Photo by marcobellucci

Photo by marcobellucci

First of all, this is the 100th post here at Home Studio Corner! It’s a small milestone, but I wanted to take a moment to thank all of my readers and supporters. You guys are awesome.

Speaking of awesome, we’ve got another good Ask Joe question. If you’re new, you can submit questions via the Ask Joe form, and I try to feature them in a weekly “Ask Joe” post.

Ross asked:

Hey Joe, hope you can help me here. I was wondering what you think would be best for my situation. I’m a young, aspiring home recording enthusiast. I mainly record myself and my friends and usually only use as much as two inputs at a time. I was originally using Cakewalk Sonar with a Tascam FW-1082 but I’ve sold that now to go down the Pro Tools route.

With this information, I would recommend myself or anyone to buy an Mbox 2 Pro or something in that range, but I’ve heard people, on forums and such, saying that Pro Tools doesn’t get as high performance with the Mbox as it does with a Digi 003. One argument is that it doesn’t get as much track count (which is important to me).

Do you have an opinion on this? Would I be better bypassing the Mbox and going straight to the 003 (I would be upgrading to this or something similar withing a couple of years anyway)?

Thanks, Ross McMillan.

Thanks Ross! Great question. For those of you who may be a bit unfamiliar with the Digidesign hardware, the Mbox 2 Pro and the 003 are the two firewire interface options for Pro Tools LE. The 003 comes in a rackmount version and also a tabletop control-surface version (which is what I have).

All Digidesign USB and firewire interfaces come bundled with Pro Tools LE software. You get the same exact software whether you buy the Mbox 2 Mini for under $300 or the full 003 Factory for over $2,000.

Ross, since both the 003 and the Mbox 2 Pro are firewire devices, there really shouldn’t be any difference in performance between the two. The only real difference is that the 003 can accommodate up to 18 simultaneous inputs, whereas the Mbox 2 Pro tops out at 6 inputs.

That’s really the only difference. The 003 has extra bells and whistles (like a monitor section and a mono button), but these don’t affect the performance at all.

I’m not sure where you’re reading that Pro Tools doesn’t perform as well on the Mbox 2 Pro. You can get the exact same track count (not inputs, but number of audio tracks in Pro Tools) with either the Mbox 2 Pro or the 003. Since both are firewire, the latency specs should be identical as well.

It should be noted that there is a difference between the firewire interfaces and the USB interfaces (Mbox 2, Mbox 2 Mini, Mbox 2 Micro). The USB devices don’t have the amount of throughput and speed that their firewire brothers do, so latency becomes more of an issue.

However, the main thing to consider between the Mbox 2 Pro and the 003 is how many inputs and outputs do you need? If you firmly believe that you will never use more than 2-6 inputs at a time, then the Mbox 2 Pro is a great choice. However, if you think you’ll want to mic up a full band or full drum kit in the next couple of years, it would behoove you to go ahead and save up the few hundred dollars and get the 003 now.

When buying gear, think long-term. If you’ll outgrow the device in less than five years, I’d question whether you need it at all.

Hope this helps Ross.

If you have an opinion, I invite you to weigh in in the comments section below. Who’s gonna be the first to comment on my 100th post??