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A trusty buddy

Some of you might know that I almost always have my laptop and a sound card with me. Many times I need to edit on the move, or just need a little utility Pro Tools with me in the studio. It proved to be invaluable over the last few months. Session exchange, conversion, prepare, RX restoration, etc. without loosing the main computers in the studio. For all this great and urgent matter I use the Sounddevices USBpre 2 sound card, which is, in my opinion, probably the best out there.

Versatility

First of all, I am not tied to any platform. It works great on Mac and Win, any kind of DAW can use it (although this is not a point for me as I almost exclusively use PT). But, the point is, this two channel seemingly simple device offers much more than many fancy stuff these days. I won’t argue over its sound quality. It’s simply superb. Or if you like it this way: it’s good enough to use it on multi million dollar productions. I think that says it all.

This is my little editing card too. As many times I edit in headphones I need something which can serve as a fine headphone amp, but offers different types of connections. The USBpre 2 offers everything I need:

  • 2 mic pre
  • line in
  • aux in
  • digital in (spdif, toslink)

And the real big deal is you can use these functions not only with a computer or DAW, but also in stand-alone mode. The only thing you need is some kind of external power supply for the unit, which is spec wise the same as the usb standard, 5V 500MA max. For example a simple iPad charger can supply ample power for it. You can power it directly from a computer. Even if you want to use it in stand-alone mode. Yes, that’s right, you are not tied to anything. And this is the key with this little unit.

I often need a good headphone amp, even if I don’t need the computer. When powering up the unit, press and hold the pre/pc button so that the card boots up in stand-alone mode. Feed it with some line signal and there you go, you’ve got your brilliant headphone amp without the need of a computer or any driver. It’s this simple.

SD USBpre2

Usability

The other main point is that this sound card is built like a tank. Although it doesn’t have any shinny displays, nor touch sensitive buttons, but it just works in every possible situation. The buttons are sturdy, the unit has a metal chassis and none of the connectors are made from plastic. As soon as you hold the unit in your hand it feels like a serious tool which would last very long time.

So far it helped me in many various situations and the ease of use and reliability is second to none.

I used it as:

  • a sound card for various DAWs
  • stand-alone headphone amp
  • stand-alone preamp
  • iPad interface (you’ll need an external battery for this)
  • stand-alone converter
  • as a test equipment (as it has loop function built-in)
  • line driver in stand-alone operation

It has all the conncection might need:

  • xlr inputs and outputs
  • jack in/out
  • rca in/out both analogue and digital
  • toslink in/out optical
  • small and normal headphones output connector

When I was just looking around and testing many various sound cards, I dreamed of a highly versatile, solid, reliable interface, and in my opinion I found the perfect card. You can find many cards with more fancy design, with shinny displays, with boutique rare features, but I bet you won’t find too many so well thought out, sturdy built card which has so many options and uses while still has a sound which is definitely high-end. So if you happen to look after a sound card which is also a multifaceted toolbox, consider the USBpre 2, it won’t let you down.

4 Comments

  1. Per

    Is it possible to have two channels AND two more channels via spdif with usbpre2. I can’t make an active spdif-path in protools, even though it looks like usbpre2 sending both two channels mik and two channels spdif.

  2. Correct, the USBpre always sends both the analogue and the SPDIF. You need Pro Tools to be locked to the SPDIF, I managed to do this with powering down and up again the USBpre.

  3. Per

    Thank you for answering! What do you mean with “lock”? How did you do this?

  4. I managed to lock it to Pro Tools when I used digital in and out. Select SPDIF on the USBpre, launch Pro Tools, make sure that Sounddevices is the current playback engine. Power down the USBpre and then power up, restart Pro Tools. This worked for me.

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