I'm often asked by clients and artists I work with, what good, inexpensive recording interface I recommend. I used to recommend the Mbox, but the USB C400 is my new choice. I was looking for something that Julie Ann Bee from Sea of Bees could use for doing demos that would make it easier to move files between her home studio setup and The Hangar, and Mark Williams at Avid suggested we check out the C400. It's about the size of a paperback book and has two jacks that will accept mic, line, or instrument level signals; and four line outputs. There is also S/PDIF and MIDI I/O. For monitoring there's a big volume knob on the top of the unit as well as a separate volume for the headphone jack on the front of the unit. Two sets of monitors can be hooked up for speaker switching as well. In short, it's just about everything you need for a simple 2- channel interface. Plus the C400 ships with Pro Tools SE included. I gave the box to Jules, and the next day she had it hooked up and installed without any help from me - the first time she had ever installed a recording interface - which speaks to how easy the C400 is to get started with. I came over a few days later with an ADK A51 LDC mic to make sure the C400 would be able to supply enough phantom power to power the mic. It worked perfectly. For the last month or two, Jules has been sending me demos every few days and they sound great, much better than her old GarageBand demos. We haven't had the occasion to incorporate any of her home recordings into an album yet, but based on what I've heard, I wouldn't have any concerns about doing so. The C400 also has built in DSP and near-zero-latency monitoring so you can track and record with reverb and effects. Another nice thing about the C400 is that it works with just about any DAW, not just Pro Tools. We recently had Ricky Berger in The Hangar working on her second album with producer Gordon Raphael (Tape Op #46), and they wanted to do some location recording in a church. I had a Digi 002 I offered to loan them, but Gordon was having some issues getting it to work with the version of Pro Tools on his laptop, and he preferred to use Logic when he does location recordings anyway. So, I borrowed the C400 from Jules, and loaned it to Ricky and Gordon, and it worked perfectly for them too. All in all, a great little recording interface for songwriters, demos, 2- channel location recordings, and just about anything else you can throw at it. M-Audio also makes a four-in, six-out version, the C600, that also has two headphone outputs.

(C400 $249 street, C600 $399; www.m-audio.com) -JB 

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

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