ME Fireface UCX 36-Channel USB & Firewire Interface
The Fireface UCX is a highly integrated pro audio solution in an ultra-compact format for studio and live recordings. It continues RME’s long tradition of designing compact high-end interfaces, packing into a half-rack size unit what usually would be spread out over two or three 19 inch panels.
In doing this the Fireface UCX marks a new packing record: 300 electronic components more than inside the already well-stocked Fireface UC! In a tremendous effort RME packed once again all the latest technologies, introduced with the award winning flagship UFX, plus a bunch of newly developed ones, into a half 19 inch housing with full mobile usability.
The result is an awesome combination of RME’s most successful products: Fireface UFX, Firefaces UC/400 and Babyface. The Fireface UCX is not just a smaller version of the smash hit UFX, with the HFX-core, the preamps and the complete effects engine. The UCX continues the tradition of RME’s tremendously successful compact interfaces, and combines it with the Babyface’s usability through the optional RME remotes. With the Fireface UCX RME reinvented an already perfect product, by improving existing features and characteristics plus adding sophisticated new ones:
- Low Latency mastering grade converters with outstanding specifications.
- Two mic preamps with the premium technology from RME’s high-end recording bestsellers Micstasy and UFX, including the AutoSet overload protection.
- A newly developed Hammerfall audio core, supporting USB and FireWire with the maximum performance and ultra-low latency operation, combined with the legendary RME driver stability and maintenance, on both bus protocols.
- TotalMix FX with the complete Fireface UFX DSP engine, including all effects up to 192 kHz.
- Monitoring Controller: combining the impressive flexibility of the TotalMix FX monitoring tool set and the optional RME Remote Control.
- RME’s unique DIGICheck metering and analysis toolbox for Windows PC and Mac.
- Plus support for RME’s Advanced Remote Control, active jitter suppression technology, professional reference level support, advanced stand-alone functionality, full 192 kHz operation, and last but not least two high speed MIDI I/Os.
- On top of it: The Fireface UCX is the first professional audio interface with Class Compliant mode to work with Apple’s iPad, for perfect stereo up to 18 channel recording and playback, and the addition of truly professional I/Os.
So the UCX is a half rack unit, which is actually more powerful, than most 19 inch units. All in all the Fireface UCX is the new compact-sized dream interface, created with care for every detail, and a new premium solution for any desktop and live usage, without compromises in sound, stability and ultra-low latency operation.
Inputs and Outputs
The UCX provides 36 channels of audio – 18 I/Os. All channels can be used at the same time. Up to 8 analog and 10 digital channels can be recorded onto 18 separate tracks. All outputs can be used for ASIO Direct Monitoring purposes.
Available I/O (channels) with different Sample Rates:
|Sample Rate||Analog||SPDIF||ADAT||Total In/Out|
Overview Analog I/O
- Inputs 5-8 (TRS – balanced)
- Output 1-6 (TRS – balanced)
- Inputs: 1/2 (2 x XLR/TRS Combo – balanced)
- Inputs: 3/4 (2 x TRS – balanced)
- Outputs: 7/8 – Phones (TRS – Stereo)
The UCX provides 8 analog I/O in a very flexible combination:
8 Inputs. On the rear: 4 balanced TRS. On the front: 2 XLR inputs with Mic/Line preamps (65 dB Gain) and 2 Hi-Z capable TRS Line/Instrument inputs..
8 Outputs . On the rear: 6 balanced TRS outputs. On the front: One additional TRS stereo phones (playback channels 7/8). The high power phones output offers high volumes even with high-impedance headphones.
Sound Quality . Equipped with a new 2011 A/D and D/A high-performance converter design all I/Os operate at up to 192 kHz. The AD/DA conversion supersedes the outstanding technical specifications of the Fireface UC/400 with an impressive 114 dBA dynamic range on both record and playback. The advanced multi-bit converter architecture guarantees excellent S/N and THD specs across a wide analog level range. In the best RME tradition and product philosophy, the UCX converters and preamps have no characteristic “sound” of their own. They neither add nor remove anything, but capture the original signal just as it is.
Due to its efficient jitter reduction, RME’s superior SteadyClockTM finalizes the state-of-the-art AD/DA conversion, even when clocking to an external digital source.
Low Latency Converters . All analog I/Os use a low latency converter design with impressive 14 samples for the ADC, and 7 samples for the DAC, independent of the used sample rate. These values are about a quarter of the Fireface UC/400 (43/28), and even outperform much more expensive devices. A technical breakthrough that reduces the overall latency of timing critical applications, in live situations, and in computer-based recording studios. The converter latency is so low (0.4 ms at 48 kHz) that it can be ignored, turning analog digital monitoring into real analog-style monitoring!
Professional Level Support . A great converter needs to support the common studio levels for the perfect adaptation to other analog equipment without loosing headroom. Like all other RME devices the UCX supports the common professional studio levels: -10 dBV, +4 dBu, Lo / HiGain. The software-controlled reference levels, realized discretely in the analog domain, ensure highest dynamic range and fidelity.
– Inputs 3 to 8: -10 dBV, +4 dBu and Lo Gain (adjustable in two groups – channels 3/4 and 5 to 8).
– Outputs 1 to 8: -10 dBV, +4 dBu and Hi Gain (adjustable in two groups – channels 1 to 6 and 7/8).
All outputs can be used for ASIO Direct Monitoring purposes.
Microphone/Instrument Preamps with AutoSet
Quality over quantity . The UCX provides two high-end mic and instrument preamps – built right into the front.
Like the famous UFX ones, both preamps use core technology of RME’s Micstasy. A high-end preamp for supreme sonic demands and critical applications, like professional recordings of classical and acoustic music. The outstanding preamp design boasts extremely low distortion, excellent signal to noise ratio and a perfectly flat frequency response. A premium solution for transmitting and amplifying any audio source truly unchanged, be it high-level stage or typical studio signals, lower level and high-impedance instruments, or dynamic, condenser and ribbon microphones.
The digitally controlled gain of up to 65 dB, adjustable in steps of 1 dB over a range of 55 dB, is individually set for each preamp with the encoder knob on the front or in TotalMix FX on the host computer. All level settings are 100% reproducible and can also be adjusted using a MIDI remote controller.
Each channel can be individually switched to 48V phantom power. LEDs for signal, clip and activated phantom power give a complete overview on the unit’s status.
The two TRS inputs on the front will alternatively operate as Hi-Z inputs. Directly plug in up to two guitars or other instruments – no other hardware is required.
AutoSet . The UCX offers a unique RME feature which was previously available only in the high-end microphone preamp Micstasy and the UFX. Usually a limiter is used during the recording to prevent clipping of the A/D converter stage. But analog processing would not only spoil the excellent technical specifications of the UCX mic preamps but also alter the original sound.
Thanks to digitally controlled gain the UCX can reduce the gain automatically, thus providing perfect protection from overload with no degradation of the audio signal, which does not have to pass any additional electronic circuitry. Additionally AutoSet does not cause any of the control noises known from usual limiters. SNR and THD stay completely unchanged.
Example: In a recording session, the recording engineer asks the vocalist or guitarist to sing or play a reference part and sets the UCX preamp gain to an unusual high level (e. g. 50 dB). AutoSet will automatically reduce the gain when the level reaches -6 dBFS. The reduction is done in a musical way, based on the intensity and duration of the input signal. Manual gain adjustment becomes obsolete most of the time, but the gain can still be set manually. AutoSet can be switched on for each of the 4 front panel mic and instrument preamp channels individually.
Digital I/O, Word Clock & MIDI
SPDIF: The UCX provides a coaxial SPDIF I/O working at up to 192 kHz.
ADAT: One 8-channel ADAT I/O expands the UCX by 8 channels available simultaneously with the analog channels. They can be used to connect an 8-channel AD/DA converter, a mixing console, or to insert an effect device. The ADAT I/O supports sample rates with up to 192 kHz (S/MUX4). Using an external converter like the ADI-8 QS, the UCX will provide 16 analog inputs and outputs, 12 with a sample rate of 96 kHz, and still 10 at 192 kHz.
SPDIF: The ADAT I/O can be used as optical SPDIF I/O, making the UCX connections even more flexible.
Word Clock & MIDI: A word clock input and output (BNC) with switchable termination plus two MIDI I/Os on a breakout cable complete the I/O list and turn the Fireface UCX into a professional audio system with universal usability.
Features/Differences to classic TotalMix:
- New design and improved usability
- Improved Control Room section for the main output (studio monitors) and phones. Cue for quick listening to other outputs. Separated monitor panel.
- Four mute, solo and fader groups each.
- Switchable mono and stereo channel view
- New channel options: Stereo Width, MS Processing, Phase L/R
- Trim Mode: Adjusts the volume for all routed signals of a channel. This option allows to modify the volume of all sends of a channel simultaneously, equalling a hardware’s trim functionality.
- Unlimited Undo and Redo
- FX Sends and Returns: One send bus for every input/playback channel with Reverb/Echo
- Expandable channel view for channel settings, EQ and Dynamics setup
- Slim channel mode for selected or all channels, to save space or give a meter bridge view
- 2-Row Mode: reduces the height of the mixer to two rows for smaller displays
- Extended Matrix window with mono/stereo mode, Undo/Redo, display of phase and mute
The UCX provides the complete effects engine of the Fireface UFX – all effects are available at all sample rates.
The DSP-based TotalMix mixer supports fully independent routing and mixing of all 18 input and playback channels to all 18 physical outputs. Up to 9 totally independent stereo submixes plus a comprehensive Control Room section offer unrivalled monitoring capabilities and unsurpassed routing flexibility.
And there is more: TotalMix FX delivers hardware mixing/routing with lots of new features and a highly improved usability.
Every input and output channel comes with a luxury feature set, comparable to a full-scale digital console. The effects per channel include 3-band parametric EQ, adjustable Low Cut, Auto Level, Compressor, Expander, MS Processing and phase reversal. The Reverb and Echo effects unit is available for all channels by way of a stereo send and return bus. The UCX easily surpasses the competition by offering all these effects even at 192 kHz operation.
Two DSPs ensure an impressive performance even in extreme applications. As usual with RME, TotalMix is available with all channels at all sample rates, completely unlimited. The second dedicated DSP only renders effects, and therefore always has sufficient resources. For example, at 48 kHz 36 EQs, 36 Low Cuts, 26 Compressors and Echo can be activated. With activated Reverb and Echo still 36 EQs, 36 Low Cuts and 16 Compressors are available.
The FX-DSP uses automatic overload surveillance. As soon as no effect can be added anymore the TotalMix surface will clearly signal this condition. When changing to higher sample rates the UCX automatically deactivates all effects that exceed the DSP’s performance – the DSP will never be overloaded. This also prevents any possible damage to loudspeakers due to distortion.
The complete effects section not only adds a lot of flexibility to the recording chain, but makes latency burdened software dispensable. TotalMix can easily replace any external mixer, e. g. to create different latency-free monitoring mixes with EQ and Reverb for the main studio monitors and the headphone of the vocalist(s) in the recording room.
Furthermore, the DSP hardware calculates RMS and Peak levels for all 54 level meters, so there is zero CPU load on the host.
The main functions of TotalMix can be remote controlled via MIDI with any Mackie Control compatible controller.
Monitor Controller . Optional Remote Control
Thanks to the multi-functional rotary encoder and the optional Advanced Remote Control the UCX is not only a perfect desktop level controller for the main monitors and phones. The integrated TotalMix FX high-end mixer provides an impressive set of monitoring control features for modern Mix-In-the-Box studios or live mixing sessions. Among them Dim, source selection, monitor switching, integrated Talkback, a flexible Cue setup, Mute and Mute FX, Mono, Speaker B switching and much more.
Contrary to 3rd party external monitoring controllers, the built-in UCX solution preserves the original sound, as its hardware outputs stay directly connected to the studio monitors, avoiding another device with a possible signal alteration in the signal path.
The flexibility of RME’s DSP-driven TotalMix FX monitoring tool set is impressive: any physical output can be assigned to the directly knob-controlled monitor outputs (Main out, Speaker B, Phones 1, 2 …) – any output can be used. The functions Talkback, Listenback, Mono and Dim will work automatically for the assigned outputs in the expected way. Cue mixes can be sent to a predefined output, an external input can be assigned and monitored with a simple click. Convenience for any studio or live situation at its best.
The UCX provides an integrated connector on the back for RME’s remote controls.
The optional Advanced Remote Control (ARC) provides one big wheel dial, a button for level storage/recall, and seven freely programmable buttons – six with LED – for nearly all TotalMix FX functions. Just assign all frequently used TotalMix functions to these buttons.
The remote comes with a flexible, 5 m (16 ft.) long cable.
Hammerfall-X-Core: USB & FireWire
RME is the only manufacturer that doesn’t use a third party USB or FireWire audio technology, but its own, self-developed Hammerfall Audio Core with an outstanding performance and uncompromised pro audio features. RME integrated the latest and most sophisticated version of RME’s bus technology, the Hammerfall-X-Core – combining both, USB 2.0 and FireWire – within one half-rack sized interface.
USB 2.0. Like other RME USB 2.0* interfaces the Fireface UCX has been optimized for highest performance under Windows and Mac OS. It uses a special customized firmware for each operating system, and provides revolutionary ultra-low latencies even with multiple channels.
* The Fireface UCX is compatible to USB 3 chipsets.
FireWire . The completely redesigned FireWire technology of the HFX-Core provides the UCX with the same exceptional compatibility and performance as RME’s USB solution. The UCX does not have any FireWire chip inside – the complete bus technology is programmed into the FPGA and remains under direct control. If ever necessary, it can be updated anytime by a simple firmware update.
Class Compliant Mode
The Fireface UCX is the first fully professional audio interface with the option to be used as Class Compliant interface.
The Class Compliant mode is a standard that is natively supported by operating systems like Windows, Mac OSX and Linux distributions. No proprietary drivers are required, the device will be directly recognized when the CC mode is activated by the button on the front panel.
The Class Compliant mode allows for connecting the UCX to any Apple iPadTM !
The iPad is not only an attractive mobile music creation and recording platform, but a closed hard- and software system without common driver problems and interferences from 3rd party hardware, like graphic or network cards. It provides stability, a good realtime performance and an easy handling.
The UCX provides the iPad with the professional analog I/O connections it lacks. Superb microphone preamps with EQ, dynamics, even with the AutoSet feature, in addition to professional balanced line outputs, and a hi-power headphone output that also excels with high impedance headphones. Plus level and gain adjustments, SPDIF/ADAT I/O, reverb, echo, zero latency monitoring, digitally via USB, without any limitation in quality, at up to 96 kHz and 24 bit.
The UCX adds another special feature: Instead of using the jitter-prone USB clock, it works with its own internal SteadyClock. Many USB audio devices extract clock for DA conversion from the USB data packets, running in slave mode (adaptive mode), with comparably high jitter values, especially since most won’t offer active jitter suppression. The UCX works in clock mode master (asynchronous mode), both during recording and playback, thus achieving the exact same sound quality with an iPad as under Windows and Mac OSX.
Supported Inputs and Outputs . When connected to an iPad, the analog mic/line input 1 works with mono apps, inputs 1 and 2 with stereo apps (both dual mono and stereo), and up to 8 inputs with 8-channel applications, like MultiTrack DAW and Music Studio. Garage Band supports all inputs, but only two at a time. Auria can record all 18 inputs simultaneously.
Playback will use analog outputs 1 and 2, or even more channels if the app supports such operation. The UCX can optionally copy the iPad playback channels 1/2 to outputs 7/8 and SPDIF/ADAT, for easier monitoring. All outputs can be processed independently (volume, EQ, dynamics, FX return).
Audio Routing and Processing . The UCX is also a very powerful tool in CC mode, and can even be pre-configured via TotalMix FX under Windows/Mac. Apart from the current configuration up to 6 previously saved configurations can be loaded from the setup memory, allowing for a quick reconfiguration without a connected host PC/Mac.
The input signal will pass through all activated functions of the TotalMix FX input channel, namely settings, EQ, and Dynamics, and is then sent to the iPad. Like under Windows and Mac, the input fader controls direct monitoring to any output. The FX send control for echo/reverb is also active. The iPad’s output signal passes through all activated functions of the TotalMix FX hardware outputs, namely settings, EQ, and dynamics. The third row’s fader sets the output level.
SteadyClock . RME’s unique jitter suppression technology guarantees perfect sound quality throughout, making the device completely independent from the quality of external clock signals. Due to the highly efficient jitter reduction, the UCX converters operate independently from the quality of the external clock signal, as if they are working with internal clock all the time – guaranteeing a pristine sound quality!
SteadyClock allows the Fireface UCX to control the sample rate freely on its own. The settings dialog includes a direct choice of the video and audio world’s most often used sample rates.
ICC . Intelligent Clock Control not only displays every clock status, but will also retain the last valid input sample rate in case of failure of the external source. Other renowned RME technologies like SyncCheck offer a quick detection of clock problems.
DIGICheck . The UCX comes with RME’s unique software tool box for metering, testing, measuring and analyzing digital audio streams. It provides a multi-track recorder, calculates the level meters peak and RMS in hardware and is able to analyze and display playback data from any software, no matter which format the software uses.*
Stand Alone Operation with Setup Recall . Additionally internal memory allows for the permanent storage of six different states of the unit. Therefore the Fireface UCX is able to operate fully stand-alone, without any connected computer. In stand-alone operation it can transform into totally different devices by the simple click of a button. Furthermore, in this mode TotalMix FX can also be controlled via MIDI. Application examples include: 8-channel AD/DA converter, 4-channel mic preamp, monitor mixer, digital format converter, analog/digital routing matrix.
– Windows 7 / Vista / XP SP2 (32 & 64 bit)
– Apple Mac OS X 10.5 Intel or up (Core Audio)
Windows and Mac OS X drivers are completely identical in terms of features and functionality.
*Some features in DIGICheck are not available in the Mac version.
AD, Line In 5-8, rear
Signal to Noise ratio (SNR): 111 dB RMS unweighted, 113 dBA
Frequency response @ 44.1 kHz, -0.5 dB: 6 Hz – 20.6 kHz
Frequency response @ 96 kHz, -0.5 dB: 6 Hz – 45.3 kHz
Frequency response @ 192 kHz, -1 dB: -1 dB: 5 Hz – 90 kHz
THD: < -105 dB, < 0.0005 %
THD+N: < -98 dB, < 0.0012%
Maximum input level: +19 dBu
Channel separation: > 110 dB
Input: 6.3 mm TRS jack, electronically balanced
Input sensitivity switchable to Lo Gain, +4 dBu, -10 dBV
Input level for 0 dBFS @ Lo Gain: +19 dBu
Input level for 0 dBFS @ +4 dBu: +13 dBu
Input level for 0 dBFS @ -10 dBV: +2 dBV
Line In 3-4, front
As AD, but:
Additional Gain stage: 0 up to +12 dB
Maximum input level, Lo Gain, Gain 0 dB:
Line +19 dBu, Inst +13 dBu
Maximum input level, -10 dBV, Gain 12 dB, Line:
-7,5 dBu, Inst: -13,5 dBu
Input impedance Inst: 470 kOhm
Input Gain Inst: +6 dB
Input mode: Line balanced (TRS), Inst unbalanced (TS)
CLIP LED: 0 dBFS
SIG LED: -60 dBFS
Microphone/Line 1-2, front
as AD Line In 5-8, but:
Input: Neutrik XLR/TRS Combo jack, electronically balanced
Input impedance: XLR 2 kOhm, TRS 8 kOhm balanced
Signal to Noise ratio (SNR): 112 dB RMS unweighted, 115 dBA
Low Roll Off -0.5 dB: 18 Hz, -1 dB: 12 Hz
Gain range: 0 dB, +10 up to +65 dB
Maximum input level XLR, Gain 0 dB: +10 dBu
Maximum input level XLR, Gain 65 dB: -55 dBu
Maximum input level TRS, Gain +0 dB: +21 dBu
Maximum input level TRS, Gain +65 dB: -44 dBu
CLIP LED: 0 dBFS
SIG LED: -60 dBFS
DA, Line Out 1-6, rear
Dynamic range (DR): 111 dB, 113 dBA @ 44.1 kHz (unmuted)
Frequency response @ 44.1 kHz, -0.1 dB: 8 Hz – 20.4 kHz
Frequency response @ 96 kHz, -0.5 dB: 6 Hz – 45 kHz
Frequency response @ 192 kHz, -1 dB: 6 Hz – 90 kHz
THD: -100 dB, < 0.001 %
THD+N: -96 dB, < 0.0015 %
Channel separation: > 110 dB
Maximum output level: +19 dBu
Output: 6.3 mm TRS jack, servo-balanced
Output impedance: 75 Ohm
Output level switchable: Hi Gain, +4 dBu, -10 dBV
Output level at 0 dBFS @ Hi Gain: +19 dBu
Output level at 0 dBFS @ +4 dBu: +13 dBu
Output level at 0 dBFS @ -10 dBV: +2 dBV
DA – Phones, 7/8, front
As DA, but:
Output: 6.3 mm TRS jack, unbalanced
Output impedance: 30 Ohm
BNC, switch for internal termination 75 Ohm
USB: Computer with at least Pentium Core 2 Duo CPU (see the list of Tested Systems with USB chipsets).
FireWire: Computer with OHCI compatible FireWire Port 400 (1394a) or FireWire 800 port (via adapter cable).