audio hardware

LightSnake Microphone-to-USB Cable

The LightSnake takes the frustration out of XLR mic connectivity. Podcasters hoping to record pro-level audio usually have to dish out pro-level dollars - a good XLR microphone requires an interface box to connect to your Mac, and that'll set you back at least $200. But with the LightSnake Microphone-to-USB Cable, you can spend a fraction of that and still be able to connect XLR mics directly to your Mac.

 The m100 earbuds are good for music. We like the m250 over-ear clip-ons for games. Music producers routinely sit around and bemoan the fact that as a result of the 44.1kHz sampling rate of CDs—and the rise of iPods and earbuds—a producer's efforts are wasted on sonically inept listeners. While this is not nearly as true as they'd like to believe, there are complicating factors: The places where we listen, and how and what we listen to, change almost from song to song, leaving manufacturers scrambling to be as many things to as many people as possible. Which brings us to the Pro|Tone m100 earbuds and the Pro|Tone m250 headphones, Razer's two lower-end offerings.

Torq MixLab

A good beginner’s mixer, with some room to grow. With an incredibly cheap entrance fee of $130, M-Audio’s Torq MixLab gives you the core tools you need to make mixes, sans vinyl records and turntables. The package includes the X-Session Pro USB MIDI hardware mixer and Torq LE, a paired-down version of M-Audio’s Torq DJ software.

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doPi Karaoke and iKaraoke

The iKaraoke can connect to your stereo via cable, or transmit your voice to your FM radio over the airwaves. When you've been dumped, there's nothing quite as cathartic as belting out a rendition of "Love Hurts." In fact, we're pretty sure that's how some of the first-round contestants on American Idol got their start.

Xmod

Restore the audio glory of digital music and video files that have been compressed. Creative's Xmod can put the sparkle back into compressed MP3 or AAC audio, as well as enhance the overall quality of movies, CDs, and any other audio content. Unfortunately, it can also introduce distortion when you least expect it.

Audio Control 1

Have it your way - the big knob and three buttons on top can be extensively customized. The Audio Kontrol 1 from Native Instruments is close to being the perfect hardware and software bundle for musicians or audio geeks who want an easy way to connect a guitar, microphone, and MIDI synthesizer to a Mac.

Edirol R-09

You may not like the sound of the price, but you'll love the quality of the sound. With portable digital audio recording devices such as the Edirol R-09 around, there's no need to use a portable tape recorder anymore. The Edirol R-09 is small, light, and has a useful set of recording features. Is it perfect? Not quite - but it's close.

MicroTrack 24/96

Handy for location recordings such as podcast interviews. If you need to record pro-quality audio with minimal fuss, M-Audio’s MicroTrack 24/96 is a self-contained wonder, smaller than anything else that can do this kind of stuff. Pity it’s not built as well as we’d like.

Squeezebox 3

It'll look cool in your home entertainment center or with a set of powered speakers.  When you attach the Squeezebox 3 to your stereo or powered speakers and use the remote control to connect to your Ethernet or Wi-Fi network, you can play the music from your Mac to wherever your Squeezebox 3 is located. When we reviewed the Squeezebox 2 , we dinged it for its complicated setup and high price compared to its main competitor, the Roku SoundBridge. These complaints are still true of the Squeezebox 3, so what makes it better than its predecessor? Two things: It has a better design and it does more.  

Olive Symphony

The Symphony offers a nice way to integrate digital music into your home entertainment center, if you'd rather leave your Mac out of the picture.  Olive Media Products calls its Symphony a "wireless music center." It's a single device that handles pretty much every listening-to-digital-music function you can think of: It rips, mixes, and burns music to CD; plays music; streams tunes to your Mac; and uploads songs to an iPod. It's great - unless you have a Mac, which already does most of what the Symphony can.