Digidesign has unveiled the sequel to what has been its most popular interface:

Mbox 2 [Digidesign]

What’s new: In brief, same basic I/O plus new MIDI in and out, slick, new case, and huge software bundle. Still only two simultaneous ins, though, not including the digital ins. More after the jump.

The Mbox 2’s most noticeable feature is the new case, with a clever handle that doubles as a stand. As a handle, doesn’t seem terribly useful, unless you lack opposable thumbs or lost all your fingers in a guitar-playing accident, but it does look nice. (I can’t tell if it folds away for travel.) Aesthetics overall are greatly improved; it had been part of the popularity of the original Mbox, and Mbox 2 looks smarter and more practical. And, finally, you can lie the Mbox on its side.

Other than looks, the major change in Mbox 2 is the addition of MIDI in and out (finally), something many of Mbox’s cheaper rivals have standard. Sure, there are lots of USB devices out there — but I bet you have something in your studio that doesn’t have MIDI.

Also impressive is the software bundle, which includes Pro Tools LE, lots of plugins, and limited copies of Live, Reason, the BFD drum library, soft synths and effects, and other extras. Just keep in mind that, other than Pro Tools LE and some very nice Digidesign plugins, most of what you’re getting isn’t full versions.

Price:List US$495. Spend another US$100 for Mbox 2 Factory (you’ll want to) and you get Maxim (the maximizer effect, not the lousy men’s magazine), moogerfooger Analog Delay, JOEMEEK Compressor and Meequalizer, and Cosmonaut Voice. Yeah, I’ll take the Super Size model, please.

2 ins only: Despite the fact that the press release claims “4 simultaneous inputs,” that’s assuming two of the inputs are S/PDIF digital. If you’re looking for four simultaneous mic ins at once, the Mbox isn’t what you’re looking for. Also, there’s no indication that Digidesign has updated its driver support, which on the Mac requires the use of a separate application for use with Core Audio drivers. Neither of these is a deal-killer if you’re just tracking a line or two of vocals into your laptop and you spend all of your time in Pro Tools, but as always, one size won’t fit all.

Bottom line: this interface certainly wins out on aesthetics of the small interfaces, and it’s a no-brainer for Pro Tools lovers. But, as with previous Mbox models, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere if you’re not a Pro Tools fan — non-Pro Tools driver support is still better on non-Digidesign interfaces (including M-Audio’s).

Want more inputs? There are plenty of interfaces that do support multiple ins.

  • jbv

    I owned the original Mbox for about 3 years and it was a great little friend. We went out recording stuff on my laptop all the time and I appreciated it's simplicity and the advantage of Protools, since I was always mixing things down on a TDM system. With the wealth of interfaces out in the market now, compared to 4 years ago, I was really hoping that the sequal would have 4 tracks. You know, like a "4 track". If you want to do field recording, save up and buy a 4 channel digital field recorder. If you want to do serious home studio recording get a FirePod. On top of the lack of advances in the hardware, you now will need to use an iLok as well. Just another thing to lose in the field or break off of the end of my powerbook.

  • admin

    Yeah, I'm impressed by the FirePod, especially with the cue out — that's a must, and it's the only one I can think of that has it that's not a "DJ interface." (Am I missing any others?)

    But I think the iLok is only required with Mbox2 Factory; that has to do with the plugins that are included with it. It's not even included with the standard Mbox2.

    iLok is also required for M-Powered, incidentally.

    If you're a Pro Tools lover, you're going to get this, or one of the M-Audio interfaces + M-Powered if you need more I/O.

    If you're not a Pro Tools fan, Mbox2 doesn't make much sense to buy, because you have to strip away the software bundle and think of it that way.

  • admin

    Oh, I thought you meant Firebox, the portable model — even the Firebox gives you 4 simultaneous inputs, with 2 mic ins. And that's likely to serve a lot of people, I think. The independent headphone out alone is worth it.

  • jbv

    Yeah, I forgot that Firebox could do 4 tracks. I know that you are paying for the software and session format with Protools but I really think they could have done better. Still only up to 48K and I must admit that firewire is more durable.

    Then again, the Mmmmbox (Hanson) is really just a way to get people to go down the dark path to TDM!

    It's too late for me….son.

  • admin

    Yes, but . . . is it true that TDM is stronger? 😉

    I think a lot of people don't get tempted to TDM, but they get locked into this mentality of having to go the Digi route because they think they have to.

    I get in a lot of trouble with my pro-TDM friends, some of whom are even Digi developers, but I just get fatigued by the dogma of the LE/TDM route.

  • admin

    Oh yeah, and the Firebox is only $400.

    4 x 6 instead of (effectively ) 2 x 2 on the Mbox.

    And it has assignable headphone outs. Did I mention that?

    So, uh, why isn't there one sitting here on my desk . . . gotta work on that.

  • Guest

    MIDI? Fantastic. If only the software had any useful MIDI features.

    Otherwise, they're no longer Focusrite preamps, which is probably bad, and they've removed the TRS inserts, which was a great feature of the original!

    Get an Mbox 1 while they're clearing them out!

  • admin

    MIDI inputs you could use with another program, of course. 😉

    But no TRS inserts, really? (Of limited use to most of their target audience, but still a surprise . . . not like it costs them anything, and even my Lexicon Omega has them.)

    And I wonder whose mic pres they're using now. I love the Focusrite pres on the original Mbox.

  • Guest

    You'll notice that unlike the other audio interfaces you mentioned, the Mbox 2 is USB. USB has way less bandwidth than FireWire and this is the reason for the lack of inputs. This isn't an attempt to justify Digidesign's judgement in choosing USB over FireWire, just a statement of facts.

  • niall

    are pretty craptastic. if you're not buying their hardware for pro tools, you're just asking for trouble.

  • admin

    I agree — I've had trouble with the Core Audio drivers from Digi, as have many others. I've even heard of some ASIO issues on Windows. Running Pro Tools, it's rock-solid, but for other apps, it's an issue, especially compared to some of the easy solutions.

    As for USB, yes, USB has a lot less bandwidth. It's still possible to route 4 channels over USB, however. In fact, speaking of Tascam, that's exactly what their 422 does. And it works very reliably. 4 channels seems to be the upper limit, not two.

    But anyway, bandwidth isn't the issue, because you can record 4 channels simultaneously even on the Mbox — the problem is, two have to be digital. There aren't four input jacks on the device, so the bandwidth question is physical (no jacks!).


  • Guest

    Too bad Digi wants HOSTAGES instead of customers. Somewhere about PT4.3, the "pro" aspect of all this fell through a crack. Pro's NEED reliable software, not multiple hardware dongles (iLock and mBox) with NO benefit to the user.

    I've long since jumped ship from the SS Avid-Digidesign-mAudio. Portable recoreding is with hardware, and the DAW is MOTU's Digital Performer 4.6, which still kicks @$$ in all things MIDI, while doing audio nicely. 2Track editing is with DSP-Quattro (i'm using a fraction of the capacity of this fantastic program). Hardware? RME HDSP 96/52. ASIO and no problems, no dongles.

    I still keep 2 fully functional Sound Designer II Mac's around, for the museum tourists. I'd buy a NuVerb!

    Cheers, and buy wisely.


  • Guest

    Well stated… a digidesign hostage.

    And perhaps you're right – instead of 'Pro Tools LE' they should just release software called 'Tools' with the Mbox.. it wouldn't be a total lie then.

  • Guest

    I haven't actually seen one yet but it looks nice.
    I have really liked my Mbox but I would have liked to use S/PDIF as well as the analog and it seems that you can do that now.
    I never used the inserts but I am sure someone would think that was a good thing.
    The lack of that isn't somehting that is that bad
    Also, a monitor volume knob is very welcome by a lot of people.

    All in all, I don't see much reason to upgrade my current system but if I ever need 4 tracks, I will certainly look into it.

    BTW, Focusrite gone? Doesn't mean the pres aren't as good.

  • Guest

    After looking @ the Digi site, it seems that the analog outs are only unbalanced!! Also dissapointed about the loss of inserts (although have never used them on the original Mbox…) Given the plethora of mic pre/chanel strip-type bits of gear around, maybe it's not such a big deal. especially if the pre-channel strip has spdif out. DBX make one that's not bad (586, 576 or something?)-a bit expensive tho. Also would be great if Mbox 2 got rid of the niose from the built-in phantom PS on the original.. it's pretty average…

  • Guest

    I bought an MBox on Aug 29. My dealer didn't say that the MBox was about to be replaced. MBox2 gets announced a couple of days later. I ask my dealer to exchange for MBox2. Dealer asks for $75 re-stocking fee. Seriously lame. Expensive enough that I will fight this.

  • Guest

    mbox 2 rules have any of you guys tried it? the mic pre's are better than before with lillte to no latency.yes it has 2 ins but you can use 2 digital ins for a total of 4 how many of you guys record more than 4 tracks at a time? the software they give you with this beast is almost like waves diamond and all for 500.00 were not talking tdm guys were talking entry level pro tools for the average joe schmoe its a killer system if you take the time to get into it. bottom line is this the original mbox to a studio owner for years is a toy. this little box will get your demos heard if not signed take it from a pro. who has almost 250,000 worth of equipment.

  • Adam Maniku

    I bought an Mbox2 in Singapore and coming back to Maldives I learned from the manual i need an iLoc for my macbook pro which I could not find in the box in which the Mbox 2 is packed in. What can i do to activate my Mbox2 now?

    Now my trial period is over I could not run the Protool software without it.

  • Adam Maniku

    I could not open my protools and the Mac book pro do not recognizse my Mbx2 without an iLoc. I did not get one when I bought the Mbox 2. Please advise how i can install an iLock.

  • Jonah

    Selling – Mbox 2 with a PACE iLok Universal USB Dongle (holds authorizations for software by Digidesign, Waves, Native Instruments, and etc.) for $400… perfect condition. E-mail jchappelle45@yahoo.com for details.