Field Report: Avid Mbox Mini
Ever since I got my netbook computer I've tried every way I could think of to turn it into a fully functional production studio. I've had some success and failures in this attempt. USB mics made for some ease but at times seemed limited, and some mixing boards with USB interface were nice but portability became limited. Now, with the Avid Mbox Mini, I think I have found the perfect combination of size and functionality.
An audio interface for a computer, the Mbox Mini can provide phantom power for a condenser mic, direct line-in inputs for musical instruments or audio components, and features capture and mix for high-quality sessions, with up to 24-bit/48kHz audio resolution. The unit I received was the Pro Tools Mbox Mini, which is shipped with a copy of Pro Tools LE. I have worked with Pro Tools before but I'm more comfortable with Adobe Audition. I thought I might have to switch my software for this and installed Pro Tools. After the install, out of curiousity, I tried Audition with the unit. Audition recognized the hardware no problem, and all the production work using the two together was flawless. In fact Avid's website says you can use Mbox Mini with any Core Audio- or ASIO-compatible software, such as Logic, Live, Record, Reason, Digital Performer, Fruity Loops, Cubase, Nuendo, Sonar and more. I tried the unit with Pro Tools, but the bulk of my production was done through Audition only out of habit.
Not only do I use my laptop for production for the radio station, but I also have friends and family who have bands and are always looking for clean recordings, so I took my laptop, a bag of mics, and a small PA system and set to work putting this unit through the works.
First off was what I considered a test of all tests: I have an old Shure 55s mic that I treat as my baby. I love the feel, sound and look of this mic and use it whenever possible. For the longest time I had the mic shelved because I couldn't use it with my portable production studio. The Mbox Mini made it possible to bring this dinosaur out of the vault and use it again. It even made the sound of this mic a little better. I believe I was able to brighten the sound using this unit. I also tried the Mbox Mini with a couple of handheld mics and a condensor mic that I have recently considered my second favorite mic (the AT4040). The unit was the perfect interface between any mic I chose and my netbook computer. I should probably mention that my netbook is a Windows 7 computer. With this unit I am no longer limited in mic selection.
|Performance at a glance|
Compatible with most major audio software
Up to 24-bit/48kHz sample rates
2 x 2 simultaneous channels of I/O
Compact size fits in laptop case
Weighs less than 2lbs
The other feature I was able to use in the Mbox Mini is the ability to directly connect musical instruments into my computer. The musicians would connect directly from their amps into the Mbox Mini and then into my production software to create some really nice multi-track recordings. The musicians were able to get the sound they wanted and have the unit give a completely accurate output of the sound. I was able to run a line out using the front headphone jack of the unit to a PA and give the musicians control over how much of the mix they wanted, either more of what they were playing or more of the track they were playing over in real-time. Some of the mixing boards I have tried in the past would have a bit of a delay between live and recorded output and made it difficult for some recordings. This time around, for example, the vocalist could hear the music and sing perfectly with the track. Any production director who composes his/her own music for commercials, would love this unit.
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