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Microphone Month 5

M-Audio FireWire Solo Review

Rugged, easy to carry and setup, great sounding, compatible with a bunch of software, the M-Audio Firewire SOLO just works!

When you go mobile with your recording, you need a reliable interface to get ideas down quickly whenever inspiration strikes. For portable songwriting I chose the Firewire SOLO because of M-Audio’s reputation for reliability and sound quality.

It’s built like a tank. Out of the box, the SOLO impressed me with its rugged metal construction and durable, well-damped knobs and switches. You get a high degree of confidence that this unit will stand up in the field. Small and lightweight, I carry it with me everywhere I carry my laptop. And because it’s FireWire bus powered, I never have to bring the power block! M-Audio includes a DC adapter (for use with a 4-pin FireWire connection), a FireWire cable, and a couple of discs. One is Ableton Live Lite 4 audio recording software. The other contains the hardware drivers. A snap to install, it includes basic software to assign inputs/outputs and change various settings. I have never had to change the defaults. M-Audio sets this thing up to plug and play!

It records and sounds great! More importantly, it makes ME sound great. I use it with my PowerBook to record guitar and vocals with GarageBand. Both front inputs give me level knobs and clip LEDs to keep from recording too hot. The XLR mic input even has switchable phantom power to use with more professional microphones. M-Audio didn’t skimp on the digital converters in the SOLO. They actually use the same Bridge 24-bit DSPs in their higher-end gear. As I record, I am able to monitor my guitar with several of GarageBand’s effects in place without bothersome latency. This is important to me because I need to hear how the guitar will sound in order to play the style correctly while recording. Interfaces usually deal with latency with direct monitoring of a dry signal. M-Audio’s drivers do a good job of reducing latency. You will notice the clarity of your recordings from voice-overs in your video editing work to composing that track on your next greatest hits record.

The FireWire SOLO provides broad compatibility. If you only need a couple of inputs, whether you record with a simple waveform editor or digital audio workstation, the SOLO is a good choice. It includes driver support for ASIO, WDM, MME, and Apple’s Core Audio. PC or Mac is not an issue as you get compatibility for both platforms. Just about any recording or playback software works right out of the box. At one moment I am tracking a vocal into Pro Tools M-Powered, the next I am capturing samples with Sound Recorder. Later on I may listen to iTunes through my studio’s monitors.

With the M-Audio Firewire SOLO you have the versatility to get your ideas down quickly – and even do some real production work. It’s perfect for the solo composer, DJs looking to get into computer audio, podcasters wanting that professional broadcast sound, or anyone needing to record with quality on the go. Because the SOLO just works, I recommend that you carry one in your laptop bag.

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