Today we’re taking a look at the new RME Fireface 802 audio interface, the successor to the RME Fireface 800. Released back in 2004, the original Fireface 800 was incredibly popular, due in no small part to its rock-solid performance, as well as its high quality sound. On top of this, users frequently praised the excellent support provided by RME, with regular and reliable driver updates ensuring the continued stability of the units long after the original launch.
It’s now been over ten years since its release, and there have been some notable technological advances in the world of audio recording during this time. In response to this, RME decided to retire the Fireface 800 and give it a major overhaul in the form of the Fireface 802. RME’s head of design Matthias Cartsens explains, “the Fireface 800 was about for ten years, and it sold really well. But of course after ten years, we felt it was time to renew it somehow, bringing it up to the latest standard of technology, and so better matching the rest of our products.”
For the Fireface 802, RME have taken everything that was great about the Fireface 800 and combined it with the company’s research developments over the past decade, upgrading the interface in every meaningful way and making it into one of the best audio interfaces on the market.
The result is a device that meets the high standards of audio professionals whilst remaining affordable. Improved mic pre’s, better AD/DA conversion and more efficient onboard DSP all make the Fireface 802 an even more powerful and versatile device. The I/O channel count has been increased, and a second headphone output has been added to provide better monitoring capabilities.
All of the analogue circuitry has been redesigned to provide outstandingly low signal to noise ratios and distortion values, and the new converters remain characteristically transparent. Also, whilst the Fireface 800 had only a single high-impedance input, all four of the Fireface 802’s newly designed XLR/jack combi inputs (which use the technology of the RME OctaMic II) can be switched to high-impedance mode.
The connectivity has also been brought into line with current technology. Whilst the Fireface 800 was strictly firewire, the Fireface 802 has both firewire 400 and USB 2.0 ports, making it compatible with all modern Mac’s and PC’s, achieving equal performance in terms of latency, processing power and operation for both platforms.
To make full use of the recording options found within the Fireface 802, RME have also included the newly designed on-board digital mixer and signal router TotalMix FX, which in many instances removes the need for a mixing console. Controlled via a software GUI, TotalMix is driven by two powerful DSP’s, which deliver impressive performance even during heavy applications. Each channel is provided with an EQ and compression section, as well as M/S processing and phase invert, along with stereo reverb and delay effects sends. TotalMix provides further functionality to the Fireface 802, such as grouping faders for level control, soloing and muting, as well as enabling any of the Fireface 802’s I/O to be routed to one another with zero latency. In this way, different monitoring mixes can be created for musicians whilst recording the audio signal dry, removing the need for any external effects.
Another additional feature is the option to control various functions of the unit with the RME Advanced Remote Control (sold separately), connected via a dedicated connection. This wired remote provides 6 programmable function keys, which can be mapped to control more than 36 different commands. In conjunction with the large rotary dial in the centre, control can be exercised over levels, gains, groups, submixes and effects, as well as preset recall, A/B speaker switching, talkback, dim, mono and many more.
Along with the remote control, another new feature is the addition of Class Compliance, ensuring the Fireface 802’s status as a truly modern audio interface. The Fireface 802 can be plugged into an iPad via the Apple Camera Connection Kit, making it fully controllable from an Apple iPad via RME’s TotalMix iOS app. Combining this function with Hexler’s MIDI control surface app TouchOSC, a live engineer could for example perform a sound-check from anywhere in the venue, controlling TotalMix FX wirelessly via their iPad.
All of these features showcase why the RME Fireface 802 is a brilliant update to the much-loved Fireface 800. With a combination of high-quality, professional sound, incredible functionality, and a competitive price, the Fireface 802 continues the legacy of its predecessor whilst taking it to a whole new level. As one of the industry’s leading brands, RME continue their tradition of leading the way in performance, quality and reliability.