Another new day, another new gear review! This time I am checking out the RME Babyface Pro. For those who might not have heard of RME until know, they are a German company renowned for their interfaces, mic pre’s and other pro audio hardware of the sort. To this day, my RME Fireface UFX is the most rock solid and stable interface I have. But this review isn’t about the UFX, its about the Babyface Pro! Lets get right into it, shall we?
The Babyface Pro is the successor to RME’s Babyface interface. The Babyface when it first came out was pretty revolutionary. It was one of the first small and portable interfaces around and arguably the best. But that was in 2010, and RME felt it was high time to update the Babyface and go pro!
In terms of outside appearance, the Babyface Pro looks much more modern then the Babyface does. It now has 4 new XLR sockets designed by RME, 2 for input, 2 or monitor output. There are now 2 headphone outs – 1 has a 1/4 inch input, the other is a standard 1/8 inch input – and each have separate driver stages to match low and high impedance headphones. That is a feature that I am not sure I have seen on an interface before and is a nice touch. Other ports include optical TOSLINK I/O which you can use as either an ADAT port with SMUX support or SPDIF. I especially appreciate RME’s inclusion of SPDIF through optical, I always prefer to connect my Korg Kronos digitally through SPDIF and it uses SPDIF through optical TOSLINK. Running my Kronos though the Babyface Pro optical ports sounded so silky smooth it makes me wonder why other interfaces don’t have this feature. Of course, the optical ports can also be used to expand the Babyface Pro’s I/O to a maximum of 12 inputs and 12 outputs, more then enough to record any session you might come across, including drum kits. The only other port left to mention is a mini-MIDI port. The Babyface Pro comes with a breakout MIDI-IN and OUT cable so you can connect any MIDI capable device into the Babyface Pro.
The Preamps now have a huge gain range of 76 dB, adjustable in steps of 1 dB, and have great Equivalent Input Noise performance (EIN). In fact, the EIN was so good I thought I was doing something wrong at first. It also has really nice converters, sound output is very clear and detailed.
The Babyface Pro can be powered in most cases thru USB3 or USB2 bus power or through a separate power supply. I personally never came across any power issues using either USB2 or 3 bus power for any of needs with the interface and I did not notice any degradation in any aspects of the interface.
The Babyface Pro is all controlled with RME’s TotalMix FX software. This software is also to this day my favorite mixer software for an interface that I have come across. It’s customizable in pretty much every way you can think of. It’s very easy to read, it looks nice and you can save different sessions as presets if you need to call up on them later on. How I feel about TotalMix FX also ties into what I think about RME’s drivers and stability. If there is a benchmark in the industry or rock solid drivers and readability, RME is it. I have used my UFX for so many years and not once did I ever run into a software problem or a driver problem. I also know quite a few prominent figures in the audio production industry that STILL have and use a RME Fireface 800, an interface that came out in 2004! Let that sink in for a minute. In 2015, known studios are using an interface thats been around for over a decade! And when I ask them why do they still use something so old I always get a response along the lines of “I have never had a single issue with it in all years I have owned it.” That’s impressive endurance for a product to say the least and I see no reason to suspect that the Babyface Pro isn’t also capable of rock solid performance for just as many years.
This all being said, I do have 1 gripe with the Babyface Pro’s TotalMix FX, and it’s the effects section. I have to imagine that most people that are going to be using the Babyface Pro are probably going to be doing a lot of vocal recordings. And while RME include an EQ, Reverb and Delay for you to use for vocal monitoring purposes, perhaps the most obvious effect is missing here, and its a compressor. These days interfaces are coming with all kinds of effects you can use for monitoring and it’s curious to me that RME decided to leave something like a compressor our for the Babyface Pro. They also left it out in the original Babyface, citing a lack of processing power, and at the time I could see DSP power being an issue, but not today. Not having a compressor is not the end of the world, the Babyface Pro’s latency can get low enough that you can just monitor a track through your DAW but I generally find it much more convenient to just have it done through the interface.
So let’s get to my final thoughts! What do I think of RME’s Babyface Pro? I think RME really hit all the right notes with this one, with the exception of omitting a compressor effect in TotalMix FX. Unless you absolutely MUST have a compressor at the interface level, this is one of the best desktop interfaces around and so far my new personal favorite use as a portable recording studio.