First couple of posts here on Gear lustTM we are going to go over how insanely cheap you can set up a quality project studio. Last time, I introduced you to what is in my ever so humble opinion, the best mic under a grand... well under in the case of the C1. But, how the hell are you going to get the mic signal into your computer?
Well, there are couple hundred options out there many under $300 that are worth looking at (hey, we're on a budget... right?). Among your options, you will have to chose whether you want an internal pci/pcmcia bus based card, or an external usb/firewire interface. Assuming you have a fairly new(under 3 yrs old) laptop or tower, your best bet for flexibility and portability is an external interface.
I found myself in need of a new interface for portable recording, so last month I picked up one of these....
Its the IO2 by Alesis . O.K... I know what your saying... ALESIS? Yeah... I was surprised too.
First off, build quality... this thing is solid. Aluminum case and solid turn pots that don't feel at all flimsy. It also has a nice small form factor that is not TOO small to work with . Everything is well laid out, and easy to use. You get 2 inputs, either XLR(mic) or phone (guitar), phantom power, balanced outs, led signal meters, 24/96 , and the coup de graw..... INSERTS! That was the killer ap on this thing for me. Short of buying a small mixer with a firewire or USB output on it, you will not find this feature on an interface for the price (ok... lexicon has them too, but I am not a fan of the layout of the lexi, or the way the pre's sound...). Why might you want inserts? Outboard gear, sending to an external backup recorder, or in my case... sending the mic signal to a telephone hybrid and bringing the incoming phone signal into the other channel.
Cool ... right?
How does it sound? pretty damned good. Yes, there is a little bit of the "alesis bump" in the upper mids, but for the price ($149) that can easily be overlooked, especially in a project studio setting. That little bump is directly in the frequency range that is a plus for guitars, vocals, and voice over work. Besides, as long as your getting a strong, CLEAN signal into the computer... you can flavor it how ever you want inside the box.
Need more inputs? The IO4 has a couple of big brothers...
and the IO26 ($399)
Long and short of it.... excellent quality, well built, great price.
4 out of five stars.