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High-end, 36-channel audio interface with full-featured effects an iPad support.
The Fireface UCX from RME is a high-end audio interface loaded to the brim with all of the professional connections needed in a studio environment, but in a compact enough design that you can easily take on the road or in the field for mobile recording applications. With a total of 36 channels of audio, there is certainly no shortage of audio connectivity. Add to that two high-end microphone and instrument preamps, digital I/O, USB 2.0 and FireWire connections, all neatly packed inside of a 19" housing with full mobile usability.
Inputs and Outputs
The UCX provides 36 channels of audio - 18 inputs and 18 outputs. All channels can be used at the same time. Up to 8 analog and 10 digital channels can be recorded onto 18 separate tracks. All outputs can be used for ASIO Direct Monitoring purposes.
On the rear: 4 balanced TRS. On the front: 2 XLR inputs with Mic/Line preamps (65dB Gain) and 2 Hi-Z capable TRS Line/Instrument inputs.
On the rear: 6 balanced TRS outputs. On the front: One additional TRS stereo phones (playback channels 7/8). The high-power phones output offers high volumes even with high-impedance headphones
Equipped with a new 2011 A/D and D/A high-performance converter design all I/O operates at up to 192kHz. The AD/DA conversion supersedes the outstanding technical specifications of the Fireface UC/400 with an impressive 114 dBA dynamic range on both record and playback. The advanced multi-bit converter architecture guarantees excellent S/N and THD specs across a wide analog level range. In the best RME tradition and product philosophy, the Fireface UCX converters and preamps have no characteristic "sound" of their own. They neither add nor remove anything, but capture the original signal just as it is.
Due to its efficient jitter reduction, RME's superior SteadyClock finalizes the state-of-the-art AD/DA conversion, even when clocking to an external digital source.
Low Latency Converters
All analog I/O uses a low latency converter design with impressive 14 samples for the ADC, and 7 samples for the DAC, independent of the used sample rate. These values are about a quarter of the Fireface UC/400 (43/28), and even outperform much more expensive devices. This technological advancement reduces the overall latency of timing critical applications, in live situations, and in computer-based recording studios. The converter latency is so low (0.4 ms at 48 kHz) that it can be ignored, turning analog digital monitoring into real analog-style monitoring.
Microphone/Instrument Preamps with AutoSet
The UCX provides two high-end mic and instrument preamps - built right into the front. Both preamps use core technology of RME's Micstasy. A high-end preamp for supreme sonic demands and critical applications, like professional recordings of classical and acoustic music. The outstanding preamp design boasts extremely low distortion, excellent signal to noise ratio and a perfectly flat frequency response. A premium solution for transmitting and amplifying any audio source truly unchanged, be it high-level stage or typical studio signals, lower level and high-impedance instruments, or dynamic, condenser and ribbon microphones.
The digitally controlled gain of up to 65dB, adjustable in steps of 1dB over a range of 55dB, is individually set for each preamp with the encoder knob on the front or in TotalMix FX on the host computer. All level settings are 100% reproducible and can also be adjusted using a MIDI remote controller.
Each channel can be individually switched to 48V phantom power. LEDs for signal, clip and activated phantom power give a complete overview on the unit's status.
The two TRS inputs on the front will alternatively operate as Hi-Z inputs. Directly plug in up to two guitars or other instruments - no other hardware is required.
The UCX offers a unique RME feature which was previously available only in the high-end microphone preamp Micstasy and the UFX. Usually a limiter is used during the recording to prevent clipping of the A/D converter stage. But analog processing would not only spoil the excellent technical specifications of the UCX mic preamps but also alter the original sound.
Thanks to digitally controlled gain the UCX can reduce the gain automatically, thus providing perfect protection from overload with no degradation of the audio signal, which does not have to pass any additional electronic circuitry. Additionally AutoSet does not cause any of the control noises known from usual limiters. SNR and THD stay completely unchanged.
Digital I/O, Word Clock & MIDI
SPDIF: The UCX provides a coaxial SPDIF I/O working at up to 192kHz.
ADAT: One 8-channel ADAT I/O expands the UCX by 8 channels available simultaneously with the analog channels. They can be used to connect an 8-channel AD/DA converter, a mixing console, or to insert an effect device. The ADAT I/O supports sample rates with up to 192kHz (S/MUX4). Using an external converter like the ADI-8 QS, the UCX will provide 16 analog inputs and outputs, 12 with a sample rate of 96kHz, and still 10 at 192kHz.
SPDIF: The ADAT I/O can be used as optical SPDIF I/O, making the UCX connections even more flexible.
Word Clock & MIDI: A word clock input and output (BNC) with switchable termination plus two MIDI I/Os on a breakout cable complete the I/O list and turn the Fireface UCX into a professional audio system with universal usability.
The DSP-based TotalMix mixer supports fully independent routing and mixing of all 18 input and playback channels to all 18 physical outputs. Up to 9 totally independent stereo submixes plus a comprehensive Control Room section offer monitoring capabilities and unsurpassed routing flexibility.
Every input and output channel comes with a luxury feature set, comparable to a full-scale digital console. The effects per channel include 3-band parametric EQ, adjustable Low Cut, Auto Level, Compressor, Expander, MS Processing and phase reversal. The Reverb and Echo effects unit is available for all channels by way of a stereo send and return bus, all at 192 kHz operation.
Two DSP’s ensure an impressive performance even in extreme applications. As usual with RME, TotalMix is available with all channels at all sample rates, completely unlimited. The second dedicated DSP only renders effects, and therefore always has sufficient resources. For example, at 48kHz 36 EQs, 36 Low Cuts, 26 Compressors and Echo can be activated. With activated Reverb and Echo still 36 EQs, 36 Low Cuts and 16 Compressors are available.
The FX-DSP uses automatic overload surveillance. As soon as no effect can be added anymore the TotalMix surface will clearly signal this condition. When changing to higher sample rates the UCX automatically deactivates all effects that exceed the DSP's performance - the DSP will never be overloaded. This also prevents any possible damage to loudspeakers due to distortion.
Furthermore, the DSP hardware calculates RMS and Peak levels for all 54 level meters, so there is zero CPU load on the host.
The main functions of TotalMix can be remote controlled via MIDI with any Mackie Control compatible controller.
Hammerfall-X-Core: USB & FireWire
RME doesn’t use a third party USB or FireWire audio technology, but its own, self-developed Hammerfall Audio Core with an outstanding performance and uncompromised pro audio features. RME integrated the latest and most sophisticated version of RME's bus technology, the Hammerfall-X-Core - combining both, USB 2.0 and FireWire - within one half-rack sized interface.
Class Compliant Mode
The Fireface UCX is a fully professional audio interface with the option to be used as Class Compliant interface. The Class Compliant mode is a standard that is natively supported by operating systems like Windows, Mac OSX and Linux distributions. No proprietary drivers are required; the device will be directly recognized when the Class Compliant mode is activated by the button on the front panel.
Connect to an Apple iPad or iPad2
The iPad is not only an attractive mobile music creation and recording platform, but a closed hard- and software system without common driver problems and interferences from 3rd party hardware, like graphic or network cards. It provides stability, a good realtime performance and easy handling.
The UCX provides the iPad with the professional analog I/O connections it lacks. Superb microphone preamps with EQ, dynamics, even with the AutoSet feature, in addition to professional balanced line outputs, and a hi-power headphone output that also excels with high impedance headphones. Plus level adjustments, reverb, echo, zero latency monitoring, digitally via USB, without any limitation in quality, at up to 96kHz and 24-bit.
Supported Inputs and Outputs
When connected to an iPad, the analog mic/line input 1 works with mono apps, inputs 1 and 2 with stereo apps (both dual mono and stereo), and all 8 analog inputs with 8-channel applications, like MultiTrack DAW and Music Studio.
Playback will use analog outputs 1 and 2 (there is no app supporting 8-channel playback at this time). The output signal 1/2 will be copied to outputs 7/8, SPDIF and ADAT, and can be processed independently (Volume/EQ/Dyn/FX Return).
Audio Routing and Processing . The UCX is also a very powerful tool in CC mode, and can even be pre-configured via TotalMix FX under Windows/Mac. Apart from the current configuration up to 6 previously saved configurations can be loaded from the setup memory, allowing for a quick reconfiguration without a connected host PC/Mac.
The input signal will pass through all activated functions of the TotalMix FX input channel, namely settings, EQ, and Dynamics, and is then sent to the iPad. Like under Windows and Mac, the input fader controls direct monitoring to any output. The FX send control for echo/reverb is also active. The iPad's output signal passes through all activated functions of the TotalMix FX hardware outputs, namely settings, EQ, and dynamics. The third row's fader sets the output level.
More details are found in the Tech Info Fireface UCX Class Compliant Mode - Technical background, mode of operation, practical use
RME's unique jitter suppression technology guarantees perfect sound quality throughout, making the device completely independent from the quality of external clock signals. Due to the highly efficient jitter reduction, the UCX converters operate independently from the quality of the external clock signal, as if they are working with internal clock all the time - guaranteeing a prestine sound quality.
SteadyClock allows the Fireface UCX to control the sample rate freely on its own. The settings dialog includes a direct choice of the video and audio world's most often used sample rates.
Intelligent Clock Control not only displays every clock status, but will also retain the last valid input sample rate in case of failure of the external source. Other renowned RME technologies like SyncCheck offer a quick detection of clock problems.
The UCX comes with RME's unique software toolbox for metering, testing, measuring and analyzing digital audio streams. It provides a multi-track recorder, calculates the level meters peak and RMS in hardware and is able to analyze and display playback data from any software, no matter which format the software uses.
Stand Alone Operation with Setup Recall
Additionally internal memory allows for the permanent storage of six different states of the unit. Therefore the Fireface UCX is able to operate fully stand-alone, without any connected computer. In stand-alone operation it can transform into totally different devices by the simple click of a button. Furthermore, in this mode TotalMix FX can also be controlled via MIDI. Application examples include: 8-channel AD/DA converter, 4-channel mic preamp, monitor mixer, digital format converter, analog/digital routing matrix.
Get high-power performance in and out of the studio.
Review Snapshot®by PowerReviews
Reviewed by 3 customers
Displaying reviews 1-3
Comments about RME Fireface UCX 36-Channel USB 2.0 Audio Interface:
Lessons learned from researching Audio Interfaces
I am a live violin / bass / soft synth looper, and spent over two years researching audio interfaces to find the lowest latency possible. Sadly if you *really* want to know the facts about what's out there today, you have to dig really really deep into endless forums and technical data, and even still can only infer the information that will actually make an impact on your purchase.
Please feel free to tear this post apart if you feel like anything in it isn't correct.
I have a latest model retina macbook pro with maxed out options, and was using an old Edirol FA-101 over FW400 (FW400 -> FW800 -> TB). The lowest buffer size I could use in Live was 64 samples @ 44100, which gave me about 8-9ms round trip latency.
DESPITE THE WORD ON THE STREET, this latency is not acceptable for live work. My band-mates were constantly complaining about timing. When trying to use Ableton Looper with a MIDI pedal, it is impossible to lock in the loop on time. It's also not possible to play perfectly in sync with a Ping-Pong delay.
THE STATE OF THE MARKET
Looking for interfaces is extremely hard right now. Most reviews are several years old (2006-2008?) and on hardware that doesn't compare with what we have today. For example, it's extremely difficult to find hard interface latency numbers even for the very popular macbook pro / Ableton combo. Ideally we would have a professional Ableton-centric round-up of interfaces on MacBooks (or PC!).
First thing: if an interface is going to be fast, it must have optimized drivers from the manufacturer. This basically includes Apogee, LYNX, RME, and some M-Audio interfaces. From tons of forum searching, I became convinced that nobody's drivers can compare with RME. I found lots of dirt on Apogee, have so-so personal experience with M-Audio, and have found absolutely nothing but praise for RME's speed and stability. So it seems like the choice is clear.
Next you have to choose a bus. We are currently in an period of minimal innovation for audio interfaces. Firewire is being phased out and USB 3.0 and thunderbolt are starting to build momentum. USB 2.0 is plenty sufficient for say 16 channels, but USB 3.0 will make more channels available (although at the same latency as USB 2.0).
It's also important to note that Thunderbolt is basically PCIe, and using TB you can expect similar performance out of the PCIe cards currently available but they usually use adaptors like Apogee Symphony IO + Thunderbridge ($3000 total), or RME HDSP + Sonnet Echo PCI -> TB ($1200 and up). This appears to be the ideal performance situation, but they are expensive and physically clunky.
TAKING THE LEAP
Having a macbook, the choice of USB VS Thunderbolt still remained for me. I considered going with the RME HDSP and Sonnet Echo, but couldn't for the life of me figure out how to get the usual I/O XLR/TRS connection options found in the cheaper interfaces. So the USB FireFace UC or UCX started looking more attractive.
Plus, RME repeatedly says that their USB products compete with their PCIe products for latency, but there are no hard experiential numbers available online. Also you have to dig deep, but you will find that the RME Fireface UCX has newer AD/DA converters that are about 1ms faster than the UC, which is a big deal.
So I took a chance and went with the UCX.
I was really blown away with the speed and stability of the UCX over USB. I can now use Looper and play perfectly in sync with Ping-Pong delay. At a buffer size of 32 samples, Live is reporting < 2ms round trip, and I believe it. The latency is low enough that I can't tell the amplification apart until it is taken away.
So there you have it. I would love to see others post their latencies with Live on various interface / computer combinations. That's what I feel I was missing most in my search.
Comments about RME Fireface UCX 36-Channel USB 2.0 Audio Interface:
I needed a USB-based interface and went back-and-forth between the UCX and the Babyface. I wanted the Babyface to work for me, but I would have had to buy new cables and a digital coax-to-optical converter in order to make it work. Even then, I really could of used a second pair of analog line inputs. Despite the significant cost difference, I'm very happy with the UCX.
Here are a few criteria I considered for this purchase:
Just about anything you need for a small studio or in my case, home project studio. Two mic preamps, two switchable instrument/line inputs, and four line inputs on the back. You also get SPDIF I/O, ADAT I/O, and two sets of MIDI I/O. My needs are completely covered here, albeit a little overkill.
BUILD QUALITY: 4/5
The first impression I got taking it out of the box is this thing is solid. It has significant heft and just oozes quality. However, there is one nit that RME says is by design. The AC adapter connection to the box feels very loose. RME says this is to give the adapter some play, to prevent damage to the connection should the cable be yanked by accident. Despite the loose feeling connection, I can spin it freely and the unit does not lose power. So, it would seem this is a perception problem. The connection /feels/ cheap to me, but in practice it is a non-issue thus far.
This is my second RME interface. My trusty Multiface with HDSP PCI card has been working flawlessly for 10 years and in four different PCs. They still make drivers for that old interface, I was using it on Windows 8.1 before purchasing my new RME UCX. The level of support I've had with RME over the years is what made me a repeat customer this time around. There was nothing wrong with my Multiface, but I was ready to make the move to USB. I hope this new interface serves me just as well for the next 10 years.
I've had bad experiences with poor performance using USB interfaces in the past. I'm happy to say that with my current PC the UCX is very impressive. The manual describes what steps you can take to improve performance, but out of the box I'm able to get extremely low latencies on par with my PCI-based Multiface. None of my projects max out my CPU on my new system, but from the testing I've done, I have had no issues whatsoever.
As far as gear goes, audio interfaces are one of the least "fun" purchases for me. There are other things that are more fun to spend your money on. On the other hand, you don't want to buy junk. If you have the money and if the features meet your needs, I have no problem recommending this interface. Another solid product from RME!
Comments about RME Fireface UCX 36-Channel USB 2.0 Audio Interface:
The RME Fireface UCX is an excellent product, synonym of fidelity, quality, stability and durability. The fact that you can record and monitor at latencies similar to PCI and PCIe cards, on a USB 2.0 connection, says a lot about this company's commitment to excellence. Aboard it is a new generation (2011) converter chip that offers better sound quality and lower latencies than the converters found on the FF400/800.
All RME products come with the most stable drivers in the industry. Sometimes people forget that, no matter how good the specs of a product, without stable drivers, you won't be able to rely on it. That's the kind of peace of mind that RME products gives you. They simply work and get the job done!
Not only that, but you can also record audio using an iPad! To me, this is one cool feature that hardly any interface (as of this writing) can boast about. It's a great solution for mobile recording, if you're into that kind of thing (though the BabyFace would be an even better option for two channel mobile recording).
In short, this is a great product and I fully recommend it as long as its feature set meets your expectations.