Review & test of RME Babyface Pro – USB 4×4 interface with hardware effects

RME Audio is a German manufacturer of professional audio equipment. For readers who have never heard or encountered RME products, a separate explanation should be made. Because the price of RME interfaces is significantly higher than that of the popular cheap German interfaces M-Audio or Steinberg, some colleagues assume that, most likely, all of the RME devices are about the same, only “much cooler sound”. For a long time, the RME brand was positioned as a very expensive and prestigious Hi-End brand, and at the same time a universal solution to all possible technical problems of the studio. Meanwhile, the main difference of RME from the production of mass brands in the internal architecture, opportunities and tasks to be solved.

RME Babyface Pro
Initially, RME interfaces appeared as an alternative to the traditional approach, for example, M-Audio, when a third-party digital chip is being taken and several digital and analog channels are tuned to it. A ready driver is taken from the chip manufacturer. The downside is that the developers of chips have a vague idea of the tasks of musicians, and M-Audio at all desire can not affect the supplier of chips. As a result, the tasks of a musician or a broadcasting worker are not taken into account at all. You can not create a device for a specific task or add at least one additional function. Also, if DSP is used for internal digital mixing, there will always be a large signal delay. This is not so bad for the recording studio, although it does not cause any joy. But for broadcasters in general is not acceptable, as there is an unpredictable dissynchronization of video and sound.

The RME interfaces from the very beginning were the antipode of all possible inexpensive (by professional measures) solutions. The architecture of any RME interface is FPGA. This is a programmable transistor matrix. The user determines completely the logic of the operation of this matrix, and not the chip manufacturer. FGPA has unlimited flexibility in routing the signal and zero signal delay, even if you need to process a hundred channels at the same time. In FPGA, such processing will be parallel and instantaneous, since there is no command queue and memory, as in traditional DSP. That is, the signal passes faster a thousand times, with a zero processing delay. The disadvantages of FPGAs are the laboriousness of developing hardware and drivers, high cost. Obviously, it makes little sense to use FPGA if the standard task is to record and reproduce 2 channels. Although it is possible to win here, if higher stability is required. The company RME develops the driver itself and has more possibilities to debug it.


Also, the strength of the RME interfaces is that they help to bundle into a single complex a huge amount of equipment that already exists in recording studios and broadcasters. In this case, there are problems of general time synchronization, mixing and routing of a huge number of channels in real time. Another function is autonomous operation of the interface without a computer. If you transfer control to the iPad, the RME interface can successfully replace the digital mixing console. Moreover, in terms of capabilities and sound quality, the RME interface will surpass any console for the same price.
RME Babyface Pro

All-metal aluminum case, balanced outputs, bottom thread for mounting on a rack or tripod.

The Babyface USB interface, which appeared in 2011, was the first interface aimed specifically at the mass market, which includes personalized sound recording. After all, buying a big RME rack-mount interface home and using only 128 connectors out of 128 channels is not a very rational idea. By the way, even in Babyface, it is possible to connect a large number of channels to ADAT and to flexibly manage them, if necessary. Although the configuration of analog inputs and outputs 4×4, digital in the end there are more than a dozen. This is a strong contrast to the Apogee Duet, Roland Super UA, similar in appearance. If you correctly compare Babyface, then MOTU Track 16 can be a direct competitor.

RME Babyface Pro

Linear / guitar inputs TS, 2 headphone outputs are located on the right.

The new interface Babyface Pro completely replaces Babyface. Babyface is discontinued. Babyface Pro was designed from scratch, it changed everything and nothing left of its predecessor. This is a more advanced version, aimed at the same mass market. For professionals, a modification of Madiface Pro was proposed, with the connection of MADI instead of ADAT, which gives 68 channels for input and output. Whereas in Babyface Pro there are 12 channels for input and output. On 2 analog input channels more than has Babyface. All inputs and outputs in Babyface Pro are independent and can be used simultaneously.
In the video, Matthias Karstens, the company’s founder and chief developer RME, talks about the innovations of Babyface Pro:

The case of the old RME Babyface was obtained by casting. RME Babyface Pro is obtained by milling from a single piece of aluminum, which is more expensive, but gives more precision.
RME Babyface Pro

Good-bye “pigtail” with thin wires, hello strong XLR connectors.

Of the significant design innovations, a pigtail with connectors has been removed. Now XLR connectors are in the case. To fit them into a fairly small height rear panel, rather unusual open-frame XLR connectors were used.
The level adjustment wheel was redesigned. Now instead of the standard encoder there is a non-standard with a wide base of the rotary knob. The wheel now does not hang out at all and does not have a backlash. All the user’s comments have been taken into account and now everything is very reliable and high-quality.
RME Babyface Pro

The proprietary L-shaped USB cable in the kit has a small latch to prevent the cable from falling out

The level indication became twice as informative. At the same time, both the recording level and the playback level are displayed. For all analog and digital channels, there are separate overload indicators on the top panel, between the per-channel pixels. To quickly flip through the channels, separate buttons appeared under the pixels.
RME Babyface Pro

Carrying case included RME Babyface Pro signals mobile use.

The RME Babyface Pro comes with a plastic carry case. The interface is additionally wrapped in a thin fabric case (not shown in the photo). A separate compartment is designed for the PSU that is not included in the kit. You can use any standard DC 12V or buy branded.
The manufacturer completely changed the tech inside the Pro. It became much better in terms of characteristics and sound.
The RME Babyface components: 4-channel DAC PCM4104, two-channel ADC AKM AK5385.
The RME Babyface Pro components: 4-channel DAC AK4413, two-channel ADC AKM AK5388.
RME Babyface Pro

Specifications of RME Babyface Pro

Mic / line input 1-2

  • XLR inputs electronically balanced
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 113 dB, 116 dB
  • Frequency response @ 44.1 kHz, -0.1 dB: 18 Hz – 20.8 kHz
  • Frequency response @ 96 kHz, -0.5 dB: 7 Hz – 45.8 kHz
  • Frequency response @ 192 kHz, -1 dB: 5 Hz – 92 kHz
  • Channel separation:>110 dB
  • Gain range: -11 dB … +65 dB
  • Input sensitivity XLR, gain 0 dB: +8 dBu, PAD +19 dBu
  • XLR input sensitivity, 65 dB gain: -57 dBu, PAD -46 dBu

Unlike Babyface, Babyface Pro now does not have any recessions in the frequency response at the input. This is an absolutely straight line 20-20 with a tolerance of 0.1 dB.

Linear / guitar input 3-4

  • Inputs: 6.3 mm TS jack, unbalanced
  • Impedance: 470 kΩ
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 114 dB, 117 dBA
  • Frequency response @ 44.1 kHz, -0.1 dB: 5 Hz – 20.8 kHz
  • Frequency response @ 96 kHz, -0.5 dB: <3 Hz – 45.8 kHz
  • Frequency response @ 192 kHz, -1 dB: <2 Hz – 92 kHz
  • Channel separation:>110 dB
  • Input sensitivity @ + 4 dBu, gain 0 dB: +13 dBu
  • Input sensitivity @ -10 dBV, gain 9 dB: -5 dBu

There are TS inputs on the right side of the interface for recording unbalanced signals and connecting a guitar. By characteristics, they are in no way inferior to XLR inputs. Line inputs on jacks give an easy opportunity to connect household sources. In this case, a more sensitive TS input will record them with high signal-to-noise ratio and with the correct cascade matching (i.e., without cold-to-ground and without hanging this contact in the air, which usually happens).

Linear output 1-2

  • Outputs: XLR, balanced
  • Dynamic range: 115 dB, 118 dBA
  • Frequency response @ 44.1 kHz, -0.5 dB: 0 Hz – 20.8 kHz
  • Frequency response @ 96 kHz, -0.5 dB: 0 Hz – 45 kHz
  • Frequency response @ 192 kHz, -1 dB: 0 Hz – 89 kHz
  • Channel separation:>110 dB
  • Output Level: Balanced +19 dBu, unbalanced +13 dBu

RME Babyface Pro
RME Babyface Pro

Headphone output 3/4

  • Output: 6.3 mm jack, unbalanced
  • Impedance: 10 Ohm
  • Output level: +13 dBu
  • Maximum power @ 0.1% Kg: 50 mW
  • Exit: 3.5 mm minijack, unbalanced
  • Impedance: 2 Ω
  • Output level: +7 dBu
  • Maximum power @ 0.1% Kg: 70 mW

The RME Babyface Pro now has 2 headphone outputs. One with a large jack is optimized for large headphones, with an impedance of 24 ohms or more. A large swing at the output of +13 dBu (3.5 Vrms) allows you to connect even high-resistance models such as DT990 PRO. For plug-in (IEM) headphones with a very low impedance, typically 16 ohms, the mini-jack is best suited. The signal to both headphone outputs goes the same, these are HP 3/4 channels.
A separate headphone channel allows you to create a special version of the phonogram or metronome in the ears of the performer, and monitor the full version of the record from the monitors at the output. Headphones are rarely in the interfaces a separate channel, and to create a submix from the input channels, this is found only in very expensive and sophisticated professional interfaces.
RME Babyface Pro

MIDI

1 x MIDI input / output via adapter to 2 standard 5-pin DIN
Galvanic isolation through an optocoupler
High speed mode: jitter and response time of less than 1 ms
Separate buffers 128 bytes for input and output

Characteristics of the digital part

  • Synchronization: Internal, ADAT Input, SPDIF Input
  • External synchronization jitter: <1 ns in PLL
  • Internal synchronization jitter: 0.8 ns, broadband
  • Jitter suppression of the outer clocks:>50 dB (2.4 kHz)
  • The effect of jitter on the ADC and DAC: almost zero
  • PLL guarantees no signal loss, even with a jitter of 100 ns
  • Digital PLL for problem-free operation of ADAT in different modes
  • Sampling frequency support: 28 kHz – 200 kHz

Almost the most important and unique feature of all RME interfaces is their SteadyClock synchronization system. You can use both internal and external synchronization with equal success. In this case, with external synchronization, the sound quality will be the highest, as if using the internal one. If you do not pay attention to this issue and use inexpensive interfaces with an external tile, then the quality of recording and playback will be unacceptable. Moreover, the problem practically does not affect the user, if there is only a computer and an inexpensive interface.

General

  • Power: from USB bus or external power supply
  • Typical power consumption: 2.9 W
  • Maximum power consumption: 4.6 W
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 108 x 35 x 181 mm
  • Weight: 680 g

RME Babyface Pro interface is fully compatible with USB3.0 ports, despite the fact that it works on USB2.0. External PSU is only needed for offline operation without a computer. In this case, you can connect the iPad to the USB and run a free application to manage all the settings.

Drivers

  • Windows 10/8/7 / Vista / XP SP2 (32 & 64 bit)
  • Apple Mac OS X 10.5 and later (Core Audio)

RME Babyface Pro
The TotalMix FX Mixer allows you to overlay a 3-band parametric equalizer and a low cut filter. There is hardware Reverb and Echo, and each channel has FX Send. The graphic interface of the mixer is scaled. So it looks good on a laptop with a small resolution and on a large 4K monitor.
RME Babyface Pro
Despite the fact that all adjustments are digital, preamp level changes occur in the analog. The maximum gain of 70 dB is enough for the most low-sensitivity microphones.
The RME Babyface Pro interface is equipped with a frequency automatic. That is, you do not need to go into the settings, look for the sampling mode, change something. The interface itself switches the mode correctly. When changing the frequency, the application automatically changes only the number of ADAT channels in the mixer.

ASIO diagnostics

Device: ASIO Fireface USB

Features:

  • Input channels: 8
  • Output channels: 8
  • Input latency: 4127
  • Output latency: 4168
  • Min buffer size: 4096
  • Max buffer size: 4096
  • Preferred buffer size: 4096
  • Granularity: 0
  • ASIOOutputReady – supported

Sample rate:

  • 8000 Гц – not supported
  • 11025 Гц – not supported
  • 16000 Гц – not supported
  • 22050 Гц – not supported
  • 32000 Гц – supported
  • 44100 Гц – supported
  • 48000 Гц – supported
  • 88200 Гц – supported
  • 96000 Гц – supported
  • 176400 Гц – supported
  • 192000 Гц – supported
  • 352800 Гц – not supported
  • 384000 Гц – not supported

Input channels:

  • channel: 0 (Analog 1 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 1 (Analog 2 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 2 (Analog 3 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 3 (Analog 4 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 4 (Adat 1 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 5 (Adat 2 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 6 (Adat 3 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 7 (Adat 4 (1)) – Int32LSB

Output channels:

  • channel: 0 (Analog 1 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 1 (Analog 2 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 2 (Analog 3 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 3 (Analog 4 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 4 (Adat 1 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 5 (Adat 2 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 6 (Adat 3 (1)) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 7 (Adat 4 (1)) – Int32LSB

RMAA Diagnostics shows support for frequencies from 44.1 to 192 kHz. The minimum buffer size is 48 samples. The number 1 means that this is the number 1 device in the system. In the architecture of RME drivers, it is possible to connect several devices to one computer.

RightMark Audio Analyzer test report

Testing device [ASIO] ASIO Fireface USB
Sampling mode 24-bit, 44 kHz
Interface ASIO
Testing chain External loopback (line-out – line-in)
RMAA Version 6.4.1 PRO
20 Hz – 20 kHz filter ON
Normalize amplitude ON
Level change -0.8 dB / -0.8 dB
Mono mode OFF
Calibration singal, Hz 1000
Polarity correct/correct

Summary

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB
+0.03, -0.00
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A)
-114.1
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A)
114.4
Excellent
THD, %
0.0007
Excellent
THD + Noise, dB (A)
-99.0
Excellent
IMD + Noise, %
0.0014
Excellent
Stereo crosstalk, dB
-115.4
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %
0.0022
Excellent
General performance
Excellent

Frequency response

RME Babyface Pro

Left
Right
From 20 Hz to 20 kHz, dB
-0.15, +0.02
-0.15, +0.03
From 40 Hz to 15 kHz, dB
-0.01, +0.01
-0.00, +0.03

Noise level

RME Babyface Pro

Left
Right
RMS power, dB
-113.1
-113.4
RMS power (A-weighted), dB
-114.4
-114.5
Peak level, dB FS
-92.1
-92.3
DC offset, %
+0.1
+0.0

Dynamic range

RME Babyface Pro

Left
Right
Dynamic range, dB
+113.7
+113.4
Dynamic range (A-weighted), dB
+114.4
+114.5
DC offset, %
-0.00
-0.00

THD + Noise (at -3 dB FS)

RME Babyface Pro

Left
Right
THD, %
+0.0007
+0.0009
THD + Noise, %
+0.0008
+0.0008
THD + Noise (A-weighted), %
+0.0010
+0.0010

Intermodulation distortion

RME Babyface Pro

Left
Right
IMD + Noise, %
+0.0011
+0.0011
IMD + Noise (A-weighted), %
+0.0012
+0.0012

Stereo crosstalk

RME Babyface Pro

Left
Right
Crosstalk at 100 Hz, dB
-115
-117
Crosstalk at 1000 Hz, dB
-116
-115
Crosstalk at 10000 Hz, dB
-108
-109

IMD (swept tones)

RME Babyface Pro

Left
Right
IMD + Noise at 5000 Hz,
0.0030
0.0029
IMD + Noise at 10000 Hz,
0.0020
0.0018
IMD + Noise at 15000 Hz,
0.0025
0.0023

We also did headphone output tests with a high signal level of 2 Vrms and got 115 dB signal / noise and 0.0003% distortion. Thus, the TRS jack earphone output can also be used successfully to connect unbalanced household equipment. The graphs of measurements are impressive. The graphics are beautiful – and this is despite the power from the USB bus! The results are almost unattainable for entry-level devices. This is a qualitative step forward.

Sound

We compared RME Babyface Pro with equipment of different price categories. From the initial devices for $ 100 to our existing Lynx Hilo TB for $ 3000. Used ADAM Audio monitors and high-quality headphones. The sound quality of RME Babyface Pro is at a high professional level. Noticeable significant increase in quality in comparison with inexpensive entry-level interfaces M-Audio, Steinberg and others. There are more details in the sound. This is not even heard on the most expensive headphones and monitors.
With the increase in the price of equipment, RME Babyface Pro still feels confident in the price / quality criterion. The increase in quality in the equipment slows down, but the price increase sharply goes up. For outbound recording and in a personal studio, where the interface is mainly positioned, the sound quality of RME Babyface Pro is enough. RME Babyface Pro also perfectly suits the commercial recording studio. The one who worked all time only on inexpensive interfaces and is now looking for a candidate for an upgrade is a very good option.
Many people wonder if the RME Babyface Pro outperformed the device of the highest class? No, it didn’t. Probably, for this purpose it requires the use of dual mono DACs and even better circuitry. However, the German manufacturer also has something to offer. If there is no budget constraint, we can recommend the novelty of 2016 RME ADI-2 Pro – high-quality ADC / DAC with support for 768 kHz and a powerful headphone amplifier. Just there is used even more hefty design, 10-layer printed circuit board, top-end 2-channel AKM converters and a powerful transistor headphone amplifier. Given that RME has an understandable finished product line, RME Babyface Pro should not compete with its own interfaces.

Conclusions

RME Babyface Pro is an interesting interface for sound recording, intended, first of all, for specialists. Compared with the first Babyface, the new model with the prefix Pro is much more interesting and elaborate. It can be safely recommended to the owners of the first version as an upgrade. Best RME Babyface Pro is suitable for a personal workstation in a small studio or for working with a laptop on the road. Do not forget about the autonomous operation of RME Babyface Pro as a mixing console with effects, without a computer, with control from the iPad screen. Also, do not forget about the possibility of expanding the channels due to ADAT and the existence of the MADI modification of Madiface Pro. We are waiting for new interesting developments from RME.

Video review

Summary
RME Babyface Pro test in RMAA & review of USB 4x4 interface. Video.
Article Name
RME Babyface Pro test in RMAA & review of USB 4x4 interface. Video.
Description
Full review and test in RightMark Audio Analyzer of USB 4x4 interface RME Babyface Pro. Specifications. RMA & ASIO diagnostics. Read now!
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