Audio interface for low latency live performances

RME Babyface Pro:  My go to audio interface for low latency live performances

Wow, what a pricey, exhausting, long and winding road it has been getting here. Over the past 15 years I have tried a ton of audio interfaces, having owned or tested several USB units (like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, PreSonus AudioBox, Avid Mbox…) -they all had too much of a lag in latency for my use. This is because I track my vocals live while running multiple fx plugins. I’ve got a relatively inexpensive Resident Audio T2 thunderbolt interface which is conceptually ideal, unfortunately the audio driver is old/never updated and not high enough quality. It has tons of unpredictable and intermittent pops/clicks. With the same buffer settings I use on my Resident Audio T2, I never get pops & clicks when using my UAD (Universal Audio) Apollo Twin Thunderbolt interface. Its good quality audio but I dislike UAD Console and I also don’t want to use an AC power adapter.

Which leads me to the lovely RME Babyface pro. Bus powered, thunderbolt comparable latency, solid, USB 2.0 (compatible with any computer), XLR outputs! -what?!! (most small interfaces have 1/4″ outputs), compact, and the tech support for RME products is amazing, knowledgable, and down to earth

I had the babyface on my radar for years but I kept jumping onto the thunderbolt bandwagon, because of my bad experiences with latency on all the other brands that sell USB interfaces.

Finally I took a leap of faith with RME and was pleasantly surprised to find that USB 2.0 has all the capabilities of firewire and thunderbolt in relation to latency reduction. It was simply an issue of the other companies skimping on developing truly high quality drivers and physical connections. RME did not skimp here and that is exactly why a USB 2.0 interface works better than many thunderbolt rivals.

The only caveat about the babyface is that the onboard DSP capabilities can’t handle dynamics like compression, because it gets power from USB which can’t handle such power intensive processing. But that’s totally fine for me, as I prefer to run all my plugins directly inside my DAW anyway. This way I stay in a single environment for everything and don’t have to switch back and forth between my DAW and a DSP mixer. This is especially helpful when using stock DAW plugins that I can adjust live on the fly, for example while using Push 2 in Ableton to tweak the reverb on my vocals. My macbook pro never goes above 30% CPU usage in my DAW despite having more than 5 fx plugins running real time on my live vocal track. So, onboard DSP isn’t really needed when dealing with an audio interface that handles it’s biznass like a champ! (My MacBook Pro specs: 2013 MBP, i7 Core, 16GB ram, 1TB SSD).