Transcript: M-Audio M-Track Plus Video Review


Posted to YouTube Nov 19th, 2013

Hello and welcome!

I'm David from basic home recording studio.com here with another video review.

The fine folks at M-Audio were so kind to send me their latest USB audio interface the M-Track Plus.

I'm real excited to show this one to you.  Let's get started. 

Inside the Box

Here is what you'll find inside the box.

Starting off with the unit itself it's 6 1/2 inches wide, just under 5 inches deep, and 2 inches tall. 

It weighs in at a whopping 1.5 pounds.  That's right 0.7 kilograms for my friends overseas.  Truely a monster!

The USB cable is 5 feet long, there are a few manuals which are available in digital form on the DVD which also contains the ProTools Express included recording software. 

There's also a card which gives the address of another recording option (called Ignite) which I'll discuss later in the review.

Finally, the Ilok USB key is included and is a way to prevent piracy of the ProTools Express software mateys YAAAAR!!!

First Impression

First impressions, we all know in life as well as in video reviews of audio interfaces, are so important... so let's see mmmm how about this thing is bad ass?!?

The unit feels solid and has a great look, it has an aluminum casing, and is very compact.

The controls are all on top, which I really like, and are some of the best I've seen in my reviews so far.

All the faders feel solid and tight and even these toggle switches really click into place.

Real estate is a bit tight, but I think that's a fine trade-off for the overall compact design. 

It's a two channel interface with two sets of identical controls so let's look at each of them a little bit closer. 

Starting with the mic input this is not a combo jack but rather a XLR input only.  Your instrument or line level signal can go in here via a 1/4" instrument cable.

You choose which input you want to use with the selector switch here. 

Even though, as you can see, it's physically possible do not plug in both at once.

This could overload the preamp resulting in distortion or blow up the preamp resulting in what seems like black smoke coming from the unit, but of course we all know this is really a genie who's been released.

The genie needs to stay inside the box so he can grant our wishes, and if you wish to make a recording don't plug in 2 inputs into 1 preamp.  I think I've made made my point...

Moving on this guy here is for what's called an insert.

This is a way to include outboard effects processors like reverb, compressors, any number of things to your system.

Using an insert cable, which looks like this, you can put your signal processor in-line between the mic preamps and A/D converters.

So what does that mean?!?

For example, say you have an external reverb module that you got off ebay or craigslist or won off someone in an underground illegal drag racing circuit.

It's not the point how you got it...

the point is you can send your analog vocal signal through the insert cable to the device, process your reverb, and then send it back to the audio interface so it can be recorded.

You could use software-based effects to do this also but:

  1. Some people really dig the sound of their existing effects.
  2. Some people have made a big investment in accumulating their effects that they have already.
  3. It helps alleviate the load on your CPU because it's all handled away from your computer.

And so far I haven't seen this on many audio interfaces, but it's a cool feature and I hope it catches on.

The last control that's common to both channels is the trusty gain control.

I like how these have a really good resistance to them.  You want to be able to adjust your levels precisely and if there's a lot of slop, or movement, in the controls then that's really hard to do.

Rounding out the controls is the tried-and-true 48 V Phantom power supply for all your condenser microphoning needs.

And here's the digital analog switch which selects between the digital ports, which are on the back, and the standard inputs I already mentioned plus the main outputs which are also on the back.

The giant Wheel-of-Fortune style main level control is gone in favor of a more typical control.

Very straightforward on the backside, we have USB data and power in one connection, MIDI in and out for connecting a keyboard or other MIDI device, main left and right most likely will be going to your monitors as they are for me, and your digital I/O which can be toggled on or off using the digital-analog control that I pointed out just a moment ago. 

The 2 remaining controls are more unique so I saved them for last.  The headphone output has two modes you can set it to either mono or stereo.

Mono lets you hear the inputs in both ears while stereo puts channels one and two in your left and right years independently, or in other words, if you're gonna record a guitar plugged into channel one and it's a mono input you set it to Mono mode but you'll still hear it in both sides of your headphones.

But if you had your guitar on channel one in your mic on channel 2 you - in stereo mode - you would hear your guitar in the left ear and the vocals in your right ear.

The monitor mix allows you to vary the amount of raw input signal versus processed signal you hear in your monitors or headphones.

All the way to the left on direct and you get direct monitoring of your inputs while all the way to the right on USB gives you the processed output from your computer.

Depending on how much latency, or time delay, there is in your system you can set this how you like.

One thing to keep in mind is that direct monitoring does not apply any digital effects just the raw signal from your input so if you want to hear those effects applied you'll need to set it to the USB side.

The Verdict

The M-Audio M-Track Plus really impressed me and improved on nearly every complaint I had with the Fast Track C400.

That being said the downside, for me, of this package is the included software.

On paper the combo of Ignite and ProTools together seem to offer both a beginning step for the novice and an intermediate option for those with more experience.

Ignite can be a great starter for a true beginner because the new interface is simple and the tutorials really step you through getting set up and started nicely.

And in general, I like the idea of a simple interface that appeals to all the non-technical musicians out there by re-inventing how you interact with recording software but in the end I wasn't crazy about it.

And the reason is that while it's simple it's also limited so as you grow and learn this won't really be able to grow with you.

Which brings me to you, ProTools Express.

This is essentially the full ProTools with reduced functionality, which is to say it's a difficult and intimidating DAW to start with.

So if Ignite is too basic I feel like ProTools Express is too complicated, which is a shame because I thought the ProTools SE which was included in the Fast Track C400 was a very good match for a beginner.

And on a side note, the Ilok takes up another USB port and takes about three different accounts to register.

... Annoying.

So to wrap it all up I think the interface itself is awesome, the software is just okay, but the overall package is still a great value.  At $150 I hope they sell a million of these little things.

And so if you are a beginner and you are looking for advice on what to get, and you know you are.

Buy this!

It's inexpensive, it's portable, it's got a nice set of features, it's rugged and handsome, just like me, and the included software is good enough to get you started right away.

That's it!   Hope you guys enjoyed this one and as always... thanks for watching!

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