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Audio interfacing has always tended to be rather unpredictable on computers, especially laptops. What you get can vary with each refresh, with an audio input jack one day and just a headphone socket the next. The argument goes: if it’s that important, buy an external audio interface. If you’re a musician, even well-spec’d …

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The Amstrad of the PC audio world

M-Audio do some decent products but sadly they tend to be rather cheap and cheerful. Two years ago I purchased a professional outboard M-Audio USB soundcard with XLR inputs for work purposes. It went straight back. Not only did the drivers refuse to run on the version of Windows I was running (XP with media centre) M-Audio indicated they had no intention of producing a driver despite it being the current version of Windows. The build quality looked like the box might survive a couple of weeks of use before something fell off.

I sent it back and got an Edirol unit instead. Brillient. Worked fine with my Windows laptop and is now working fine with my Mac. Built like a brick outhouse, I've been carrying mine around for 2 years now.

In short, M-Audio, cheap build quality and poor driver support.

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cheap

I agree. In the pro and semi-pro muso world you really do get what you pay for.

I'm still using my Opcode Sonicport that I bought for £250 in 1999 guess what it's in a solid metal case, now that really is indestructible. These days this faux metal (read: then plastic) is the cheapo ..... oh just cheap

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M-Audio

Were never much to write home about. "Prosumer" gear usually isn't - you won't get much better results out of any of this sort of stuff than you will from an onboard soundcard.

And as for the tonka-toy interface and overpriced hardware that is the "industry standard" protools - don't get me started. Avid make Apple look like amateurs in the lock-in market. Definitely for mouth-breathers only.

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FAIL

Lacking a stereo Input ????

I read as far as it lacking a stereo input, then realised the rating of 45% is very generous.

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Any one considering this for a desktop

Is better off buying a second hand Scope card produced by SonicCore (formerly Creamware). A vast array of synths and FX available for the platform. It also has MIDI IO.

3 (PCI) Cards available - 3, 6 and 14 DSP.

You can have up to 3 cards in one machine enabling you to increase the available DSP power and the available IO (breakout boxes also available to further increase the IO count).

One of the advantages of the Scope platform is the routing environment which is in effect a virtual patchbay making it easy to route audio and MIDI between various apps - no other product on the market does this.

The synths and FX sound amazing. There are also many free plugins available due to the (free) release of the SDK for those with the more powerful 14 DSP card.

Their new (PCI-e) product offers 10 times the power of the 14 DSP card making it THE most powerful DSP product on the market (this can also be used with a laptop).

This system can do things no other system can, including Pro fools, but of course its not a PRO product because it doesnt cost tens of thousands ££s haha

The only dowside is its addictive so you will never have enough DSP (unless you get the new XCITE).

For the record, im just an enthusiast - im in no way associated with SC.

Check Planet Z forum

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onboard

I've been using the onboard sound with Logic with every mac I've bought in the last six years. I don't need an external card, but I do have an ESI U46DJ that I bought to run virtual vinyl software. If you think M-Audio is bad at writing drivers then you'd hate ESI. Their OS X support goes no further than a volume controller.

I have a few bits of M-Audio kit. To me they're like Behringer - cheap gear that does a fair bit for the price but not built to last.

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Troll

way to ruin a good name.

They were better off keeping those brands completely separate, at least some people would still fall for the pro tools myth without cheap junky m-audio gear attached to it.

/happy soniccore scope user.

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Boffin

latency

is a big issue on USB soundcards too.

There is a lot more two it than monitoring the direct input not the recorded signal from the PC, and the downside is a lot worse than not being able to have FX while laying tracks.

If you do any kind of overdubbing, you can monitor direct, but on playback you will wonder why your nice guitar riff seems to lack "punch". Timing is out, isn't it. If the delay is enough to make recording a track hard work, then for sure it is enough to change how the music sounds.

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Anonymous Coward

Daniel: Latency

Daniel: Despite the guitar input being useless/noisey - I've recorded a fair number of rough ideas with this and never had any latency issues. Cubase SX seems to take care of things - I believe I get about 6ms latency when 'monitoring', and once recorded the new recording is automagically shifted to match the rest of the track. I'm very fussy with such things and can say I've never had an issue with this; surely all modern recording software measures latency and adjusts accordingly?

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M-Audio

I've been looking at this package as a cheap way to get a friend onto Pro Tools so we can exchange demos. It's worth mentioning that the Fast Track 2 is now available, which fixes some of the flaws of the Fast Track and also adds phantom power. It still includes Pro Tools M-Powered Essential and still retails for £79:

http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/FastTrack.html

I've been using an M-Audio FireWire 410 for nearly 5 years now, with Pro Tools M-Powered, and I can barely say a bad word about it. The mic preamps are impressively clean for the price range, the routing options are flexible and the whole thing is wrapped in a sturdy metal case that's stood up to its fair share of knocks.

The 410 cost me around £250, so for £79 you can hardly expect the Fast Track reviewed here to live up to the same standards. I also use an M-Audio MIDI controller which is pretty shit though, and I had a shitty pair of M-Audio monitors for a while. However, it's not fair to say all M-Audio gear is shit.

Thumbs down, becaise the thumbs up still has jaggy edges.

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Firewire

"Audio interfacing has always tended to be rather unpredictable on computers, especially laptops."

Not on a Mac with a Firewire audio inteface. I have an Echo Audiofire 12, 24-bit 192Khz 12 channel audio with MIDI. Never had any trouble with it at all.

USB is simply a waste of time for pro-audio, even USB3 will suck, why? CPU load!

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What do you expect for £79?

I've been using one of these for a few years now. The guitar pre is rubbish (far too low gain) but the mic pre works fine. However the main advantage to me us low latency ASIO drivers. Having struggled with terrible latency of 'onboard' soundcards the Fast Track USB made portable laptop-working a possibility. When your instruments are soft synths and you're working away from home you really only need a) low latency drivers and b) a decent noise-free output - which is exactly what this device offers. The inputs are a bonus.

Allan: I've never had a need for a stereo in when on the road - I don't carry racks of hardware synths around with me, so if I do need to record them I'm typically in a studio. If I did carry racks of equipment with me I certainly wouldn't be using a £79 interface.

It is cheap though, the build quality is poor, and it seems poorly shielded; despite trying several different shielded USB cables the device itself picks up all manner of RFI (mobile phone being the worst culprit). For £79 I still can't complain though.

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Our experience with M-Audio

...came to a screeching halt when we discovered that their product was USB 1.1.

I wonder if this one is USB 2.0 yet?

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Unhappy

What else is good at a similar price?

I was really interested in this as I'm looking to record some guitar and vocal tracks for a rough demo but don't have hundreds of pounds to spend. Really disappointing this is only 45% rated and others agree with this. What do you guys recommend getting at a similar price, say up to £100?

Soniccore Scope looks good but even 2nd hand is much more expensive.

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Headmaster

Are you *really* sure the review unit didn't just have an earthing fault?

The bit about the levels of noise on the disconnected mic input just doesn't sound right. I mean, could they really have been so daft as to think that all you need for a mic input is to use an XLR socket, but not actually known to use a balanced-line input configuration with it? Since they've got a follow-up model that does phantom power, they must have used a balanced configuration there (or everything would be on fire), so they must know what one is.

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The "cubase killer" lurches on...

M's firewire interfaces work well for me on the PC side... but then you have to deal with problems inherent with doing audio on the PC. Also, you really want to check M's web site for updated drivers...they seem to ship with drivers that aren't quite finished, but work fine with updates.

As for "Pro" Tools... meh. The only reason to deal with their arrogance is because you're paid to. Since I'm paying for the tools I get to choose who I deal with. Cubase was good back in its day, Logic was good until Apple took it away. These days it's Ableton. There are a *lot* of options, and Digidesign's bad attitude doesn't even make the A list.

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