M-Audio’s Mobile Pre USB  » Electronics  »
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  • I think I pulled out an old Black Sabbath cassette, stuck a little ball of paper into the gaps that “write protected” the tape, and went on with my work
  • I have other M-Audio products in my toolbox and cannot recommend their stuff highly enough

    • by Hiram Justus

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      If you have been interested or involved in home studio recording for many years, then you are probably well aware of the changes that have been wrought over the last thirty or so years. I first entered the home recording morass back in the early 1980s. Back then, you made do with reel-to-reel machines or settled on recording live to cassette on an old boom-box. If you wanted to do some “real” recording with the ability to use multiple tracks, you paid the big bucks and went to a studio that had this kind of gear.

      Then Fostex dropped a machine onto the market that they named the “X-15.” For those of us who were dying to make our own home recordings with multi-track capabilities, this little machine was the Holy Grail. It was pricey, running somewhere roundabout $400 or $450 at the time, but it was extremely easy to use and used regular cassette tapes, something that made it extremely attractive to the hobbyist because you didn’t have to wait for the music store to open on Monday at 10 a.am. to get more recording medium to complete your project. I remember going through my brother’s stuff late one night to find a cassette that I could recycle to complete

      a project that was hot in my head. I think I pulled out an old Black Sabbath cassette, stuck a little ball of paper into the gaps that “write protected” the tape, and went on with my work. I recall my brother asking where his Sabbath cassette was a few weeks later, but I simply replied, “I have no idea.”

      For a time, recording directly to computers was still an expensive proposition. The equipment was still priced too high for the hobbyist to afford, so you made do with the descendants of the Fostex X-15, some of which, by this time, were using hard-wired hard-drives to store your projects. Then came the dedicated “boards” that you could drop into a socket on the mother board in your computer. The prices on these began to edge downward and they became available to those saving their pocket change to purchase the next piece of recording gear. I recall that it was a pain getting my little board installed, but it worked like a champ once I did get it plugged in.

      Then someone got the idea to jump on the USB band-wagon and make a recording interface that could plug into just about any computer. Brilliant! Having retired my old system (a Pentium ...

      • II, 350 MHz unit), I was afraid that I’d end up having to buy just about everything again so that I could just record my silly little songs. The USB interface was the answer (that and Windows 7’s ability to run older software). I loaded up my Cool Edit Pro software and plugged in the Mobile Pre USB, and, reasonably speaking, I was up and running fairly quickly. After some tweaking of the latency and some hardware issues resolved, the system works as good as, and, in some cases, better than, the old system.

        With the faster and more powerful laptop that I now use, I can record many more tracks than the old unit could handle, and I can do so without the frequent lock-ups. One of the really great things about the Mobile Pre USB is the on-board phantom power. This is a great feature when you are trying to record at a remote location. All you need is your lap-top, the Mobile Pre USB, your microphone and stand, and your wires, and you have a fully-functional and pro-quality portable set-up, ideal for recording depositions or interviews. If you are recording at home, the Mobile Pre works beautifully with a mixing board or microphone pre-amp, if you use either.

        Since the unit accepts either XLR or ¼” wires, it will work with most recording equipment. There’s a headphone out and a stereo line-out for routing to a headphone amplifier or other amp or audio system. The newest model also has attenuators for input, headphone volume, and output levels. It adds a Direct Monitor button that allows you to hear your input in real time to deal with any lingering latency issues.

        While there are some negatives (like latency), the M-Audio Mobile Pre USB is THE box to have if you are a home recordist or if you are taking your set-up along with you for whatever purpose. The difference between the Fostex X-15 and the M-Audio Mobile Pre USB is like the difference between the Stone Age and the Space Age. I could never have guessed in my wildest dreams that the technology of recording sound could and would move so quickly in the direction of the private hobby studio. I have other M-Audio products in my toolbox and cannot recommend their stuff highly enough. Others sell similar boxes, but M-Audio’s Mobile Pre USB places some seriously pro-level toys in the hands of the average dude or dudette who simply wants to make noise and share it around with others.

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    The review was published as it's written by reviewer in September, 2010. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 1620091271330230/k2311a0920/9.20.10
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