The Well-Accessorized DAW

Aug 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By George Petersen



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ARC (Advanced Room Correction) software from IK Multimedia ( measures and calculates the acoustics in your room and applies correction via an advanced EQ plug-in. Retail is $599, including a calibrated measurement mic.

KRK's ( Ergo combines A/B control room speaker-switching, headphone output, monitor volume control and room-correction DSP — all within a desktop box ($799 retail, with measurement mic; includes Mac or PC setup software).

Level Pilot ($119) from TC Electronic ( offers passive volume control direct to your active speakers (or power amp) from your DAW outputs with stereo XLR I/Os. It's a simple, elegant solution providing smooth control with full-fidelity, straight-wire performance.

Taking the passive approach to monitor control even further, the M3ph Mk II ($1,025) from Coleman Audio ( mates four switchable inputs and three outputs (all balanced XLR) with mute and phase-reverse controls, and a four-gang stepped attenuator. It has ±0.05dB precision, and one output can be switched to a fixed level for feeding an outboard meter.

The Grace ( m902 reference headphone amplifier ($1,695) combines high-res D/A converters and audiophile analog components in the high-current transimpedance output amplifier. Stereo inputs include balanced XLRs, RCA jacks, AES-3 and S/PDIF co-ax/optical sources with sample rates from 44.1 to 192 kHz supported for direct-from-DAW listening.

The Aphex ( HeadPod ($249) puts four independent stereo headphone amps with individual volume controls into a compact chassis. Convenient, yes, but its ultralow-distortion performance and high headroom are impressive.

Machine Room ($699) from Primacoustic ( cuts down annoying drive and computer fan noise by enclosing your CPU inside a 30×16×24-inch (H×W×D) foam-lined isolation housing that's kept cool by a slick, low-noise, air-exhaust manifold driven by a three-speed fan.

Getting your computer out of the control room is a great idea, and Gefen Extenders ( make it easy. The $899 CAT5•1500HD system uses Cat-5 cable to put up to 200 feet between your PC/Mac and DVI display and USB peripherals. The CAT5-5500HD does the same with two DVI displays for $1,399. Or if you really hate your computer, the fiber-optic DVI 3500HD ($2,679) pushes that degree of separation out to 6,660 feet.


About the size of a USB Flash drive, Digidesign's Mbox 2 Micro ($279) lets Pro Tools users edit/sequence/mix sessions created on Pro Tools HD, Pro Tools LE and Pro Tools M-Powered, or compose loop-based or virtual instrument music on (included) Pro Tools LE software. No audio inputs, but a ⅛-inch stereo out can drive headphones or powered speakers for total mobility.

The truly portable energyXT 2.5 from XT Software ( is a full-featured DAW application that lives on a USB thumb drive. Plug into any Mac/Linux/PC computer, and you'll be recording in minutes, with onboard effects, synths and drum sounds. Tracks can be easily exported to any other DAW. It comes in $99 standard and $149 Plus versions, the latter adding unlimited tracks and ReWire Energizer support.

PortaGig from Glyph ( is a line of pocket-sized, 5,400- or 7,200 rpm hard drives with 160/250/320/500GB capacity. These lightweight, fanless aluminum-enclosure drives support sessions with high track counts and are powered by the FireWire 800 or USB 2 bus, or the included AC adapter.

Just shipping, Apogee Electronics' ( ONE is a pocket-sized, 44.148kHz USB interface/microphone that's designed to work with Apple's GarageBand, Logic, Final Cut Pro or any Core Audio-compliant app. Features include an internal condenser mic, XLR preamp input with phantom power, three-segment LED I/O metering and ⅛-inch output for headphones or line. Retail is $249.

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