Multichannel Audio Interfaces under Windows for Theater Productions: Which One?

  • Dear Windows Users,

    I am wondering if there is a commonly ackknowledged "good" multichannel audio interface when doing mulit-channel audio theater productions. What do you use?

    I'd be curious to hear about eight channel units in particular.

    We are about to start testing some multi-channel audio improvements for an upcoming version, and I'd like to receive opinions on this for those who have expertise on the topci.

    @Fred -- I feel certain you'll have an opinion on this. Please let me know what you use.

    Best Wishes,

  • Tech Staff

    So the most common that I see in the working field are the Focusrite products (Scarlets mostly), some people use Tascam / MOTU branded products.
    What I also see in Theatre this days is that the more modern theaters are using Audio mixers that have an Audio bridge inside them, think about the Allen & Heath products like the SQ5 that can receive / send through a USB bus (ASIO), the more expensive theater's also have an Audio mixer with DANTE (Audio interface over Ethernet connection)

  • if you need just a interface a focusrite Scarlett has a good balance between cost and feature, a better solution is an RME  but you double the money. BTW any brand has good products in their portfolio. focusrite, MOTU and RME are my favorites but it can be just my opinion.

    as mentioned before a digital mixer can be also a very good option. An x32 can be found around 1300 € and you got a mixer an Audio interface and a control interface all in one.

  • @mark I use only RME gear generally, I had failures, EOL support and bad drivers for everything else, particularly Motu and focusrite....This is mirrored by all the places I see that buy quality gear, you pretty much only see RME interfaces. I use an RME UCX, it also has on board eq and compression in the hardware and all parameters of the hardware mixer can be controlled by midi or OSC, this lets you do some stuff you could not with just a straight IO card.

    I have been using a Dante a lot and there is a Yamaha TIO and RIO that are really good and flexible but at the moment Isadora cannot send a mulit-channel audio with video to these, if it could, because of the flexibility of Dante I would suggest that.

  • Tech Staff

    @fred @mark 

    On my MacBookPro I have a Dante Virtual Sound Card ( you pay $ 30 for it. I can send multichannel audio embedded in a Video from Isadora to a RIO.

    Best Michel

  • @michel yes but not on windows

  • @Juriaan @Fred @Maximortal @Michel 

    Thank you for this input. Since it seems RME is a powerful, professional system -- and that @Fred and @Maximortal disagree about Scarlett -- I guess I would try to acquire an RME interface. I would like to get the least expensive 8 channel system I can... preferably USB over FireWire (a lot of the RME devices seem to be the latter.) 

    Given those specs, can you all make a recommendation?

    Best Wishes,

  • @mark go for the ucx

  • @fred

    Are you saying there is no Dante VS for windows?!

    But there is...

  • @dillthekraut no, I'm saying it is not recognised as a multichannel audio device in windows (that is has 5.1 or 7.1 capabilities), and hence Isadora cannot use it to output multichannel audio in videos. I use Dante on windows all the time, but the way Isadora accesses multichannel audio on windows and the way windows deals with these drivers, means they don't work.

  • Beta Platinum

    @fred said:

    go for the ucx

     Really? isn't the RME UCX a USB 2.0 / FireWire 400 model?

  • @bonemap Whoops, I have the USB 2.0 only so I guess that is the UC, there are USB 3.0 models but it is not about new-ness, just bandwidth, USB 2.0 has enough bandwidth do do the 36 channels offered by this unit. plus it can be recognized by ios devices and older machines and it is rock solid (amazing hardware and drivers), every other make of sound card I have had or used has at some point glitched or failed at least once on me, all the RME stuff I have used has never once - but yes, not pretty USB C connections.

    There are other models with more channels like the UFX II and UFX +, still all current.
    The only downfall of the UC model is that output 7&8 are shared with the headphones output so unbalanced when used in line mode, but the ADAT gets you an extra port for 8 more channels.
    The matrixing and mixer and real time hardware effects on the RME stuff is amazing and the remote capability is awesome. Still I would be leaning toward Dante based stuff, like the rio or tio if it was not for wanting mulitchannel audio output in windows.

  • @fred

    Wow €850 for the RME UCX. Do you really feel the Scarlett won't allow us to do meaningful testing? (You said it was buggy.) I'm going to have to buy mulitple units so the team can test and we need to watch every penny here.

    I mean, I have a MOTU Traveller but it's ancient and I don't feel good about testing with it.

    In addition, does anyone have feelings about the Roland Octo-Capture. @DusX already has one of these and has used it for multichannel stuff, and it's half the price of the RME. Just curious if anyone else has somethign to say about it.

    Best Wishes,

  • @mark it's up to you, try a Scarlet, maybe they have some cooling off period where you are (like in NL) where you can return it if you don't like it. I use RME and have never had a bug since, and there are other features. If you only need 8 CH out and no inputs or other features there are even super cheap class compliant output only interfaces for less than €100 (just look for USB 7.1 sound card). Or other mid range products like th scarlet that others have had good results with (others here also have great experience)

    Being able to mix, make submixes, remote re-route channels, eq and compression in hardware, osc control and midi control of ALL functions, the reliability, and the compact size make RME worth it for me (I have even used it as a mixing desk with an old iPad to control it). I buy from a place that has a 3 year warranty on all products and now mine is 6 years old, and I use it regularly, every show I have that has sound and it still gets driver and software updates quite fast (some brands will support a few versions of Mac OS and dump you in legacy land). So now I've paid €3 per week for something that has outdone itself for years and would not hesitate to recommend it. 

    I don't know about your use case, so maybe it is not a good investment for you. For me it's great.

    Edit: Aha, now I see, if it's only for testing multichannel output then grab any class compliant card. For a Soundcard to use for performances and installations as part of a kit, I would go with RME.

  • I use Motu Ultralite MKIII at MAC and it is running perfect and stable with 8 channel for performances.

    But I know there are a lot of trouble with Win for 8 channels (for 2 is is running without an issue) . The solution for Win was RME ....

  • @sommerdi said:

     The solution for Win was RME

     OK, that is important to hear. Thank you.

  • For all: the reason I'm asking this question is because doing a great job with multichannel audio, for both Movie Player and the Sound Player actors, is the next thing on the roadmap in terms of features. Hopefully it will please some of you to hear that this is going to be our next big push.

    I've got an implementation working well with macOS, but I need to get a sound device to test what I've programmed on Windows.

    @fred said:

    I don't know about your use case, so maybe it is not a good investment for you. For me it's great.Edit: Aha, now I see, if it's only for testing multichannel output then grab any class compliant card. For a Soundcard to use for performances and installations as part of a kit, I would go with RME

     OK! That also is super helpful @Fred. I mean, I want to work with something "real" in terms of what's out there. But to have to spend 3 x 850€ is a pretty big investment for us. I may still pop for one of these since you and other recommend it. But it would be cool if we could keep the costs down in terms of testing.

  • Hi Mark

    we are using Dante Virtual Soundcard, and it works perfectly.

  • Tech Staff

    It really depends Mark on what you wish to create. Are you going down the ASIO route I would personally just buy some Scarletts for that.

  • @juriaan said:

    Are you going down the ASIO route I would personally just buy some Scarletts for that.

    Whatever we choose, it needs to work with Windows Media Foundation so that Movie Player can get the sound where it needs to go. Routing sound from movie out to ASIO is too big a chunk to chew on in terms of getting this feature finished in a timely manner. Our goal is to allow users to use a standard multichannel audio interface to route any channel of a movie that has sound (or just a sound) to any output, and to do so on the fly interactively if desired. That will be a big step up from what we have now, and should address concerns that came up previously.

    Best Wishes,