Audio interfaces

Ah, what audio interface to buy for doing some simple 2 channel recordings into my MacBook Pro?

There’s the Presonus Firebox ($300), which I borrowed from a friend. Sounds pretty good, although the preamp gain (45 dB) is not stellar and no inserts for sticking something like a compressor. It seems to work pretty well in Leopard, although it sometimes disappears and I’ve had to replug it or reboot the computer to get it to show up again. Bus-powered, but you have to plug it in when you first connect it; otherwise it flashes and makes a loud, disturbing clicking sound. No meters; just clip LEDs. Most annoyingly, sometimes when I plug it into my MacBook Pro with OS X 10.5.2, I get a kernel panic:

      Kernel loadable modules in backtrace (with dependencies):>0x5b493fff

Presonus has a higher-end model called the FireStudio Project, which looks nice on paper. Goes for $500. More channels (more than I need). Better preamp gain (60 dB vs. 45 dB for the Firebox) and dynamic range on the A/D converters (114 dB vs. 108 dB for the Firebox). Has inserts and meters and an interesting-sounding software bundle. Unfortunately, it seems to have a lot of problems with Leopard and/or the new Firewire chipset on newer Macs:

Another option is the Apogee Duet ($500). I can’t find reliable-looking specs on the preamps or A/D converters (BSW claims the preamps have 75 dB of gain), but there seems to be a favorable impression of the sound quality (similar to its big brother, the $1900+ Ensemble) and the usability and aesthetics. Haven’t heard any complaints about Leopard or general stability. It looks pretty nice and even has meters with 7 LEDs. No inserts though. And it’s Mac only and Core Audio only. I have a Mac, so that’s not too bad, though it might be nice to have something that works with a PC in case I’m out of the house and jamming with other folks.

XO Wave Free

While cruising freshmeat the other day, I stumbled upon a free multi-track digital audio program called XO Wave.

I played with it. I didn’t care for the UI, which was very un-Mac-like and looked like it might’ve resulted from porting the app from another platform. I also found the latency to be pretty poor (this is with a Santa Rosa MacBook Pro and an M-Audio MobilePre USB audio interface). I tried playing with some of the settings like the size of the playback buffers, but to no avail.

Since I already own Logic Express, I gave up rather quickly on XO Wave and used Logic Express, with much better results.