I got finally got tired of the idiosyncrasies of the Firestudio, and ordered a new interface. After searching high and low, I settled on an Echo Layla 3G, and ordered it a little over a week ago. And now, it’s in my rack!
I didn’t really need all of the preamps that were on the Firestudio, which is something I didn’t understand until after I’d already purchased it. The Layla 3G has two preamps, and six straight line inputs, and this suits my needs just perfectly. It also supports ASIO Direct Monitoring, which the Firestudio never did (to be fair, I don’t think I checked it on the last driver update), and the really low latency of the PCI card makes the whole Control Room functionality of Cubase 4 work really well. It means I don’t have to buy a separate device to handle talkback for those few occasions I need it – I can just plug a mic into the first mic input on the Layla and use the talkback functionality in Cubase for it.
The only thing I miss, and it can be worked around with ease, is the lack of routing in the DSP mixer that the newer interfaces have. It’s a minor quibble, and like I said, I worked around it. How? The Cubase Control Room. The only thing I wanted to route was the main mix to all of the stereo pair outputs.
As far as sound quality, it’s at least as good as the Firestudio, if not better. Hard to really A/B it in my current setup, but it sure seemed I was hearing a bit more detail. Not that converters are going to make or break my music, but at least I don’t feel like I’m going backwards.
One other quibble, and this is purely (well, mostly) cosmetic. The rack ears. They could have rounded them a bit so they matched the profile of the box. Couldn’t they? The ears also don’t screw onto the box. There are two tabs on each ear that slide into slots on the bottom of the box. Nice and easy, but there’s a bit of movement when plugging things in. It’s in a rack. It isn’t supposed to move.
Anyway, I’m pretty ecstatic. $500 for great quality hardware and software (that last part, the software, is key). I plugged it in, installed the drivers, rebooted, and it worked. And there’s no funky shit going on.
Here it is in the rack: