One You Hear Higher Quality, You Will NEVER Go Back!
So, I've recently invested in perhaps the final "link" to my Hardware Mastering Chain, that being the Antelope Audio's Pure 2 AD/DA Master Converter. With the inclusion of the Pure 2, I can fully say that I will provide the best mastering service for my clients. The Audio Quality of the Pure 2 compared to my audio interface, the Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB is overwhelmingly dominating. There is just a field of listening depth that you are not able to hear with the Clarett, keep in mind; The Clarett is a $1,100 MSRP device!
BUT.... Does upgrading to a better sound "listening" actually matter? Does it make that big of a difference?
To make a long story short, you as a Mixing or Mastering engineer will benefit from hearing these sounds, to be able to adjust with more precision, however; The consumer's listening will NOT be close to this type of quality when enjoying songs. Meaning, if you mix your song with consumer headphones, and like how the song sounds in the car... chances are, your audience will feel just about the same way! Oh... Have I mentioned: Many Mastering Studios carries a pair of consumer listening mediums, especially a under-quality stereo system that they use to both listen to the Mix emotionally, as well as master the songs with first (then take it to the higher quality speakers later.)
What is the benefit from buying an A/D & D/A converter then?...
The actual benefits for a device like this will ultimately stem down to output hardware processing.
The First chain of hardware processing will stem from the Digital to Analog Conversion, then form there, it is sent into the hardware processors, and finally, back to your computer via Analog to Digital conversion.
Think of it like this. If you start with something that is incomplete, you will get back something that will incomplete as well. The only improvements that happened from the hardware, is from what you were able to INPUT to the gear in the FIRST PLACE. It is like sending in a song with a frequency range of 200Hz to 15Khz. Do not expect to hear sonic quality from your song above 18Khz magically. Yeah, there may be some saturation noise, but I'm talking about sounds from the actual song. Think of it like that.
In the case of the Clarett Audio Interface VS the Pure 2; The Clarett lacks the depth in it's D/A & A/D conversion, so after the hardware processing is finished, you will receive back what the Clarett is capable of providing to you.
The file below is a test that I've done with the 2 devices. I've done my best to make it as fair as possible. I left the Hardware Gear's knobs and stuff like that how it is. The only difference, was that I had to Calibrate the input of the Clarett to reach -0.1dBFS I've also included a file where I flipped the polarity to cancel out the signals as best as I could, so you can hear what kind of difference we have with the conversion quality. It is NOT the best example, but it is still something. Let your ears judge the sounds! I left the answer to the test in a notepad file.