From mics to monitoring to multitrack recording, we’ve unearthed some greatgoodies for mobile audio.
Shure X2u XLR-to-USB Adapter($130MSRP, $99 street; www.shure.com )
Got XLR mic? Got USB on your WindowsVista/XP/7 or Mac OS X laptop? Then plug the mic into the X2u, and the X2u into a powered USB port—instant USB mic. The X2u sports threecontrols: mic gain, headphone volume(there’s an 1/8" jack), and monitor,which blends output from thecomputer with the mic audio. There’salso a +48V switch, peak LED indicator,and USB activity indicator.
So how does it stack up to Blue’sIcicle ($60 street) or CEntrance’s Mic-Port Pro ($149 street)? The X2u hasbetter build quality than the Icicle, which also lacks monitoring (there’sonly a gain control), has no phantom power, and is about an inch longer. The Icicle also uses a mini-USB jack,whereas the X2u uses any standardUSB cable. For the extra bucks, theMicPort Pro gives 24-bit/96kHz resolution;the X2u tops out at 16/48kHz, andIcicle at 16/44.1kHz. You can also aggregate two MicPort Pros for stereorecording, and if size matters, it’s thesmallest of the bunch—but it uses amini-USB jack, and while it provides zero-latency monitor, blending needsto be done in your software app.
So if you ever needed proof that“you get what you pay for,” these threeprove it. The X2u is positioned exactly between the Icicle and the MicPortPro, and for most people, provides all the essentials for transforming whatever mic you use into a USB mic—withnotable build quality.
Monster Turbine Pro Copper In-EarSpeakers($299.95 MSRP, $270 street; www.monstercable.com )
We reviewed the Turbine Pro Gold ear buds last issue, which are designed morefor high-end consumers. Within hours ofthe magazine going to the printer, wethen received the Turbine Pro Copperearbuds, which are designed specificallyfor pro mixing—and they’re so goodthey merit their own mention.
The differences between the two are subtle, but significant. Gold emphasizeslow bass, with a little less high end;Copper is more neutral overall. However,this is not a night-and-day difference—it’s more like the differencebetween two excellent sets of speakers.
Like the Golds, the Coppers arebeautifully constructed (with a lifetimewarranty—that’s confidence!), andexhibit the same imaging, detail, transparency, and superb transient response. However, the same caution applies toboth products: Selecting the correct tipfor your ear is crucial, so take the time to check out all the options.
Can’t decide between them? If youwant to mix, have your MP3 playersound transcendent, and truly enjoythe movies on planes, go for the Gold.You can easily learn to compensate forany response differences. But if you’reinterested solely in the most accuratereproduction when mixing (or evenmastering) with a mobile studio, theCoppers get the nod. In either case,these are astonishing transducers thatwill cause you to re-evaluate just howgood “earbuds” can be.