Music Tech - February 2011
MTMReviews Avid Mbox 3
The Mbox 3 is bundled with Pro Tools 8 LE, although Avid has made a point of developing solid drivers for the Mbox 3, meaning you can use the interface with third-party DAWs without the type of incompatibility issues that plagued the Mbox 2. An upgrade path is also offered for Pro Tools 9; however, Avid will be bundling the third-generation Mbox with Pro Tools 9 from early 2011 – these bundles will replace the current Mbox family products that currently ship with Pro Tools LE software.
While the Mbox 3 does have drivers for use with third-party apps it is not a simple case of plug-and-play. Even with Pro Tools 9 already installed on our Mac we had to download the drivers first to get our system to see the Mbox.
Mbox version 3 is just as at home with third-party DAWs as it is with Pro Tools. Mike Hillier puts it up against the competition.
Mbox 3 Manufacturer Avid Price £550 Contact Avid 01753 655999 Web www.avid.com
Since its introduction in 2002 the Mbox family has been one of the most successful audio interface ranges to date, but this success can be largely attributed to the hardware requirements of Pro Tools LE software, which would run only with Digi hardware. With the release of Pro Tools 9, the hardware requirements are dropped – you can now use any interface with Pro Tools software. So what future is there for the Mbox hardware?
The Mbox 3 still sports two analogue ins, two analogue outs, S/PDIF I/O, MIDI I/O and connection to the computer is still via USB. But this isn’t simply an Mbox 2 in a new shell; closer inspection reveals impressive upgrades to both the analogue and digital signal paths.
New look Housed in a new gun-metal case featuring a large Avid logo on the top, the new Mbox certainly looks rock-solid
USB 2.0 audio interface ●2mic/line/DI
analogue inputs ●Soft-limiter on analogue inputs ●2analogue outputs ●S/PDIF I/O ●MIDI I/O ●Assignable multifunction button ●Onboard DSP
mixing and reverb
The separate XLR and line inputs found on the Mbox 2 have been replaced with combi XLR/ jack ports on the Mbox 3.
and has an impressive weightiness to it – definitely an improvement over the old blue plastic housing of the Mbox 2. However, unlike the Mbox 2 the Mbox 3 cannot stand vertically and instead must lie flat on your desktop. This might be slightly bad news if you’re short of space, but we can’t see it being an insurmountable problem.
The rear panel houses the majority of the connectivity options, with the separate XLR and line inputs (as found on the Mbox 2) being replaced with Amphenol combi XLR/jack ports. The front panel houses the remaining inputs in the form of two 1/4-inch DI
Along with the drivers, the install includes a Hardware Manager application. This provides access to the onboard DSP, which can be used for creating low-latency monitor mixes. The onboard DSP also includes a reverb/ delay engine, which can be used to provide musicians with a wet headphones mix while recording a dry mix into a DAW. This has been a common studio trick for some time, since singers often perform better with a little reverb or delay in the cans.
Can control The Mbox 3 comes with eight different reverb/delay types, offering control over duration, feedback and volume. We preferred the room and hall reverbs to the plate reverb, which seemed to be a
TheMboxfamilyhasbeenone ofthemostsuccessfulaudio interfacerangestodate inputs and a 1/4-inch stereo headphone out. The front panel also accommodates the controls for the Mbox 3, which include a new multifunction soft button that can be assigned to a number of functions in Pro Tools, such as tap tempo, start/stop or create a new track.
little too synthetic for our tastes. The room reverbs, on the other hand, had a much more natural sound to them, which made them much easier to use with a singer to get a good cans mix.
The plate is similarly suitable for this role – we’re actually fans of using plates for this type of job as they’re great for adding ambience without pushing a sound too far back, but we’d be worried about pushing the send level up too much in a way we wouldn’t with the room or hall types. That said, these are only for cue mixes, so it’s not necessary that they’re the most authentic reverbs around. Avid doesn’t even provide a means of recording the reverb, so should you want to you’d have to route a
92 | February 2011 magazine