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):
         com.apple.driver.AppleFWAudio(2.4.0fc8)@0x5b445000->0x5b493fff
            dependency: com.apple.iokit.IOFireWireFamily(3.4.0)@0x76d000
            dependency: com.apple.iokit.IOFireWireAVC(2.2.1)@0x976000
            dependency: com.apple.iokit.IOAudioFamily(1.6.4b7)@0x986000
         com.apple.iokit.IOAudioFamily(1.6.4b7)@0x986000->0x99cfff
            dependency: com.apple.kext.OSvKernDSPLib(1.1)@0x973000

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.

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