Topic: ADI-8 QS + Digiface USB vs UCX/UFX II

My wife and I are professional voice artists (but not technical experts) and in the process of upgrading our studio hardware (from Focusrite).

Our original hardware plan was to interface our mic preamps with a new UFX II (or UCX II) - running via USB into Windows PC. (All audio is recorded/mixed/edited/mastered in Adobe Audition).

In light of the shortage of RME units we are looking at potential alternatives, but reluctant to move away from RME based on their recommended excellent - and bulletproof - reputation.

We know someone wanting to sell their 2nd hand ADI-8 QS for around £900 / €1100.

I understand it is 'better' (but usually more expensive) to have separate AD/DA conversion so I'm interested in exploring this option.


1. I assume I can interface the ADI-8 with a Digiface USB and then into the PC?
2. Will this provide 'better' quality sound than a UCX/UFX II?
3. For monitoring - can I just go from the analogue-outs of the ADI straight into headphone amp & studio monitors? (or do I need something else in between?
4. For monitor volume, can an ARC USB take care of that?
5. I assume Totalmix just controls the Digiface I/O and nothing to do with ADI I/O?

And... finally... is this an inherently good or bad idea compared to our original plan?!

Thanks and hope these aren't stupid questions - we're not very knowledgeable on hardware so it's a steep learning curve!


2 (edited by ramses 2022-02-11 22:45:03)

Re: ADI-8 QS + Digiface USB vs UCX/UFX II

Conversion quality (AD/DA) is very good generally.
RME is known for a transparent (no "signature") sound.

Newer products tend to have slightly better technical data (SNR, THD, lower converter latencies for A/D and D/A; see technical section of manuals) where differences are in most if not all cases measurable, but not audible in a blind test.

You should not only consider pure technical data when selecting such products like AD/DA converter.
You also have to look for certain product features.

The ADI-8 QS is an excellent AD/DA converter and one of it's strengths, besides quality is, that you can
- control everything at the device, you do not need a certain software for operating it
- can be upgraded to support MADI, but this module is quite expensive, better get a ADI-8 QSM with MADI module
- can be remote controlled either through MIDI or MIDI over MADI

But this converter has been designed for special purposes in a studio if you want to connect 8 analog channels of a mixer of a tape where all ports run at the same reference level on inputs and on outputs.

Newer products have meanwhile the flexibility, that you can set the reference level on a per port base like on a recording interface like the UFX II or UFX+. This might be a requirement of your project studio .. or not.
AD/DA converter with ref level settings per ports are e.g.: M-32 Pro AD and DA or the M-1610 Pro.

You can use smaller Recording interfaces like the Digiface USB, but it could be a disadvantage not to have
- WC (word clock)
- MIDI for any remote control options

Another question is how far away from the recording interfaces the devices have to be placed.
ADAT: 8ch @single speed, cable length 10-15m
MADI: 64ch @single speed, cable length up to 2km between each of the devices in a MADI ring of 8 devices (8x8 ports).

Some other devices support not only MADI but are also prepared for AVB, so if you want to move to ethernet based setups, the newer devices like M32-Pro or M-1610 Pro could be an advantage, but because of this they are more expensive.

I personally think the Digiface USB is too limited as it does not offer MIDI and WC which you might need at a certain point. Latest if you use Focusrite preamps, which do not have an ADAT IN port for clock sync, then its better to use WC (word clock) or you need to use this device as clock master, but what if you have two of those ?!

Better choice would be the use of a PCIe card like the HDSPe RayDAT if your setup / computer allows.
Because then you have besides 4X ADAT also 2xMIDI, SPDIF, AES and optionally WC.

Ideal RME setup would be IMHO:
- UFX+
- ADI-2 Pro FS R BE for the monitoring section  (via AES or ADAT)
- M-1610 Pro as additional AD/DA converter (via MADI)
- 12Mic as Mic Preamp (via MADI; can be remote controlled later also by Auxdevice/TM FX)
but of course it's quite expensive.

With the ARC USB you control e.g. Main Out of the recording interface, you define whether this is an analog or digital port of your recording interface.

Question is
- how many devices you want to connect, which exactly
- what sample rates do you need, also double speed (port multiplexing robs 50% of ADAT/MADI channels)
- whether you need reflevels per port
- whether you need remote control features through either MIDI cabling or by using MIDI over MADI (if you have MADI)
What is your max budget for this...

BR Ramses - UFX III, 12Mic, XTC, ADI-2 Pro FS R BE, RayDAT, X10SRi-F, E5-1680v4, Win10Pro22H2, Cub13

Re: ADI-8 QS + Digiface USB vs UCX/UFX II

Thanks so much for that very comprehensive response - much appreciated.

We're interfacing (for now) 1 x Grace Design M101 preamp & 1 x Focusrite ISA 1 preamp (both to be purchased shortly). At a later date when budget allows, probably another 2-3 mic preamps. So maximum recording channels required for the foreseeable few years at least, will be 5.

In answer to some of your key points...

'Reference levels' - must confess in my ignorance I didn't know about these or their significance... I'm not actually sure if I would need flexibility per channel on these or not... if I'm using different mic pre manufacturers, would this be important?

For WC and MADI etc... the studio requirements will probably only be (for the next foreseeable years) recording just these 5 channels (we are voice over studio only). I acknowledge having the potential to expand is always preferable but I am limited on budget and don't need, for example, the wider capabilities that a music studio requires so will need to compromise on some things.

For remote control - I'm not sure specifically what I would want to remotely control (other than volume)? Sorry for the ignorance! Once the system is set up for voice recording it's unlikely I'd need to change anything in the configuration...

Approx Cable lengths:
Mics to mic pres - 10m
Mic Pres - AD/DA - 1m
AD/DA - Digiface - 1m
Digiface - PC - 3m

Sample rates:
I have traditionally recorded at 48kHz which seems to be the 'norm' for voice over recording. (For me this always begs the question why I need eg. 192kHz AD/DA capability...?)

I like the suggestion of the PCI interface - I'm going to investigate my PC to see if I have any spare slots.

Max Budget:
Thanks for your suggested kit list - I'll keep that as a long-term end-goal to aim towards as budget allows.
Sadly, at this stage I'm limited to around £1700k/€2000 for the bit between mic pres and PC (hence considering the UFX II and now this opportunistic spot of the 2nd-hand ADI-8).

Thanks so much for you input, it's extremely helpful.

4 (edited by ramses 2022-02-11 22:50:36)

Re: ADI-8 QS + Digiface USB vs UCX/UFX II

Check out the HDSPe RayDAT, good card.

I personally record mostly in 44.1, Jazz recordings I would perhaps do in double speed.
192 kHz is too much, only if you sell hires audio.

BR Ramses - UFX III, 12Mic, XTC, ADI-2 Pro FS R BE, RayDAT, X10SRi-F, E5-1680v4, Win10Pro22H2, Cub13