Adam from Real Home Recording takes an in-depth look at JoeCo Limited’s first ever desktop audio interface. Here are script notes (there are definitely duplicate notes):
I have been using the JoeCo Cello audio interface for nearly two months. I used it to record many different audio sources and put it through a bunch of tests. In this two part video, you’ll hear many audio samples and my honest opinion on whether you should consider buying this interface.
This video is a two parter. In this one, I’ll give you a quick run down of the Cello’s benefits, some of its flaws and whether I’d recommend it or not. The second part goes more in depth with audio clips, gear shootouts, test graphs and brief tutorials.
The Standout Features for me are
– Two channels of simultaneous raw/processed recording, before the signal hits the converter. That way, you can maintain the purity of an analog processed signal but if you mess up there is a safety net.
– 78 dB preamp gain. With the 20 dB pad, it can handle virtually any microphone you throw at it.
– True mastering grade converters with five analog inputs. Quality was onfirmed with loopback tests. Even the front panel line inputs are super clean/transparent.
– Converter filtering settings. I haven’t seen a feature like this on a desktop interface before.
– Can be USB powered if your computer can handle it. Wall power is recommended, however.
– 1 Million Ohm instrument input
– Up to 384 kHz sample rate in a small desktop form factor.
– Super loud headphone output, so drum recording isn’t a problem.
– Built-in talkback/slate microphone that can be recorded.
– Mid-side AKA sum and difference matrix during recording setting
– Scalable control panel GUI. Hopefully one day they will make it 4K ready.
– Can be used as a standalone device with user controllable startup state settings.
– LCD Status indicator, which actually does come in handy.
– Latency figures are solid. It’s not the fastest interface out there but I had zero issues recording with a MIDI keyboard or a bass guitar. If you need processing during voice recordings, you’ll need to look at interfaces with onboard DSP options.
– Manufactured in the U.K.
– Finally, I saved the best for last. Cello stays out of the way and rarely lets you down. It shocked me when I had over 80% CPU usage on a big mix and was still able to record a track without glitches. On other audio interfaces that I’ve used, there would have been pops and clicks every 10-20 seconds.
When I used it on a Dell laptop, it did not fare as well. There were about four pops per song when recording 5 tracks at 96 kHz. Every time I recorded with my Lenovo desktop computer there were zero issues. So certainly your mileage will vary in this department.
So, would I recommend the Cello?
Unfortunately it comes up short for a full recommendation. If you need an interface with more inputs and outputs, faster latency, a longer warranty than one year, included software or are on a tight budget then look elsewhere.
However, if you need its stand out features then I 100% recommend it. For some, myself included, the processed signal safety net, transparent preamps and mastering grade converters alone are worth the price.
The Cello has nuances that audio engineers care about. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles compared to the competition but the ones it does have work very well.
Go to part 2 for an in depth look at the Cello.
Up to 13 inputs at 96 kHz not including the talkback mic or 23 inputs up to 48 kHz.
Ins and outs aren’t smashed together. Evenly dispersed between the front, back and one side panel.
Up to 8 monitor mix outputs, including one for SPDIF and pre-fader listen mode.
Buffer settings aren’t restricted. You can even uncheck Safe Mode for faster latency if you are feeling dangerous! I’m glad that they give you the options instead of assuming your system can’t handle it. JoeCo didn’t put on the kid gloves.
Switch seamlessly from ASIO to Windows sound as long as the sample rate is the same. If you want you can even have sound playing while recording with ASIO.
Reverse stereo is a nice feature.
Top plus isn’t analog so it’s nice to have but gimmicky.
ADAT output would have been nice instead of 2 channel SPDIF.
With 384 kHz, performance does go down in terms of in/outs and noise/frequency response.
I can’t fully recommend it because of the price and because a second set of line outputs, so that one could easily process mix elements through hardware while monitoring through speakers is something that the more affordable competition has had for years.
Pan knob on the Stem outputs would be a nice finishing touch.
Audient iD14 vs. Cello
DI bass and electric
Sound samples right up front
Marketing vs. experience with it
Simultaneous unprocessed + processed recording
78 dB of gain (80 dB may be possible on some microphones)
Very reliable. Was able to record with a ton of plugins on and zero glitches.
Ruler flat frequency response at Maximally flat.
Converter options for a smoother high end roll off and slightly better latency.
On my computer rig the roundtrip latency figures were better than what’s listed on JoeCo’s web site.
Can be USB powered if your computer’s port supports 1,000 mA output.
“125 dB of dynamic range” confirmed on the instrument and line inputs at 192 kHz. Noise is in the upper frequency range.
1MOhm inpedance instrument input.
Made in the U.K. instead of China.
A longer warranty would be better. Even if it is an optional upgrade. Some stores give you two.
A second set of line outs and ADAT output may have helped.
Converter filter tests along with clipping tests.
Test Top + with pink noise
Record silence. Gain all the way down and all the way up. Pads and no pads. 441, 48, 96 and 192.
Try the Slate button (it enables recording of the talkback mic)
Sample rate usage scenarios https://github.com/audiojs/sample-rate
RightMark Audio Analyzer Tests and Latency Tests from the other program. (re-do 384 kHz through the line inputs with the DC filter on)
YouTube + ASIO in REAPER (as long as the sample rate is 44.1 kHz) playback at the same time? Not a problem
Line input volume control down to 1/2 decibel.
Use https://neuraldsp.com/products/fortin-nts-suite/ with the Direct Box tests.
Fully scalable GUI, once you click the orange arrow. Works best on 720p or 1080p monitors.
Apparently in the 384kHz mode there is a DC filter option under the ADC control. Calibrate!
I didn’t like the GUI at first but it grew on me. Contrast is good and although it’s plain looking it’s not a huge deal.
Monitor mix matrix is intuitive. Three tiered volume level setting (software + hardware)
Up to 22 inputs at 44.1/48 kHz, 16 at 96 kHz, 8 at 192 or 4 at 384 kHz.
USB power vs. wall power performance test including phantom power, low buffer MIDI and line out (to EX1 line in) JoeCo does warn that conversion quality may take a hit and not all
computers can handle powering the interface properly.
“Cello can be bus powered from hosts able to supply 1500mA.” Mac computers can handle it and some Windows machines. Not mine.
Class compliant USB 2.0…it worked on my smartphone and would have worked on my tablet with an accessory!
Separate stereo DAW mixes for each output (main, headphones and digital)
I see the cello like I see my Galaxy s9. Some people will look at it and they’ll see an audio interface in a silver box. But what is going on under the hood is what counts. Not everybody will need a Cello or can appreciate all of its features but is it worth the money yes. It is properly priced for its capabilities.
You’re getting a mastering grade converter, word clock, two transparent preamps, the ability to record two raw microphone signals along with two processed ones simultaneously, midi in and out, and finally a great quality instrument input.
It can be a USB powered or wall powered. It can be operated in standalone mode. It is a reliable/stable son-of-a-b****.
ADC/DAC Filter options: At flat settings, the cut off frequency is sharp. Some will find this unmusical. There is also slightly more latency with flat settings.
Where would a more musical filter response sound better? Instruments like triangles or tambourines. Best thing to do? Use your ears and run some RMAA tests to see if you like the trade off.
Core Audio as well
Converter clipping was relatively graceful with a voice over. Lots of analog headroom!
Preamp converter clipping at different settings
Cables/controls are not crammed together. Microphone/instrument/headphone connectors are all on the front panel.
Round Trip Latency (already done but do 96 kHz at 32 samples and 192 kHz at 32, 64 and 128 samples) compared to marketing. Marketing figures are actually higher! (44.1 at < 9.8 mS, 384 kHz at < 3.6 mS)
Low buffer stability including MIDI at 384 kHz
Weak power button…I am afraid it will snap off.
Mixing stability (done)
I like the way the iD14’s DAC converters sound over the Cello when not recording/mixing. But the Cello’s sound closer to what I here when Sonarworks Reference is turned on.
Alerts are a nice, professional feature
Headphone amp volume (done)
Locking Neutrik XLR inputs
Top + digital effect on input
MIDI inputs aren’t just for keyboards. Lots of controllers on the market.
Test MIDI recording/stability with 384 kHz.
384 kHz vs. 96 kHz vs. 48 kHz
I think what happened is when this product was designed, the Babyface Pro, UAD Apollo win, Audient iD22 were its closest competitors. I don’t believe the others offer USB power only. They also do not offer 80 dB of gain.
No extra software included.
The status indicator is cool but I am concerned about it and the JoeCo logo LED lights adding noise to the signal. Or at the very least they will eventually burn out. The option to turn them off would be nice, if possible.
The DAC alone may be worth the price to some. It truly is mastering grade.