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.