In the lab: RME’s Babyface Pro audio interface

The Tech Report has been incorporating digital audio workstation performance benchmarks into its CPU reviews for some time now—and we're one of only two sites on the web that I'm aware of to do so—but that practice got started almost by accident using hardware we basically had laying around the labs for other purposes.

Serious musicians have long asked us to benchmark DAW performance using serious hardware, and in preparation for future reviews, we've finally upgraded the interface and driver stack we're using to support our benchmarking work. Say hello to RME's Babyface Pro:

Despite its compact footprint, the Babyface Pro boasts a surprising array of input and output capabilities for recording and monitoring. It has two XLR inputs with 48-V phantom power, two XLR outputs, a pair of instrument jacks, optical ADAT or TOSLINK breakout, and a MIDI breakout for input and output. The Babyface can accommodate 1/8″ and 1/4″ headphone jacks without any additional hardware, too. Despite all that connectivity, the Babyface Pro remains bus-powered and only needs a USB 2.0 port to do its thing (although it works fine with any USB 3.0 port or newer, too).

On the software side, RME's driver stack is widely lauded by independent testers and users for its particularly low round-trip latency, an important characteristic if you're attempting to monitor digital instrumentation live. The Babyface Pro also has an FPGA for use with some onboard effects to provide for near-zero monitoring latency with reverb, delay, and EQ.

RME's TotalMix FX software runs the show, and it works for both Windows and macOS users. A class-compliant mode lets the Babyface work with iOS devices running TotalMix FX, as well.

While I haven't had the Babyface Pro for long, I will note that it sounds absolutely fantastic so far, and I'm eager to put it to work as the audio source for future TR multimedia content when I'm not using it as part of CPU benchmarking work.

If you find this upgrade of interest, we ask that you consider supporting our work by becoming a Tech Report subscriber today. While we received this interface at a discount from RME (a gesture we greatly appreciate!), we still had to shell out for it—and quality like this does not come cheap. If you find our investigations of DAW performance with today's CPUs valuable, please consider putting your money where your mouth is. Your support will allow us to continue providing this hard-to-find and time-intensive benchmark data in future reviews. Thanks in advance for your support.

Comments closed
    • demolition
    • 1 year ago

    This looks like a really nice product. So nice in fact, that you inspired me to get one for myself. 🙂
    It seems perfectly suitable to tailor my needs and while it isn’t exactly cheap, it looks like the quality and features makes it worth it. I don’t expect to be using ADAT though (while I have multiple audio sources, I don’t need that many), but using the digital I/O for S/PDIF might be relevant at some point.

    I really like the fact that it can also be used stand-alone as an audio hub offering some basic mixing and DSP functions.

    • cynan
    • 1 year ago

    Very nice and all, but if all you need is basic XLR to USB input, phantom power and monitoring capabilities, and don’t need the fancy software, you can buy about 6 [url=https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Scarlet2i2G2–focusrite-scarlett-2i2<]focusrite[/url<] 2i2s for the same price.

    • Ifalna
    • 1 year ago

    Very nice, consider me jealous. 😀

    • chuckula
    • 1 year ago

    [quote<]The Babyface can accommodate 1/8" and 1/4" headphone jacks without any additional hardware, too. [/quote<] We shall show no quarter to such a rank display of cowardice! -- Apple

    • derFunkenstein
    • 1 year ago

    If those Windows 10 issues you wrote about are what it took to get a real interface, then Microsoft can fuck up more software any time. 😆

      • DoomGuy64
      • 1 year ago

      Microsoft is the biggest problem with any modern sound device, as they keep screwing up audio drivers on a routine basis. Just look at the issues getting an older xonar to work, among other things being broken almost every major update. Things like webcams, etc.

      Because of that, it’s not worth investing money into any audio product that doesn’t promise driver updates on a regular basis. Having driver support for one year generally means you only get one year’s worth of use out of your device, and then only basic audio capabilities after Microsoft breaks the functionality of the advanced features.

      Creative only partially got it right after making Alchemy. IMO, you need to support just the basic windows functions, and then route all your advanced features solely through a 3rd party API like OpenAL, because you can’t trust Microsoft to not break the native driver functionality in their next update.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 1 year ago

        Thanks for rambling.

          • DoomGuy64
          • 1 year ago

          NP. I can’t be the only one fed up with the situation. At least this device has an FPGA and does some features onboard, which means Microsoft can’t screw that up.

          I don’t need something this high end, but if I was looking at buying it, I would wait for the next windows update to see if any issues crop up, and if RME offers long term support with driver updates. It’s too expensive to be investing in a paper weight.

            • sreams
            • 1 year ago

            RME has a strong history of maintaining drivers.

            • Jeff Kampman
            • 1 year ago

            Yeah, RME has Win10 drivers for the Babyface Pro circa last month and was maintaining a Windows XP driver as recently as 2016, I think. Driver support is not a concern with this interface.

        • smilingcrow
        • 1 year ago

        For DAW usage under Windows you will almost exclusively use ASIO drivers which I believe have nothing to do with the MS audio drivers.

          • LostCat
          • 1 year ago

          WASAPI also has extremely low latency in win10 these days IIRC (I don’t know the particulars off the top of my head, but it seems like a lot of the software that has issues simply doesn’t support modern audio interfaces.)

          There’s also this, I suppose. [url<]https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/uwp/audio-video-camera/audio-graphs[/url<] I'm not much of an audio guy obviously, but still.

            • smilingcrow
            • 1 year ago

            ASIO is still the standard for DAW user on Windows and as it bypasses the MS audio stack I doubt it will disappear anytime soon as judging by the DAW user forums MS don’t have much love since the W10 virus was released into the wild.
            I say that because W10 has caused so many problems for DAW users who often have expensive software with a limited number of activations which can be devoured by forced W10 updates.

            • LostCat
            • 1 year ago

            Glad I haven’t had to put up with anything like that.

            Hell, I’m not really sure why anyone would, but fair enough.

            • just brew it!
            • 1 year ago

            Engineering and content creation tools often have restrictive licensing/activation requirements. If your workflow is critically dependent on a proprietary application, you put up with stupid crap like that because you have no choice.

            I’ve dabbled with DAW a little bit off and on (nothing serious, just satisfying my own curiosity), but I’ve been doing it on Linux. Which brings its own set of crazy/annoying/braindead issues, but at least I don’t need to pay for the software or worry about activation.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 1 year ago

            There’s a bunch of companies competing for the least-convenient activation method possible. My favorite is Avid’s:

            * Pay a yearly ($300/year) or monthly ($30/mo) subscription but you get the latest updates
            * You can also buy separate subscriptions for plugins
            * Log into Pro Tools with your Avid account
            * You still need an iLok attached to your PC with a license for Pro Tools
            * By the way, for Pro Tools HD (non-Native version) you also need an Avid audio interface
            * Most Pro Tools plugins also need separate iLok licenses
            * There’s a separate $600 one-time purchase but once a new major number comes out you have to spend $200 to upgrade

            That’s the worst option, and of course there are better ones. Studio One just requires you to activate it with your Presonus account on a max of 5 machines (1 simultaneous use, though). Cakewalk under Gibson ownership had accounts and a yearly subscription, but no iLok requirement. Reaper (which TR uses) is a limited activation thing like Studio One.

            OTOH, Apple’s requirements for Logic Pro X:
            * Buy it on the Mac App Store for $199
            * Get 5 years of support (and counting) for free

            • smilingcrow
            • 1 year ago

            The Apple hardware is the ultimate $2K+ dongle to run Logic which isn’t a very logical thing to do really.

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