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Old January 24th, 2005, 03:54 PM   #1
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USB, 1394 or other connections for PC audio?

I have been looking for a good way to get portable audio for my small sessions into a few differing PCs. All have USB 2.0 or 1394 (I prefer to use USB to not upset the connection of decks, etc) and was wondering if the MAudio USB pre/midi boxes were any good for this sort of thing?

I figure it saves me from Cardbus systems or swapping out soundcards on everything and would give me a decent front end for the HP laptop.

You can find some variations here:
http://www.maudio.co.uk/index.php?do=products.list&ID=mobileinterfaces

Sean
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Old January 24th, 2005, 10:01 PM   #2
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Hey Sean,

How many ins/outs do you need?
How many channels are you looking to capture?
What (if any) sequencing program are you using to record with (this is less significant nowadays since compatibility is fairly spot-on across the board)?
What resolution and sample rate do you require?
Do you need complete portability, i.e. will you have times that you will be using the setup sans AC power (unit will be bus or battery powered)?
Will you need signal routing flexbility?
Do you prefer rack mount or break-out box style?
Most importantly, what's your budget?

What type of small sessions will you be using this setup for? I'm also assuming that you'll need XLR jacks and phantom power for your mics. Will you need TRS connections for line-in devices?

M-audio makes good products in this vein, esp. their firewire based devices. Break-out box style alternatives can be had via Edirol, Tascam, Digidesign, Behringer, Lexicon, Core Sound, Apogee Electronics, and Sound Devices.

Rack-mount alternatives can be found with Edirol, Presonus, and Digidesign.

I'm sure I'm leaving lots out, but someone will jump in to fill the gaps.

I've personally used computer interface products from Edirol, M-Audio, and Digidesign. They've all done a good job for the product they are. I've had driver issues a while back with USB 1.1 devices from Edirol and M-Audio, but recent units running on Windows XP don't seem to have caused much trouble for me. (though my Tascam US-122 still hangs my laptop if I try to send it to 'standby' without first unplugging the Tascam unit... minor nit...)

Apogee units have a strong reputation for excellent quality with a price tag to match. All Sound Devices products I've used are superb quality, though I've never used (nor do I have any secondary info on) their USBPre.

Narrow down your requirements and you'll probably get some good rec's from all sides.
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Old January 24th, 2005, 10:07 PM   #3
 
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AVOID usb, in almost all cases. USB is run through the processor, and other than a 2 channel input, you'll have latency issues, and even with a 2 channel, you can sometimes have latency as well. Go cardbus or 1394 for best results.
Echo, M-Audio, MOTU if you're a Mac user all have good cards. Aardvark made a good card, they've closed their doors. EMU just announced and showed a new card system that on first test was very good.
Lotsa cards out there, but you'll want something with a good history and stability. 24/96 is a must, 24/192 is a nice thing to have access to for some types of recording.
I use the Echo Indigo on my laptop almost exlusively, but use the Layla for the 8 input needs.
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Old January 25th, 2005, 06:09 AM   #4
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Hi DSE,

Are you at NAMM? I saw on a keyboard forum that someone has just introduced a large format condenser mic with a USB connector on the end.

Also, even though Sean indicated he wanted to stay off the 1394 bus, MLAN is a possibility using the Yamaha 01/X as outboard mix console. I plan to add the MLAN board to my Motif ES7 soon. It will allow simultaneous midi and 16 ch audio to run in realtime between workstation and PC. The good news is that you can route your sequenced audio out through the MLAN to utilize the on board hardware effects on the ES as opposed to eating CPU power with VST plug-ins.

Anyway, take care. It was good to meet up with you here in Dallas.

regards,

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Old January 25th, 2005, 08:03 AM   #5
 
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I WAS at NAMM, now at Sundance Film Fest in Pk City, UT. Crazy stuff going on here, but it's a great time.
Samson introducted a USB mic at NAMM, but I didn't get to hear it. Too busy with our own booth and running around.

I hope to be back in Dallas soon, maybe we can do another user group meeting.
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Old January 25th, 2005, 10:23 AM   #6
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I suppose I should have narrowed the questions a bit by explaining what I am doing. All I want is to get a single mic, maybe 2 into my Avid NLE. I run Xpress Pro.

Anything on the 1394 bus upsets the delicate balance of DSR tape decks as no matter wht people tell me, if I plug anything more than one device in, it bumps the existing devices off the bus as far as control. That is, with the DSR deck plugged in a nd working nicely, if I plug in say a camera or firewire drive, the deck gets bumped off the line.

I use USB external drives for editing DV25 footage and they work very very well for me so I am sticking with that layout for as long as it remians trouble free.

Anyway, I just need to get a voice over mic in and since I teravel with the big HP laptop everywhere, if I can find a small enough box, I could grab sound anywhere.

I admit a small cardbus unit sounds nice for the laptop but that still leaves the bigger box without anything.

I was looking at the MAudio Fasttrack unit:

http://www.maudio.co.uk/products/en_gb/FastTrackUSB-main.html

Ordered a set of Behringer 2031a monitors yesterday. I hear they are OK for the price range. I just want as flat as I can get with decent power for my small video operation. That should be a benchmark of where I am on pricing.

Thanks guys.

Douglas, saw you in the ad in "Studio" for DVRack. I think it's a great tool too. We need monitoring for firewire.

Sean
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Old January 25th, 2005, 03:15 PM   #7
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Hey Sean,

At the around $100 price range you indicated, there's not much available. I think you've already identified the one computer interface with a micpre at that price range, i.e. the FastTrack. I know Art announced recently that they are releasing, in the upcoming months, a competitive product. I don't know of anything else at the $100 mark AND very portable form factor that competes.

I can't comment on any of the above since I haven't tried them, nor do I know of anyone who has. For portability, I've been happy with the Tascam US-122. It's USB bus powered, records 2-ch. at up to 24/48, can perform with extremely low latency (in Sonar 3, down to around 6ms on my laptop, if you aren't trying to apply fx at the same time), and has micpre's that do the job but won't 'WOW' you. It's extremely portable and (for me) having a mono switch right on the box to check for phase issues is extremely handy for when I do stereo recordings or when I'm just recording one channel (normal op defaults each channel to L/R). The unit runs about double that of the FastTrack, but the extra channel, bit resolution, and features are worth it to me.

One thing though, Douglas is right about USB protocol using CPU cycles for data traffic management. This adds lots of processing overhead (esp. at low latency settings), so you'll have to gauge how much processor power you're using when you're recording. This may not be an issue if you purchase a device that allows you to do direct monitoring (also marketed as "zero latency monitoring"). That just means you can monitor what you're recording right from the interface before the audio gets passed through your laptop. I've never recorded with AVID before, so I don't know if it has latency compensation. Most audio sequencers nowadays do. So, all in all, it just really depends on your situation.

Hope this helps some!
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Old January 27th, 2005, 10:43 PM   #8
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Sound Devices makes the USB Pre. Two channel, very nice, lots of inputs and outputs for other pieces of audio gear.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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