Sonic LAB: Focusrite Saffire Pro24 FireWire I/Face

16 in 8 Out - does it rock?      31/07/09

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9:33 mins

When we first saw this at the Lims Show earlier in the year, my interest was piqued - I've been looking for a new sound IO for my studio system here - especially something with on board mixing and routing, in my own head, I was thinking maybe I can retire the little mixing desk I have and work totally in the inferface...

Hard Rock
The Saffire Pro24 is a 16 in, 8 out  Firewire Audio interface capable of up 96kHz operation. It's a 1/2 rack, 1 unit high device with two, combi instrument/Mic connectors, each with dedicated level control, 48v global switching, a five segment, four channel LED meter, dedicated monitor level (affects outputs 1&2) and Headphone out with separate level control (outputs 3&4) on the front panel.
Around the back, are line inputs 3&4, analog outs 1-6, an ADAT (or optical) input which provides either 8 ch at 44.1kHz/48kHz or 4 at 88.1kHz/96kHz via SMUX. MIDI in and out and S-Pdif finish things off.

First up, the mic amps are of the Focusrite Award Winning variety which, as they say in their own blurb are best in class. Actually, they DO sound good and are quiet, even at full gain  - I used then on dynamic  and  condenser mics and was please with the results. The line inputs have switchable sensitivity for -10dB and +4dB operation - switchable in software. Speaking of gain, the headphone outs have plenty, should you need it - something that can be overlooked, making live work without a mixer almost impossible as you can hear anything over the audio in the room.

Soft Rock
It is not possible to operate the Saffire Pro24 without installing the drivers and control panel, but there are drivers for both Windows XP and Vista (64-bit too) plus Mac OS X 10.4.11 and above. As far as stability goes, I tested this on OX S with Ableton Live 8 and Logic Pro as well as various other software which outputs and inputs audio, including SoundFlower drivers and didnt find any problems. I was also able to set the minimum latency within Live without any stuttering and good stability.

Classic Rock
The Saffire MixControl application is where all the clever stuff happens, as well as all the regular settings (clock, samplerate ADAT mode etc) you have access to  full monitor and routing options. Essentially you have up to 6 separate mixes with access to all inputs and DAW returns which can be balanced as required and output to any of the available outputs. In addition, there are two Loopback inputs - these are virtual software inputs, that allow you to route system audio (or anything else) and have them show up in your DAW - making it possible to record say the output of your web browser into your DAW via these Loopback inputs.

If anything, the routing can be a little bit complicated and I could see the situation where someone it listening to the signal both through the zero latency of the Saffire monitoring AND the DAW return resulting in a doubling effect. The key is to remember either to listen to the direct signal via the MixControl software OR the DAW return itself, allowing real-time processing added by your DAW.

Precious Rock
Focusrite have pitched this about right, the features verus the cost make for a pretty compelling reason to consider the Pro24 - assuming you have the computer with the requisite FireWire 400 port - you can power the unit of the bus or from an included 12v power supply. You also get Ableton Live 7 LE, Bass Station AU/VST synth, a ton of MTD Drum loops, and another whole bunch of loops from on the extra content DVD

The software and routing nearly make this something that could replace your compact mixing desk. I say nearly becuase you can bus mulitple real inputs  into a single input bus, like I can with my trusty Mackie VLZ3, but it's close. I would also like to have seen some MIDI control of the mixer software - overall level, dim, mute and possibly fader levels too, but this is something that I beleive Focusrite are looking at and could be addresses with a software update.

A good sounding interface with a solid driver, should make this no brainer if you need a compact Firewire audio interface.

Pricing: Recommended retail price £249/$399 - I have seen it for $299 which I think is a pretty good deal.


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13 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Robert Enforsen    Said...

Nick Batt, you are amazing in all video clips I've seen so far! Cred to you!

//Robert Enforsen Elegant Machinery & Hype

01-Aug-09 05:14 PM

jessej    Said...

Totally agreed!

02-Aug-09 12:31 PM

Nick B    Said...

mum? Is that you? I've told you not to hang out here..

02-Aug-09 02:55 PM

daveunchained    Said...

Hi Nick, surely you can use the loopback inputs to route a mix into your DAW? Therefore you can group a set of external mic inputs into a mix and route this via loopback into your DAW. In this way the loopback inputs can act as 2 group busses or virtual DAW inputs, thus doing exactly what you require and replacing you mixing console?

03-Aug-09 06:15 AM

Nick B    Said...

Well, thats a good point, but that works with your DAW. In my particular instance I wanted to route a mic and an application output into DAW 1 which is the input to my Skype app for podcasting - this is not possible as Skype does not have it's own routing system.

I think that makes sense?

03-Aug-09 08:17 AM

X    Said...

I second Robert's comment, Nick--these detailed reviews are great. Much better than Shorn's Saffire Pro "review" :p

Quick question: is there much noise to be heard with the headphone out gain cranked all the way up? I own ${COMPETITOR'S_BOX} and while the mic preamps are very clean, you can hardly tell when you monitor via the extremely noisy headphone output...

Cheers and thanks. :)

06-Aug-09 10:30 PM

Nick B    Said...

Thanks for the feedback folks. re: Noise, I wasnt aware of it, the unit is pretty quiet all round, I didnt get the heaphone gain up full, I didnt need to

07-Aug-09 04:54 AM


i take it this does not work standalone i.e. without being connected to a computer, as a pre amp only using spdif out for example? put another way, no use with protools m

21-Aug-09 11:53 AM

Nick Byvmkb    Said...

Nope, that is correct, it needs to be hooked up to work

29-Aug-09 04:16 AM

Ryan    Said...

Anyone having trouble getting it working in xp 64? FW light is off (not talking to the driver), yet device manager detected and installed drivers for it. I have a texas instruments firewire card btw. I tested on someone else's xp 32bit system; worked 1st time, even installed 2 MIDI ports (64bit installed no MIDI). Focusrite is on holidays :(

26-Dec-09 06:25 PM

Steve    Said...

Dude, that was extremely helpful. Thank you

22-Jun-10 08:25 PM

MarkG    Said...

I have the Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 which is the USB version since I think FireWire will gradually be fading out. While I love the box, the mic preamps, the MIDI In/Out and the S/PDIF IN and OUT (Coax only), the drivers for Win 7 32-bit are killing me with crashes. I get constant blue screens if I try to boot with the unit connected, and sometimes just going in or out of a DAW. I have to power on the unit after the system is boot and fully up, and even then I get BSODs here and there. VERY frustrating!

27-Aug-11 01:44 AM

Dov Slater    Said...

Hi, how is the sound quality of the Saffire Pro 24 inputs compared to their higher end mic-pres? I'm using a charter oak SA538 condenser, it's a $1500 microphone. Do you think the Saffire PRO 24 would ruin the sound of the charter oak, or do you think it would be transparent and smooth and pair well with this mic choice?

27-Nov-15 07:13 PM

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