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My trusty RME Fireface UC died on me last night and I'm looking for a replacement. However my needs have changed since I purchased the Fireface and now I'm a little lost as to what it is I should be looking for.

My user case is as follows: I'm a bass player, and I want to be able to play along with music on my PC while monitoring everything through my headphones. I'm not interested in recording anymore.

Previously I would run my bass into my pedal board which has a MXR bass preamp, the output of the preamp would go into the Fireface input. My PC was connected to the Fireface via USB, and I would plug my headphones directly into the headphone out of the Fireface.

As I no longer want to record anything, it feels like I just need a basic mixer. However I'm concerned with a mixer that it won't have enough power to give a loud signal from the bass as I don't have a proper amp pushing it. I also don't want to compromise on sound quality.

If a audio interface is what I want, I run Linux which makes it even harder to find something that fits the bill. Currently considering the RME Babyface Pro but I worry I'll only use 1/10th of it's feature set.

Would love some advice on what I should be looking at.

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Linux user here as well; I'm using a Steinberg Ur22 mk2 which works fine for similar purposes. It allows me to do basic vocals and keyboards with playback, and recording works fine as well when I need it.

I don't think a small mixer should have any issues with the bass; there are lots of small budget mixers with and without usb in/out which will also allow you to record.

That being said there are more and more compact digital mixers coming out as well (Soundcraft, Mackie, Midas and others); if cost is less of a consideration I'd personally go in that direction just for the flexibility. Most of these comes with USB offering multitrack recording, playback from a computer or the use of software-based inserts.

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I'd go for some sound card that is old enough not to have a software controlled mixer as those may be iffy to use under Linux and also tend to put configuration in flash memory, limiting its life time.

Two examples of what I've been using is a Tascam US-122L which is super robust, has one input you can switch to "guitar", has a "mono" switch that will switch the monitoring to mono while leaving the computer sound in stereo, but requires using jackd and the ALSA usb_stream plugin for almost anything, offering 24bit/96kHz on USB 2.0. Also its main outputs are unbalanced only (RCA jacks).

Another one is the Mackie Onyx Satellite which has a crap phantom power supply (does not reach 48V or even 40V and cannot be used together with high impedance signals like a guitar without causing whine, so recording with condensor mic and guitar simultaneously is not feasible). For setting monitoring balance, you'll need the base station. The Satellite is Firewire, though.

Of course, hunting for cheap 10 year old soundcards with minor shortcomings might not be your typical pastime considering the amount of money you must have shelled out for your current equipment but it tends to work reasonably well from a compatibility standpoint when using Linux.

If "cheap" is no consideration at all, you should have your needs govern the acquisition. If you primarily need a mixer, it makes sense getting a mixer with included computer interface. Some of them do use Firewire: if your computer at least has Thunderbolt, a Thunderbolt-to-Firewire adapter common with Apple users is said to work well under Linux out of the box.

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