Side by Side: USB Audio Interfaces
It used to be that getting audio in and out of a computer was more magic and wizardry than computer science. Today, every device has some audio capability. The quality of the stock on-board hardware is not always the best, and it's limited to a single connection. For installed systems, a professional sound card can provide the needed quality and features. But for portable use, a peripheral device is the simplest way to enhance the audio I/O while still keeping the setup compact.
While investigating options, we found plenty of USB-capable devices. We found some Firewire devices as well, but given the proliferation of USB on portable computers, we stuck with that connection. We also looked for interfaces that had at least a mic and a line input. Most have more, including digital I/O. We also chose units that were powered by the USB connection without needing an external power supply.
While these interfaces have a natural use in field production, we also found them to be useful in small editing setups, such as new work stations and even some production setups.
|Model||Lexicon Alpha||Digigram Cancun 222-Mic||Alesis iO2 Express||M-Audio MobilePre||Roland Tri-Capture|
|Mic||1x XLR||2x XLR*||2x XLR||2x Combo*||1x XLR|
|Line||2x 1/4" TRS||2x XLR*||2x 1/4" TRS||2x 1/4" TRS||2x RCA|
|Other||Hi-Z 1/4" TS||-||MIDI, Inserts||Hi-Z 2x Combo*||Hi-Z 1/4" TS|
|Line||2x 1/4" TRS, 2x RCA||2x XLR||2x 1/4" TRS||2x 1/4" TRS||2x 1/4" TRS|
|Sampling Rates (kHz)||44.1, 48||32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 192||up to 48||44.1, 48||44.1, 48, 96|
|Bit Depth||24||8, 16, 20, 24||16, 24||16, 24||16, 24|
|Level Controls||Ch. 1/Inst, Ch. 2/Mic, Monitor Mix, Output Level||Assignable Level Control, Headphone Level||Ch. 1 Gain, Ch. 2 Gain, Monitor Mix, Main Level, Headphone Level||Ch. 1 Gain, Ch. 2 Gain, Headphone, Line Out||Ch. 1, Ch. 2, Ch. 3, Headphone|
|Metering||Peak LEDs||LED Bar Meters||LED Bar Meter||LED Signal and Clip||LED Signal and Peak, LED Bar|
|Power Source||USB connection|
|OS||Windows or Mac|
|Dimensions (in)||6.75 x 6.5 x 1.6||10 x 3.8 x 1||6.2 x 5 x 2||9.5 x 7.7 x 2.2||6.75 x 5.3 x 1.6|
|Extras||Cubase LE 5||-||Cubase LE||Pro Tools SE||Cakewalk Sonar X1 LE|
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