Topic: The official Babyface Pro Thread
This thread should provide a lot of details, questions and answers on RME’s new Babyface Pro. Let me first state that the BF Pro started as a simple update to the old Babyface, over a year ago, and ended up as a completely reengineered unit, where nothing inside (as well as outside) is the same as before. It took longer than expected, it needed more resources, and became more expensive than planned. But the final product is just worth everything that we had to fight with during development. It is phantastic, beautiful, convincing, rock solid, perfect sounding, easy to use, robust, and everyone who had the chance to play with it fell in love immediately!
During development we had to fight with two topics all the time – power consumption and cost. We wanted to improve the technical specifications, lower THD, increase I/O levels, add 2 analog channels, add more LEDs and buttons – but still tried to keep the mobile aspect of having it run bus powered on every computer without an additional, external power supply.
The result is quite impressive. We accomplished everything from the wish list, and current drawn rose only by 100 mA (equaling 0.5 Watts). As a comparison: that's 80% less than our first prototype!
Some of the new technology used generates higher cost compared to the old Babyface. Still we think that the price increase, seeing the vast improvements and additions, is worth it. Once the unit starts shipping you will agree that it is not expensive, but compared to what you get the price point is typical for RME - high quality at an unusual low price point.
The above points also led to the exclusion of Dynamics. That would have required a bigger FPGA plus an additional DSP chip, resulting in too high cost as well as too high power consumption. Sorry.
So we took our first final samples to the Frankfurt Musikmesse to show them to the public, and got much more positive feedback than we ever expected. Thank you all for that!
Of course there will always be people who need something different than what the unit offers. You really need Dynamics? Please consider a UCX then. You want the old breakout cable back? Then you are quite alone with that. ADAT on the side is terrible? Interestingly no one of the development team liked the idea. You have to see it live and use it on your desktop to realize: 2 thin cables going away from the side, very flexible so they can be bent to the back easily, are simply no problem at all. We did our best with the included 90° angled USB connector to keep cables not spreading out everywhere, but in real-world it simply isn’t an issue at all.
In a forum someone complained about the phones outputs on the right side, claiming that these have to be at the front. This would have the disadvantage of your wrist/hand lying on them all the time while using the big knob or buttons…one can’t be more wrong than that, it seems.
We, the development team as well as a few experts from our global distribution network have the pleasure to use the Babyface Pro daily. While some would call it ‘testing’, we enjoy it as listening to music, doing recordings, operating the simple user surface (without having to read the manual), changing between online modes on Mac and PC, stand-alone mode and Class Compliant operation, easily, quickly, and with no hassle at all. This unit is more fun than anything else we ever built. And you need serious threats to get a unit back from those who had the chance to try it!
Now here is the first bunch of question and answers. Feel free to come up with more.
- What an ugly plastic housing!
We were quite shocked to read comments like that. The 600 grams housing is machined from 2 blocks of aluminum with highest precision, no comparison to the old die cast housing. The reason for such comments lies in another superior technology used here. The final aluminum halfs, top and bottom, receive a special surface treatment similar to sand-blasting. But in this case small steel balls are jammed at it. These compress the upper part of the aluminum and make it more scratch resistant. At the same time it gets a smooth finish that makes people think about plastic fakes from HiFi amps that try to look like metal – when just looking at the renders that we published to the press. Take the Babyface Pro in your hand, and a fraction of a second later you know you got the real deal.
- How come the new BF Pro can work more reliable on USB bus power when it even draws more current than the old one?
The old Babyface had ‘simpler’ line regulators and tried to work as good as it could with the power coming out of the USB socket. If such sockets, or the cables used were keeping the voltage below 4.6 V the Babyface started failing. In the Babyface Pro a special power circuit re-generates the internal power lines and lets the Babyface work down to 3.6 V!
- Still you draw more power than the USB spec allows (500 mA).
True, but you won’t find any computer these days that has a problem with that. Even older ones happily supply at least 900 mA, some even more, and that is not a case of modern power specs or smartphone charging. It simply worked like that. The only ‘problem’ was that the voltage dropped to around 4.6 volts or lower, which was a no-go for the old Babyface, and then required either the use of the Y cable, or of an external power supply. Additionally, we live in times of USB 3, where these sockets provide more than 900 mA anyway. Also to any connected USB 2 interface.
- RME was the first to come up with USB 3 and now the new Babyface Pro has only USB 2?
Do you really want to pay a lot of money for something that doesn’t give you any advantage? USB 3 does NOT reduce latency at all. It just delivers more bandwidth to transfer more channels. RME can easily transfer up to 70 channels I/O over USB 2 (MADIface XT, MADIface USB). The Babyface has just 12 channels I/O. USB would have made it significantly more expensive due to a bigger FPGA and a special USB 3 phy required – for nothing.
- Why can’t I charge my iPad in Class Compliant mode?
This functionality requires MFi certification with modifications in hardware and software, plus a special USB to Lightning cable. As this would have added substantial cost to all users, regardless if they need and use it or not, we opted to not add this functionality.
- Why didn’t you use a nice modern LCD or even touch screen as display?
Simply because they come with a hefty price tag, and once you played around with the new 4 bar LED display (which is even optimized for low current consumption) you will realize that it is all you need. The new operation modes and the signalling through the LEDs cover everything, from status to guidance, shown in an intuitive, easy to understand way. The only criticism I would accept is that we should have had some of these ideas already with the old Babyface. Taken.
The last three questions had a common topic - cost. Note that we decided to put all the money into the sound quality. Better SNR, THD, professional I/O levels, more powerful phones output, stunning frequency response and top-notch stable operation were more important to us than the three topics raised above.
- How far can I throw the device?
Farther than any other audio interface. The reason is the shaped bottom that equals a plane's wing shape, causing the so called uplift effect known from aviation. Note that after its flight the Babyface Pro might no longer be working as expected.
- Does turning the wheel too much make me feel dizzy?
Definitely. You can increase the effect by adding a spiral sticker as known from the Time Tunnel tv classics.
- Can I use two headphones at the same time, and why aren’t both outputs low impedance?
The headphones get the same signal (channels 3/4), but have separated driver circuits, so one isn’t affecting the other, two headphones is no problem. Providing ample current at high voltages is, especially in a bus powered device like the Babyface Pro. The output with the higher output level (+13 dBu) has a serial resistor as short-circuit protection of 10 Ohms, equaling its output impedance. The small TRS output delivers only +7 dBu output level, therefore the short circuit protection can be much smaller, in this case 2 Ohms. Level and output impedance make it work perfectly with low impedance phones as they have become popular with the smartphone virus, and are now available even as HiFi Hi-End versions with less than 80 Ohms, but increased efficiency, so the lower output level is fully sufficient.
- I want to know everything about the new Babyface Pro. Give me more details – ANY details!
As usual with RME the manual has ALL the details, on 94 pages, available in English and German. Read it here:
- Is the unit still the same as when presented in Frankfurt?
Of course not. RME never stops development nor adding improvements, new ideas and useful features. The manuals are on the very latest state already, and mention:
- mic gain now adjustable in steps of 1 dB over a range of 65 dB (plus 11 dB PAD)
- optional output copy mode for iOS operation
- special display easter egg (written with invisible ink)
- I like videos!
We too. Here is one in English and one in German that give a good impression and overview on the Babyface Pro.
(Sorry for all the other teams that came along in Frankfurt. There are lots of videos available, this is just a random choice. And one correction: the stand in the video is not self-made, but available from König&Meyer, Design microphone table stand 23250).
- When is it shipping?
We cannot give an exact date, currently it is said end of June. Note that the first two production runs are sold out already, so make sure your dealer reserve one for you upfront.
- Other threads about the Babyface Pro so far: