USB2.0 Audio interface recommendations required!

I’m looking at buying a new audio interface. I currently use an Edirol UA-5, which is decent enough, but now that I’m working with much larger multitrack sessions (20+ tracks at 48kHz), it can’t really keep up with demand.

I’ve been recording with a friend’s Edirol FA-101, and that works very well. Unfortunately, it’s a firewire interface, and I don’t have powered firewire ports on both of my recording computers (I know I can just use the AC adaptor, but it’s pretty heavy). I’d prefer USB2.0 for this reason, but I can’t find much information on USB2.0 interfaces and linux.

I’ve been looking at the Edirol UA-101, and a few USB2.0 mixer interfaces, like the Alesis Multimix 8, Yamaha MW12CX and Edirol M-16DX. I’d like an interface with mixer capabilities, but again, I’m not sure whether they work with Ardour and linux in general. Does anyone have any experience with any of these interfaces? Do they work well with large sessions in Ardour?

Here’s probably the dumbest question I have (forgive me, I am a tech-newb): For the mixer-interfaces, can they be used post-recording (i.e. for mastering and mixing control)? Is it easy to set this up with Ardour and other apps (JAMin)?

I’m open to other suggestions of viable interfaces. MIDI is not really a requirement for me, if that is any help…


I’d always prefer a firewire interface over a USB one any day - the latency will be lower, the CPU usage will be lower… firewire was designed for this sort of stuff, USB wasn’t. You can easily add firewire ports - just about any standard PCI firewire card should work under linux with a 2.6 kernel. I bought one for only a few pounds.

BTW I use an Edirol FA-66, the AC adaptor is small and light.

I second the suggestion that you should really consider firewire over USB - especially with the scale of projects you’re looking at. Double the sample rate and you’re within a quarter of capacity the whole USB bus - if you’ve got any USB peripherals attached to then you can really have troubles with dropouts.

The only way to avoid this is buying a separate USB PCI card, at which point you may as well buy a firewire PCI card anyway and vastly expand your choice of audio interfaces - I don’t know of very many companies producing multitrack USB cards.

Thanks guys - these recommendations sound sensible enough to me, and shed some light on the firewire preference. I was aware of the drain on USB resources (I don’t run other USB peripherals), but not the latency issues. It would explain why the FA-101 performed so well against the UA-5, though so would the huge difference in bandwidth - I just assumed that this would be remedied with USB2.0.

Ok, so on to the second question. I found some Firewire mixer interfaces (Phonic Helix 12, for example) that look equivalent to the USB2.0 boards I listed above. Do these kinds of mixer interface allow audio (not MIDI) recording of a similar quality to Firebox/FA-101? Do they work ok with linux based audio apps? Any good/bad experiences to report?


The best bet for finding information on firewire interfaces is to check the freebob website - freebob is the driver you’ll most probably have to use with any firewire interface, so if it’s supported you can use it. If it’s not, you can’t. Note that freebob have changed their name to ffado and are planning to support more interfaces in the future, but ffado has not yet been released so in my opinion you’re better sticking with freebob for now.
althought it seems to be down at the moment.

You can try ffado here:

While we’re on the topic of Firewire vs USB, do these Firewire devices use Firewire 400 or 800?

I have an M-audio mobile pre, and if I would have known the diffrerence between USB and Firewire performance-wise, I probably would have gotten something with FW, but then again, I don’t need anything more than 2 tracks at a time right now, so for now, it’s just something to think about for the future.

Thanks DrG. I’ve looked up the mixers I listed on ffado device support, there doesn’t seem to be much information for mixers in my price range (2008-02-20: Phonic Helix 12 is “unknown”, though the Helix 24 is “reported to work”; Alesis multimix 8 “not supported”).

I’ll keep an eye on the lists, but I might just chance my arm…

Thanks for the advice, all!

(For those interested in why USB2.0 is dispreferred, I found this:


Hi all,

I have a Phonic Helix 18 mkII, and that works quite well (so chances are that the 12 will also work). I’m using the freebob driver to record and play back. I found one problem, if -n (number of periods of playback latency) is set to anything other than 3 (as far as I could tell), the sound playback got totally corrupted. Also in about 50% of the cases the output crackles (bit like an old record). This is not caused by the output channel getting overdriven (actually I have no idea what causes it). Rebooting both the PC and the mixer will eventually fix it.

As for the USB vs Firewire debate: the Helix only gives you two channels of output. Unfortunately this isn’t always enough, however if you use the freebob or ffado driver, then you cannot also use your computer’s built-in soundcard with Ardour as extra output ports. This isn’t a problem with USB, since that uses standard Alsa drivers, you can multiplex all your soundcards and use them together.

Despite all the above I’m quite happy with the Phonic, and I think it’s pretty good value for the money. Hopefully the driver quirks will get ironed out soon.

Hope this helps.


Check out the Alesis MultiMix 8USB.

I just got one of these and it works great.

You can only do 2 in / 2 out at once but it was recognized and worked out of the box for me. I just had to change the interface in qjackctl.

Multiplexing 2 sound cards together with Alsa is not recommended; I don’t believe there is any way to synchronise them - hence the output timing of the 2 cards will drift. There is a statement to this effect somewhere on this site. If you want multiple outputs then you simply have to stump up the money I’m afraid.

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