UR44 D->A sounds extremely bright

Years ago I owned a Mac and an Apogee Duet, which I output to the same studio monitors I have now (Yorkville YSM1P). Then I built a PC, and used my motherboard’s built-in audio for awhile. The monitors always sounded fine and balanced.

I just bought a UR44 so I could record microphones and instruments, and I plugged my monitors into the line outs of the UR44 (I tried 3-4 as well as 1-2). I am shocked by how bright my monitors sound on the Steinberg interface.

I have trouble trusting my ability to properly mix using the UR44’s output, because even professional mixes have so much energy in the high frequencies that it becomes fatiguing to listen for very long.

My Audio Technica ATH-M50s sound perfectly balanced through the headphone output on the UR44, at least. Why does the D->A conversion on the UR44 sound so much brighter than anything else I’ve output to my monitors? Is something wrong with my interface, or is this a more pure and “true” sound, and I’m used to the colored sound of poor converters?

I talked to a Sweetwater rep who told me that he wasn’t surprised I was disappointed with the output of the UR44. I decided to bite the bullet, and bought an Audient iD22 instead, which I’ve been testing a bit today. It’s still noticeably brighter than my PC’s built-in line-out, but it has more of a midrange presence, which seemed really sorely lacking in the UR44. I’m keeping the Audient and returning the Steinberg.

Oh well. Moral of the story? You get what you pay for.

Um, this would be the first time I ever heard of DA converters having any possible audible difference in regards to being ‘brighter’ or any obvious degradation of sound quality. It takes much more than a simple listen to find the difference between low end and high end converters. Without having gear that is capable of the clarity that a high end converter would make any difference upon, it is pretty much impossible to actually hear the difference. I can and will bet that you have a different issue that has nothing to do with the interface.

And to compare built in mobo audio to any interface is like comparing a banana to the taste of pork chops. Not even close.

I am glad you found something that makes you feel confident in your purchase, but your claim leaves me thinking you have either something wrong with your setup or just are not used to hearing what you are supposed to.

I would hope that such a claim would be supported with factual information so that others would not find this to be truth. Obviously since this is the first time this opinion has been presented in years of members presenting their issues, there is something that is specific to your setup that is causing the problem.

And the moral of the story for me would be? You get what you pay for as long as you know what you are paying for and how to use it with your particular setup.

Just saying man. I am not in any way trying to harsh on you.

Those two statements are completely contradictory, are they not?

According to my research, you’re right to the extent that it’s not really the actual converters that make a difference in the quality, it’s in the implementation: the circuitry, analogue components, power supply, and other things that I don’t really understand, in the interface.

your claim leaves me thinking you have either something wrong with your setup or just are not used to hearing what you are supposed to.

There are a lot of problems with my novice setup. I don’t even have acoustic treatment in this room, and it’s obvious that my monitors are far from neutral. Upon reflection, I think my sound issue is mostly due to the clean, unbiased signal from my audio interface revealing those issues with my low budget setup. And, to be fair, I don’t want to overstate the difference between the UR44 and the Audient iD22 – they’re similar enough that I’ll have to do a little more testing to be absolutely certain that I’m not just biased by the higher price tag on the Audient.

Still, I can’t help but think that there’s something wrong with the UR44. It sounded so bright to me that I was throwing old T-shirts over my monitors in desperation to tame the high frequencies! I feel like I can at least describe the Audient’s sound without using the word “painful”. And keep in mind that I used the same monitors on the same desk in the same room with an Apogee Duet in the past, and if anything I’d describe the Duet as “warm”.

(And, on a slightly off-topic note, even if I end up deciding nothing is wrong with the UR44’s conversion, I’m still keeping the Audient, because it has some slick monitoring features that make for a great workflow.)

I went from a MOTU PCI-424 24io (more expensive) to the UR44, and have not noticed much difference on the same monitors. I am pleased with the sound I am getting. But that’s just my experience. Perhaps you need to rent an analyzer and treat your room accordingly a little? Its worth it.

(Sorry if this doesn’t belong here, but I thought that some of you might be interested.)

So, I was really curious, and I spent quite a bit of time comparing the DAC on the UR44 and the Audient to the best of my ability. Again, unfortunately I wasn’t able to set up a blind A/B, so my perception could easily be colored by expectation. And, as noted earlier, my room is acoustically flawed. Keep in mind that I am pretty much a full on audiophile, and obsess way more than I should about these tiny details. Finally, feel free to question my sanity. Anyway, here is what I noticed:

The first difference that jumped out at me was that the Audient sounded more responsive, so that fast transients like the initial “click” of a kick drum, and guitar picking noises, seemed to occur more instantaneously, without being smudged over time. This has the effect of making micro-delay between the left and right channels more discernible, which precisely locates instruments in the stereo field. It also seems to allow the device to more effortlessly reproduce super high frequencies, at the very upper limit of my hearing (so in that sense, the Audient actually sounded “brighter” than the UR44). Basically, the iD22’s DAC made it sound like my music was being played at a higher sample rate, with a sound finely sculpted by a razor blade.

The other difference, which was more subtle, and not entirely clear, was that the UR44 sounded like there was a certain span of the lower-midrange that was poorly represented. When I think about the UR44, I visualize a rainbow without the color green, and with the color bands blurred at the edges. I see the iD22 as a replete spectrum, each band of color distinctly separate from the next. This contributes to a chilly, bright sound in the UR44, because the highs stand out too much in comparison to the shy mids.

I’m probably moving soon, so I’m not going to bother with this room, but yeah, I’m really looking forward to setting up an acoustically treated room.