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Canadian Road Test: RME Babyface Pro FS
"I couldn't believe what I was hearing the first time I output a mix through this interface.  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." - Andrew Leyenhorst, Freelance Producer, Engineer, Mixer and the Assistant Editor of Professional Sound Magazine
2 February, 2022 by
GerrAudio Distribution Inc., Peter James

Published by Professional Sound, December 2021 Issue

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 out- puts, 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, avail- able 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 remote-control 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 grab- bing 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 no-brainer 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.