Unlike the other Mbox 2 interfaces for Pro Tools LE (see Tape Op #51 and #57 for reviews of the Mbox 2 and Mbox 2 Mini), the Pro connects to the host via FireWire instead of USB, it supports 88.2 and 96 kHz sample rates, and it features expanded I/O. There are four analog inputs. Inputs 1 and 2 can be individually switched between rear-panel Neutrik Combo (XLR/TRS) mic/line ins and front-panel 1/4" DIs. Additionally, the stereo Aux In is switchable between a pair of TRS line jacks or RCA connectors that feed an internal phono preamp. Of the six analog outputs, Line Outs 1-4 are on TRS, and Line Outs 5/6 are on a single stereo TRS. Used in conjunction with the S/PDIF digital I/O, you can record up to six inputs at a time and play through eight outputs simultaneously. There are two headphone jacks; each has its own volume knob, and the second jack can monitor Line Out 1/2 or 3/4. The rest of the Mbox 2 line seems geared toward folks who are recording themselves, but the Pro stands out for having features that allow an engineer to record one or more musicians while monitoring a mix that's different from the artists' cue mix. Furthermore, the quality of analog I/O has been upgraded for the Pro. Compared to the Mini (I didn't have an original Mbox 2 to compare), the Pro has better sounding mic preamps, less roll-off on the DIs, and headphone amps with lower noise and higher volume. Moreover, the Pro is the only one in its line that supports 96 kHz operation. Unfortunately, external sync to the WC input is only available at 44.1 and 48 kHz rates. The unit is built well, and disagreeing with Dana Gumbiner, who was unhappy with the shape of the knobs when he reviewed the Mbox 2, I like the knobs and switches because they aren't likely to break off when you throw the sucker into your backpack. ASIO, WaveDriver, and CoreAudio drivers guarantee that the Pro will work with just about every audio application, but of course, it comes with ProTools LE 7.3 (Tape Op #57) as well as over 50 plug-ins, applications, and virtual instruments (same as the other Mbox 2 bundles). A Factory bundle includes even more. Check the website for detailed lists. ($799 MSRP; www.digidesign.com)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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