Adding to the flood of new computer audio interfaces this summer is the Mbox 2 Pro from Digidesign, filling a gap left long ago by the old Digi 001. If you need some extra channels for Pro Tools LE and the M-Audio interfaces leave you cold, this could be a good choice, though I’d take a good look at the 002 first if you have the space. But other than Pro Tools, I can’t see a whole lot on this interface that can compete with similar interfaces in the same class. Interfaces from a number of competitors match the Mbox 2 Pro spec for spec but with additional inputs and outputs and more features.

The Mbox 2 Pro boils down to:

  1. Pro Tools LE with the new “ignition pack” bundle

  2. FireWire bus-powered (power adapter also included
  3. 24-bit/96 Khz audio over 4 inputs (2 combo jacks, 2 TRS) and 6 outputs
  4. S/PDIF audio I/O, phono preamp and RCA connection for turntables
  5. 1×1 MIDI interface with MIDI time stamping
  6. Dedicated stereo monitor outputs, 2 headphone jacks with independent volume
  7. BNC word clock I/O
  8. US$799/899 list, with or without Factory bundle (extra plug-ins and such)

Basically, this is an interface for Pro Tools lovers, although even they might take a look at alternatives from Digidesign and M-Audio, depending on needs. For everyone else, I’d pass on this one, because their are too many other options.

Here’s an example: with a street price around US$599, you can get the MOTU UltraLite, with 8 ins and 8 outs to the 4×6 configuration on the Mbox, onboard meters, and a dedicated headphone jack. For a little more volume and slightly higher price (just above the Mbox 2 Pro), MOTU’s
MOTU Traveler gives you four mic preamps instead of two, 192 KHz instead of 96 KHz (not that you’ll probably need either in most cases), a standalone mixer mode, truly independent mixing for monitors and headphones (a key feature the Mbox seems to lack), ADAT support, AES/EBU support, SMPTE timing support, and onboard meters. A lot of those are important “pro” features that are missing on the Mbox 2 Pro.

Again, if it’s Pro Tools you want, the Mbox 2 Pro could be a good deal. But I’m surprised so many people jump for Digidesign because of the brand name and ignore equally “professional” options that might fit their needs better. I think it’s worth shelling out a few hundred dollars on software if it means choosing the software that’s best for you, and I know for me it’s definitely not Pro Tools.

Not knocking you, Digidesign, but I have to point it out, because I know everyone else on the Web will just be copying and pasting your press release, and these kind of comparisons usually aren’t the thing we can even bring up in a review.

My dream bundle, in the place of this: Ableton Live 6 and the Focusrite Saffire. But more on that soon …

If you have questions about audio interfaces — and it is a personal decision more than anything, certainly more than “this interface is superior” — check out our forums. Right now we have a number of discussions of interfaces on the hardware forum:

Create Digital Music Hardware Forum

… and a number of us will be happy to give advice. And it’s possible the Mbox 2 Pro will be your best answer; I’m not ruling it out. See you on the forums.