There is no shortage of music recording options to outfit your home studio, and selecting the right combination of usability and function can be a bit difficult. There are quite a few products for sale at retail or on the used market (be careful of license issues!), and it can be difficult to sort out all of the peripherals, programs, plugins, and additional goodies available to suit your taste.
If you’ve done the hard work of selecting a home music recording software suite, and have selected Pro Tools as your recording and mixing engine of choice, the next task is to choose your audio interface unit. This is necessary because Digidesign’t product doesn’t translate analog signals, such as microphone and instrument outputs, to the digital signals required for computer processing, and relies on external hardware for that task.
Among the most popular Pro Tools HD interface units is the Digidesign MBox 2, which was designed specifically for Pro Tools. It is a mid-level audio interface at an upmarket price (expect to be set back around $550 or so for a new rig), but it does work well and has several nice features: a couple of preamplifiers for microphone and instrument sound inputs, a stereo monitor headphone jack, and a USB connector for plugin ease.
While it’s capable and popular, MBox 2 is not the creme of the audio interface crop. Two other Digidesign products in the same general price ballpark utilize FireWire to talk to your computer, which increases both speed and quality.
There are also audio interface devices that do more than just signal conversion. Since Pro Tools helped pioneer the digital audio workstation (DAW) genre back when home computers lacked the horsepower to perform all of the required signal processing, the architecture allows some peripherals to actually perform some of the heavy processor lifting. There are several audio interface units that double as guitar modeler/processors, freeing up your CPU to handle more audio tracks and effects.
If you’re like most home recording enthusiasts, however, you’ll be more than happy with the combination of Pro Tools HD and MBox 2.