If money is no object and you’re looking for an audio interface that can really cut the mustard, with pro grade audio performance and the added bonus of iPad compatibility. Then you really should investigate the RME Fireface UCX audio interface.

The Fireface UCX is undoubtably one of the finest audio interfaces currently on the market. Featuring an extremely compact and robust design, with exceptional audio quality and bullet proof driver software with ultra low latency performance. The Fireface UCX is a serious piece of kit, fusing together a vast array of versatile pro-grade I/O’s (18 ins and 18 outs – 32 channels in total). All accessible via a comprehensive mixing and routing matrix, that also incorporates a set of high quality built-in DSP tools and effects for use at sample rates all the way up to 192kHz. And all this crammed into a half-rack sized box. The UCX is truly a fully fledged mixer in a box! Those who throw caution to the wind and stump up the trolley load of cash to get hold one of these, won’t be disappointed.

Hybrid Host Connection

This Fireface boasts hybrid computer connection capabilities, allowing you to connect to your host computer/DAW using either High Speed USB (compatible with USB 3.0 chipsets) or Firewire 400. With Firewire being ditched by Apple (in favour of Thunderbolt), this is a progressive feature that will ensure your interface is future proofed when it comes to upgrading your computer later on.  Let’s face it there’s not much chance of USB disappearing any time soon.  It also means that with the Apple Camera Adapter Connection Kit you can hook the UCX up to your iPad (using CC mode).

Versatile and Powerful I/O’s

Pro grade USB/Firewire audio interface connectionsFor those who want to work ‘in the box’, a good range of I/O’s to get audio in and out of your DAW is essential.  The UCX is definitely not lacking in this department.  A full complement of audio connection capability, and they’re not just versatile by virtue of the range of types, they also boast excellent gain capabilities and pro level support to ensure the best possible dynamic range and headroom when connecting to pro grade studio equipment.

Analog I/O Overview

Back:

    • Inputs 5-8 (TRS – balanced)
    • Output 1-6 (TRS – balanced)

Front:

    • Inputs: 1/2 (2 x XLR/TRS Combo – balanced)
    • Inputs: 3/4 (2 x TRS – balanced)
    • Outputs: 7/8 – Phones (TRS – Stereo)

Digital I/O Overview

    • SPDIF I/O
    • ADAT I/O (that supports sample rates with up to 192 kHz and can be used as SPDIF optical mode)
    • Word clock I/O
    • MIDI I/O (via break out cable)
    • And of course there’s the USB, Firewire and remote connections

Stand alone mode

Because the UCX can operate in a stand alone mode it’s perfect in a live situation or scenarios where your computer can’t be or isn’t present.    Pre-programmed setups can be created in the Totalmix software, saved and later recalled via the multi purpose control on the front of the device or using the remote control.

Remote control

To make operation simpler and speedier, RME provided a basic remote control with the UCX (at its first release). Although (starting April 2012 – the unit is now available as a stand alone unit at a slightly cheaper price).

To coincide with shipping of the stand alone unit, an advanced remote control (ARC) is also available separately.   This incorporates 6 additional assignable function buttons.

Working with small dials and buttons on the front of any piece of equipment can be a pain, so assignable software functions via remote can always be put to good use.  I can see the advanced remote being worth the extra for many users.

Total Mix

Comprehensive mixer control and FX

Total Mix is RME’s Hammerfall DSP mixer technology supporting fully independent mixing of all 18 I/O’s.  It also gives access to a comprehensive set of effects and DSP tools including EQ, compression, delay and reverb, all of which are available at all samples rates!  And, a control room section capable of managing up to 9 separate independent sub mixes should be enough to take care of the most demanding recording session.  All of course instantly recallable.

DIGICheck

The UCX comes with a suite of measurement testing and analysis tools for metering, testing, measuring and analyzing digital audio streams, which goes by the name of DIGIcheck, available in both Mac OS X and PC versions too.

Class Compliant (CC) iPad Mode

A very attractive and interesting feature of the Fireface UCX is its ability to operate in a Class Compliant (CC) mode.  This allow the Fireface to be plugged into an iPad via the USB Apple Camera Adapter Connection Kit.

It’s worth mentioning that the UCX’s CC iPad mode also supports MIDI throughput to the iPad, so you can use it to connect up to your MIDI keyboard and control your favourite MIDI compatible synth Apps (my favourite of which are Animoog and iMS20).

Some Videos

An introduction to the UCX from NAMM 2012, presented by RME’s Max Holtmann:

An unboxing and overview video created by Syntax:

The UCX is used by the likes of Coldplay in their live sets, here’s a video of that includes experience of one of their live engineers:

There’s an awful lot to love about the Fireface UCX, just too much to cover in this blog post.

If, like me, you can’t wait to get hold of one, you can add the UCX with the basic remote to your shopping cart over at Amazon.  It’s also available without the basic remote at Amazon.

Links and further reading

Official RME Fireface UCX product leaflet

RME’s main webpage for the UCX

Sound on Sounds Sam Ingles takes a close look at the UCX (although you’ll need to be a subscriber to see the whole article)

Review at macprovideo.com by Mike Watkinson

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