Why I got one
The Digi003 console (above right) has been the heart of my studio for approximately a decade now. It has served me extremely well, being fairly reliable and having excellent functionality. The digital inputs and outputs meant I could bypass much of the outdated components and some of the crackly volume pots, and the 8 motorised faders were smooth and extremely useful. The Digi003 had very limited low-latency monitoring functionality, one side-affect being that monitor mixes needed to be the same for everyone in the room. I was still not intending to replace the Digi003… until…
A year or two ago I came across the Fireface UFX whilst recording an orchestra with Andy Fell (who worked for the BBC and did a lot of their orchestral recordings) – he showed me that the UFX was a usual recording interface in some respects (connects to laptop/computer for recording) except that it had an in-built backup system which records to USB flash drive – if the laptop fails, or a cable is pulled out accidentally, the USB backup could save the day. I had been running a Zoom H6n as a 6-channel backup connected to the analogue outputs of a Focusrite Liquid Saffire56. The UFX was so much slicker and I was already aware of the reliability of RME’s devices and drivers…
The discovery of the UFX led me to desire one for location recording. But during the process of saving and making a decision it struck me that all that extra functionality would be wasted a lot of the time if it wasn’t being used during non-location recordings. So I now have this one great-quality (spoiler) interface that has replaced both my studio and location rig!
How good it is
It’s very good. I had some teething problems at first that I don’t think I could attribute to the UFX – following the “optimising Windows for Pro Tools ” tips appear to have resolved the issues.
The headphone outputs have tonnes and tonnes of gain and in the software (TotalMix FX) any of the analogue and digital ouputs can be labelled as headphone outputs A or B, or Speaker A or B, so an external headphone amp or monitor D/A converter can be used if desired, but the physical knobs will control the volume of the output. This flexibility is awesome for me as one of my sets of speakers have an AES input, so I can connect digitally to them, bypassing a whole stage of conversion.
The TotalMix software runs off the UFX’s internal cpu, so doesn’t take any extra processing from the PC, and it enables me and the artist(s) to have our own monitor mixes, with reverb, EQ and compression if desired, and I can add in a talkback mic also, which should help communication when the artist is wearing sound-blocking headphones (Extreme Isolation EX-29). Although I haven’t connected it yet, an iPad can control this TotalMix software, so I am considering having that accessible to the performing artist so they can control their own click/backing/mic/reverb balance should they want to.
The 12 analogue inputs mean I’ll rarely need to hook up any additional digital inputs unless recording drums or an orchestra. The Digi003 had 8, so that was too few for many things, meaning I’d have to hook up a focusrite ADAT unit for the extra inputs.
No complaints about the audio quality – I haven’t put the preamps to test but I expect them to be good! They’ll be used after my DAV bg-1 and ISA one are all in use,.
My one gripe at the moment is that the interface creates a loud click when the sample rate is changed. The manual warns about this, but I am very confused as to why it is not possible to automatically briefly mute the outputs when changing sample rate. I will hopefully get in the habit of muting speakers when changing Pro Tools session in case the sample rate changes…