How do I interface Focusrite ISA 428 Mkii with PC

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How do I interface Focusrite ISA 428 Mkii with PC

Post by forumuser787725 »

Hi everyone and apologies if this is a really stupid question - I'm not a technical guy and struggling to get my head around this.

I'm a professional voice artist and been using Focusrite Scarletts for years, interfaced using USB to my Windows PC. Very easy, very simple.

I'm upgrading and (although I've considered the Clarett 8Pre), I love the ISA preamps - and ideally need 2+ channels to interface into my DAW (Audition).

The 2 channel ISA (the 'Two') doesn't seem to have any AD converter option. The 4 channel ISA (428) does have a digital option using (I believe) 'Dante'.

Assuming I go for the 428, what equipment do I need to:

a) get all 4 channels into my DAW
b) get the full mix out to my external monitors
c) ideally get individual 'outs' into a headphone amp (eg Presonus HP60)

The Scarlett made it all very easy and simple but this step-up to more pro-end equipment has me completely confused.

I'm sorry if this seems a silly question but I can't afford to get it wrong and knew you guys could set me right :)

Many thanks.

Gus.
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Re: How do I interface Focusrite ISA 428 Mkii with PC

Post by Humble Bee »

Just plug the line outputs of the Isa two into the line inputs of the Scarlett.

For the 428 you need an interface with either enough line inputs (4) or a Dante or Adat input.

What Scarlett interface do you have?

That’s a lot of money for preamps. What mics are you going to use?

There are a lot of very good audio interfaces with perfectly adequate preamps for professional recordings provided that the microphones and recording techniques are up to scratch…

The ISA 428 with digital out option costs more than a RME UFX II…
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Re: How do I interface Focusrite ISA 428 Mkii with PC

Post by James Perrett »

You'll get much more bang for your buck by upgrading the acoustic treatment in your recording space and your microphone. Upgrading your mic preamp is only sensible once the rest of your setup is of the absolute highest quality.
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Re: How do I interface Focusrite ISA 428 Mkii with PC

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

The ISA One accepts an optional internal digital card, which you could connect to your Scarlett via S/PDIF, assuming it has it, or save the money for the A/D card and just plug the ISA line outs into the Scarlett line inputs. Or save the money for the ISA and carry on using the Scarlett while improving the room acoustics instead. Of the three options you'd actually near the benefit of the last! :-)

A four channel ISA seems rather overkill for one person's voice over work, and DANTE is an expensive way of hooking a single ISA into a computer. But if you are certain youmwant to go that route you'll either need to buy a dedicated hardware Dante network card for your desktop computer, or you'll need to use the Dante virtual sound card software interface... Although that last option introduces quite significant latency which might be a problem if you're monitoring via the computer.
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Re: How do I interface Focusrite ISA 428 Mkii with PC

Post by forumuser787725 »

Thank you everyone for all that great advice.

Just to provide a little more info.... my studio is a dedicated recording room, extremely well treated and is acoustically about as good as it could get (I have been providing professional voice over audio files for the last few years). I use Sennheiser Mk4 and Neumann TLM-107, interfaced with Scarlett 2i2 and 2i4.

So I totally get the 'low hanging fruit' advice as great advice but please (hopefully) assume that's taken care of - I'm now at that stage of upgrading the interface part to match the rest! The reason I was interested in the ISA is primarily many people have testified to the great sound of the preamps particularly for voice work.

I also work with my wife, hence the need for 2 preamps and I'm considering hosting podcasting (hence the interest in 2+). [Yes I know before you say it - I don't need expensive preamps for the 2+, just the 1+2. :) So my primary aim is to satisfy those first 2 preamps!]

One question I do have from several suggestions above - and again sorry if this sounds stupid - but if I take the line out from the ISA into the Scarlett line-in, and presumably then using the ADC of the Scarlett - is the ADC sufficiently good to justify the ISA preamp? ie is that lower-quality ADC undoing or weakening the benefit of the ISA?

Thank you!
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Re: How do I interface Focusrite ISA 428 Mkii with PC

Post by ore_terra »

Modern digital converters are good enough. I wouldnt worry about that.
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Re: How do I interface Focusrite ISA 428 Mkii with PC

Post by Wonks »

Your choice of microphone will make far more difference to the sound of your voice than any preamp or A/D converter will (unless you push the preamp really hard for audible distortion, which probably isn’t a common occurrence in voice-over work).

I’d try some blind A/B recordings with and without the ISA preamps to find if you hear any differences. You record and play back for your wife, and vice-versa. If you don’t do it blind, then you’ll be surprised how much confirmation bias plays a part in what you think you hear.
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Re: How do I interface Focusrite ISA 428 Mkii with PC

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

forumuser787725 wrote:I'm now at that stage of upgrading the interface part to match the rest! The reason I was interested in the ISA is primarily many people have testified to the great sound of the preamps particularly for voice work.

The ISA is a good sounding preamp and I use one regularly myself, but I wouldn't say it had any particularly special properties for voice work. Nevertheless, if your heart is set on it then I wouldn't advise against. It will certainly get the job done.

I've not tested the current Dante-equipped digital card, but the previous generation A-D card was extremely good -- of all 34 A-Ds I've measured that ISA digital card is ranked 5th between the Lynx Hilo and the Merging Hapi. I'd be surprised if Focusrite degraded the performance with the updated model.

But you will still need an interface of some kind that can accept a digital input from the ISA.
I don't think you have ADAT inputs on your existing Scarlett interfaces, so I would recommend investing in the RME Digiface USB. It will cost around £350 and provide up to 66 channels into your computer... far more than you're likely to need, but it is the ideal solution. Legendary driver support and Total mix for monitoring. Pretty much bullet proof solution. Hook up the ISA 428 via ADAT and you'll have a really top notch system that is genuinely high-end quality.

I take the line out from the ISA into the Scarlett line-in, and presumably then using the ADC of the Scarlett - is the ADC sufficiently good to justify the ISA preamp?

They aren't bad, and I doubt you'd hear any problems at all, but they are specc'd at 110dB (A-wtd) dynamic range whereas the A-D card for the ISA manages 121dB (A-wtd).

As an interim you could certainly start working that way, then add the A-D card and digiface later as budget allows...
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Re: How do I interface Focusrite ISA 428 Mkii with PC

Post by James Perrett »

Hugh Robjohns wrote: But you will still need an interface of some kind that can accept a digital input from the ISA.
I don't think you have ADAT inputs on your existing Scarlett interfaces, so I would recommend investing in the RME Digiface USB. It will cost around £350 and provide up to 66 channels into your computer... far more than you're likely to need, but it is the ideal solution. Legendary driver support and Total mix for monitoring. Pretty much bullet proof solution. Hook up the ISA 428 via ADAT and you'll have a really top notch system that is genuinely high-end quality.

I'd totally agree with the Digiface recommendation (I have one here) but it only has one stereo analogue output so you may need a monitor controller with a digital to analogue convertor if you want separately controllable monitor and headphone outputs.
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