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Old January 9th, 2008, 01:22 AM   #1
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All USB Audio Interfaces

I'm researching USB audio interfaces. I already have a mixer, so I don't need preamps or phantom power, but I'm concerned about the quality of the ADC in these units. How can I evaluate the ADC? Or the reliability/compatibility of the drivers?

Here is the information I have so far. I welcome your comments.

$40 ADS Technologies RDX-150 (RCA inputs only)
$40 Behringer UCG102 Guitar to USB (RCA only)
$60 Phonic Digitrack (RCA only)
$60 M-Audio JamLab USB (unbalanced TS only)
$70 Xitel INport Deluxe (RCA only)
$70 Line6 Toneport GX USB (unbalanced TS only)
$80 M-Audio Transit (1/8" only)
$80 Edirol / Roland UA-1EX (RCA only)
$100 IK Multimedia StealthPlug (unbalanced TS only)
$100 M-Audio Fast Track USB Audio Interface (one channel XLR mic or line)
$100 Lexicon Alpha Desktop Recording Studio (2 input, 2 record, no phantom)

Cheapest two-channel recorder
48 kHz only. A/D (24 Bit) 100 dB typical, A-weighted, 20 Hz - 20 kHz
usb bus, 1 pound
Drivers updated October 2007 for XP/Vista. No OS X updates.
$130 Centrance MicPort Pro (one channel only, not line switchable)
$130 Line6 TonePort UX1 USB Computer Recording Interface (1 channel only)
$130 Tascam US-122L USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface

Phantom power on both XLR ports, USB powered
http://www.tascam.com/details;9,15,69,17.html
Drivers released Oct 30, 2007: XP, Vista, OS X 10.5, but not 64-bit.
S/n 96 dB (A-weighted)
$130 E-MU 0202 24-bit 192KHz USB 2.0

Two balanced inputs (one XLR, one TRS -- also accepts unblanaced )
A/D: 113dB SNR, 192 kHz available, USB powered
Available at Newegg
April 23, 2007 driver update for XP 64-bit and OS X. No Vista support.
Made of plastic.
$130 CME-Pro XCORPIO-A (2 XLR, no-name brand)
$140 Behringer XENYX 1204 (4 XLR with phantom, 8 TRS, only two channels to USB)
$140 CME-Pro MATRIX-K (1 Neutrix)
$150 Alesis IO2, 2-Channel 24-bit 48kHz, USB power
$150 Alesis MULTIMIX 8 USB

Mix down 8 tracks to record two 16-bit 44.1 kHz
Windows drivers: Nov 21, 2007, Mac: 04/19/2007 (intel mac compat)
$150 Tascam US144 USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface

http://www.tascam.com/details;8,15,70.html
Mix down four tracks, records two.
$150 Tapco Link.usb, USB powered, phantom power, 2 x neutrix.
$150 Lexicon Lambda, 5 inputs, mix down to record 2 tracks.
$150 Edirol UA4FX USB Audio Interface with MIDI
$150 M-Audio MobilePre USB Interface with Microphone Preamp
$170 Behringer XENYX 1204FX
$200 M-Audio Fast Track Pro USB
$200 Lexicon Omega Studio:

http://www.lexiconpro.com/ProductDet...px?productID=6
Two XLR inputs with phantom power
$200 Line6 TonePort UX2 USB Computer Recording Interface (made of plastic)
$200 E-MU 0404
$200 SM Pro Audio XP202
$200 Novation NIO 2/4
$200 Yamaha MW10C (10-channel)
$240 Edirol UA25 USB Stereo Audio Interface
$250 Native Instruments Audio Kontrol 1
$250 Alesis MULTIMIX-12
$260 Yamaha MW8CX
$260 Behringer XENYX 1832FX
$280 Kore Plug-In Host and Controller
$300 Digidesign Mbox Mini USB Audio interface (only 1 XLR
$350 M-Audio Fast Track Ultra USB 2.0 Audio Interface (four XLR+four line)
$400 Tascam US1641 USB 2.0 (16 inputs, 8 have preamps and phantom power!)
$450 Digidesign Mbox 2
$450 Cakewalk SONAR PowerStudio 250 (2 channel XLR/TRS)
$500 Line6 Toneport UX8 USB 2.0 Computer Recording Interface
$550 Sound Devices USBPre
$750 MOTU 828mk2

Last edited by Daniel Browning; January 9th, 2008 at 12:23 PM.
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Old January 9th, 2008, 04:52 AM   #2
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Add Sound Devices USBPre @ $550 to your list. Has preamps and phantom if you need 'em but you can also send it line level.
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Old January 9th, 2008, 09:37 AM   #3
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What's YOUR budget?

get the best one you can afford.

You get what you pay for is a phrase that was created for a reason.
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Old January 9th, 2008, 11:29 AM   #4
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I'd drop the Lexicons off your list. Although a great name in EFX, Lex has tended not to keep up with new OS releases, and quite a few users of their older gear found it orphaned when migrating to XP or OSX. IMHO it is critical to select a company that regularly updates their drivers, it only takes one such experience...

I have an M-Audio Mobilepre USB ($150) that is fine for the occassional work with laptop that I put it to. 16bit only at 41/48.

What do you expect this interface to do?

For an external sound card, many people like the M-Audio Firewire 410 as a minimum companion to their edit station - it has enough outputs for a 5.1 mix, it's firewire, therefore lower latency than USB devices, and good quality.

Yes, I do like M-Audio for their quality and for their OS support with new drivers. I also like Echo Audio for the same reason (I have products from both).

I don't understand why you've included in the list the cheapest crap out there as well as some pro gear - you mention a mixer, what is it, do you have an investment in pro gear with XLR and/or TRS input/output, and how much can you spend?
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Old January 9th, 2008, 12:22 PM   #5
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Thanks for the information, Seth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
What do you expect this interface to do?
Every week it will record sermons and presentations from one or two line levels from the mixer. I'll do some post and make an Audio CD. We need to record on Location about four times per year, so USB gives us portability.

I'm also considering the idea of using it for video production with a clapper and sync in post (vs. recording direct to XH A1), in which case it would record all kinds of audio.

I wont be using it for output at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
For an external sound card, many people like the M-Audio Firewire 410 as a minimum companion to their edit station - it has enough outputs for a 5.1 mix, it's firewire, therefore lower latency than USB devices, and good quality.
I don't need to worry about latency if all I'm doing is recording, right?

I've had terrible experience with firewire devices. At least three camera firewire ports have fried or (literally) fallen apart on me, despite treating two of them with ultimate care. I'm just glad it only cost $200 to get them repaired, and not $1,300 like I've seen for pro cameras.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
I don't understand why you've included in the list the cheapest crap out there as well as some pro gear
Just trying to be comprehensive in my research. I thought it might be useful to others.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
- you mention a mixer, what is it, do you have an investment in pro gear with XLR and/or TRS input/output, and how much can you spend?
Our gear is mostly cheap junk, but I'm trying to turn that around. We have a 32-channel Peavey analog mixer (I forget the model number), Canon XH A1, Shure lav, Sennheiser FreePort receiver, Rode VideoMic, and a half-dozen other wireless handhelds. One new Macbook Pro C2D (10.5 and Windows XP with Boot Camp) and two 3-year-old Windows XP laptops.

As far as budget, I think $200 would be a prudent maximum for our situation, but like everyone, I want to get something that's the right size for our needs. Thanks again for your response.
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Old January 9th, 2008, 02:13 PM   #6
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I can highly recommend the E-MU products.

I have used for a long time the 1812m on a large computer. On my laptop I use the 1616m. Both have proven to be outstanding for the money.

On your list then, I strongly suggest you look at the 0404 USB:
http://www.emu.com/products/product....Specifications

This unit is small, yet it has every input you could needmk among them:

You can input two balanced or unbalanced line levels. Or you can input two balanced mic level signals (with a 5db soft limiter on the input).

The mic preamps are very good. The A/D converters are very good. (The m versions in some E-MU products respresents slightly better converters, but not significant for your use, and it appears the 0404 does not come in that version anyway.)

This device also has S/PDIF in/out, both optical and coaxial.

You don't think you will need one of the features, but then someone will give you a mini-disc recorder, for example, and want you to input it... or you'll wnat to send your audio out to some device, etc. etc.

The E-MU has soft limiters on the inputs which can be useful.

For price/quality/features/size I don't think this limit unit can be beaten, and it's worth taking a look at.

With two combo balanced line and mic inputs you can plug any of your pro mics directly into this, as well as taking a line feed from your mixer. The inputs are combo in the sense that they are 1/4" TRS and XLR in the same input. The center is the 1/4" balanced line input. The outide is the XLR balanced mic level input. (You don't have to use both as mic or both as line. The inputs are independent of one another. You can record directly from a mic into the computer (such as for a voiceover) or you can input from your mixer.

This unit also comes with a very nice software bundle that may be very helpful. You won't have to buy anything to do audio editing or even work with midi. The software is lite versions of larger programs, but the included version is very usable without the over complication of the expensive parent.

This unit has low latency drivers and works with ASIO2. Latency can be a significant issue no matter what you are doing. You want a low latency device in my opinion, and you want to use ASIO2 drivers on your sound card.

(Note: The 0404 also comes in an older PCI version which turns up if you do a search.)

(The 0202 you list is not what you want. It has only one input.)
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Old January 9th, 2008, 07:05 PM   #7
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Right - for recording only you don't worry about latency.

Haven't used EMU. I do also have to say that I've not used most of what's on the list. Obviously, some is from consumer music companies, some from audio companies, etc.

The M-Audio MobilePre might be right up your alley if you're happy with 16bit. A reasonably good product and good product support and driver updates. It should take an XLR or TRS output from your PV mixer just fine.

Note that many sound reinforcement mixers are very typically not run at anything close to line-level. Many SR operators couldn't care less about gain structure appropriate to line-level recording, just want to be sure they don't overdrive their preamps yet not too much noise. So, this is likely an area of focus, to set up a gain structure good both for the house and the recording.
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Old January 9th, 2008, 07:20 PM   #8
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Thanks, folks. All 32 channels, subgroups, and compressors can be assigned to left, right, and/or mono. The SR operator is only using mono, and they've given me free reign to configure the L/R as needed for a gain staging.
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