Compression, reverb, amp modeling and EQ Saffire-powered plug-ins are included. All four are also available as a suite of plug-ins from within the recording platform in use. Up to five separate user-defined stereo mixes can be created of all incoming signals and recorded tracks from the recording platform. With such comprehensive monitoring/foldback options and onboard high quality signal processing and effects, the Saffire is truly the interface of choice for the serious recording engineer.
Q: Is Saffire cross-platform?
A: Yes. Windows XP and Mac OSX.
Q: Is Saffire a USB device?
A: No, Saffire is a Firewire 400 device. Firewire has a much larger bandwidth then USB, allowing Saffire to have multiple I/O and sample rates up to 192kHz. There are also two Firewire ports on the Saffire so that you can chain/connect additional Firewire devices to your computer, such as hard drives, even though your computer may only have one Firewire port.
Q: What is the difference between Firewire 400 and 800 specifications?
A: The main difference is bandwidth. Firewire 400 is really all you need for audio applications unless you’re running 48 tracks at 192 kHz. Of course, there is a higher price associated with Firewire 800 and we wanted to keep the Saffire price as low as possible.
Q: Does the disk track specification change based on sampling rate used?
A: In analog terms, no; Saffire’s 2 in x 10 out are available even at 192kHz. At 96kHz; you have 14 data paths (2 analog in and 2 digital in x 8 analog out and 2 digital out). At 192kHz; you have 12 data paths (2 analog in x 8 analog out and 2 digital out).
Q: What are Saffire’s system requirements?
A: Mac: OS X Panther (10.3.3 or later), G3/800MHz, G4/700MHz, 256MB RAM
PC: XP, Pentium Celeron, or Pentium compatible processor of 900MHz , 256MB RAM
Q: I hear Saffire has its own built-in DSP. What does this mean and what is the DSP used in Saffire?
A: This allows the Saffire to power plug-ins and software that mean the tools available to the user are extended far beyond what you can see on the hardware alone. The DSP used is Analog Devices Black Fin.
Q: Does Saffire include any plugs ins? If so, what are they?
A: Yes: EQ, compression, guitar amp simulation and reverb.
Q: How do I power Saffire’s plug-ins?
A: Not only can they run under VST or Audio Units format on the host, but Saffire also has its own DSP. The plug-ins can run off the Saffire’s DSP (2 channels), the host computer or both! This is one of Saffire’s key differentiators.
Q: How do I choose which versions of the plug-ins to use?
A: When recording with the Saffire, no choices need to be made as all the plug-ins work within the free application SaffireControl and run off the Saffire hardware’s DSP. This way, if wanting to record some additional audio into a track that’s already maxing out the computer’s processor, the user can still utilize Compression and EQ/Amp Modeling on both inputs as well as using the foldback (headphone mix) Reverb at no extra expense. If, on the other hand, the user is mixing a track and just using the Saffire as a means of outputting audio to the speakers then the AU or VST plug-ins can be used, in the same way as any other plug-in, within the audio recording/sequencing platform in use.
Q: Once I have chosen, how do I install?
A: The SaffireControl application, complete with the plug-ins that run off the Saffire’s DSP, will install automatically along with the drivers when the accompanying CD is inserted into the computer and the simple instructions are followed. The AU and VST format plug-ins will also automatically be placed into the appropriate plug-ins folder of the host application in use.
Q: What are the limitations/possibilities of each plug-in?
A: For the plug-ins running within SaffireControl: One instance of both Compression and either EQ or Amp Modeling can be applied to both analog inputs 1 and 2 as well as foldback reverb in dual mono or stereo mode. No plug-ins can be applied to the SPDIF In, but if the engineer has an X-Station or a Platinum unit with digital I/O connected then no processing would be required anyway (for example J). If not using the SPDIF In, then inputs 3 and 4 (which are the SPDIF signal when the button below the meters within SaffireControl is active) default to become a second mirrored set of inputs 1 and 2 but without any Compression or EQ/Amp Modeling applied. That way, a backup of the ‘dry’ analog inputs can be recorded, providing a safety copy that can have processing applied at a later date.
For the AU/VST plug-ins: The limitations/possibilities are the same as for all other plug-ins. The user can activate multiple instances of all up to the limit set by their computer’s processor. This means that the Saffire Reverb can be applied to a signal for recording, whereas within SaffireControl it is solely used for monitoring, e.g. to boost a singer’s ego during a session.
Q: Assuming I have a 1GHz Pentium processor, how many instantiations of the Focusrite plug-ins can I reliably count on using my CPU’s on-boards processor?
A: Lots. The plug-ins are not too demanding on the processor. The exact number will depend on the user’s CPU.
Q: Quality wise, how do these plug-ins compare with other Focusrite plug-ins like d2/d3 and Forte Suite?
A: There is no sonic difference between Forte and Saffire; Focusrite’s world famous sound quality will come through. However, due to recent technological advancement in the area of software modeling in-house at Focusrite, the Forte Suite and Saffire plug-ins are both sonically more impressive than the d2/d3 and truer to the original Focusrite analog sound.
Q: Does any free recording software come with Saffire?
A: Yes, Steinberg Cubase LE.
Q: What other popular sequencer/audio software packages have been “qualified and tested” to perform with Saffire?
A: Saffire will work with all ASIO and Core Audio compatible software, in other words all software apart from Tools. It’s been tested thoroughly with Cubase and Logic on PC and Mac.
Q: What are the differences between Cubase LE and the real thing?
A: Cubase LE is the real thing in as much as it’s an excellent entry-level package. You get 48 tracks of audio and 64 MIDI tracks. The only difference between LE and SE there is that SE has unlimited MIDI tracks, but 64 is hardly going to feel limited. (This is already a much higher spec than Pro Tools LE, which only manages 32 audio tracks.) The MIDI spec is much more integrated with Cubase too, as this is where Cubase began (as a sequencer) whereas Pro Tools has always been more of an audio platform. You also get a large range of Cubase plug-ins and VSTs for use within the platform. Of course, if the user ever decides to upgrade to Cubase SE or SX, all of their sessions will be compatible.
Q: Why is having 8 analog outputs important?
A: The concept of Saffire is to extend the physical outputs of a laptop or desktop computer. This enables the end user to get 8 discrete channels of audio. Do not discount the fact that many industries like gaming will want to use this feature for surround production. Plus, the multiple outputs mean that the small desktop box can offer the monitoring capabilities of a larger desk in a recording studio, making recording multiple artists simple.
Q: Can I run the digital inputs & outputs with the analog inputs & outputs simultaneously?
A: Yes, with the exception of 192 kHz as previously mentioned.
Q: What is Saffire’s maximum track count at 96 kHz with the enclosed Cubase LE software?
A: 48 audio tracks and 64 MIDI tracks.
Q: Does Saffire’s track count increase at lower sampling rates?
A: No it does not.
Q: What is the difference between input mix and cue mix?
A: Each pair of outputs (1/2 – 9/10) can be assigned its own unique mix of both the four input channels and 10 channels of audio from the recording platform in use (Logic, Cubase etc.). These mixes are created in stages; first, the input channels are balanced, for example if you want a little more of input 1 than 2 and even less of inputs 3 and 4 (the signal connected to the SPDIF In) going to the main monitors then you simply set the levels of the inputs accordingly in the IN 1/2 BAL section of outputs 1/2. This then becomes the INPUT MIX for that stereo output pair. If you only want to hear this signal with no pre-recorded audio from Logic/Cubase then set the slider in that section in the extreme left position. The mix of pre-recorded audio coming from Logic/Cubase is called the PLAYBACK MIX and is set generically across all outputs using the faders in the top right of the SaffireControl window (S/W 1/2 – 9/10). Alternatively, a custom P/BACK MIX for each pair of stereo outputs can be set in the corresponding section. This way, if one artist wants a little less drums or a little more bass compared to another then it is easy to achieve. To blend between amounts of the INPUT MIX and the P/BACK MIX on a stereo output pair, simply use the slider in each output section. A CUE MIX is another name for a HEADPHONE MIX. There are two main HEADPHONE MIXES/CUE MIXES in SaffireControl, which are outputs 5/6 (Headphone 1) and outputs 7/8 (Headphone 2). If even more headphone mixes are required by the engineer then outputs 3/4 could be sent to a distribution amplifier, so technically 3 unique headphone mixes are achievable.
Q: How do you select what audio returns to each Saffire bus (meaning the S/W tracks within SaffireControl, e.g. the audio that becomes the PLAYBACK MIX) from your software (e.g. Logic, Cubase etc.)?
A: When you have chosen the Saffire as the audio interface within the audio recording platform (Logic/Cubase), the input and output options audio that is available will relate to those within SaffireControl. For example, the user can select inputs 1 to 4 to be recorded to an audio track, which will relate to inputs 1-4 in SaffireControl, and similarly will be able to select outputs 1-10, which will become S/W tracks 1-10 in SaffireControl.
Q: So I can only send ten tracks from Logic to SaffireControl to become the Playback Mix for my artists being recorded? What if my song has 20 tracks?
A: You can assign as many audio tracks to be sent to SaffireControl S/W 1/2 as you like. That way, if tracks 1-8 in Logic are all drums, you can group them together by assigning them all to Outputs 1/2 within Logic, which will become S/W 1/2 within SaffireControl, e.g. the level of all the drums in the PLAYBACK MIX in SaffireControl will be controlled by the first fader in the PLAYBACK MIX section.
Q: If there are only 8 analog outputs, how come there are 5 output pairs available in the lower half of SaffireControl?
A: As you can see from the symbol at the bottom of each output pair section, the last pair (9/10) is the SPDIF Output. Also, outputs 5/6 and 7/8 are the same signals as Headphones 1 and Headphones 2 on the front panel respectively.
Q: What does float actually do?
A: The float feature means that the SaffireControl window will sit permanently above all applications rather than disappearing each time the mouse clicks in another application’s window. This allows the SaffireControl window to be shrunk down to either of its reduced window formats and then positioned in one corner of the screen, where the meters for the inputs can be viewed continuously whilst making edits on Cubase/Logic, without having to cycle through different applications.
Q: What is the soundcard setup all about?
A: SaffireControl has two preset buttons to step through two main modes of operation; the first is the standard tracking mode for recording (the default mode when SaffireControl opens) and the second is for mixdown (Soundcard mode) when you want analog outputs 1-8 on the rear of Saffire to match outputs 1-8 within Logic/Cubase. The comprehensive monitoring capabilities of Saffire mean that, without preset buttons, numerous settings would need adjusting on SaffireControl to simply route 8 tracks from Logic/Cubase to the relevant outputs on the Saffire (Soundcard mode). This is because, simply selecting a stereo drum track to be outputs 3/4 on the mixer in Logic/Cubase will not route that track straight out analog outputs 3 and 4 of the Saffire hardware but instead into S/W tracks 3/4 within SaffireControl. This is so that, in tracking mode, those tracks can be mixed with the audio being recorded to make monitor mixes for artists. Focusrite’s clever design team have taken all this into account and included a button to route the outputs set as 1-8 within Logic/Cubase straight to Saffire’s analog outputs – this is listed on the Getting Started A4 sheet that comes in the box and also explained as being a good way of getting to grips with the workings of SaffireControl.
Q: How do you select different sample rates?
A: Simply press the S/RATE button in SaffireControl and a smaller window opens up where the sample rate can be selected simply by clicking on the desired value. From this window, the Saffire can also be made to synchronize from an external source connected to the SPDIF In.
Q: Is there a word clock input?
A: No. But in the applications that the Saffire would be used for, this is not needed. Synchronization is only used if timing is crucial (for example when doing 'laybacks' of audio in post production), or if there are several digital sources being recorded at one time, or if converters are rubbish due to having poor quality clocks. With the Saffire, the only sources being recorded are the analog inputs and possibly a SPDIF signal, therefore the only digital clock sources that may need synchronizing are within the Saffire hardware and whatever is connected to the SPDIF In. This is why the Saffire only needs to be able to synchronize to its SPDIF Input and no word clock option is provided.
Q: Can I use Pro Tools with Saffire?
A: No. Only Digidesign hardware is compatible with Pro Tools. However, Saffire will work with all other ASIO or Core Audio compatible platforms, i.e. all other platforms.
Q: How can Saffire hook up with other FF or Novation gear?
A: The ideal combination for recording four microphone sources would be to have a Focusrite Platinum TwinTrak Pro with optional digital card connected to the SPDIF input on the Saffire, providing a full complement of Focusrite front-end. (Any Platinum with digital card would be fine though.) Novation’s X-Station has a SPDIF Out, which would also be a good combination with the Saffire; a backing track could be played on the keyboard and recorded whilst a singer and guitarist are recorded simultaneously. Alternatively, the Focusrite owner with no digital i/o could go directly into the Line input(s) to convert to digital, gain access to additional signal processing and then send to the recording platform.
Q: What if I only have 4-pin firewire?
A: The only difference between the two FW ports is that the 6-pin can supply power and the 4-pin can’t. If you only have 4-pin then simply connect up the Mains adapter that’s provided to power the Saffire.
Q: What is the Dim Switch all about?
A: This is a feature that is common on large consoles in studios, it reduces the output level of the monitors (any outputs with the ‘H’ button active in SaffireControl - normally just o/ps 1 and 2), in this case by 12dB. This gives you more control over a highly sensitive pair of connected speakers. Explained more simply: Imagine the gain dial is turned down really low on the amp/speakers connected to the Saffire and the music is still coming out pretty loud and just turning up the dial a little bit makes it significantly louder. The solution to this is to press the DIM button on the Saffire, then the volume of the music will go down (by 12dB) and you can turn up that dial and have a much better control over the volume.