So, I wanted to know who feels strongly enough about their portable audio interface to say that they love it. My experience is that most peoples feelings on this subject could be summed up with “meh.” For the most part, this is how I’ve felt about it as well.
I’ve owned a few of the portable interfaces mentioned in yesterday’s poll: Apogee Duet, RME Fireface 400, NI Audio Kontrol 1. Here are a few thoughts:
Duet: Great sounding and well made unit. I had one on loan for a while from Apogee while I was working on the Live Power book. I decided not to buy it because for two reasons: I need the ability to Cue so the two outputs is a deal breaker and for gigs, I want more front panel hardware control – pretty much everything on the Duet happens in the (excellent) Maestro software.
However, I liked The Duet enough that I went out and bought an Ensemble for my studio. I LOVE my Ensemble. Apogee makes great stuff and stands behind it.
Fireface 400: This thing is a monster. You pay for it, but the value packed into this box is nuts. If all you ever do with this thing is play gigs, it might be overkill – this box is great if you are traveling and you want to be prepared to do just about anything.
The only thing I didn’t like about the fireface was the software. The RME mixer software takes a little while to learn and get the hang of. For me, the problem was that if I ever took a month off from using it regularly, I would forget how it works! I need something a bit more intuitive, so I greatly prefer Apogee’s software. Lots of people manage to deal with this though, and I was certainly willing to put up with it. Again, I would also prefer more front panel hardware control for gigs. Neither of these issues were a deal breaker, but they were enough to keep me from falling in love.
The only reason I got rid of this unit was because I bought a MacBook Pro with an incompatible Firewire chip (this only affected one generation of MacBooks. Mine is a Dual 2.53GHz.) Either the interface or the computer had to go…
NI Audio Kontrol 1: I’ve owned and used this one for a couple of years now. Even while I had the Fireface, I hung on to the AK because sometimes I didn’t want to lug the Fireface around for local gigs.
My favorite thing about this unit is that everything is controllable from the hardware. Separate volume controls for outputs 1/2 and 3/4, a switch to toggle the headphone between outputs 1/2 and 3/4, headphone volume control, even a switch to turn on phantom power for the mic preamp. It also sounds good and is built really tough.
My only issue with this box is that sometimes the drivers seem a bit flaky. For example, occasionally the audio goes crazy and doesn’t get better until I restart my computer. All audio interfaces go crazy sometimes, it just seems to happen a bit more with this one. That said, it’s never happened on a gig and only seems to occur when it’s been up and running for a long period of time. I recently came to suspect that there may actually be a problem with the hardware itself, so I’m going to try out a new one and see what happens.
All in all, this box is a really good value for the money and has served me well on many a gig. I’m definitely In Like with it.