do https://www.thepiz.org/plugins/

Included in the sample project files below are SWS PC to CC JSFX plugins, so that you can turn your PC commands into the CC commands SWS Live wants.

Here is a pic of how I have my pedalboard programmed so that I can avoid all of that








If you have a Behringer FCB1010 and FCB1010 Manager (https://mountainutilities.eu/fcb1010), you could just download my FCB 1010 files



Sample Project #1

First Sample project is a simple 5 patch file with no crossfading and no spillover tracks. It has a wah that auto engages, switching to a new patch will automatically bypass the wah

In addition to the five patches, there is a tap tempo function and a tuner function which will pop the tuner up and mute the output
https://www.dropbox.com/s/ao5523qwekuu01k/BASIC Live Configs bias test 5 patches.rpp?dl=0

IMPORTANT! Do not save this project with a Bias FX GUI open and showing. Close the FX tabs first. There’s a potential bug that can happen if it loads an open Bias FX GUI on project startup

Some things to note on this project file:

  • This is the most basic type of project showing a proof of concept
  • Mute fade time can be set in preferences to shorten the switching time, and also the “tiny fade” in Live configs can be set shorter or longer. I tried to get a good medium between switching time and any clicks or pops
  • Again this is EXTREMELY basic, using Live Configs own routing and switching system. A much more complex crossfading plugin and script system has been made if you really hate the dropouts here
  • You can easily make a spillover track having delays and reverbs that will smooth the switching and let the tails play out even though the input is cut off

If people find this helpful or interesting, I’ll upload some much more complex files

Sample project #2.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/28d5gm5a3vvj7b4/reaper conifg.ReaperConfigZip?dl=0

This one uses the MIDI Fade FX plugin created by Michael Schnell.

The actions in SWS Live Configs have been replaced by custom macros to mute track groups, reset the wah and activate MIDI Fade X

MIDI Fade X allows crossfading between the patches. You can go into each channel’s FX window and modify them to taste.

This is a MUCH more complicated setup to set up, but if you want glitch free, dropout free, near instant switching, this is a way to achieve it

Project #3. Spillover

https://www.dropbox.com/s/u0q95wqiy0b2uyo/MFX Live Configs bias test 5 patches with spillover.rpp?dl=0

Now here’s where things can get really interesting. By running parallel paths, you can send to tracks which never mute, allowing “spillover effects” when patches are changed.

In this case, there is a delay and reverb which, while it can have its receive cut off, will still send to the master. Say you have a Chord on the the Clean +FX tracks playing. The delay will keep going, playing clean, even though you switch over to your distorted track.

Lots and lots of different ways to do this

In this case, I have turned the send to master off on the tracks I want to send to spillover. In other cases, you may want to have both sending to master.

Again, lots of ways to skin this cat

8 mic pre + ADAT interfaces March 2018

Caveat: None of this is gospel! I may have made some mistakes, so please double check my findings before you drain your piggy bank!

I was aghast at how little I knew of the multichannel interface market of the last few years. I guess its time to catch up. I’ll be looking at 8 channel plus ADAT I/O interfaces running USB

Not so long ago, this was a no brainer. With some rare exceptions, the interface was MOTU or RME, usually firewire, but the odd USB2 interface claimed speeds fast enough (though I didn’t do much testing of those) and a few PCI units still holding on. 8 channel mic pre’s with ADAT outs were plentiful, and at least that still seems like the case

For this post, I’ll be looking at USB solutions. I know from recent experience, that some of these are pretty finnicky with some USB 3 drivers, and require BIOS to be switched back to USB 2, and I’ll try and note that if I can. I still don’t have any real round trip latency numbers on the behringer devices that have taken even the pro world by storm over the last few years and I don’t even know if they have actual ASIO drivers (spare me the ASIO 4 All stuff please). I’m not interested in the mostly vaporware thunderbolt interfaces for this, nor would want to hang my hat on firewire still being a thing in most newer desktops never mind laptops. Ethernet audio looks very, very interesting to me, and I’d love a lot more education about it coming my way. From a talk with a few manufacturers, it doesn’t seem to me like its as viable an option as I’d like, but I doubt I need to worry about that for long, but for now, USB

There are TONS more of these (MOTU alone has a bewildering array) but I want to limit these to units that have at least eight actual mic preamps on them. I hate to cut these off because there are quite a lot that you could make work, but I want this list to at least pretend to be manageable. Kind of freaking out that I’m not seeing an RME entry on here. I am looking into the RME OctaMic XTC, which seems to fall in this category, but is listed under their mic preamps instead of their USB interfaces. Waiting on some info from RME.

The Contenders

Antelope Audio

This company makes a lot of what I consider in Don’t Get Jacked, as highly dubious claims about clocking, and will sell you incredibly expensive clocks if you’d like. That said, these interfaces have a lot of interesting features which may or may not be useful to you. In general, if you are in the 8 mic pre+ADAT market, you will probably find another interface that not only is far far cheaper, but will likely suit your needs better than any of these (if you need MIDI for example). Additionally, I have no idea what these drivers are like. With the hype surrounding these products coupled with the lack of substantive information about them, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t have another Apogee interface situation on our hands. In short, if you are a believer in word clock magic, you’ll probably want to save the frustration and buy one of these, as you will eventually do it anyway, but if you are a member of the reality based community, you might want to look elsewhere.


Its always a toss up with Behringer stuff. Some of it is an unreal value, at any cost, easily besting rivals at ten times the price, and often boasting features even its more expensive competitors can’t match. Seemingly just as often, they offer crap that isn’t tempered even by the amount you “save”. I don’t know how well the current drivers for the models listed work, but I am trying to find out.


For a breath of fresh air, here is a company, that although they certainly have a hugely pedigreed name, not only are they not afraid to be completely upfront with information, but they also have many products in the “value” category, well tailored to this particular market. Aside from a dicey <ahem> start with DICE-II drivers in their firewire interfaces, Focusrite’s USB drivers, while not the fastest on the market are quite mature and stable at this point. They have done a good job of communicating with the community, and enter the dreaded forums when need be. While nobody is beyond reproach, Focusrite certainly earn my trust as a trustworthy company.


When it comes to absolute speed and stability, MOTU and RME are the two horses in a two horse race, with the rest of the field trailing behind in various positions. As we move on away from firewire, it is a scary ride to watch these guys try and get the same I/O count over USB. I installed an 896mk3 Hybrid in a broadcast station, where it ran 24/7 on air for more than 3 years, and when it finally croaked, MOTU was only too happy to honor the warranty. The new 8pre USB is the successor to the firewire 8pre I had installed in dozens of studios and reccomended to many hundreds more. Unfortunately, you may not necessarily find what you want, features wise, among these particular models, but if they do fit your needs, these are a great way to go!


Presonus and Focusrite seem to be locked in a deathmatch, with the winner being us, the consumers. These two continue to offer features aimed right at the 16 input market and in a nonstop game of one-upmanship, drop product after product screaming our names. If you need the Full Monte (DI’s, MIDI, wordclock and ADAT), chances are these guys have what you are looking for, and you’ll just watch the current offers, sales and specials to pick between. Like Focusrite, Presonus had a disastrous run with DICE-II early on (as did so many other companies), but also like Focusrite, their USB drivers are now stable and mature.


The company that brought you Cubase and Wavelab! And much more importantly for everyone, ASIO and VST. When Steinberg brought Nuendo to market, it was the first time many of us had heard of RME. The early Steinberg branded RME gear really brought about a shift in what we could expect in terms of quality, reliability and support. I’ve had legendary forum flame wars with RME, but only because I knew what they were capable of and always respected them, no matter how heated it got. Steinberg seems to have teamed up with other hardware manufacturers since then, and I have no idea who’s making the UR824, but I hear a lot of praise for it in the forums. I’ll be investigating this one as time goes on.


I’ve been hands on with this one, though it was sketchy. Could have just been the guy’s laptop setup. This one is pretty full featured, with Word clock in and out, midi and DI’s. Not too sure how well the drivers work.

Zoom UAC-8

This company seems to be hit or miss when it comes to guitar processors and recording systems, but they are always willing to jump in with both feet when a market presents itself. I don’t know firsthand how their UAC-8 performs, but it certainly has the right feature set for many of the potential users. I’ll see what I can dig up.