Advice on the right USB Audio Interface for my budget

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by oozeymc, Oct 16, 2010.

  1. oozeymc macrumors newbie

    Jul 19, 2010

    I've recently got an iMac and via Garageband have had my eyes opened to the potential for my Mac to be used as a sort of amateur recording studio. I say amateur, because whilst being an experienced guitarist I'm not the most technically minded or able of people!

    After playing around recording my guitar and voice just analogue with the iMac's microphone, I've seen that I basically need a USB Audio Interface to achieve any sort of decent quality.

    My questions is: given my budget of c£200, what should I be looking at to achieve a good result for my simplistic guitar and voice style. I obviously need something that integrates well with Garageband, which looks to me like a fantastic programme to be included for free and is probably better for my limited technical capacity than something like Logic or Pro Tools! My music style is very much old fashioned rock/folk/pop - along the lines of the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks and the La's - so I'm not going to be needing anything particularly advanced, I don't think.

    I've seen the Apogee Duet, which looks very nice, but is a little more than I was wanting to pay really. Has anyone got any recommendations for me to help me out? Or is the Apogee Duet worth the wait and the extra 100 beans?

  2. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    Rule #1:
    If you have a new iMac, you have a firewire port. Whatever interface you get, MAKE SURE it is firewire-based, and _is not_ USB. For audio recording, firewire provides a much smoother means of connection -- lower latency, higher bandwith. Perhaps the most important reason to "go firewire" is that there are no "driver conflicts" (firewire interfaces connect via the "CORE Audio drivers" that are built into the Mac OS). USB interfaces require 3rd-party "drivers", and some users have had no end of headaches due to driver conflicts and problems.

    That said, you might also consider browsing the forums at, where the "audio guys" hang out.

    I started out using a Presonus "Firebox" (since superseded by newer models), which was a pretty decent product. I now use an Echo "AudioFire8" which is even better. One of the easiest peripherals I've ever set up, the longest time is finding a place for it on the desk and making the physical connections. Then, turn it on, and the Mac "saw it" immediately and made it available to my audio applications.

    You might check into the Echo AudioFire4, which offers a full complement of inputs at a good price.

    Also, you may find that as your needs grow that GarageBand doesn't offer enough. If that happens, I suggest you check out Steinberg's "Cubase" application. It offers both a full complement of features _and_ a relatively easy learning curve. Most Mac people seem to buy Logic "by default", without a lot of investigation of "what else it out there". But I've found Cubase far FAR easier to learn and use than Logic.

    Cubase comes in several versions. The "fullest" version you probably don't want (and it's $500 anyway). There is also a "free version" (Cubase LE) that comes "bundled" with some interfaces. And there is an "in-between" version called "Cubase Essentials" that sells (in a student version) for $99 (US) or $150 (non-students).
  3. oozeymc thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 19, 2010
    Thanks for this - very useful.

    Didn't realise about the difference between USB and firewire - as I say I'm not the most technically minded of folks.

    £240 for the EchoFire4 seems reasonable. £400 for the '8' is a bit beyond my budget and I'd rather wait and see how I get on with a lower end product and get more sophisticated as I hopefully become more in-tune with the tech.

    Thanks for the heads up on Cubase. I'm aware of that programme. I just think Garageband will serve will well in earnest. I like how simple it is to use. I basically want to get a couple of guitar tracks down, a two or three part harmony vocal and that's about me done! But maybe I'll become more adventurous as tome goes on.

    Cheers for your advice Fishrrman.
  4. firestarter macrumors 603


    Dec 31, 2002
    Green and pleasant land
    I don't agree with the firewire recommendation.

    Apple has stopped supporting firewire on their lower end laptops and I don't think they can be trusted to continue support on their desktops - particularly if/when USB3 comes out.

    On a small 2in 2out interface the bandwidth requirements aren't that massive and you should be able to achieve good low latency even using USB.

    I have a MOTU UltraLite - but I've just ordered a Mackie Blackjack USB interface to use with my MacBook. The Mackie looks great - has some OK preamps and Hi-Z input so it's great to DI guitar. £140 from iMuso.

    The Mackie uses Apple's built in USB audio drivers, so there should be none of these incompatibility issues that Fishrrman alludes to.

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