• I’ve been running the RME Babyface for almost 2 years now and I have to say its an amazing card! Build quality is rock solid, drivers are some of the best you can get. Very low latency and extremely high quality output! Sure it’s pricey, but it will last you for many years! It’s also small and light enough to travel with for on the road sessions! Stay away from the Focusrite Forte card. We have 5 of them at work and have so much problem with them. Constant crashes, blue-screens, drop outs etc…

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  • Sin8a

    the babyface dac sound harsh.. change your ears before doing reviews..

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  • Bangbang

    I’ve got a question concerning the Babyface. I recently purchased it and use it on OSX. I installed the latest driver, however when I use it in Ableton I can only chose from “No Audio” or “Core Audio” in the driver selection. Shouldn’t there be an option for an RME driver then? Thanks!

  • Mitchel Wolos

    How big of a difference was there in sound quality from the Alva to the Apogee? I really don’t need any inputs. Just want a good quality two maybe four channels out?

  • Travis So-Gnar Crum

    can you expand on how you used your EIE Pro with a KAOSS Pad sometime? I would love that

  • Kutmaster TeeOh

    The Focusrite Scarlett and Pro series interfaces should be here above the Akai, Alva, and Propellerhead ones.


    Great article about SOUNDCARDS, You guys should visit SIX STAR DJ they have all the latest gears.

    • Kutmaster TeeOh

      Guitar Center is cheaper and they have a great ADH plan. No one else does that.

  • Johnny Zana

    Great review by the way guys

  • Johnny Zana

    I’ve researched a lot of cards many of them are in this article and the one I ended up going with was the Focusrite Forte. It’s converters are spot on, Rednet preamps sound amazing, latency is almost non existent, & it’s easy to configure from the software mixer or right on the unit itself with the OLED menus. Highly recommend this unit. Quality inside the box and out.

    • Kutmaster TeeOh

      Yep, the focusrite series should be on this list. The Pro series is awesome. The scarlett interfaces definitely out-shine others in the sub $400 range.

  • Benji

    I own the EIE Pro. My biggest gripe is that Akai drivers are not so good. Nearly every time I start up a new VST the sound just turns to garbage. I have to power off the unit just to get it back. The times it doesn’t, I have to reset it because of a large latency spike.

  • Ekoud

    What about Focusrite Forte?

    • Kutmaster TeeOh

      It should be on here. It’s a beast. Competes with the Apogee series interfaces.

  • Tim Rice

    I have to say DONT GET THE AKAI EIE PRO. Maybe it works better on PCs but the drivers are a nightmare on my mac. I cant even use it with VLC. I have to switch from 44.1k to 48k constantly in my preferences because it automatically switches at the wrong time (like listening to itunes) and won’t switch when i need it (for after effects). It either up-samples or down-samples and often will just glitch out on me. The customer service was extremely unhelpful. I usually trust akai products, since i own 3 of their midi controllers, but this is not built like an MPC, MPD, or APC. BBW!

    • Brian

      i agree, i laughed when i saw a pro of the akai was its solid drivers. their drivers are terrible and you may think ah it doesn’t matter, well it does and it actually affects your recording. At times a constant horribly awful sounding static will occur during playback, making it impossible to listen to. This happens all the time with the most current drivers so I downloaded the older driver, still happens but not nearly as much. Regardless there are much better options than the aka eie pro so go with a focusrite or steinberg at that price point

  • JonOnNaRun

    Really disappointed there is no Focusrite Scarlett thrown in the mix here, especially considering the price points of the 18i6, 8i6, 6i6, and so on…

    • JonOnNaRun

      Ooops, just noticed this has already been noted. LOL Oh well.

      • Kutmaster TeeOh

        Ooops, I missed it too. lol

  • Definitely going for the akai EIE. i need just those extra usb ports. for my maschine, my midifighter 3d and my livid cntrlr

  • feffen

    Damn would have loved to see the MOTU Microbook II included in this review.


    No MOTU products?

  • genjutsushi

    Great to see reviews with a particular purpose in mind – that of the home DJ producer. But a massive shame youve missed some great options from MOTU, Focusrite and MAudio. I have an 828 mk3 and use it for a range of recording and production. Sound quality is superb, drivers fast and stable, and the software (mixer) is brilliant. It also remembers your software mixer settings and retains them, so i can set up a mix on the computer, then if i dont want to turn the computer on to jam a track out on my grooveboxes / keyboard, i dont need to as the MOTU will act as a mixer complete with compression EQ and reverb.

  • Traktor Maschine syncer

    Will any of these products and their drivers enable you to MIDI sync between two windows computers? We all know syncing devices through MIDI with windows blows. Are any of the drivers smart enough to get things tight?

  • lokey

    no motu?

  • ive been debating getting the EIE pro for a while now to replace my personus audiobox. 3 usb hub and floating VU meters?! yes please.

    • Kutmaster TeeOh

      don’t….save your money and time. Get a Focusrite Pro 14 or 24. Or even the Scarlett series.

  • Dalton Conner

    I have a Focusrite Saffire 6 USB I use for studio work. Works great. Lots of inputs and not to mention it’s cheap.

  • psy/OPs

    Curious – how were the converters on these sound cards tested?
    Did you try anything like a multiple pass loopback recording to analyse the inherent noise and colour of the DACS?

    • Max George

      To test the mic pre amps I played a series of 44.1/24 bit wav samples of piano, vocal, and guitar tracks out through my Digidesign RM2 studio monitors then back into a a Shure SM57 mic into the pre-amps. Everything was gain matched and the differences were pretty apparent. To test the converters I listened to the same CPU intensive Ableton project containing organic and synthetic instruments with high quality plugins to try and approximate what most people would be playing out of these cards. I also played several tracks that I know very well for reference. I didn’t do a loopback test, although it might’ve been a good idea. I’m more of the school of thought that if something sounds good it is good and that the math behind it is more important when you’re designing something than using it. Every time a new plugin or piece of hardware is announced over at gearslutz.com or kvraudio.com there’s people testing the crap out of it, arguing over aliasing, noise-floor, etc. It becomes such a debate people forget this stuff is for making music. Some of the supposedly worst offenders end up becoming great studio tools that people make great music with everyday. And compared to where we were 20 or even 10 years ago, there are so many more affordable, high quality components available that I think the whole debate is kinda silly. If it sounds good, it is good, as I said in the article none of these cards will hold you back from making great sounding music.

  • Anonymous

    I like how you actually mention driver reliability. Many reviews don’t talk about it at all and it’s crucial, especially for live work or just studio reliability. I’m currently having driver issues with my echo audiofire that relies on core audio drivers. What is the history of problems with the apogee you mention? Is RME a symbol of rock solid driver reliability?

    • Max George

      Thanks! Yeah I’ve had the same experience with sound cards and was frustrated how the reviews never mention driver reliability. If you do some googling there’s quite a bit of info on the Duet 2’s problems, mainly this thread at gearslutz.com: http://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/671270-apogee-duet-2-drivers-bad-bad-bad.html

      RME was able to attain the lowest usable latency and lived up to its reputation of providing rock solid drivers. There’s plenty of engineers that can attest to this, a quick google search will also yield plenty of testimonials.

      • Anonymous

        It’s terrible isn’t it – you spend all this money on a dedicated piece of gear that has one very important job and many seem to not put enough effort into making them reliable.

        What’s the RME made out of btw – looks quite cheap and plastic which I don’t like compared the the unparalleled beauty of the Apogee – but then it’s only aesthetics.

        Although nothing to do with the mini souncards article, one interface that I was looking at recently was the focusrite saffire pro 40. Any thoughts on the audio quality and drivers of that?

  • Leslie Jones

    You might want to check our TC Electronics soundcards as wel. Unknown gem if you’d ask me. 😉

  • ivanleterrible

    Many thanks for the article as my presonus Firebox has just decided to stop working with Mountain Lion after 5 years of service… Therefore, I’m about to buy a new soundcard and I found the recent Focusrite Forte to be a rather good candidate (compared to Duet for instance)… I would have found it interesting for the Forte to be included in your comparative test… anytime in near future ?

    • Max George

      The Forte looks interesting and I’d also be curious to hear how it stacks up against the Duet 2. Hopefully we can work in a review down the line. This is one of the first really in depth round-ups for production related gear DJTT has done so thanks for the feedback. If this kind of stuff resonates and we get more postitive feedback then hopefully we can do some more soon. Cheers 🙂

  • Prof_Strangeman

    So are we just going to skip the Focusrite Scarlett 18i6 then?


    I’m actually NOT SURPRISED you left out the sound card I currently use in my live setup. The MOTU UltrLite MK3 Hybrid. It retails under $600, has 10 ins and outs, is both USB and FireWrie and can be used with or with a computer. its built like a tank and has onboard DSP which saves my CPU and it has two phantom powered mic inputs. The mix software is pretty straight forward, but i honestly never use since my sound is generally treated in Abelton anyway. Everyone else, you can check it here: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/UltraLite3Hy

    • Dan White

      I’m NOT SURPRISED you’re sharing your soundcard with us! Thanks for sharing, we’ll write about it in a future roundup if possible.

      • LAMEBOT

        haha its not a very well known card but its pretty robust 🙂

        • DJ Al B Bad

          Oh but it is, from those in the know 😉 I use it as well and love it!

  • rafiq

    Having talked about the Duet, I would have expected a discussion on the newer Duet 2 iPad with midi and iOS capabilities not found on the older version here. It would have been nice to hear some thoughts on those features since they’re fairly unique to that interface.

    • Max George

      I would’ve liked to go into iPad connectivity in this article but didn’t feel I had the real estate to go into it given the scope of this article. Perhaps a seperate article on sound cards that work with iOS is on order, the RME Babyface also sports this feature as well. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Mihaly

    interesting review…although some NI soundcards could of been included also…like the Audio 6 which I use…its a tank and is very versatile, more so than some of the ones mentioned here

    • Max George

      The point of this article was to focus on sound cards that are ideal for production. The audio 6 doesn’t have a monitor control knob, mic preamps, or balanced comnectivity so it’s not really ideal for that.

      • Max George

        Unless you’re talking about the komplete audio 6? NI nomenclature can be confusing 😉

      • psy/OPs

        Well – the Nanoface interface reviewed here does not have balanced output either.

        What in your opinion separates something like that from the Traktor Audio 10?

        • Max George

          True the Nanoface doesn’t have balanced outputs but the rest of these do. You can get by without balanced outputs, but its tough to get by without mic pre amps or a monitor controller. The audio 6/10 are designed for digital DJ’ing, although the 10 is a bit more suited for production due to its inclusion of midi ports. But you also get what you pay for, a card with only 2 ins and outs will have better converters than a card with 6 or 10 ins and outs thats around the same price.

  • Shawnyd

    Hey DJTT, are there any Firewire soundcards you recommend? Also, Have you heard any talk about a possible thunderbolt port audio interface?

    • corporation

      Check out the PreSonus FireStudio Mobile for a portable F/W interface.
      I also hear good things about the Focusrite Saffire boxes.

      • Shawnyd

        Thanks for the reply! I will look into that.

        • Max George

          The new USB 2.0 spec allows for lower latency than FireWire 400 so you’ll find that most high end portable sound cards are USB nowadays. It’s only when you need to run lots of I/O simultaneously that the benefits of FireWire (notably FW800) are compelling. However the headache of driver issues inherent with the multitude of FireWire chipsets found in computers and comparatively higher licensing fee of FireWire makes choosing USB 2.0 a no brainer for most manufacturers nowadays.

          • Shawnyd

            Thanks for the reply Max! I wasn’t even think about the driver headache with firewire interfaces. I really appreciate it.

  • Eric Louis

    Big Fan of the Motu Traveler, the numerous ins and outs allow you to record your sound modules or send audio out to an efx unit and back in. I’ve brought it out to DJ with and in my studio

  • Nolej

    While I don’t currently own a sound card (so thank for the article 🙂 ), I’m kind of surprised you didn’t include/test any of the Focusrite Scarlett cards. From what I’ve heard, they are great budget cards with awesome preamps.

    • MellonHead

      i have the scarlett 2i4, it’s pretty great for dj and production use and only $200! their stuff is pretty durable too, i still have the sapphire pro 40 that i used onstage with a band for 2 years.

    • Dan White

      Great suggestion! We’ll make sure we look at a Scarlett card in a future article.

      • Lucian B?bu?

        You should check out Focusrite Forte! Its a great contender for the duet!

        • I would seriously stay away from the Forte! We have 5 of them at work and they all act up, the drivers crash all the time, causing blue-screens in windows on a regular basis, we regret buying them!

      • tomByrer

        Add to that the MOTU Ultralite Mk3 please; $550 for 10 in, 14 out, built-in DSP (eg effects on the device, off the CPU). It is older, but MOTU still updated the BIOS & or drivers every 6 months or so.

        Might be better to have 2 articles: $1-$500, 2nd article $501-1000?

        • DJ Al B Bad

          +1 on Motu Hybrid Ultralite MK3 – I use this for my iRadio shows all the time – its sounds f’n awesome! I’ve also seen a lot of Ableton DJ’s use it for LIVE performances.

        • jonjon

          MOTU starts with the MicroBookII – 4-input, 6-output USB 2.0 audio interface with Microphone Preamp, Guitar Input, and Stereo Line-level Analog Input – Mac/PC. no experience with te specific product. but theyre products are usualy pretty much pro audio not prosumer grade

      • Anonymous

        and the saffires, i have a saffire 6 and its baws 😀 i have spilt countless drinks on mine and recorded show after show and it still functions like new

      • Kutmaster TeeOh

        Hey Dan, already written a review of the whole Scarlett line and the Focusrite Pro series too. I’m a Producer and Professional Audio rep for Guitar Center. They definitely should have included those interfaces in this review. Check em out if you get the time.

  • Dimo P

    Motu microbook,motu 828 mk3…etc…great budget soundcards…probably most studios around the globe uses Marc of the Unicorn…i do over a decade now..:) never let me down, and helped me in numerous releases…

  • Jeroen Krieger

    What about the Niative Instruments Komplete Audio 6? You will have all the in and outputs you need for in a homestudio. And it goes for only 220,- euro’s…

    • tbh, i only have problems with it. crackling all around without any obvious reason… (mac)

      • Jeroen Krieger

        Mine is working just fine, i’m using it with a macbook pro 2012 and ableton. Got a mic, a guitar and a midi keyboard connectied to it…

      • Joseph Crenshaw

        Sounds like USB 3 issue that was prevailent. Did you firmware upgrade?

      • Anonymous

        Igor, I had the same problem, i tried about 10 different tricks to fix this, none of them worked… its not the usb cable as some suggest.. to fix this, all you need to do is download and install the latest firmware. not the driver, there is no driver, but there are firmware updates available. this fixed it for me. after 1 year of crackling, since the firmware, ive never had a problem with it again.

        • did that already, but maybe there’s a new software that came, like, yesterday.

      • thx for replies. thats not the usb3, cause the mac has usb 2.0

        i am crazy about updating things. everything is up to date, and I have removed drivers and reinstalled them several times…bad luck I guess. what is funny, I had AK1 before which was working fine with mac and crackled with PC. karma?

        • Jeroen Krieger

          DId you contacted NI with this problem? I think they can determen what’s going on if you give them the specs of your setup.

          • tbh I didnt. I hate contacting any support, cause they treat people like idiots.

            If that’s a hardware issue, I seriously doubt that it can be resolved. And on the software side…

            “yes, I’ve updated everything i could. yes, i’ve turned of wifi. yes, i’ve reinstalled all the drivers. yes, i’ve turned my computer on…”

          • Jeroen Krieger

            Well my experience with those guys at NI are pretty good! They’ve helped me with several problems during the years.

          • just to let ya know, I’ve received reply from support.

            they told me to make screenshot of non-existent (sic!) windows in macOS (ever seen a “battery settings” and “power supply settings” under preferences?) and to repair permissions, which is one of the very few things man can do to fix anything software-wise on Mac…

            just as I predicted.

      • Jimmy Burn

        download the latest driver I had problems with mine but its fine now, or check your latency settings

        • Ii dont think drivers and latency should matter when using iTunes 😉

          • Jimmy Burn

            why would you need a soundcard for itunes? lol

          • … it’s just an example.

            no audio player should stress a professional soundcard. yet it does.

    • Auzy

      As others have mentioned, there is definitely a Windows driver issue with the Audio6 (even on the latest driver 3.1.0/ Firmware 45). The crackling does NOT seem to affect ASIO (at least in my case). but any non-asio app (anything not a music production app) eventually runs into problems. And, its quite easy to differentiate reviews written by an experienced user, and someone who read the press release.

      I am 100% sure its the drivers, because, my DDJ-SX and Saffire 2i2 works great, and I’ve tried different USB hubs on my system, have low latency, etc.

      Even if you don’t think you’ll be incorporating Windows into your workflow in the near future, there are plenty of interfaces that work well in both Windows, OSX and Linux without issues.

      I’ve got a 2i2 and its ok (although, I actually miss having a volume knob on the top instead of the front face). However, I want multiple output’s (this card only has 1 stereo), so I am seriously going for the 6i6 as an upgrade.


  • I’m afraid that your link for the Akai’s EIE Pro, bring you to the amazon page of the Akai EIE 16-bit, and not the pro 24-bit version which is in your review.

    Am I right ?

    • Dan White

      You’re right! The Pro isn’t on Amazon – corrected with a Juno link instead : )

  • ChaZ

    Akai EIE Pro seems affordable at a price of $179 and packed with abundant features.
    Would not mind feeding it with external power supply.
    Thanks DJTT for putting some light onto the budget oriented sound cards.