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Okay, so I'm looking for advice on what's the most appropriate equipment decision for my situation.

I started with a 2007 MacBook Pro, and I eventually realized that the integrated Intel sound card really sounded like garbage. I was hearing tons of strange artifacts and subtle distortion. I tried out a Behringer U-Control UCA200 I had lying around (that's the drop-in 2in/2out USB-RCA interface they bundle with all their mixers) just to output audio to headphones, and discovered a huge improvement.

Then, I expanded my setup to a mini studio of sorts, adding a Mackie 402-VLZ3 mixer with the tape input/output connected to the UCA200. Thus, I'm treating the mixer as a control for all the audio I/O of the computer. I've since upgraded to a 2010 iMac, but yesterday the UCA200 seems to have kicked the bucket. It works for about a minute before failing completely and needs to be replugged. Definitely not workable.

So the question is this: Is there a higher-quality replacement I could get to replace the failed UCA200? Or, perhaps an entirely different kind of interface is in order. I really like the mic preamps and headphone amp of the Mackie mixer and would like to keep using it, but I don't think duplicating all of that functionality in a piece of USB or FireWire hardware is practical. Perhaps I should just use minijack-RCA cables from the in/out jacks on the iMac and forego a USB interface entirely? Seems a little tacky for some reason, but perhaps the quality on those integrated interfaces have improved from 2007 MBPs to 2010 iMacs.

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2 Answers 2

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I doubt that the quality of any on board sound card is clean enough for studio usage.

I would say that a new interface is necessary. Try getting one with balanced inputs and outputs. That should pair well with you mixer. You may also want to get an interface with more channels. Lastly, go with firewire. For various reasons it's better than USB - yes even USB 3.

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Pretty much the entire answer. Getting rid of Behringer stuff is never a bad idea anyway, because although it does sound a lot better than your intel MBP sound, IMO it is still to noisy to be useful. Have a look at the brands Presonus, M-Audio (ProFire stuff) and Focusrite, they all have relatively affordable interfaces with quite a good quality for the price. –  Pelle ten Cate Mar 14 '11 at 8:00
    
I second Presonus. The make excellent pres as well. So any of the pres on their interfaces are nice and clean. I've never had driver issues either. –  d-_-b Mar 14 '11 at 12:47
    
Third for Presonus. I love my FireStudio Project. –  fluffy Aug 9 '11 at 0:52
    
Went with a Presonus Inspire used for $50. FireWire, and has just enough I/O to perfectly integrate into my existing setup. –  NReilingh Aug 10 '11 at 22:37

Great list of highly recommended Audio interfaces (I've ben looking to replace my Focusrite SaffireLE - of which I learned was pretty much made to break down over time....i dislike that company now.)

TC Impact Twin

Edirol FA-66

NI Audio 6 (also a 10 version)

Apoggee Duet 2 (1 is great too. The 2 I believe just came out).

Presonus Firebox

Those are the higher quality entry range before you get into rack mounts...which are much more expensive. And yes, firewire. =)

Have a blessed one! Good luck!

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