Echo AudioFire8 vs. M-Audio FW 410 & Balanced Input Issue at DVinfo.net

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Old July 13th, 2005, 04:50 AM   #1
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Echo AudioFire8 vs. M-Audio FW 410 & Balanced Input Issue

I'm looking into a M-Audio Firewire 410, but before buying I'd really like to know if the 410 has balanced inputs. The threads below (from Spot, Aaron and M-Audio are confusing) and ultimately lead me to believe that the 410 has unbalanced inputs, but that seems really strange for XLR connectors. Another good option is the Echo AudioFire8, but the street price is a big difference - twice as much for the Echo unit. (The Echo AudioFire8 is $600, while the M-Audio Firewire 410 is $300.)

If Spot looks this over, I'd be curious to know why you feel the AudioFire8 is the better unit (based on your statement below). Is it because of the XLR inputs on the 410? Somewhere else I read that you were impressed with the pre-amps on the 410, so that's probably not the issue. Finally, can you tell us anything definitive about whether or not the XLR inputs are balanced?

Apr 25, 2005 DSE: "I'd put them [Echo AudioFire8] first in the sub 1K range. www.echoaudio.com - Then the M-Audio [Firewire 410] would fall in line after the Echo."
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=43522

Posts relating to Unbalanced vs. Balanced XLR/Neutrik Inputs:
------------------------------------------------------------
Feb 18, 2004 DSE: "A quick call to David M at M-Audio's tech support just confirmed that it IS a balanced connector, electronically balanced vs transformer balanced. it's pretty rare you'll find XLR's being unbalanced. I didn't download the owners manual, because it's 4 meg, and I'm on a dialup"
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=21589

Mar 22, 2004 Aaron Koolen: "Just revisiting this as I found the info from the m-audio guy who emailed me. He said 'Aaron, all of the quarter inch inputs and outputs are unbalanced. The XLR inputs are balanced.'"
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=23164

Mar 23, 2004 DSE: "Forward me that mail, would you please? I have a meeting with some of their guys next week and would love to show them that. Open one up, you'll see that the inputs are TRS inside the Neutrik, and you'll see that all 3 connects go to the same place on the circuit board as do the XLR inputs. "
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=23164

May 2, 2005 Aaron Koolen: "There has been some contention on this - Spot was going to check it out but I never heard back, so I just checked again with M-Audio. There are NO balanced connectors on the Firewire 410. Email from M-Audio themselves below. Quote [from M-Audio e-mail]: 'Aaron, the mic line inputs are unbalanced as well as the outputs. There are no balanced connections on the F410. Best regards, Greg St. Peter greg@m-audio.com'"
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=42886

July 9, 2005: Download of M-Audio 410 Manual (see page 6)
"1. MIC/INST INPUTS Unbalanced Instrument and Mic level inputs. These Neutrik hybrid connectors will accept a standard three-pin XLR plug or a 1/4 TS connector."
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Old July 13th, 2005, 07:05 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn Redford
I'm looking into a M-Audio Firewire 410, but before buying I'd really like to know if the 410 has balanced inputs. The threads below (from Spot, Aaron and M-Audio are confusing) and ultimately lead me to believe that the 410 has unbalanced inputs, but that seems really strange for XLR connectors. Another good option is the Echo AudioFire8, but the street price is a big difference - twice as much for the Echo unit. (The Echo AudioFire8 is $600, while the M-Audio Firewire 410 is $300.)

If Spot looks this over, I'd be curious to know why you feel the AudioFire8 is the better unit (based on your statement below). Is it because of the XLR inputs on the 410? Somewhere else I read that you were impressed with the pre-amps on the 410, so that's probably not the issue. Finally, can you tell us anything definitive about whether or not the XLR inputs are balanced?

Apr 25, 2005 DSE: "I'd put them [Echo AudioFire8] first in the sub 1K range. www.echoaudio.com - Then the M-Audio [Firewire 410] would fall in line after the Echo."
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=43522

Posts relating to Unbalanced vs. Balanced XLR/Neutrik Inputs:
------------------------------------------------------------
Feb 18, 2004 DSE: "A quick call to David M at M-Audio's tech support just confirmed that it IS a balanced connector, electronically balanced vs transformer balanced. it's pretty rare you'll find XLR's being unbalanced. I didn't download the owners manual, because it's 4 meg, and I'm on a dialup"
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=21589

Mar 22, 2004 Aaron Koolen: "Just revisiting this as I found the info from the m-audio guy who emailed me. He said 'Aaron, all of the quarter inch inputs and outputs are unbalanced. The XLR inputs are balanced.'"
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=23164

Mar 23, 2004 DSE: "Forward me that mail, would you please? I have a meeting with some of their guys next week and would love to show them that. Open one up, you'll see that the inputs are TRS inside the Neutrik, and you'll see that all 3 connects go to the same place on the circuit board as do the XLR inputs. "
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=23164

May 2, 2005 Aaron Koolen: "There has been some contention on this - Spot was going to check it out but I never heard back, so I just checked again with M-Audio. There are NO balanced connectors on the Firewire 410. Email from M-Audio themselves below. Quote [from M-Audio e-mail]: 'Aaron, the mic line inputs are unbalanced as well as the outputs. There are no balanced connections on the F410. Best regards, Greg St. Peter greg@m-audio.com'"
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=42886

July 9, 2005: Download of M-Audio 410 Manual (see page 6)
"1. MIC/INST INPUTS Unbalanced Instrument and Mic level inputs. These Neutrik hybrid connectors will accept a standard three-pin XLR plug or a 1/4 TS connector."

Looks pretty straight ahead. Balanced connectors, but unbalanced circuitry. Weird, but possible. I'd say don't go there. The $300 you'll "save" will be spent in anguish. There are no shortcuts in sound, only short circuits.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old July 13th, 2005, 12:59 PM   #3
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Ty - How did you come to that conclusion? I don't see anything straight forward regarding the balanced vs. unbalanced issue. If you look at the May 2, 2005 quote from Aaron, he has an e-mail from m-Audio saying that everything is unbalanced, but DSE's early thoughts make it clear that he thought *everything* was balanced, so I was hoping that Spot, or anyone with definitive inside knowledge might reply. Spot seemed to be in discussion with m-Audio on this topic.

Since Aaron's May 2, 2005 quote and the manual say it's all unbalanced, that what I tend to trust at this point, but nothing seems clear or straight forward to me on this issue. Am I missing something obvious? To me it's worth the time (vs. $300 for every buyer) to try to find out what is really happening inside the 410. The wierd thing is that the 410 is very popular for it's price and performance, but no one seems to complain over this issue.

I'm also considering if I need balanced inputs for short cable runs such as 20 to 30 feet or less. Have any of the 410 users out there run into problems that can be attributed to issues over the (un?)balanced connectors?
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Old July 13th, 2005, 01:16 PM   #4
 
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Here's the deal, David S who is no longer with M-Audio since Avid bought them, told me it was electronically balanced. Greg S.P. told me the same at NAMM last year. However, Aaron has a mail from Greg saying otherwise.
All that said, I've got two of the 410's, they're great, and balanced or not, it's a non-issue for me. In fact, today I ran a 100' line into one in a fairly noisy room to illustrate 100' of balanced cable vs 100' of guitar cable/unbalanced cable at a Now Hear This session here in Singapore. These are great boxes, not my first choice but a very sweet box for what it is. I have zero qualms recommending it. I do know the box has undergone firmware updates. I've never bothered to open it and trace the board to see what's up in there, probably should, but like I said, it's a non-issue since it's not presenting problems for me in any case. I use it for travel because it has XLR, 1/4, and lightpipe, so I'm good to go for anything when teaching.
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Old July 13th, 2005, 01:43 PM   #5
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Thanks Spot - very helpful - strange the Greg switched his answer, but the bottom line is how the box performs, so this is good news.
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Old July 13th, 2005, 01:47 PM   #6
 
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Keep in mind that when I spoke with Greg, David, Adam, Kevin, and the other management/marketing guys at NAMM, the box had *just* been released. It may have been Aaron's probing that motivated someone to dig in, or maybe not. I still don't know that the box isn't electronically balanced. It definitely isn't transformer balanced. But it *is* a great box. An Apogee Rosetta it ain't. But it's also a far cry above a Creative Audigy. 8 outs, optical...hardware knobs you can turn, aux sends, returns...hard to beat, especially now that the price is lower.
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Old July 13th, 2005, 05:29 PM   #7
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Thanks for the reminder on the limitations and the bang for the buck factor. I'm no electrical engineer (though a mechanical engineer in a 'former life'), but in your March 23, '04 quote, you mention that there are three connects for the XLR jacks when you had a look inside the 410. Since the XLR is a mono input, doesn't that strongly imply that the XLRs are balanced? Are you using anything other than a regular XLR balanced cable? I guess they could have some sort of built in coupling to skirt the balancing issue. I may be way off here, but it just seems that if it handles your 100' cables through noisy conditions, then it's probably balanced. Too bad that there is no way to officially test this, but the 'it works' method is the bottom line. Thanks again for the info/limitations.
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Old July 13th, 2005, 05:31 PM   #8
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Just because you have XLR connectors doesn't guarantee the line is balanced. XLRs are just connectors.

Here's the thing. You MAY be able to get away with unbalanced circuitry if you're using the thing in one spot and you don't hear any disturbances and nothing ever changes...ever.

Be advised, though that UNbalanced audio is also immediately 3 dB (half the power) of its balanced equivalent. That means you are 3 dBinto the noise floor.

Also be advised that things can change, especially if you are headed out to use gear. I've even had balanced gear pick up stray fields from who knows where on shoots.

Again, they didn't come up with balanced circuitry just to drain your bank account. They did it to preserve the quality of the audio. If you want to gamble that it won't bite you in the ass, fine. Me? I like a good night's sleep.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old July 13th, 2005, 10:32 PM   #9
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Don't know if you're aware, but Focusrite do the 'Saffire' which is balanced and also has an onboard DSP for some simple effects. Might be worth checking out.

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