Focusrite Saffire Pro26 and Pro10 Firewire Audio Interfaces

Focusrite Pro 26 i/o and Pro 10 i/o Multi-Channel Firewire Audio
Interfaces
Mike Rivers
September 2007
Windows and ASIO are strange bedfellows. The nature of the ASIO device driver
model is that a program that uses that driver can talk to only one unit at a time.
The Macintosh OSX is able to “consolidate” multiple ASIO devices so that, to a
program, they appear as a single device with the total number of inputs and
outputs on the various connected devices. Windows has no such capability, with
the exception of the short-lived CEntrance Universal ASIO Driver and some
device-specific drivers. I was pleased to hear, when chatting at the Focusrite
booth at the Summer NAMM show, that up to three interfaces in this series could
be stacked up (for a whopping 78 possible inputs and outputs) and accessed by
a DAW, When EM review editor Geary Yelton invited me to review the Pro10, I
said “Let’s get two so I can test out the multi-device capability” and here we are.
The Focusrite Saffire Pro 26 i/o and Pro 10 i/o (Pro26 and Pro10 for short) are
close cousins. They’re multi-channel Firewire audio interfaces, differing in the
number of I/O ports and a few other goodies. The Pro10 supports sample rates
from 44.1 kHz to 96 kHz, with the Pro26 offering its full complement of analog
I/O at 196 kHz as well. Power is supplied by the Firewire bus or a “line lump”
power supply with a sturdy locking connector. The 1 rack-space high chassis is
at home in a rack or on a tabletop (though my desk would have appreciated nonscratching feet on the bottom), with rack ears supplied but not installed.
Drivers and the Control PRO control panel and mixing console are provided for
Windows XP-SP2, 64-bit XP, Media Centre, and 32- and 64-bit Vista. On the
Mac side, minimum requirement is Mac OS 10.3.3, though the manual says “may
require updates.” As one who flies on the trailing edge of technology, I tested the
Pros using Windows XP.
An important feature of the Saffire Pro series is its DSP mixer. When tracking,
you can monitor all of the inputs plus a stereo mix of recorded tracks with
substantially less latency than you get when the input source must take a detour
through the computer before getting to the headphones. The mixer retains its
current settings when disconnected from the computer so, while controls are
limited, it can serve, for example, as a keyboard mixer on a gig.
Normally, when using the Saffires for tracking, you’ll want to take advantage of
the mixer. However there’s a mode called “Hardware Monitoring” where the
analog inputs are routed nearly directly (they go through A/D and D/A
conversion) to the analog outputs without going through the Control PRO mixer.
This is useful if you prefer to use a hardware mixer for monitoring or for making
mixing live to a 2-track recorder with more control than you have with the Control
PRO mixer.
Gozintas and Gozoutas
Both models offer eight mic preamps with gain controls and clip LEDs on the
front panel XLR connectors on the rear panel. 48V phantom power is switchable
in banks of four channels with a pair of hardware buttons on the Pro10. Phantom
power for the Pro26 inputs is normally engaged via the ControlPRO console, but
when off-line, the Dim and Mute buttons become phantom power switches.
The eight front panel line input jacks override their corresponding mic inputs
when a plug is inserted. This may disappoint users with a lot of gear who want to
keep everything connected all the time, but it means you can leave your mics
connected and patch in a synth when you need it. Line inputs 1 and 2 can be
switched to become high impedance instrument DI inputs. Digitally, there’s a
stereo IEC-958 (S/PDIF coaxial) input, MIDI In and MIDI Out, and two Firewire
400 jacks.
The Pro26 offers some extra goodies; a switchable high pass filter on each
mic/line input, a low impedance (300Ω) switch for Mic inputs 1 and 2, and polarity
(phase) reverse on Channel 1. A button on the software console converts Line
Inputs 5 and 6 to Insert jacks for channels 1 and 2. Two ADAT™ inputs provide
sixteen additional channels at 44.1/48 kHz or eight channels using the S-Mux
protocol at 88.2/96 kHz. Finally, there’s word clock input and output.
Each input has a corresponding output. Typically analog outputs 1 and 2 feed the
control room monitors. ADAT outputs could be used to feed a backup recorder
for live sessions or to feed a multi-channel headphone monitor system.
A software button links the mixer’s analog output level controls to the front panel
Monitor volume knob. You’d normally link the control room monitor outputs (1
and 2) to the Monitor knob, but you can selectively link the other output pairs to it
as well. This almost works when feeding a surround monitor system, but not
quite. While you can adjust the volume of multiple outputs with the single knob,
the Mute and Dim buttons associated with the Monitor volume control don’t follow
the linking and only work on outputs 1-2. If you’re monitoring in surround, you’d
like all the speakers, not just one pair, to mute when you press the button.
Another small annoyance is that when outputs are linked, you can’t have them
set to different relative levels with a single master control. This is what you want
for calibrated surround monitoring (I’m sure this was what was on Focusrite’s
mind) but you want to experiment with changing a single channel’s level, you’ll
need to either unlink it or go into the mix.
The Monitor volume control is digital with 1 dB steps, causing zipper noise when
you spin it. Also, there’s quite a bit of hash on the outputs while the Saffire is in
the process of starting up, so you’ll want to power up your monitors last. That’s
always a good policy, but not everyone does it. Apparently in an earlier version of
the firmware, the units came up with the monitor output muted, which, although
it’s one more thing to remember to do, was probably a good idea. Maybe
Focusrite will bring it back in an update, or even better, mute for the first 15
seconds or so and then unmute automatically.
Two front panel headphone jacks, each with its own volume control, can be fed
either the control room or a semi-custom mix consisting of the input mix and an
alternate mix from the DAW. Since each headphone output can take its DAW
part of the mix from output pairs 1-2 or 5-6 and 7-8, you have some flexibility for
the two different headphone mixes if you know your DAW well enough to set this
up. Generally you’ll want to construct stereo auxiliary sends for the recorded
tracks, assign those to outputs 5-6 and 7-8, and use those in your headphone
mixes.
While this offers some monitor mix flexibility when tracking, since there’s only
one input mix, everyone has to live with that in their headphones. Say you’re
tracking the rhythm section live in the studio. The bass player wants to hear the
keyboard louder than the rhythm guitar, the guitarist doesn’t want to hear the
keyboard, and the drummer can’t hear himself. You’ll need to negotiate
diplomatically.
I/O operating levels are in the “professional” range. Maximum output level is
+20 dBu. At maximum input gain, -45 dBu into the mic preamp corresponds to
full scale record level (0 dBFS) which is about 5 dB more sensitive than many
other mic preamps in its class. Quiescent noise at full gain is –75 dBFS, which,
considering that it’s relative to +20 dBu analog output level, is pretty good. All
inputs except the Inserts (Pro26 only) are differential and all the outputs with
exception of the headphones and Insert outputs are electronically balanced.
Balanced outputs use a cross-coupled circuit topology which, unlike the
impedance-only balancing more common on low cost units today, has a true
differential output. The nature of the circuit allows connecting the output to either
a balanced or unbalanced input without compromising signal level or headroom.
Recording is 24-bit at sample rates from 44.1 to 192 kHz on the Pro26 or 96 kHz
on the Pro10. The Saffire Pros retain all their analog I/O at all sample rates, but
at higher rates, functionality and I/O is reduced. At 88.2/96 kHz, you lose one pair
of ADAT I/O ports to the S-Mux protocol. At 176.4/192 kHZ, all ADATs and the
mixer go away, so you also lose direct input monitoring.
Controls
In addition to the previously mentioned controls, there’s a very British power
switch (ON is down) with a multi-function LED indicator – green when AC
powered, red when bus powered, blinking slowly green when first powered up
without a Firewire connection (it eventually decides it isn’t going to find one and
turns solid green), blinking rapidly while it’s connecting to a Firewire port, or
amber to indicate a fault (which I never experienced).
The main act in the Control PRO software console is the input mixer - eight
faders and pans with tabs to select which group of inputs (analog, ADAT1,
ADAT2, or S/PDIF) they control. Each of the four stereo outputs has a slider to
adjust balance between the input mix and DAW playback, a volume control
(linkable to the hardware Monitor knob), Mute, Solo, and Dim buttons, and a
switchable 12 dB output pad to fix the pesky “My outputs are too hot for my
speakers” problem. The S/PDIF output has only an input/DAW balance slider.
The “control panel” section is where you select the sample rate and sync source,
save or recall setups (mixer level and pan settings, sample rate, and sync
source), and in a multi-unit setup, selecting which Saffire Pro the console is
controlling. Other buttons found here switch MIDI Out to MIDI Thru, keep the
console display on top of other open windows, and reduce the size of the screen
display by eliminating the input mixer section while retaining all of the control
buttons. Personally, I think that shrinking it the other way – removing the less
often used configuration buttons and leaving the mixer – would be more useful. A
curious switch labeled H/ROOM drops the maximum analog output level by 6 dB
to avoid running out of headroom when bus-powered (the AC power supply runs
the unit at higher rail voltages than the Firewire bus provides).
Sample rate must be set from this control panel; it doesn’t follow the rate set in
the DAW program. ASIO and Firewire buffer size are adjusted from a separate
control panel which is not conveniently accessible from the Control PRO, but
must be opened as a separate program. ASIO buffer size can be adjusted on the
fly, but the Firewire buffer size cannot be changed with the Control PRO active.
In Use
The audio quality is very good. Mic preamps are of the transparent sort (no
euphoric distortion to get in the way when you don’t want it) and they’re
reasonably quiet. Since I most often record acoustic music that isn’t very loud, I
appreciated the extra 5 dB of gain over some other preamps that I have. It’s
usable gain, too. Sure, you can hear hiss when you turn the knob up all the way
but the signal-to-noise ratio is what counts, and that’s quite acceptable.
The Pro26’s low cut filters are 3 dB down at 100 Hz, 10 dB down at 60 Hz, and
23 dB down at 30 Hz, so they should do a good job of keeping rumble out of your
mics. I usually don’t bother measuring frequency response of a digital device
because it’s typically dead flat from just under half the sample rate to lower than
you need, but Focusrite went a bit overboard on the low end here. It’s only down
a couple of dB at 2 Hz!
I didn’t find any mics that sounded better with the Pro26’s Low Z switch engaged,
but to be honest, I’ve only found one mic, one that I had in for review, that was
improved with a low impedance load. Net rumors notwithstanding, most classic
and classic style ribbon mics sound best into a high impedance input (10 kΩ or
greater). An SM57 seems to prefer being loaded with about 600Ω, but the
Focusrite’s 300Ω is a little heavy for it and the mic loses some brightness. This
could be effective with a hardware modification on Focusrite’s part (I wouldn’t
recommend it as a DIY project without further documentation than what I have!)
should they choose to make the functionality of this switch more effective with a
very common mic.
There’s no metering other than the clip LED. This comes on at a mere 0.2 dB
below the onset of both analog and digital clipping, so it’s important to set the
gain conservatively and watch your DAW meters.
It took a while to get the hang of using the input mixer. It’s functional, but with
more than one bank of inputs, it can get pretty confusing. Focusrite calls the
mixer “low latency” rather than “no latency,” and reasonably low it is. A trip from
mic in to headphone out takes 2.3 ms at 44.1 kHz and 1.6 ms at 96 kHz sample
rates respectively, considerably faster than the typical 5-10 ms latency that can
be achieved running through a well tweaked computer. See the sidebar for more
detail on why even this small amount of delay may be significant.
I don’t have enough hardware to fill up all the available inputs and outputs, but I
checked out the ADAT connections using a Mackie Onyx 800R 8-channel mic
preamp. In addition to verifying the ADAT inputs’ functionality, it also offered the
opportunity to comparie the Saffire Pro preamps with those of the 800R, of which
I’m quite fond. It was really a tossup. They sounded a little different but it was
hard to put a finger on the difference, and I never had a clear preference for one
or the other regardless of the mic or program source. This isn’t a totally fair
comparison of the analog path, however, since each chain passed through its
own A/D converters which almost certainly contributed to the small difference in
sound.
Initially I was too lazy to un-rack the 800R, and the only free TOSLink cable I
had, a 2-footer, wouldn’t to reach between the Mackie and Focusrite units.
Figuring that I should have a longer cable around, I picked up a 6 foot one at my
local music store, hooked up the 800R, and was greeted by clicks on the Saffire
ADAT channels. I removed the 800R from the rack so I could use the shorter
cable, and it worked fine. I don’t know if the 6 foot cable that I bought for this
experiment was too long or too crummy – I’m hoping the latter.
The time offset between the analog and ADAT inputs with this setup is around 10
samples at 44.1 kHz (this is getting down to the resolution of my eyeball). It’s not
possible to determine what part of that time difference is attributed to the ADAT
port and what’s actually a difference in the A/D conversion times, but what really
matters is the time coherence of the inputs, and, at least with the Mackie 800R,
they’re pretty close. It’s even possible that the signal from the outboard preamp
could arrive at the Saffire output earlier than through the internal path if the
external preamp has a really fast A/D converter.
There’s no polite
way to say this,
but I found
working with the
Control PRO
console to be
downright clumsy.
Tiny screen fonts
make legends
difficult to read,
and it’s difficult to
tell at a glance
whether a button
was pressed or
not. The sliding
pink band around the pan knob to indicate its position makes little sense to me.
Why not just make the practically invisible scribe line on the pan knob big enough
to see easily? With no way to label the faders, I often grabbed the wrong one, or
the right one in the wrong bank. Moving any mixer knob produces “zipper” noise,
which got annoying after a while.
Given the versatility of the Saffire Pro, I dreamt of a dual-monitor tracking setup
that emulated a split recording console, with the DAW mixer on one screen and
the Control PRO on another. While I was
able to set this up, it just didn’t work well in
practice. With more than 8 active inputs, I
wanted to run screaming back to the security
of my real hardware console.
The Hardware Monitor mode (which
disconnects the inputs from the mixer) is
selected from a pull-down menu, but there is
nothing on the control panel indicating that
you’re in that mode. More than once I forgot
that I had Hardware Monitoring set and
wondered why the mixer faders didn’t work.
Perhaps it would make sense to switch to the “no mixer” (192 kHz) display when
in this mode.
There are a lot of ways to not get sound out of this gadget,
and I think I found most of them. A clearer user interface
would be very welcome. With a few extraneous buttons left
over from a previous firmware version the Control PRO
display is due for a makeover so maybe there will be some
improvements.
Poor readability isn’t just limited to the software console. The
gold channel numbers on the silver front panel were also
hard to read. Fortunately it’s not difficult to count to eight.
One final operating note - the Saffire Pros run hot enough so
that if nobody tells you that, you’ll be asking “is this
normal?”. I had them AC powered continuously for about
two weeks with no smoke or flames so, yes, warm is normal.
Update –
Focusrite’s current
I/O interface in
this family, the
Saffire Pro 40,
has a much
cleaner and more
intuitive software
control panel, as
well as more
informative
metering and a
more readable
color scheme.
Double Trouble
As I mentioned in the intro, I was eager to see how two interfaces worked
together. After fumbling through the “adding another interface” instructions in the
manual (which actually referred to an earlier version of the drivers) I discovered
that after installing the first Saffire Pro, all I had to do was unplug it, connect the
second one, let Windows find it (the Pro10 and Pro26 use the same driver and
console software), and then re-connect the first one. Simple, and it worked the
first time.
The Control PRO looks for the presence of ADAT
channels to determine how many input mixers to
display When talking to a Pro10
or to a Pro26 with the ADAT
inputs disabled, the mixer input
tabs for ADAT1 and ADAT2
inputs disappear. You can name the interfaces, and that’s a
particularly good idea when you have more than one in a
system. A button lets you select which one the Control PRO
is controlling; assigning descriptive names will reduce the
chance that you’ll try to adjust the wrong one. In case you
get confused, an ID button blinks the power LED of the
currently active Saffire.
Using two Saffire Pros together is only a little different than
using a single interface with more channels. It’s a bit
awkward in that, to the DAW program, the two interfaces
don’t have separate identities. When selecting the source for a track, you’ll see
two Line1/2 inputs, one from BigSaffire and one from LittleSaffire. It appears that
whichever interface connects first is the one that appears first on the list. In my
test setup with a Pro26 and a Pro10, the Pro26 channels always seemed to be
listed first, but I’m not sure how I’d tell them apart if I had two Pro26s other than
by selecting one and seeing which input makes the meters move.
Since each Saffire’s mixer has its own set of outputs, in order to be able to
monitor the inputs from both through a common control room output, it’s
necessary to connect the output of one mixer to an input of the other. The
S/PDIF input and output are handy for this. If your monitors are connected to
Saffire #1, setting the S/PDIF Saffire #2’s output to all input (no DAW mix) and
connecting it to the S/PDIF input of Saffire #1 does the trick.
The Kitchen Sync
In addition to its internal clock, the Pro10 and Pro26 can synchronize to the
S/PDIF stream. In addition, the Pro26 can also sync to an external word clock
through its BNC input, or can derive word clock from either of the two ADAT
inputs. The Saffires can be a bit fussy about external synchronization. The
external sync signal must be present before you select it as the word clock
source. Also, if you were using ADAT sync when shutting down the Saffire, it
“remembers” that. If, when you next fire it up, you don’t have the ADAT input
connected, it won’t sync up until you switch back to internal sync, at which point
the Saffire Pro disconnects and goes searching for the Firewire connection
again. More than once, this apparently hung up the Firewire bus and I had to
restart the computer in order to get things going again.
I found that I got frequent pops (even with my short TOSLink cable) when
synching the Pro26 to the 800R ADAT output. With this configuration, I also had
occasional Firewire sync dropouts, resulting in having to restart the whole kit and
caboodle. (I had written a whole paragraph grumbling about instability before I
discovered that this was the source of the problem.) Switching the Saffire to
Internal clock and synching the 800R to the Saffire’s word clock output worked
fine. If you have two ADAT input sources connected, they’ll need their word
clocks synchronized, so things could get complicated without a master clock
generator or distribution amplifier. I’m an advocate of using a separate word
clock connection for synchronization when it’s possible to do so.
The BNC word clock input is internally terminated, but
the termination appears to be capacitive (word clock
inputs are more commonly terminated with a 75Ω
resistor), resulting in a poor-looking square wave. Daisy
chained word clock inputs may not be happy with that
shabby looking waveform.
Plug-Ins
The Saffire Pro doesn’t come with a bundled DAW program, but there’s a nice
bonus of four Focusrite plug-ins, which almost deserve a review of their own. The
reverb is likely no better than the reverb bundled with your DAW software, nor is
the amp simulator particularly exciting. The equalizer and compressor are quite
nice, however. In addition to a full complement of controls, both have a useful
“template” mode. Select the program source (voice, guitar, etc.) and it pops up
an extra set of controls labeled in musical terms. The initial settings are a good
starting point for tweaking. The grayed-out standard controls follow adjustment of
the template controls, and at any time you can switch back to the standard mode
for fine tweaking. These templates are a good answer to the question: “What’s
the right EQ for a female singer?”
Computer Glitches
Every computer is different, and it’s easy for a piece of software to encounter
something on a particular system that the designer never anticipated or tested,
therefore I’m reluctant to criticize a product based on computer glitches unless I
find a clearly repeatable and annoying bug. I’m happy to report that this wasn’t
the case with the Saffire Pro, however, I’d by lying if I said that it was smooth
sailing all the way. You may have fair seas, or you may spend more time hanging
over the rail than I did. My experience was with Windows XP. The Mac version is
totally uncharted waters here.
The first glitch I encountered was with the driver installation. With both the
version on the CD packed with my review units and the latest version that I
downloaded from Focusrite’s web site, the first couple of steps went as expected
and then the screen went blank – not the Blue Screen of Death, but black. This
didn’t instill a great feeling of confidence. There were occasional bright flashes
that looked like a dialog box attempting to display, but nothing remained on the
screen long enough to read. After a couple of aborts and retires, I restarted the
installation and, applying the “Watched pot never boils” theory, went off to eat
lunch. I came back half an hour later to find a real Windows screen with a real
dialog box telling me that the installer had timed out waiting for a Firewire
connection, and requested that I plug in the Firewire cable.
The installation instructions state that the Firewire cable can be connected at any
time, but when I connected the Firewire cable after starting the installer, a
message popped up telling me that I had made the Firewire connection before
the program was ready and to please disconnect it. So I figured I’d wait until, like
with most hardware installer programs, it asked for a connection . . and sure
enough, when it was ready, it did.
After re-connecting the Firewire cable, Windows brought up its usual “Found New
Hardware” box, located the Focusrite driver, associated it with the hardware, and
reported that it was ready to use. By gosh and by golly it was, and I was off and
running. I tried the installation on another computer and had the same blank
screen experience. Focusrite Tech Support had never heard of this and
suspected that there might be another ASIO driver installed on the computer
which was confusing things. Indeed there are several other ASIO drivers installed
on both of these computers, but I didn’t want to un-install what I use on a regular
basis in order to test the theory.
One disturbing problem was that the Firewire connection would drop out at
random. Ultimately I traced this to using ADAT as the clock sync source. I just
happened to be looking in the right place at the right time, and discovering that
the unit was intermittently losing clock sync. The Pro26 doesn’t take loss of sync
(whatever the source – after this experience, I tried them all) very gracefully and
it doesn’t recover on its own, but rather, requires a shutdown and restart.
The number of tracks that can successfully be recorded and played back
simultaneously without glitching is largely dependent on the computer and how
well it’s tuned. I didn’t attempt to run that race and stopped at a very modest
eight tracks (which worked fine) when I ran out of talent. Any such limit that I
found on my system would likely not be relevant to your system anyway.
There have been issues (primarily unreasonably large latency from what I’ve
read) with Apple’s Firewire Core Audio driver, which, rather than a custom driver,
the Saffire Pro uses. The upside is that when Apple upgrades the OS, Focusrite
won’t have to chase after it with a new driver. The downside is that the Core
Audio driver in a new Mac OS version might need fixing, and that’s out of
Focusrite’s hands. Every new release carries risk of a new problem, so be careful
about updating too early and too often once you find something that works.
From The Complaint Department
My gripe list is rather long, but upon reviewing it, I recognized that most of the
problems I encountered were related to constantly switching things around to
evaluate as many configurations as I could. In typical studio operation, once you
establish a working setup, there will be few changes, so there will likely be few
surprises.
My biggest gripe is with the documentation. When I get a new device, I like to sit
on the couch and read through the manual before putting it to work, but in this
case, the only manual is a PDF on the installation CD. The Focusrite web site
contains additional information in the form of an addendum to the Pro26 manual
(the Pro10 manual was more current), an answer base with useful supplemental
information, and release notes for the current drivers, but you have to know it’s
there and then hunt for it. The Saffire Pro is a many-faceted interface and it
deserves a complete and well written reference manual. Focusrite assured me
that they’re working on pulling the pieces together, and there should be an
updated manual by the time you read this.
From the Department of Complaint Mitigation, I’m happy to report that Focusrite’s
tech support has been helpful; and relatively easy to access. I can be pretty
grumpy when I’m frustrated and they took my frustration in stride. Primary
support is out of the headquarters in Great Britain, so my interaction with them
was only via e-mail. Generally I received a complete and helpful response within
24 hours. I also contacted the US support by phone and they were on the ball as
well. While they didn’t have all the answers to the tough questions, their
explanations of things that were cloudy in the documentation, or of things for
which I simply hadn’t found the missing pieces of documentation, were clear and
helpful.
Summing It Up
These are an impressive pair of units with a lot of bang for not many bucks. Low
price aside, they’re hardly entry level products. You need some experience in
order to put them to full use. If I had been working with a stereo sound card and a
small mixer for a while, I’d be tickled to get a box as inexpensive as the Pro10
with eight excellent preamps, enough outputs for surround mixing, two good
instrument Dis, and a convenient way of monitoring while tracking. It would take
a while to grow into it however, and I wouldn’t sell my mixer in order to pay for it.
There will be times even with the Saffire Pro when that mixer will still come in
handy.
The Pro26 is an even better deal although it costs a couple of hundred bucks
more, but you need to have expansion in the direction of more inputs on your
horizon in order for it to be worth while. To me, the Pro26’s greatest potential is
as remote recording interface which can be expanded as needed. Honestly,
though, if needed to mix that many mics for a room full of fussy musicians with
headphones, I’d prefer to do it on a real mixer with real hardware controls.
Overall, these are impressive boxes, hard to beat at the price.
---------------------------------------------Sidebar
The 2 ms Latency Conspiracy
There’s a potential problem with latency in this ball park. When listening to your
own voice on headphones, there are two paths from your vocal cords to your
eardrum – the natural one through your throat and another through the phones.
You’re probably aware of the golden rule of mic placement: Avoid picking up a
sound source with two mics at unequal distances. When those mics are mixed,
the arrival time difference becomes a 180 degree phase shift, and therefore
cancellation, at a family of frequencies directly related to the time difference. This
is called comb filtering because the frequency response of the system looks (sort
of) like the teeth of a comb. The same thing happens when your natural voice
and the latency-delayed headphone sound combine at your eardrum. Your voice
will sound odd to you to you because it’s being comb-filtered.
You’ll sound normal to yourself on playback, and to anyone else listening to the
same headphone mix or the control room speakers since only you are hearing
your voice through two paths. When your singer questions the sound of his voice
in the phones, he just might not be nuts.
Some people are really sensitive about this, some don’t notice, and some run the
headphone volume so loud that the acoustic sound is swamped out and the
comb “teeth” are negligible. Sensitive folky divas almost always give a better
performance when not worried about how their voice sounds, and a good
performance trumps technology any time.
The monitoring latency through the Saffire Pro is in the range where, at its worst,
can notch out frequencies that give a voice a lot of its character, around 430,
860, 1290, 1720 Hz and so on. Try it yourself and try to hear the change in
character as you adjust the headphone volume.
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