Unboxing, HD: RME Fireface UCX // Presonus HP4 // Shure SM58

The unboxing of an RME Fireface UCX audio interface, a Presonus HP4 4-way headphone mixer, and a Shure SM58 microphone (which is also unscrewed to see: does it look like an SM57 without its windshield?!).

No talking, just sound – this is unboxing vérité.

The Fireface UCX — tl;dr: no regrets, it is excellent — comes with an impressively thick, detailed, spiral-bound glossy-covered reference manual, with colour images where required. TotalmixFX may be so deep it can be confusing, but the manual describes well what everything does – so just need to take time to learn to use the tools. One half of manual is German, the other is English (perhaps other languages are available in different countries … idk). It is well indexed.

Both the UCX and HP4 come with soft little button feet stickers to put optionally place on underside of the units to prevent slipping, and have small wall-wart style power supplies. Notably, on the HP4’s there is a lamp-tyle on-off switch on the cable near where it attaches to the unit: this addresses the lack of power button on the unit itself. The UCX of course has a solid metal gear-stick style power switch on the rear of the unit: interestingly when switched off, a green LED lights up to let you know that it is in standby. Whilst initially surprised, I think this is a clever feature as it reminds you that really, you should turn devices off at the mains when not in use as (i think) some power is still being used (ecologically, and economically wasteful). This has prompted me that I need to aquire a powerboard with switches to only power devices as they are required. So, kudos to RME for prompting me to save money and act responsibly.

The UCX has two midi in/outs. This is excellent, and will suit my purposes very well: connecting a Nord Micro Modular’s line in on port 1, and its PC editor in/out on port 2. With all the ins and outs I have been well able to take advantage of the unit as a two channel send-return DSP from/to UCX channels 3/4 while using Ableton Live, with tempo sync. I have the Micro Modular’s editor open concurrently, so can create/modify devices as required (drum machines, vocoders, synthesisers, all feeding off each other — truly excellent machine) and route audio back to Live. Within Live I route the midi input from a Novation X-Station to the UCX port 1 output, which allows me to perform with and control the micro modular. Sweet.

The UCX also comes with a USB cable, and an optical S/PDIF (TOSLINK) cable. I plan to connect the X-station using coaxial s/pdif however.

The driver for the UCX come on a CD (printed with date of release); this isn’t of any use for me though, as I will be using it with a Windows 10 Surface Pro 3 tablet which has no cd-drive. This didn’t pose any problem: I just downloaded the latest driver from RME’s website instead. Installation was a quick and easy breeze, and everything worked as one would expect it should (a pleasant surprise!).

The UCX unit itself is solidly built — it inspires confidence. The channel-select/level-setting knob on the front works well: it has a stepped feel, and a solid-click function.

The PreSonus HP4 is a solid little utility device, with an all metal chassis and brushed alluminium encoders. My intent is to run two balanced cables from UCX outputs 1/2 to the HP4, then 4 persons (e.g. bass, guitar, keys + vox, percussion, or whatever) can listen to and adjust their mix as desired; and a fifth person could always use the line 7/8 phones output on the UCX itself. It has a mono mix toggle button, and a mute button: these are clear perspex and light up green when engaged.It has a small red LED to indicate when power is on. As mentioned above, the power supply for my unit included a lamp-style power toggle switch. The encoders are smooth and have a quality feel. In short: it does what I want and feels like it won’t break.

The SM58 is well known, but I thought it worth ‘unboxing’ as the contents of its box are not explicitly stated. It comes with: a user guide (specifications, mic placement etc), and usual warranty etc; a velcro strap for attaching to and securing a mic lead; the SM58 microphone and holder itself; a Shure-embossed black (vinyl?) double stitched zip-pouch, which is kind of fake leather with a spongy soft, wet-suit like material on the inner; and a bronze adaptor to allow smaller screws on stands to attach to the mic holder. I’d heard that by removing the wind filter, you basically have an SM57: so, for the sake of seeing/showing what this looks like (yes, sounds are the important thing, but I’m visually curious) I took this off in the video too. I also unscrew the mic itself from the handle, out of curiousity. Nothing remarkable (it looked a little naked and fragile! The sound will be the true test; not in this video), but nice to get to know my new microphone.

Comparisons FWIW:
The RME Fireface UCX is fantastic, no regrets at all. When researching its purchase, I also considered the MOTU Ultralite Mk3/4/AVB and the Arturia Audiofuse. However questions of reliability (drivers on the former, button quality on the latter) and longevity of these relative to the pretty consistently positive reputation of the RME products led me to the UCX. It just seemed from what I read to be a cut above the others in terms of quality, and while I still have not experienced the other units first hand I am very pleased with the RME unit in itself. It sounds fantastic (main thing), works flawlessly (which my X-station’s audio driver had ceased to do), and is incredibly flexible down to inclusion of onboard DSP eq and effects (which in my quick checks so far sound good). Looking forward to years of use from this beasty.

Similarly, the PreSonus HP4 was purchased on basis of perceived reliability: it was more expensive than its available competition (Behringer HA400), but I considered it worth it to ensure low noise, high signal and solid build quality.

I also purchased a Rode PSA1 studio arm to function as a compact mic stand — I got tired of the unboxing video thing, so didn’t end up including it in this video, but I can report: It’s solid, affordable, has a smooth action, connects as desired to the SM58’s mic holder (i think i used the bronze adaptor ring) and swings out of the way when i don’t want it around and into the way when I do. I’m sure it will be great with a proper condensor mic set up one day, however this would be overkill for my purposes (a room without acoustic treatment, with birds tweeting happily outside my window); hence the SM58 dynamic mic. Perhaps one wish: if it were available in white instead of black, that perhaps would have been less obtrusive visually!