PRO AUDIO
Matt

Matt
June 13, 2013

RME Fireface UFX Review


RME has a reputation for being one of the leading companies when it comes to high quality, analog to digital converters within their audio interfaces. A lot of high quality interfaces stop right there with the microphone preamps and the AD conversion. RME goes that extra step on the Fireface UFX by including all kinds of internal settings from FX controls to an internal DSP for recording without a computer. You also have options for adding external hardware to up the ante and give you a large volume of inputs and control. The RME Fireface UFX has been out for a couple years now, but we rediscovered its power when comparing it to the large volume of audio interfaces coming from various companies. A lot of the newer interfaces are trying to incorporate a level of portability with quality, but many fall short when compared to the RME Fireface UFX.

Of course with the Fireface UFX, you are certainly paying for that power and the price may make you run and hide underneath the covers with your 2×2 interface. I am here to tell you why you shouldn’t and why you should put the Fireface UFX under serious consideration. Especially if you are in the market for an audio interface that won’t leave you looking for a new one next year. The Fireface UFX comes pretty close to being the last interface you will ever buy and I’ll tell you why. Here are highlights of the features that make the RME Fireface UFX such an outstanding audio interface.

I/O

RME touts the Fireface UFX as having 60 channels of audio. This can be rather misleading for folks who don’t typically work with ADAT or have the need for multiple output channels. Instead it makes more sense to say that you have 12 analog inputs and 12 analog outputs when you do not have the Fireface UFX connected to any other external devices. For those that will use the ADAT on the Fireface UFX, you can use those ports to connect things such as two 8-channel AD/DA converters, mixing consoles, or effects devices. The bottom line here is that the Fireface UFX allows for expandability that some interfaces just cannot offer, and that is because of the extensive I/O available.

The I/O is huge and allows for expansion down the road.

The I/O is huge and allows for expansion down the road.

We can’t talk about the Fireface UFX without talking about the preamps on board. For starters you have four combination XLR/TRS inputs on the front of the interface that sound outstanding. They have very low noise and distortion because of the AD/DA converter chips installed within the circuit design. The dynamic range for playback is a lot better on the Fireface UFX than I have heard on other interfaces. Often times with other interfaces you will find that an additional headphone preamp is needed to push high volumes, especially for a vocalist or drummer that needs a lot of volume when tracking. But with the Fireface UFX, even if you have low impedance headphones, you can get a good amount of gain sent to those headphones.

Color Display

There is a huge advantage to having the full color display on the RME Fireface UFX. Many functions that would normally require an interface to have a larger footprint have instead been placed as menu selections within the color display. Here you can control volume for both your main output as well as the two headphone jacks on the front of the interface. You can also select reverb and echo effects and control the level with which those effects are present within your mix. The default screen will show all 30 input levels so you have a visual indicator for your signal levels. Nearly every function you want from an audio interface is controlled using the menu functions within the color display. A great tool to cut down on the footprint in your studio, and for allowing you to work fast.

The screen is well lit and very easy to navigate.

The screen is well lit and very easy to navigate.

DuRec

This the term that RME has dubbed to describe their direct to USB recording feature. The internal DSP on the Fireface UFX allows you to record all of your inputs onto an external hard drive. RME says that you can record on hard drives of up to 2 TB of storage which should be more than enough for any recording situation. Although I am sure you can think of scenarios that challenge this and for that you get extra credit points. For me this is the feature that I like the most on the Fireface UFX. You are no longer tethered to a computer when you want to record so the Fireface UFX is more like a field recorder than just an audio interface. The Fireface UFX will write your channels into WAV files onto your USB memory device. Nearly all DAW’s can accept these WAV files but let’s say your DAW cannot read these. Never fear because RME will provide you with a free conversion tool for both Mac and PC. When you couple the DuRec feature with the colored display, you can feel comfortable leaving the computer at home. This makes the Fireface UFX a very useful system for on the go recording.

Record with your computer or without.

Record with your computer or without.

Total Mix FX

When you first open the Total Mix FX software, you’re going to figure out very quickly whether or not it’s going to be useful for your needs. At a very basic level explanation, it allows for control over your 30 possible inputs. You can route and mix all 30 of the inputs and playback channels to all of the 30 physical outputs as well. You can also setup 15 independent stereo submixes, have full control over your monitoring, as well as hardware mixing and routing. You can also add effects to each channel including a 3-band parametric EQ, adjustable Low Cut, Auto Level, Compressor, Expander, MS Processing, and phase reversal. There is also an automatic overload surveillance feature which ensures that the internal DSP will never be overloaded and will also help to maintain the integrity of your loudspeakers. Total Mix FX is really best for eliminating potential software latency problems when dealing with large numbers of channels. It’s also a great alternative to outboard analog mixers within your recording chain.

Control all 30 channels within your mix.

Control all 30 channels within your mix.

If you are familiar with the art of mixing, then the Total Mix FX can prove quite useful. If you are not as familiar, Total Mix FX might help to push you to learn so it can be a great tool to understanding how to mix multiple channels together. It will look quite daunting when you first open it but once you have installed the latest drivers and properly connected the Fireface UFX, you will immediately see your channels within the software. It took very little time to get the Total Mix FX up and running which is great for the novice, but be aware that this is not meant for the impatient amateur.

The Final Word

It’s difficult to find fault with the RME Fireface UFX but since this is a review I am going to try to be critical. The price tag is rather high even for an interface with as many features as the Fireface UFX. But once you hear how microphones sound going through the Fireface UFX, you begin to understand why that price tag is so high. How’s that for a non-critique? I didn’t find Total Mix FX to be all that useful for all users. The more seasoned and knowledgeable engineer/producer/audiophile will find use for it especially when incorporating the Fireface UFX with other hardware. The average user picking up the Fireface UFX for their home studio recordings is not going to find this even close to useful. This is an important distinction to make when talking about who this interface best serves. That’s not to say that only professionals can use the Fireface UFX but when you’re talking about getting your money’s worth out of the Fireface UFX, the pros and the more knowledgeable are going to find it much more useful.

Other than the price, there is really nothing to scoff at here with the RME Fireface UFX. If you are looking for an interface that you can grow with as your studio grows, then this is definitely an interface that should be on your radar. If you are someone that needs a truly portable and low profile solution for high quality audio recording, the Fireface UFX may be the interface for you. To find even more information on the RME Fireface UFX, or to purchase one for yourself, visit UniqueSquared.com.

SLAM!!

Transcript

The RME Fireface UFX is a FireWire 400 and USB audio interface. RME is well known for their high quality audio interfaces and the Fireface UFX is quite similar but substantially upgraded from the previous Fireface 800. What makes the Fireface UFX stand out amongst other audio interfaces are the outstanding microphone preamps and the high quality analog to digital audio conversion.
The RME Fireface UFX boast an impressive 30 inputs and 30 outputs. On the front you have 4 high quality inputs that are built for both instrument and microphone connections. These preamps put out extremely low distortion and each has their own phantom power. You have I/O for your AES/EBU which facilitates the digital communication between devices. With the ADAT and SPDIF I/O you expand the Fireface UFX to include up to 16 analog channels of additional audio. You also have connections for a word clock as well as MIDI I/O on both the back, and the front.
The large rotary can control the levels for the main out as well as headphones 1 and 2. Included with the Fireface UFX is the TotalMix FX software. TotalMix is meant for monitoring levels and adding effects to the signal coming into the Fireface UFX. This is especially useful when you are utilizing ADAT for large numbers of channels. One of the more innovative and useful features on the RME Fireface UFX is the USB memory output on the front of the interface. The Fireface UFX can simultaneously record audio files into your computer, as well as an external hard drive. This is great as a backup system in the event your computer crashes or if you want to record without a computer.
The colored display on the UFX is a great feature and is very easy to navigate. The internal controls within the display are what allow you to use the UFX as a standalone audio interface without the need for a computer. Grabbing the main volume knob will take you to the volume screen and show your main output level or whatever is assigned to the output. When you push the volume knob, you now have control over the first headphone monitor volume. Push it twice and you have control over the second. The smaller encoders allow you to adjust balance and FX return.
Selecting the channel button will allow you to select which channel you are controlling. Encoder 1 selects the channel, and encoder 2 changes the function of that channel. Pushing encoder 1 moves the menu up and pushing encoder 2 moves the menu down. The setup selection takes you to the UFX’s setting and the internal memory. Here you can store a configuration into 1 of 6 memories.
While the RME Fireface UFX does carry a high price tag, you are getting your money’s worth with a high quality interface loaded with features and the ability to expand when needed.
To find more in-depth information on the RME Fireface UFX visit our blog linked in the description below this video. To pick a UFX up for yourself, be sure to visit the UniqueSquared website.
You’re watching UniqueSquared.com