Archive for November, 2010

Echo AudioFire2 mini-review, plus bonus NI rant

I just picked one up last week.  Here’s what I like so far:

  • Firewire.  This leaves both USB ports free (Apple’s pretty stingy with the connectivity).  Also, I’ve heard rumors that the MacBook Pro underpowers the USB port.  Maybe I’m making this up, but I think the more stringent power requirements for Firewire encourage reliability.
  • Balanced TRS outs.  Seems mundane, but lots of portable audio interfaces in this price range have RCA outs, which boggles the mind.
  • Independent headphone out, which is crucial for performance.
  • Stable drivers— so far at least.  I haven’t had it long, but I’ve used it a lot without a glitch.  Contrast that with the nightmare that was the Audio Kontrol 1 drivers (on that more below)
  • Hopelessly sexy packaging. It’s tiny and light with a sturdy yet pretty aluminum case.

Echo AudioFire2

Left bad, right good.

Here’s what’s not so awesome:

  • 1/8″ headphone jack.  All my headphones are 1/4″.  Every 1/4″ – 1/8″ adapter I’ve ever had fell apart in weeks.  But Grado makes this nice long one; seems like that should relieve some of the strain.
  • Awkward breakout cable for MIDI (and S/PDIF, but who uses that?)

It’s early yet, but I’m very happy so far and would recommend the AudioFire2 to any performer.

Some background: I got a Native Instruments Audio Kontrol 1 about four years ago.  Feature-wise, it’s pretty hot, but it’s been total driver hell.  On my old laptop, it tooks weeks of tweaking settings to get it stable; I even had to uninstall my network drivers.  On my new laptop, no amount of tweaking worked. I’d get hard freezes randomly.

Writing application software, which Native is good at, is very dissimilar from writing drivers.  The AK1 was, I believe, Native’s first hardware audio interface.  I guess I should have anticipated some rockiness early on, but after four years of driver updates it’s as bad as ever.  Echo, on the other hand, literally make nothing but audio interfaces.  That was a big factor for me when shopping around.