USB audio interfaces + garageband + Macbook

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by Shoot, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. Shoot macrumors regular

    Oct 17, 2008
    I am thinking of getting the new macbook and using it in my day to day demo recordings however I have heard that USB isn't fast enough to layer tracks without latency (i.e record guitar, then record vocals over that, then record accomp over that etc.)
    i need to know that if I bought a usb audio interface such as the 'm-audio mobile pre usb' i wouldn't be having to manually move tracks about to line up the audio.

    I don't want people arguing about firewire in here, just tell me if it can work as this is 1000+ pounds i am spending.

    Also, is four gigs of ram going to cover the next version of OSX? and by cover i dont mean support with all settings turned off.
  2. dinaluvsApple macrumors regular

    Oct 14, 2008
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    if firewire bothers you so much, get the pro.
    macbook 13 is for casual computer users.
  3. Shoot thread starter macrumors regular

    Oct 17, 2008
    why is everybody so jumpy when firewire is mentioned - read my post!
    I want to know if USB will suffice, i don't want firewire - it's usb or nothing as the Pro is too big for me to lug about.
  4. ACiB708 macrumors regular

    Apr 6, 2008
    Yes, please help, I'm getting a Macbook (new one) and they have no FW support, so, will USB be good enough? and which audio interface would you recommend? thanks!
  5. Dybbuk macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2006
    for people who love casually spending $1300, this is the computer for you
  6. Chaos123x macrumors 68000

    Jul 8, 2008
    Sorry USB does not have the sustained data rate and low latency of firewire.

    So no matter what USB 2.0 system you get you will take a serious performance hit.
  7. polaris20 macrumors 68020

    Jul 13, 2008
    Sorry, but this is completely false, and as it applies to this thread you couldn't be more incorrect. USB2.0 can handle audio streams just fine, especially when it's 2x2, as the OP is describing.

    I love people who make blanket statements about things, but that's par for the course here at MR.

    To the OP, get a USB2 device like a Tascam US-144, as it's roughly the same size, but does full 24/96 recording 2x2.

    Also, no you won't have to move tracks or line them up. When using USB2, I get 5ms latency even when running verbs and Guitar Rig simultaneously for my guitar tones.
  8. kubricks macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2008
    Bottom line is you likely wont be happy with a USB 2.0 audio device, especially if you are tracking multiple inputs simultaneously. Depending on your specific circumstance, it could work if you stick to single track recordings. Your latency should be decent enough, although I wouldn't trust it much for serious stuff or higher bit rates, again depending on how many tracks you are recording at once. If you were trying to use midi or electronic drums with something like BFD2 you might not be happy.

    You basically need to buy the Pro, then an adapter to get your audio to work on the fw800.

    Or buy an older plastic Macbook with firewire and deal with the case cracking issues and inferior machine.

    Or get a windows notebook.
  9. kubricks macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2008
    He is also concerned about latency. USB 2.0 does not, in my experience, let you push your latency down as far as firewire. Also lags or spikes over the USB can be a problem. Depending on what he's doing, if he is running FX on multiple channels this could be an issue. If you are doing simple no FX multitracking in Garageband, you might be ok, if you don't mind working with a 16ms+ lag. Best thing is to ask someone who has a USB 2 sound card. I'd even be interested in some benchmarks from someone who has one, including minimum latency settings, track counts, fx inserts etc.
  10. polaris20 macrumors 68020

    Jul 13, 2008
    5ms is so low that it's imperceivable. You're not going to get much lower than that on FW, if at all. I don't, when using my Firebox.

    Sorry, but again I have to disagree, when I'm getting 24/96 on my USB2.0 with multiple tracks, and my friend runs a MOTU 828MkII USB2.0 with 8 tracks at a time. No glitch, low latency.
  11. kubricks macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2008
    Agreed. I have a Firebox as well and I don't notice any lag at even 8ms. I'm saying that with any serious session you'll likely get some crackling on your playback with a USB 2.0 sound card faster than a firewire card. I suspect much sooner as you start increasing your track counts.

    I'd like to see reported latency and performance on a USB device (like a Presonus Audiobox USB) when running 6-10 tracks of VSTi with FX, or whe recording more than 4 simultaneous 24/96 inputs.


    Well that's good news about the MOTU if you mean 8 inputs recorded simultaneously. What is your friend using for a computer?

    If you feel like testing this out and you're using a USB card, you might calm a few people down, including myself:

    Load up a session in Logic or Cubase/Ableton/Reaper etc, 6-10 tracks. VSTi's with midi data on each channel. 3-4 insert effects on each channel, with half of the tracks having a reverb. Plus something like a Waves L3 on your master channel. And report your playback. Maybe even adding channels until you notice it choking, all with a setting under 10ms latency :)
  12. iconsumer macrumors newbie

    Oct 11, 2008
    I was worried about this as well, but I went ahead and got a M-Audio Fast Track Pro (best deal is from interface and haven't had any trouble recording with it thus far.
  13. thechidz macrumors 68000


    Jul 25, 2007
    New York City
    well, the apogee duet is awesome but alas, is firewire (and not the kind of firewire the new pros have). I guess apple kinda screwed apogee on that one:rolleyes:
  14. kubricks macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2008
    Well if people are reporting decent recording then that's good news for the recorders.

    I'd really like to hear feedback on a midi/vsti session with high track counts + FX though. That's another ballgame altogether, and still doesn't address external storage w/ audio applications.

    I should head over to gearslutz...
  15. polaris20 macrumors 68020

    Jul 13, 2008
    I agree you'd get it sooner on USB2 as well. My point wasn't that USB2 Is equal to FW in performance, but only that it's not useless for recording, as others have said.

    I'd be happy to do a test, but with 2 caveats; first, currently I'm recording on a T61p (see sig) with Reaper, as I don't get my MB until Thursday or Friday of this coming week.

    Secondly, I don't have easy access to the Motu, since it's in my buddy's rack at his house. I could however record with my UX2. not the high simultaneous track count he gets of course, but it would still show latency with USB2 with other tracks going.

    Let me know if you want to wait until I have the MB for a more applicable test for this forum (though I highly doubt the MB would perform worse than an XP equipped Thinkpad).

    Perhaps a test in GarageBand with something everyone with a Mac would have immediate access to? GB obviously has verbs and instruments, plus loops too. It'd probably be the most fair, unless you disagree.

    I'm all for showing how good (or how bad) it is. I just don't like stuff getting misrepresented.
  16. polaris20 macrumors 68020

    Jul 13, 2008
    I do think removing Fw was a bad idea, especially as it pertains to external storage.

    But also I find it absolutely necessary to toss a 7200rpm HD in any laptop doing audio, especially since they've gotten so cheap these days. It makes up for the lack of FW a little. Just a little :D
  17. kubricks macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2008
    Well my interest is first in MIDI and VSTi. I hardly record more than 1 track of audio simultaneously.

    Great to hear that you're using REAPER. Basically I'd just want to see a regular high-ish (6+) track count using VSTi (especially 1 channel with BFD2 type of instrument, battery 3 and some non sample based synths!), maybe a few audio channels, each with typical FX (verbs, compression, EQ, saturation, delays... whatever) with some typical plugs on the master buss, on a DAW other than Garageband (Logic, Ableton, REAPER, Cubase etc). Obviously this is highly variable depending on what VST you are using, but at least it's something.

    Even duplicating tracks until you choke it would be a helpful test.

    I think you can actually download some benchmark sessions for Logic or Cubase that uses the onboard stuff. Not sure where though.

    I'm sure other users would be interested in a session with the MOTU as well, but not me.

    All of this done on a Macbook with a USB 2.0 card with latency set at 10ms or lower.
  18. polaris20 macrumors 68020

    Jul 13, 2008
    Well then let's do Reaper on OSX, and I've got EZ Drummer with the DKFH add-on, plus I can throw in some other virtual instruments too. Several tracks until it chokes at 10ms or less? Can do! This should be cool.

    Bookmarked for this coming week!
  19. kubricks macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2008
    Sounds great. I will be using REAPER on OSX as soon as it catches up to the Windows version.

    This might give a good idea what someone can expect if they compromise their firewire setup for a cheap USB in order to use the 13" Macbook or get in on that lower price point.

    A big help. Looking forward to it.

    I'd post that over in the REAPER forums too once you do it. Likely a lot of interest there as well.


    One more thing to note. The new Macbook Pro's are using the **** Lucent driver for the firewire again, indicating that they aren't using the TI chipset. RME and many other manufacturers devoted pages and pages of forum support for these problematic chipsets. Seems now that saying 'buy a Macbook Pro if you want firewire' may not be any kind of solution at all for audio heads.
  20. Chaos123x macrumors 68000

    Jul 8, 2008
    why are their so many people so down on blanket statements?

    Do you really want to read a 200 page report with in depth look at every aspect of each benefit of a each product?

    Of course some USB 2.0 products are good but in general FireWire is better.

    I mean a PC can be used for audio too but most pros use macs.
  21. paolo- macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2008
    Actually, it would probably have been a safer bet to use the firewire port for an external HDD as using the internal HDD for recording puts lots of stress on it, if it's reading the DAW, the OS, the V-ram and the plug-ins on top of having to write things at a very high speed. That's what most pros do, no daisy chaining an I/O with an HDD. Though I guess if one had two firewire ports it would probably be better than USB...

    As for USB for recording, there's no problem, I've recorded midi and stereo tracks (all at the same time) on top of quite big sessions without a problem on an iMac. Mind you, stay away from the Tascam us-144l, the stereo tracks bleed into each other, (ie, sound from input one gets a bit into input two, hearing yourself sing on an DI electric guitar track)..
  22. polaris20 macrumors 68020

    Jul 13, 2008
    I really have to answer why blanket statements are bad? Really?
    They're bad because when they aren't 100% true as in this case (and rarely are they ever 100% true) they are doing a disservice to people reading this thread. Audio recording can be done with USB2. I don't recall anyone in this thread saying it's as good as FW, or even equal. But that doesn't mean it is useless. Quite the contrary.
    That's as bad as the other threads where people are saying USB2 is useless for video, and that the only USB2 cameras are cheap Minos and Aipteks. Well no, that's not true either. Both Canon and Sony make HD camcorders costing over a grand that do 1920x1080, and only use USB2. Are they pro? No. But there are other levels besides Pro and nothing at all.
  23. emotion macrumors 68040


    Mar 29, 2004
    Manchester, UK
    I'm getting a new Macbook. I will need to replace my lovely Echo Audiofire2 with a USB2 interface which is a little bit of a compromise. However I've never been comfortable with hot-plugging firewire. You are meant to power down everything first which is something I very rarely do.

    I've been looking at the Native Instruments interfaces. have the Audio 8 DJ at £262. £192 for the AudioKontrol1.

    Another one to consider is the Novation NIO but that's only USB 1.1.
  24. polaris20 macrumors 68020

    Jul 13, 2008
    I'd stay away from 1.1 because it can't handle 96Khz recording. Check out the M-Audio Fast Track Pro. I haven't played with the NI stuff other than the Rig Kontrol for Guitar Rig, but one of the editors at Mac Life uses one and likes it. Check out Electronic Musician online, they have reviews for a lot of interfaces.
  25. emotion macrumors 68040


    Mar 29, 2004
    Manchester, UK
    Yeah USB 1.1 is too limited, however I never use 96k. Always 24bit 44k for me is good enough.

    Too many horror stories with M-Audio for me to ever consider them. is a good place for reviews too...

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