Music and Recording Hardware and Software
Edirol UA-25 Sound Interface
The sound interface that I use to record my bass is an Edirol UA-25. It is a very capable and solidly built unit. On top of this, it has great Mac drivers and even works brilliantly under Linux with Alsa.
The unit is powered over the USB bus, which significantly cuts down on the mess. It also has direct monitoring - an absolute must-have as far as I'm concerned, as it means no latency when you're recording. Of course, both the recoding and playback quality are top-notch. Phantom power over XLR works great. I've tried recording the double bass
with an Apex condenser mic as well as my electric bass straight it, both worked great.
The interface is very small and can be easily thrown into a laptop bag. The UA-25 itself has a metal body with rounded edges, so it's unlikely
to scratch anything if you do throw it in a bag at the last minute. The size, construction and ease-of-use make the UA-25 an obvious choice for quick, portable recording.
The UA-25 has two modes, normal and advanced. Normal makes the card
look like a generic USB audio card. You lose some functionality, like
direct monitoring, but it will work without additional drivers with older Linux distros and any
other Operating Systems that can support USB audio. I haven't tried but would bet that this means you could plug the UA-25 into pretty much any Mac or PC without drivers. I needed to use
standard mode under SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 but newer distributions such as Ubuntu's Edgy Eft are able to use all of the interface's features in advanced mode. The advanced drivers are integrated in Alsa in recent kernels, no patching or recompiling needed.
On the software side, the UA-25 comes with a copy of Sonar LE. I can't figure out what's limited about this version of Sonar. It seems quite complete to me. Unfortunately, being a computer guy first, I find all of these music programs a bit much. (Garage Band included.) I haven't used Sonar at all, really. Neither have I used the UA-25 under Windows. I can say that the UA-25 works great with Audacity on both Mac and Linux.
I tried a Creative Audigy before the Edirol. It too was a fine
interface, but the direct monitoring, build quality and thought that
went into the UA-25 blow it away. I also looked into MAudio's similar
offerings but opted for the Edirol because of the Linux support and
build quality. Unlike the MAudio stuff, which always seemed like high-quality computer hardware, the Edirol feels like high-quality music gear. Unless I ever want to record more than two things at once, I can't see why I'd ever replace this interface. It's just fantastic and has made me stop thinking about sound cards. I managed to pick mine up for $168CDN. I think it
typically sells for around $200.