Secondly, instal Pro Tools M-Powered Essential. This features a bunch of free loops and software instruments on DVD. Hopefully, the 8.0.3 release from January is doing the rounds in the stores now, but if you’re running Snow Leopard or Windows 7 and your package contains an 8.0.2 DVD, you’ll have to download the free update it to get it working.
Ready made song templates: there's even a ballad offering that comes up in 6/8 time
Digidesign is notoriously slow at delivering Pro Tools software updates, with its current M-Powered Essential compatibility for Mac OS X 10.6 and Windows 7 taking five months and three months respectively. Fortunately, M-Audio doesn’t hang about when it comes to driver updates and doesn’t abandon older systems too swiftly either. This month, Digidesign – and later M-Audio – will be known simply as Avid, so how often updates will take to appear remains to be seen.
Hooked up to a Mac, the M-Audio control panel in System Preferences lets you choose to record at 16- or 24-bit resolution. It also features links support areas on the M-Audio site and will check for driver updates.
Running Pro Tools M-Powered Essential prompts you to choose if you want to use compositional template or configure a set-up yourself. It allows 16 stereo/mono audio tracks, eight software instruments and eight MIDI tracks. If you’ll excuse the pun, Pro Tools has quite a track record in the music world. High-end Digidesign audio hardware as well as the more sophisticated versions of Pro Tools software – capable of hundreds of tracks – is commonplace in commercial studios.
With M-Audio’s cheaper hardware – and with it, more basic software – the Pro Tools Recording Studio provides a taster of what the full-blown Pro Tools can offer. Indeed, aspiring musos and recording engineers can get a feel of how to use the big boys toy from this slim version. That said, the first hurdle is getting a noise out of this box and into the computer.
Double clicking on the virtual amp in GarageBand reveals input and monitoring options
There are two input channels, but channel one is dedicated to the mic input and channel two is set for the guitar/line input. Now, are these device-specific points mentioned anywhere in the manual that covers numerous Pro Tools incarnations? Nope. No matter what recording software you’re using – and besides Pro Tools I tried it on GarageBand 5.1 and Logic 9.1.1 – you’ll need to switch the input over to channel two before you start twanging. Now this routing is normal and logical, it’s just not explained anywhere to help novice users.
I've been looking at this package as a cheap way to get a friend onto Pro Tools so we can exchange demos. It's worth mentioning that the Fast Track 2 is now available, which fixes some of the flaws of the Fast Track and also adds phantom power. It still includes Pro Tools M-Powered Essential and still retails for £79:
I've been using an M-Audio FireWire 410 for nearly 5 years now, with Pro Tools M-Powered, and I can barely say a bad word about it. The mic preamps are impressively clean for the price range, the routing options are flexible and the whole thing is wrapped in a sturdy metal case that's stood up to its fair share of knocks.
The 410 cost me around £250, so for £79 you can hardly expect the Fast Track reviewed here to live up to the same standards. I also use an M-Audio MIDI controller which is pretty shit though, and I had a shitty pair of M-Audio monitors for a while. However, it's not fair to say all M-Audio gear is shit.
Thumbs down, becaise the thumbs up still has jaggy edges.
The "cubase killer" lurches on...
M's firewire interfaces work well for me on the PC side... but then you have to deal with problems inherent with doing audio on the PC. Also, you really want to check M's web site for updated drivers...they seem to ship with drivers that aren't quite finished, but work fine with updates.
As for "Pro" Tools... meh. The only reason to deal with their arrogance is because you're paid to. Since I'm paying for the tools I get to choose who I deal with. Cubase was good back in its day, Logic was good until Apple took it away. These days it's Ableton. There are a *lot* of options, and Digidesign's bad attitude doesn't even make the A list.
Are you *really* sure the review unit didn't just have an earthing fault?
The bit about the levels of noise on the disconnected mic input just doesn't sound right. I mean, could they really have been so daft as to think that all you need for a mic input is to use an XLR socket, but not actually known to use a balanced-line input configuration with it? Since they've got a follow-up model that does phantom power, they must have used a balanced configuration there (or everything would be on fire), so they must know what one is.
What else is good at a similar price?
I was really interested in this as I'm looking to record some guitar and vocal tracks for a rough demo but don't have hundreds of pounds to spend. Really disappointing this is only 45% rated and others agree with this. What do you guys recommend getting at a similar price, say up to £100?
Soniccore Scope looks good but even 2nd hand is much more expensive.
Daniel: Despite the guitar input being useless/noisey - I've recorded a fair number of rough ideas with this and never had any latency issues. Cubase SX seems to take care of things - I believe I get about 6ms latency when 'monitoring', and once recorded the new recording is automagically shifted to match the rest of the track. I'm very fussy with such things and can say I've never had an issue with this; surely all modern recording software measures latency and adjusts accordingly?