Canadian Musician - March-April 2022 - Page 25

RME Babyface Pro FS

ROAD TEST

By Andrew Leyenhorst

German manufacturer RME is a known quantity in the professional recording world , offering up a diverse selection of high-end solutions for a variety of applications ranging from internal PCI cards to external interfaces , preamps , converters , and beyond . Amongst their most popular products is the Babyface series of interfaces ; portable units packed with a complete suite of features , unprecedented expandability , and RME ’ s standout sonics .

The latest in the Babyface lineage is the second-generation Babyface Pro FS , which improves on the original in every measure . Don ’ t be fooled by its compact form factor ; while there are four analog inputs onboard ( two mic / line , two line / instrument ), this tiny powerhouse offers optical expandability up to 24 total channels of I / O and supports sample rates of up to 192kHz at 24-bit resolution . It ’ s also designed for maximum efficiency , able to run off of USB bus power alone in the vast majority of applications , though external power is also an option . That said , bus power on an interface with this level of functionality , at this size , is a huge win for portability .
To augment the main , balanced XLR outputs , are a pair of headphone outs ; one being a full-size 1 / 4-in . TRS jack , the other being a 3.5mm mini-jack , with each wired in parallel with completely separate driver stages . It ’ s worth noting as well that the Babyface Pro FS ’ headphone outs share the same output op-amps found in RME ’ s stalwart ADI-2 Pro converter .
In terms of the front end , the Babyface Pro FS is loaded with a pair of RME ’ s improved mic and line inputs , with the balanced XLR input circuits offering up a dynamic range of 76dB stepped in 1dB increments should you use the built-in rotary control . However , one of the most useful and compelling features this unit brings is its integration with RME ’ s TotalMix FX digital mixing companion , available on macOS , Windows , and even iOS . TotalMix FX allows every aspect of the Babyface Pro FS to be controlled right from the digital mixer on the computer , including preamp gain , phantom power , discrete main and headphone mixes , and so on . Also afforded by the software is the ability to change any and all routing within the unit , as well as apply a three-band parametric EQ , reverb , and / or delay to any input or output . RME ’ s latest software , TotalMix Remote , offers further remotecontrol functionality over IP .
Also packed into the Babyface Pro FS is RME ’ s most advanced development in digital clocking , SteadyClock FS ; once again , RME are inspired by their own big guns , as the SteadyClock FS circuit within the Babyface Pro FS mirrors that of the ADI-2 Pro FS converter , offering fantastic , high-end clocking with no compromise .
While the list of impressive specs and features on this unit is dense to the point that I don ’ t have the real estate to fit it all in this review , I can say with assurance that the Babyface Pro FS is an absolutely kick-ass interface , to the point that it ’ s making a case for me to make a switch to RME in my studio for the long haul . Let me tell you why .
Quite frankly , if you ’ re serious about pristine audio , this interface is worth grabbing for its conversion capabilities alone . Especially with the SteadyClock FS circuit governing things , the value for your money with these converters , both AD and DA , is outstanding . Add in the fact that it ’ s a literal 24-channel interface , also loaded with a pair of ultra-rich , wonderfully linear preamps , and it ’ s a package that ’ s really hard to pass up considering that its price tag comes in at less than an ADI-2 Pro FS converter by itself ; despite sharing a lot of guts in their clocking and DA infrastructure . I ’ d be genuinely curious to hear them next to each other .
The AD side sounds sublime , piping audio through authentically with no noticeable colouration , whether it ’ s from an external box at
line level , or the onboard mic pres which will serve any source well . What really blew me away , though , was the DA side .
I couldn ’ t believe what I was hearing the first time I output a mix through this interface . Compared to my trusty Audient iD44 , which itself is absolutely no slouch in terms of conversion , there was an immediate difference . The stereo field got wider , the centre image tightened significantly , and the Babyface added a level of divine sparkle that I ’ d more closely associate with the flavour of a proper mastering converter rather than a portable interface . I ’ ve spent a good amount of time re-printing mixes through this thing just to hear what they sound like , and to be honest , it ’ s kicked me down the rabbit hole of obsessing over DA conversion at large .
That all being said , the portability and functionality of not only the interface itself , but the TotalMix FX control platform make this a nobrainer in the compact interface department . While the software takes a bit of learning , it ’ s very intuitive once it ’ s been figured out ; I personally prefer the tactile feel of knobs and buttons when dialing things up , but that means very little in the face of everything this extremely impressive little interface and its peripherals can do . Of course , the physical control scheme on the unit works very cleverly as well .
I think “ clever ” is a good way to summarize the Babyface Pro FS . To offer so complete a package , at a modest price point for the feature set and sonics , is quite an achievement .
Andrew Leyenhorst is a freelance producer , engineer , mixer , and the Consulting Editor at Canadian Musician .
CANADIAN MUSICIAN 25