- Great hardware, somewhat limited software Review by The Funk
First of all, Avid makes a great mic preamp. Obviously that's true if you're buying a Pro Tools HD rig, but it's also true if you're buying an Mbox. This Mbox Mini has the very best, cleanest preamp in a small portable USB box I've ever seen. As long as you're capturing a single mic at a time, this is the single nicest preamp I've ever used. The problem, of course, happens when you want to do stereo capture. You only get one mic preamp. Great for acoustic guitars with a nice large-diaphragm condenser. Amazing for vocals. Not so great for multi-track drums. The one pre-amp sounds great, but even if you're trying to "recorderman" style record a kit using stereo overheads, you're out of luck. And don't even think about close-micing.
So look at it this way: if you're a singer/songwriter type who wants to mic up your own vocals, your own acoustic guitar, and maybe record your electric guitar cab, you're in luck. This will do it and do so amazingly well. You can do everything with it, and use EZ Drummer or whatever for your drums. If you are a drummer and want to record your drum kit, this is not the interface for you. A regular Mbox has two of these mic preamps, so it should sound great for your overheads, and if you have a preamp that outputs S/PDIF you can close-mic your snare/kick as well. Or if you have an analog mixer and want to mix on the board and just record a stereo track of the drums, you'll be fine.
But it's $200. What do you expect?
So back to the box itself - it's a very solid metal body. It's kind of heavy for its size, but I'd say it's lighter than my Focusrite 8i6, and it's bus powered where the Focusrite is not. Being bus-powered is a big plus for a portable interface.
Anyway, hardware is great. The software included is decent. It's Pro Tools 10 Express, and Express should tell you it's a "lite" version. It only works with Mbox interfaces, yet the brilliant minds at Avid also require an iLok, too. That's just dumb, sorry. Anyway, so you give up another USB port and what do you get? More than enough audio and MIDI tracks. My most complex projects only go up to around 18 tracks or so, and you get 16 audio tracks and 8 instruments, plus a bunch of extra MIDI tracks that can be routed to Xpand! and enough aux busses. I don't know what some of the numbers are, but it's sufficient. You only get Xpand!, Boom, and Structure Free, but those are decent enough. If I didn't also own PT 10, I'd miss Mini Grand and DB-33, as those are some of the best piano and organ sounds around. It was good enough to put this software on my laptop and have a second iLok so I am not walking around with a couple grand in licenses when I don't really need that stuff on my laptop in the first place.
So the hardware is great. The software gets the job done. The price is great for what you get. (Posted on 4/24/13)