I think that the hardest decision for a lot of people who are building a studio is going to be selecting the right audio interface (soundcard).
As my studio is essentially a composing studio, I based the choice to use the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 on these features:
- Budget – I wanted something that was a reasonable price. I think more often than not, many overspend when it comes to the audio interface. It is going to be a key component to the studio, but you don’t have to be tempted to spend £1000’s on the latest interface if you don’t need it. My advice is always buy based on the need, not the sales patter and features you’ll never use.
- Connectivity – As my main computer I run a 5.1 Mac Pro, and I wanted something that was FireWire.
- Rackmount – I like a clean desk with as little on it as possible. During the day, I’ll want to use additional equipment and have space to jot notes in my notepad without moving stuff. So a rackmount interface was ideal. Everything I do runs through a mixing desk that’s bussed off to the Saffire, so I don’t need it close by to adjust the controls.
- Reliability – I’ve found that a lot of other people had positive feedback for the Saffire Pro 40, which helped in the decision making process. I want to spend as little time as possible, adjusting and fixing issues. The Saffire Pro 40 works out of the box, and since setting it up, I’ve never had to change anything.
Now, everyone will have a different studio, and therefore the needs are going to be different. I use a lot of virtual instruments and internal effects, and I mostly record guitar, bass and vocals in the studio. I do not need more than eight inputs at once, plus I get a 5.1 surround from the Saffire Pro 40.
In terms of my personal experience as a freelance composer, I have found the sound quality to be impressive. The Saffire Pro 40 has a beautiful low end and delivers a tremendous dynamic range. I’ve found that there is none of the graininess that other interfaces have at the same price range.
Although there is some latency, I’ve never had any issues when tracking some guitars or vocals.
The preamps are great, and I think that generally, you can’t go far wrong with the Focusrite equipment and I love the quality of them. What’s more, the preamps remain whisper‑quiet and perfectly usable even when you turn the gain knob to maximum, which can’t be said for a lot of comparable products.
I’ve found the monitoring to be perfect because you get the LED traffic light system for each of the inputs
Now, one of the negative things that I believe to be a little exaggerated is the control software. There is some setup needed if you want custom routing, but this took me no longer than 30 minutes. I think Focusrite have done an excellent job updating there GUI, and I found it simple to use.
Also, if you want to have everything set up for your own needs and studio requirements, you should expect to have to put in some time to have this in place. Nothing is perfect for everyone straight out of the box.
Here is the specification:
- Firewire audio & MIDI interface
- Compatible with: Mac OS 10.4 and above, Windows XP SP2 and Vista.
- Analogue inputs: eight, balanced, on combi XLRs.
- Built‑in mic preamps: eight, plus two high‑impedance instrument inputs.
- Analogue outputs: 10, balanced, on quarter‑inch jacks.
- Headphone outputs: two, replicating outputs 7/8 and 9/10, on quarter‑inch jacks.
- Digital inputs: stereo coaxial S/PDIF, optical S/PDIF or ADAT.
- Digital outputs: stereo coaxial S/PDIF, optical S/PDIF or ADAT.
- Other I/O: MIDI, two‑channel internal ‘loopback’ input
In short, I’ve personally found the Saffire Pro 40 exceptional value for money. The control software and monitor metering are handy, and to be honest, easy to use. The preamps are great, and to is the sound quality
Yes, there are other interfaces available, but in my opinion, there is very little in this price range that offers the features I’m looking for that is of this quality, particularly with the FireWire connectivity. I think now you can pick one up for less than £200!!