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Bring in the Noise
by Thad Brown
NEWS FLASH-CHEAP MAC AUDIO UPGRADE CARD
Hey folks, big big news for Mac audio people. MIDIMAN has posted Mac ASIO and Sound manager drivers on their web site. That's right, a PC company has decided to support Apple hardware with their audio cards. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, dance around the campfire, pour a libation to the great gods of the PCI bus, and bow to the rising sun. The DMAN 2044 has Mac drivers, do dah, do dah.
MIDIMAN, for those not too into PC audio, is a company who makes just what the Mac is lacking when it comes to audio hardware; good quality competitively priced audio and MIDI hardware. They also have a refreshing tendancy to announce products they actually release and not to lie to their customers. They are also moving into the converter business as well, with both 8 channel Lightpipe equipped models and the stereo Flying Cow series. The current Mac drivers for the 2044 apparently only support stereo in, but have all four output channels available. The card takes full size quareter inch unbalanced line level audio (no more nasty mini-jack and walkman grade mic preamp) on a PCI card. On the PC side they make cards for people who bought a PC and find that the Quakeblaster 32 doesn't really cut it for even semi-serious recording and want an upgrade. Here's the best part, the card lists for $349 and I have seen it at $250 street price.
I can't vouch for the audio quality or driver stability, I haven't even used one on a PC, but I am trying to contact them to see if I can get a review card. No single issue has come up in emails more often than the lack of audio upgrade card options for the mac. If you are one of the many people who has written me about this issue, take a look at the MidiMan web site.
I also like the trend, maybe the tide is finally beginning to turn for audio on the Mac. Creamware is going to support the platform, now MidiMan doesn't just announce drivers but actually delivers them, Cakewalk releases a Mac sequencer, Event has Mac Layla drivers. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that this continues.
Option Number 2
If however, you have a bit more money to spend, you may want to consider the 2408 from Mark of the Unicorn. Unlike the folks just mentioned, MOTU has been working on Mac audio almost since the beginning. I know someone that was running Performer 1.0 on a Mac plus as late as a year ago. The 2408 was announced to much excitement a few months ago, and the unit is shipping in somewhat constricted quantities now. Here is an unsolicited email from a paying customer:
"At one point we had rewire playing the two drum machine mixes from rebirth2 through compressors and grouped into a submix that was goingthrough a tape bias plug (magnetoS), I had my guitar plugged into a preamp then into the 2408, going through two instances of the excellent Northpole filter, rick had his sampler pluged in going through two more instances of the Northpole, an acoustic with a pickup was pluged in going through _another_ (all seperate, mind you) northpole filter and avocalist mic'd going through a reverb. We recorded several _very_ longtracks (between 4 and 7 tracks at a time) that night all without a hitch. BTW, the latency on the whole setup was (I still can't believe this, getting around .1 sec on my home system) **67 samples** or approx.1.5 THOUSANDS of a second. The processor never peaked out (except whenwe stacked three Trueverbs with the Waveshell... just to see.)
The 2408 is also the quietest unit I've ever used -- we realized at one point in the session that the audio tracks we were recording were so quiet that the waves barely showed up... we had had the main outs up incredibly hot without realizing and there was *no* noise at all. Suffice to say that I have never been so impressed with a product. I'm putting in an order to MOTU this week for one.
The 2408 is also the quietest unit I've ever used -- we realized at one point in the session that the audio tracks we were recording were so quiet that the waves barely showed up... we had had the main outs up incredibly hot without realizing and there was *no* noise at all.
Suffice to say that I have never been so impressed with a product. I'm putting in an order to MOTU this week for one."
Quite an endorsement.
The 2408 has 8 in 8 out analog and also ADAT and TDIF. Any combination can be used for a total of 24 in (i.e. 16 tracks of ADAT and 8 analog, or 8 each ADAT, TDIF and analog) so it is idealy suited for integrating into an extant project studio with a digital mixer and/or some multitracks. Think of it this way, if you have two DA-88s and a good Power Mac, you can track 16 tracks simultaneously without even using the computer, do as many takes as you want on cheap tape (as inexpensive as hard drives have become, they still cost a helluva lot more per minute of audio than S-VHS tape) until you get keepers. Then with the tape machines in sync with the computer, you can do overdubs and comp and punch until your fingers bleed, do as much offline special effects as you can dream up, and then mix the final result down to your drive to burn to a disk. It's sorta what we all have been trying to do this whole time isn't it? Mark of the Unicorn, by the way, has a reputation for truly extraordinary tech support done by people who really know what they are doing.
THE REVENGE OF THE iMAC
In a note completely unrelated to Mac audio, I have been professionally torturning the iMac they bought me at work (from which I type this now). It has been doing a fine job, putting up with any abuse I come up with. We were playing around with it the other day and got it to take Windows NT with full networking and NT authentication, the works. You can blow it's little teal mind by trying to run Netscape from within both the Windows and Mac environments, but what do you expect.
The real fun part was this one, and it is sure to warm the hearts of Mac chauvanists (a group to which I do not belong) the world over. Where I work we use PC Anywhere to do support work on calls that don't need a site visit but are too complex for the user to do on their own, even with us on the phone. It's a lot like Timbuktu, a window opens with the users desktop, and then the remote user can access it completely--change settings, reboot, download files, whatever. The PC Anywhere software does the same thing and used Microsoft authentication to determine who can do what. So, from my little iMac at work using our support system I can take control of NT machines. He he. Maybe I'll do a screen shot.
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