M-Audio Fast Track vs Presonus Audiobox vs Tascam US-122 Mk2


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Hey all, I'm looking for an interface to record my bass.

I currently have a pre-amp with an XLR out (VT Bass Deluxe), so I'm looking for an interface that has an XLR input and USB/Firewire output.

Don't really need to have world-class recording quality, because my main aim is to review my own playing. Anyway, world-class quality is way out of my budget too! :)

My main requirements are really - Balanced XLR input, headphone out, USB/Firewire interface, supports Mac/Garageband. My recording chain would be bass->1/4 inch instrument cable->VT Bass Deluxe->XLR cable->Audio Interface->USB/Firewire output->Mac

I've shortlisted these three interfaces:

1) M-Audio Fast Track ($175)
2) Presonus Audiobox ($250)
3) Tascam US-122 Mk 2 ($230)

May I know which is the better option of the three? Please feel free to add any other recommendations!
haha this may be tough to decide. comparing M-audio's preamp with Presonus's I'd vote presonus. it's clean but presonus has this thing with their mic preamp gain that ppl hate.


this does not help as well.

all my life I've unable to get my hands on any tascam product. was close a few times but nope. so i can't say anything bout it.

just go whatever's good with your wallet i guess.
Haha, all three are within my budget. :p

Hm, the good thing is that they are all available at Luther so I suppose I could test them out. It seems like the Presonus uses USB 1.1. Would that affect latency or anything? M-Audio is 'USB 2.0 compatible', while Tascam is the only one that's USB 2.0...

Btw do these audio interfaces affect the tone of my instrument when I record? Is there anyway to bypass the EQ or preamp of the audio interface?
Some of the interface you mention have direct line in, so you need XLR to 1/4 inch TRS cable. That the least coloured tone you could get.
cool beans : irregardless, apart from preamp , there's still the DA converters section etc.

it's not a "tone" colouring that's very audible, more "feel" than "hear" if you know what i mean (you can try if you don't believe). just set your preamp to 0 and you can still connect XLR to XLR if you don't wish to buy another XLR>1/4" trs cable.

if I were to record my guitars direct.
guitar > DI > radial DI Box $300 > XLR > input to audio interface preamp (set at 0)
guitar > DI > onboard audio interface preamp (set at 0)
guitar > DI > radial di box > fmr rnp preamp ($500+) > another audio interface with direct line in.

these 3 will not have much of a difference, BUT if after intensive mixing etc, it'll all come out clear that the last option with the DI box and good preamp to good audio interface has more.. erm "quality" .

simply not justified, so purchase with confidence after testing reliability.

latency issues : bring your laptop/macbook and install all drivers and test all then?
@kongwee: By 'direct line-in' do you mean the 1/4 inch input? So if I buy the cable you suggested, that would prevent my tone from being affected?

@blueprintstudios: Do you mean that the difference would be negligible if all I'm doing is casual recording? I don't think I'll do intensive mixing - afterall, my main purpose is to review my own playing that's all.

Anyway, I've seen some terrible reviews of the Tascam on Musiciansfriend, and I'll most likely not go for that. Narrowed down my options to just two now! :D
For me, I just buy XLR-TRS adapter , too lazy to look or make XLR to 1/4' TRS cable. 1/4" TRS line in is what you need. All line in have no gain stage, so your volume control have to depend on your VT Bass Deluxe. If you plug in Mic input, your signal have to pass the gain control. Meaning signal coloured along the way.

What bluesprintstudio said is also practical , becos in a situation, you need to give up line in for keyboards as they normal have a stereo output(or any device that produce stereo out). So you need to plug your bass to mic input.
what kongswee could have meant is he first suggested the XLRto1/4"TRS cable then later tell you if he was you he'd just buy XLR-TRS adapter (which I feel it's alot rarer to find an 1/4"female to XLRmale it's not even listed here and the closest you'd get is the RCA female which still requires another adapter and that contributes noise and poor connection factor) too lazy to look or make XLR to 1/4' TRS cable , just buy blindly , don't need to make, or look or research. but right now he's just telling you that you just need a TRS" line in when your sansamp vt bass deluxe has an XLR out and none of your audio interfaces have "Line inputs" (as you read what I typed below you'll understand). so if you aren't confused yet, I almost am.

What I say is always based on facts and 8 years experience as a recording/mixing engineer in a bedroom/location/live/studio recording situation and in your case cool-beans, you have mentioned you were only going to review your playing in your bedroom so lets not get too over assumptious and then later linking it to an SSL or "industry" or "professional" standard topic debate here..

to answer your question :

exactly, because if you were to record in, compress,eq,reverb,compress,eq,reverb,excite,blablabla , based on the different situation suggestions I've stated, I'm very sure you will hear the difference because I already hear the difference in preamps on my zoom r16 vs fmr rnp even though same mics, same acoustic guitar etc (sorry I can't put up, no band permit) through that method on recording alone, and it becomes all obvious after mixing.

assuming you have already read http://tinyurl.com/diyrecording

this is the baby yes?
there's 2 outputs you can record from,
Balanced XLR output = cleaner sound.
1/4" output = "unbalanced". it may be noisier but the sound will pretty much be the same.

your cable options?
1/4" normal male-male guitar cable to audio interface
XLR to 1/4" TRS (2 lines!) to audio interface preamp gain 0. unless gain not enough increase on your pedal first.
XLR to XLR to audio interface preamp gain 0.

the preamps/DA converters of the audio interface isn't going to colour your sound much unless you got sonic ears and picky-fussy-ability.

so to explain further (let me know if you're lost),

(let me know if the below 3 images doesn't load)



(i'm using echo audio fire4)

if I were in your situation, I'd wire up
bass > pedal > direct into echo AF4's line input 3 or 4. because there's no "preamp" there, it's just direct in. but what do I run the risk of? your bass pedal if the gain is not enough, it'll introduce more "noise" than "gain" , that's where a preamp comes in important.

by plugging it in the front universal inputs (very similar to fast track or audiobox) , I utilize the gain of the echo audio's preamps.
if I own something cool like
I'd ditch the echo's preamp, I'd ditch my FMR RNP preamps, and I'd do this
bass > pedal > UAD preamp > Echo AF4's line input 3,4 (makes no sense to run through double preamp)

so back to reality, cos of your requirements and budget, the audio interfaces you've mentioned does not have "line inputs" , it's got preamps built in. so you can just go ahead with that.
what you can do is.
1) buy the audio i/f
2) use your normal 1/4" cable record first.
3) if you got a spare XLR to XLR cable, try record with that. (simultaneously cos you can wire both right? stereo)
4) the XLR to TRS cable at this point will seem unnecessary by then but I just suggested in case you were particular. and compare them. i'm confident it'll be like what I described. one's a little noisy and the signal isn't as clear as the XLR one.

tone coloring.. well. how much can a preamp colour depends on the type of preamps used (transformer/transistor/tube bla bla) and I'm pretty sure you can re-adjust the tone to taste just like how all bass amps won't sound the way you like it on your sansamp and you gotta re-adjust it.

P.S : the m audio fast track has 1 XLR + 1 line input. the audiobox has 2 XLR+1/4" universal inputs.(more flexible)
I heard both good (cost efficiency) and crap (drivers/preamps/glitches) from both interfaces so it's at your own risk. I'd vote audiobox though. cos if you were recording vocals or on condenser mics you'd have phantom power on both.

hope this helps and best of luck with your purchase, do share with us the results!
Doesn't the Tascam mention have a pair line in? Second XLR-TRS adaptor can be easily found in Sim Lim Tower. A lot of adaptor can be found there too. Also I don't doubt his ability to understand term and signal chain, so I don't go too much detail. As he said earlier he don't want to go through gain stage, I give him the answer, yeah. Anyway you will give a very detail description.:p
doesn't the threadstarter already mentioned the terrible reviews on the tascam. sure I hope the audio interface will fit EXACTLY the same height as the sansamp vt 's output using a metal adapter if you're using XLR male to TRS male.if not your jack will be bent badly on prolonged use. if XLR male to TRS female then isn't that the same as building a new cable? then again disclaimer, it's easy to shrug off since it's at TS's own risk. and he asked if there's "anyway to bypass". options. so i'm not sure what "answer" you're talking about cos there're many other options/answers only if he buys an audio interface that has line inputs.

appreciate your high impressions that the softies who post can understand the basic of all basics signal chain that I've stated especially the 'industry standard' 'overseas' 'ssl' 'professional' type you are. but I always keep things simple and detailed so other softies reading this will learn and understand in their own context.
I have recorded bass with the UAD LA-610 pre and it is amazing. Save up for it, highly recommended!
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smurfpiss : if i'm not wrong as long as you go through any sort of preamplification a.k.a onboard universal input (even at preamp 0 gain) there should still be its coloring. I don't know, I haven't got a chance to test it. maybe I should hehe

p.s : I'm the one who's using echo audiofire4. threadstarter only choosing presonus audiobox / m-audio fast track . I just put in the AF4 as an example.
Well if you are buying a preamp then you audio interface preferably have line input to feed to.

Now I just try to explain a bit more to blueprintstudio standards.

Inside Line Input on audio interface(also common in lot of electronic):

Signal have to pass the line stage components. Mostly make up of passive component. Most of the time it's job is to reduce the signal so that can travel safety to the rest of the electronic component of the audio interface. In many situation balance line is covert to single end line in these stage too to keep the cost down.

With Mic input( also common in most electronic with gain control):

Signal pass to line stage to gain control to another line stage. I dunno how the 48V power and Hi input feed inside the these chain. Anyway, when you have a gain control. 99.99% you have to design external electronic when the signal enter and leave the gain control. So the signal have to pass" three stage of electronic group" before it enter to the rest of the audio interface. If it is a digital controlled gain stage then I don't what behind the scene.

Ok. It is just a summary, to be in detail, you need an engineer to do so.
Ok. Pls talk to Luther and give that Tascam a chance. You can talk to him about line in and mic in issue with him. I am very sure he can give you an proper answer to that. I buy a pair of monitor from him without listening. Be cos I did a spec check and give as much detail and expectation.So I got what I want and the good and the bad is expected. I am very please from his service.
cool beans : do let us know what you ended up with =) or should you be particular about having a line input,you can go for the echo audiofire4 , Kevin of Swizer echo dealer is an extremely friendly and responsive guy. but it's out of the budget range I think. if not Presonus Firebox (I had that previously before I changed to audiofire)