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A Simple Audio Interface For Your Computer

6:00 am Home Recording

When I first set up a simple computerized studio for MIDI-plus-audio recording, I used the audio hardware that came with my computer (a Windows machine from Hewlett-Packard) to get audio into and out of the Cubase software I was learning at the time.  Since I planned to record alone in that studio, my needs were simple.  I used an external mixer to route microphone signals to the “Line In” connector on the PC, and I used a MIDI-to-USB cable to directly input MIDI parts from a keyboard.  The PC’s “Speaker Out” connector was connected to a power amplifier and a pair of desktop speakers.

As I worked with Cubase, I came to realize that using the PC audio hardware was not the best approach for this kind of recording.  The main problem was that I was unable to use the various monitoring modes offered by Cubase, since everything that came in on the Line In connector came right out the speakers, whether I wanted to be hearing the input signal or not.  I needed a way to listen to only what Cubase was actually putting out as a monitor signal, not what I was putting in.

The Only Solution - Isn’t It Amazing?

The solution came in the form of the Audio Genie Pro USB Audio Interface.  Priced at just $50 and available from Musician’s Friend and other sources, the Audio Genie Pro was just what I needed!  In addition to a wall-wart connection and a USB socket, the rear panel features pairs of RCA connectors for audio input and output.  I ran my mixer output to the input sockets, and the output sockets to the power amplifier and speakers.  As soon as I plugged the USB cable into my computer and reconfigured Windows to use the USB connection for audio input and output, I was good to go.

The front panel of the Audio Genie Pro has input and output level knobs as well as a “Mix” knob that lets me listen only to what is being sent to the computer (like before), or only what is coming back from the computer (my standard setting), or some mix of the two.  The unit operates at 44.1 or 48 kHz sampling rates, and as a bonus contains a preamp and RIAA equalizer that allows you to connect a phonograph (remember those?) and digitize your record collection via the USB connection.  Handy!

I liked this little unit so much I bought a second one for my “old school” 8-track studio so that I can take my MacBook down there, plug in the USB cable from the audio interface, and immediately record, play back, and monitor through my usual mixer, effects, etc., but using the Logic Express software on the laptop instead of my hardware DAW (a Yamaha MD8 MiniDisc recorder).  I hooked the interface up so that normal operation of the studio is unaffected as long as the Mix knob on the audio interface is all the way to the “Local” side.  When I hook up the MacBook I just dial it over to the “CPU” side….and away we go!

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