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Audio Production from the Field
You'll need some mic-level preamps as the next part of the system. If you only expect to use four microphones (or less) then you could consider a USB interface that makes the microphone signals available to record on a laptop computer. If you need more than four, likely you'll use an outboard mixer, followed by a USB interface. Options abound for this part. Let's say you just need two inputs - with adjustable gain so that you can use mic or line levels. Presonus offers the AudioBox USB: two inputs, with adjustable gain, a small headphone mixer; and an overall gain trim. TRS output pair. Phantom power is an option. A/D resolution is 24-bit (44.1 or 48kHz sample rate). The device is powered via the USB bus.
Another option is the Avid MobilePre. It has two front-panel XLR/TRS combo inputs that can be set as mic-level (with phantom) or as direct inputs, and two rear panel 1/4" connectors for line-level inputs. A front-panel button is used to switch between the two. (Inputs sample at 48kHz/24-bit word length.) Front panel knobs are used for adjusting the input and output levels, as well as headphone level. This device is powered over the USB bus.
Perhaps two inputs aren't enough, but four are; in that case you could consider the Akai EIE Pro. This device has four XLR/TRS combo inputs, switchable between line/mic level (with front panel gain trims) or alternatively each input can be set as a DI (direct interface). Outputs are on TRS connectors. Sample rate can be 44.1, 48, 88.2 or 96kHz; 24-bit word length. Even though it has four channels, it isn't a mixer; you can switch its front panel VU meters, and the headphone amp input, between channel pairs 1 and 2, in or out, and 3 and 4, in or out. It connects to your laptop via USB of course, and in addition, it has a three-port USB hub built in to the rear apron. The EIE pro comes with a power adaptor - evidently the USB bus is not sufficient to power this device.
Perhaps you have in mind to record larger groups of musicians and find you need a larger outboard mixer that will still feed an editing program residing on a laptop. In that case it would be worthwhile looking at the Mackie ProFX12. It's a 12-input mixer, including six mic-level inputs (via XLR) with phantom voltage available, and 12 line-level inputs (via TRS). One of the 12 can be operated as a DI. Each of the inputs has a three-band EQ. It has four stereo buses, with one set of XLR balanced outputs on the rear apron, one TRS set on the front, and of course the USB I/O.
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