OK, been out of the loop for YEARS - what's out there right now that has:
Well supported drivers for Win7&8
MIDI I/0 (16 channels is enough)
2 mic preamps (minimum) with low noise and plenty of gain
Useful DI input for plugging in a bass guitar.
EXCELLENT sound quality
(Ideally) Lots of knobs and switches - something that can replace the little micro monitor mixer I used to keep on the desk...
Price should be less than $400 , ideally much cheaper
* Anything come to mind ??* TIA!
** PS: I guess I should mention that this will be something that would shuffle around from home, to my office/studio, to a friend's drum room in another town ... maybe I'd even bit the bullet and bump the budget up a couple hundred if it could be totally ideal
** PPS: this would mostly get used with a quadcore I7 notebook that currently has two free USB2 ports, and a USB3 port...
Maybe I should add the obvious - in addition to your recommendations, what current models would I be wise to AVOID? I've had good luck with RME stuff in the past (no budget for it now, though) and so far have never been burned by M-Audio.
I use a PreSonus AudioBox USB in my very small set up. It doesn't have lots of knobs, but the design is tight and sturdy; very reliable; and super cheap ($150). PreSonus is doing well right now and their pricepoint is quite affordable. If the AudioBox USB is not exactly what you're looking for, then maybe give some of the higher-end VSL based hardware units a look.
I have not tried (or have any idea) how PreSonus hardware runs with Windows, but it behaves impeccably with my Mac. Good luck on your search!
I REALLY like the look of the STEINBERG UR28M (monitoring section!!) but it doesn't have a MIDI interface, and it claims to have "Cubase-integrated" optimality (is that even a word?) - and I have always been quite ALLERGIC to Cubase. (SONAR I like a lot, ProTools I can deal with).
Just pondering if the lack of MIDI is a dealbreaker - could always go with a little MidiSport2x2 interface or something (just need the midi for loading TOnelab patches, really...) BUT then again that would mean one more box to haul around, and clutter the already crowded desk... (hmmm)
Well... the local music shoppe had no less than TEN interfaces for USB. Priced from $60 to $500... I pondered the Focusrite Forte for a long time, but decided I wasn't likely to notice that extra 10 db of headroom in any of my next few projects. After all, a lot of what I've recorded in the past 30 years has been on radically lower fidelity gear, and I'm still quite pleased with the results so far.
Took home a TASCAM US-366 instead. About $300 cheaper than the Forte, but offers roughly the same functionality. And I think I can scrape by with it's paltry 98 dB of dynamic range! I have to say I was a bit leery of the Tascam name after my luke-warm experience with some of their 'high end' mixing boards in the 90s. But this device is proving to be quite likeable.
I don't have a mic here to check the mic pre with, but the monitoring is all very functional. One of the things I like about it is how you can configure it to swap inputs 3/4 into outputs 5/6 - and thus have two extra headphone sends. I think that's going to come in real handy! The popup mixer panel is very good, reminds me a little of an RME card I had a few years back.
I discovered this evening that the DI works really well for bass guitar. I can see some usefulness in the hardware DSP (you can add a little reverb in the cans while recording, and it does not get printed to tape) - and also that one DSP insert effect you get to apply to an input could have a little usefulness as well. EQ, comp, and noise-reduction all seem quite functional, though the exciter and the de-esser don't really rock my world...
Anyway, the sound of the line input is noticeably clear and pristine. And a couple of experiments with the included Cubase reveal no obvious latency. (ASIO panel reported 5 mS) BTW, Cubase LE 6 reminds me of all the things I used to dislike about Cubase. (Starting with their tedious registration hoop-jumping...)
Bang for *the buck* may very well end up being one of those new Behringer FCA boxes that are supposed to ship this month if they don't turn out to have some fatal flaw, but I'm guessing with the postponed release maybe they were taking time to iron out stuff.
- Yeah, I know we hate them and all, but I've still got hope for it.