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CNET First Look
Avid Recording StudioMusicians and podcasters now have three affordable options for sinking their teeth into Avid's award-winning Pro Tools audio-recording software.
Hey, I'm Donald Bell and today we're taking a first look at some new audio production bundles from Avid. There are three hardware options in this lineup including a recording studio USB audio interface for $119, a vocal studio with a USB microphone for $99, and a USB keyboard version called the Key Studio that goes for $129. All these hardware options are bundled with the same software which is geared towards beginners but also has plenty of power compared to other entry-level options like GarageBand or Acid. The hook here is that you get an inexpensive foothold into Avid's award-winning Pro Tool software which is still the industry standard. The idea is that once you get comfortable with the included Pro Tools SE software, there's an upgrade path all the way up to a full blown Pro Tools rig. As far as construction quality goes, the hardware is made by Avid's M-AUDIO division who have a good track record for making sturdy gear even if the materials and designs sometimes feel a little bit more consumer than professional. The USB audio interface features XLR microphone and instrument inputs as well as RCA output on the back. It's basically a two-channel interface in and out, some nice big gain adjustment knobs up here at the top, a switch for a microphone phantom power on the back, and the option for zero-latency direct headphone monitoring on the front. If you don't wanna fiddle around with knobs and you just wanna get the most direct way to get a quality recording into your computer, the Vocal Studio USB Mic is the way to go. It uses a rugged all-metal design with the USB output on the bottom and a headphone jack on the front. A metal tripod and leather pouch also come included, and as the name implies, this is an ideal setup for recording vocals or podcasts but it also works just as well for recording your guitar amp or pretty much anything that makes noise. At $99 with Pro Tools SE included, it's really a killer value. Now, there are a few downsides that apply to all the products here. One thing that you need to know is that you have to have your hardware connected to boot up the software. It's kind of a pain if you wanna edit and compose songs on the go but if you're just putting together a little home studio, it's no big deal. The second drawback is that the software limits each song to just 16 simultaneous tracks, but, you can upgrade to a better version of Pro Tools if you really need the extra freedom. So that's what to expect from Avid's latest crop of entry-level audio recording gear. If you're aspiring to learn how to record like the pros, these are great products that essentially work like Pro Tools with training wheels. For CNET.com, I'm Donald Bell.