Digidesign’s Mbox is a low-cost system for recording, editing and mixing up to 24 tracks of audio that includes an audio interface with Pro Tools LE software. The interface connects to a computer via USB – ideal for use with laptops. The Mbox requires a free USB port on the computer to connect to – it will not work with a USB hub – which could make things awkward with some setups. However, the Mbox takes its power from the USB port, so no power adaptor is needed – a distinct advantage for portables.
Compact in size, Mbox measures just over 6-inches high, 3.5-half inches wide, and 7-inches deep. It has two analogue audio inputs into which you can feed a microphone, a line-level signal or a direct instrument signal via the XLR/¼-inch jack combination connector. It also has two channels of S/PDIF digital I/O. The microphone pre-amplifiers were designed by Focusrite for the best quality at this price.
The high-impedance line input has a low-noise setting for use with electric instruments such as guitar, bass or keyboard. The A/D (analogue-to-digital) and D/A converters and the S/PDIF I/O are all 24-bit, working at either 44.1 or 48kHz-sampling rates. The analogue outputs are available via balanced ¼-inch jacks that can also provide unbalanced output if necessary. A pair of analogue inserts is also provided using TRS ¼-inch jacks to hook-up outboard processors while recording to disk. There’s a 1/8-inch mini headphone jack on the front panel with a volume knob and mono button. A standard ¼-inch headphone jack is also available.
The Mix control is great – it can blend the sound of anything plugged into the Mbox with the playback from Pro Tools LE. This is ideal, especially when overdubbing, to avoid the latency delay that normally appears when you monitor inputs through the software (via A/D, the computer CPU, then D/A) and back out to the speakers.
If you want a portable recording studio for a laptop – then you need Mbox. If you want to learn Pro Tools before investing in an expensive professional system – then you need MBox. If you are on a budget, but want to make a start working with the industry-standard digital-audio workstation – then you need Mbox. If you already have a Pro Tools system at the studio and want to take work home to review and edit – then you need Mbox.