Digidesign has taken a minimalist approach to their latest audio interface, the USB-powered Mbox 2 Mini. The new hardware gives the mobile Pro Tools LE user the basics for on-the-go use, and nothing more:

  1. One mic input (on a dedicated XLR, though only 2 inputs max can be used at once)
  2. 48V phantom power
  3. Two 1/4″ unbalanced ine-/instrument-level analog ins

  4. Two 1/4″ unbalanced analog outs
  5. 24-bit, 44.1k/48k operation
  6. 5 x 6 x 1.75″, 1.12 lbs

Mbox 2 Mini [Digidesign Product Page]

The ultra-compact size, I’ll bet, will earn some fans, especially since Pro Tools won’t function without a connected Digidesign audio interface (or M-Audio interface for M-Powered). US$329 would actually be a really high price for this interface, but as with the other Mbox models, what you’re really buying here is Pro Tools LE. The Mbox 2 Mini doesn’t “mini-size” the software bundle, either: Pro Tools LE 7, the XPand! instrument, Bomb Factory plug-ins, and the usual extras are included. For a beginning Pro Tools user who only needs to plug in a single mic and doesn’t need a MIDI interface, this should be a good bargain.

That said, I’ll bet some Pro Tools users who would like to travel light will be a little disappointed, because there’s no unbundled version; why not offer a US$99 interface to existing Pro Tools LE users? LE users are forced to either (effectively) repurchase the software every time they want a new interface, or pay all over again for Pro Tools M-Powered and buy an M-Audio interface.

[tags]hardware, Digidesign, Pro-Tools, audio-interfaces, Windows, Mac[/tags]

  • Craig

    "why not offer a US$99 interface to existing Pro Tools LE users?"

    My guess would be that they see a vulnerability, piracy-wise. It's pretty easy to steal Pro Tools – as long as you still have to buy specific pieces of hardware to use it, the impact of software piracy is reduced. Selling a $99 interface basically means that I could pay only $99 for a package that ought to cost $329. And while most pirates would prefer to pay nothing, I know plenty of musicians who are cheap and would take that as an easy deal.

  • http://lumma.org/microwave Carl Lumma

    One XLR and apparently USB 1.1 speed. I can't believe they're still selling this crap.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, USB 1.1 will be just fine for a 2 in, 2 out interface, surely, don't you think, Carl?

    Craig, I hear you, but then why can't Digidesign offer a $99 upgrade for existing users, with just the interface?

    The problem I have is the ongoing investment required for Pro Tools, especially for the target LE market. Nothing against Pro Tools, necessarily, but that's why for many users I'll suggest going with something like Ableton Live and a custom interface; for many users, this is the better fit.

  • Adrian Anders

    I'll never understand the music technology mainstream's facination with closed-environments.

    Although I do like aspects of Reason and Pro Tools (especially HD, which has some real power behind it), the closed nature of these systems really put me off. And yet for many people, they're drawn TOWARDS the closed nature of these platforms… like that's the selling point.

    Maybe some PT and/or Reason fanboys can clue me into this.

    ATA

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I wouldn't lump Reason into the same category necessarily. I know it lacks plug-in support, but since the idea of its ReWire support is that you plug it into a host that does have plug-in support, it's not entirely fair to call it "closed." (Though, admittedly, it would be nice to be able to use Reason's modular routing with VST plugs!)

  • Nicholas Vegas

    Hmmm, some time ago , i didnt buy the MBox2 cause of the USB 1.1 Now i have to buy another Audio interface for my other Station, but i may will have a closer look at the NI KONTROL, same price more features and btw im not shure enough to marry the Little Pro-Tools Bride to enter the closed circle family.

  • http://www.tedkocher.com Ted Kocher

    Digi needs a "Trade-In-Your-Old-Mbox" program for this. I'm on a dub stage all the time and this looks about half the size of the original mbox. I just cant justify the 329 to swap Mbox's…

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  • frank line

    a reason to get into the closed system might be that some plug-ins look real fine on the digi side…like the new strike plug-in, which is arguably the best virtual drum plug out there right now…

  • frank line

    …and beat detective…

  • ganjjjj

    Seriously… What could you possibly need Pro Tools for if you only have 2 inputs?! Totally useless to bundle this product with Pro Tools and jack up the price.

  • http://lumma.org/microwave Carl Lumma

    USB 1.1 for 2in/2out… I've had endless trouble on a wide variety of units and host PCs/software. Latency made it hard to multitrack despite endless ASIO configuring, and I've even had tracks ruined by audible cut-outs and such.

    Granted, my most recent experiences dates back a couple of years now, to when I got my Edirol UA-1000, which is a gem of a device (naturally they stopped making it). But seriously, if I bought a camera and it wasn't USB 2 I would be pissed off. What's the excuse for a music interface? Hell, I've got an *SD card* with a USB 2 interface on it.

    http://tinyurl.com/mu84o

    -Carl

  • Marc

    Wouldn't be bad if it were priced lower. You can get the M-audio Transit(with digital I/O) and ProTools M-powered for less money. With two ins and outs this really would be great for overdubbing and mixing, multi-tracking is another story…

  • Pramod Thummala

    Hey, I've been looking at all of the different technology recently such as Reason, Ableton, Pro Tools etc. I am COMPLETELY new to this world. I'm a DJ, but would like to start editing tracks for CD-R, cleaning up mixes/sets that I put together, and maybe toiling with putting together some loops and tracks.

    Any suggestions? I would like something that I can use on a PC, that I can learn on my own through a manual or online tutorial, and that is the most cost effective.

    Thanks in advance. Any suggestions on what to get and how to get up and running would be very helpful.

    Cheers,

    Pramod

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Pramod, that's an easy answer … Ableton Live is the easiest way to get into these things. We could make this an FAQ. Get Live, a simple audio interface (I like the PreSonus Firebox, provided your PC has FireWire, for best performance).

    Live is especially good for cleanup / tightening of tracks, and you may eventually find yourself DJing with it. It excels at just the tasks you describe.

    You're exactly the kind of case where Pro Tools, as good as it could be for some people, really isn't the best option.

  • Chris_B

    Chris Randal was right to call this thing an overpriced dongle. Seems to me the whole Mbox thing is like bending over and spreading ones cheeks for Digidesign.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Easy to figure out what to do, though; if you want flexibility and you MUST use Pro Tools, go with M-Powered and use whatever gear you want. You actually *own* the software, then, rather than having it tied to a single interface.

    And, of course, you don't HAVE to use Pro Tools; it's always worth competitive shopping, whatever the product.

    I like some of the new plug-ins, yes, but there are so many plug-ins out there for VST and AU that I hardly see plug-ins alone as a reason to go to the Pro Tools platform. (Particularly when we're talking LE, which is a native system just like the others.)

  • Tony

    Too bad that little interface will only work so long as it's attached to a computer that'll run PT. Better be sure you like PT first.

  • kingmetal

    ewww they killed the SPDIF ins/outs on this thing. so much for that – I'm currently running an Mbox 1 into my rig so that I can run LE 7. I just run everything in LE 7 out the SPIDIF outs on my Mbox into my 01V96's converters. can we say $200 Pro Tools dongle?

    the one thing I could see this being useful for is doing some field mixes. I'm at school a lot and I find that doing rough mixes in my headphones can really help me get a jump start on projects. my Mbox 1 works well enough for this (they made the Mbox 2 too big for my tastes).

    and no midi! yeah, screw that. might as well just buy a Fast Track with a copy of M-Powered.

  • Mads

    This looks to me like a great little product as an aditional interface for home or on the move when I need a little edit or briing up a session away from my main PT rig. I'd see it as a simple key to open up pro tools sessions wherever.

    The price is too high, though…

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  • Brandon

    I create my music with live instruments and a sampler(ASR X Pro) I wanted a laptop setup and wanted to get into protools. Would it be wise to grab the mbox mini? Can I even midi my asr x pro into pro tools with the mini or is it a waste of time?

  • Stefika

    I plan to buy this portable configuration: Mac Book Pro 15", MBox2 Mini, Oxigen 8 v2. What about this? Some advices?

  • http://northwestpresentation.com Don

    I'm wondering if Pramod was able to figure things out….. I've had a pro who loves PT telling me to get something for years. As an old analog radio production guy, I've got a huge library to update and digitize and maybe even RE produce…. I finally got the mini and what comes with it… But I can't figure out how to apply it to my needs – stereo tracks needing tweak work… I keep watching the inst. but don't see any tutorial on setting up to edit stereo tapes, sources, etc…. what am I missing…? Most of the hip new geeks that know this stuff in their sleep treat me like what I am – an analog dinosaur ready to be recycled…. but before I go out I'd like to finish these projects so my kids know what dad did while they were sleeping in their cribs. ANY HELP WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED!!!!Thanks! Don

  • http://www.myspace.com/rokkettscience Chris Willis

    I really like the MBOX 2 Mini; it fits right into my laptop bag next to the power supply. If your laptop is fast and you have the RAM you can get a lot of work done. The fact that it has no midi port makes no difference because with all the plug-ins and Reason 3.0 who needs it. If I really need midi I have it on the back of my M-AUDIO Axiom, which is usually in the trunk of my car or in my locker at work. I get way more work done now with this small MBOX than I didn’t when I had to make it down to the studio. I’ll admit it has made me lazy. Instead of carrying an external hard drive around I ran a test mastering session from a USB thumb drive just to see if it would work and it seemed OK. Has anyone tried this?

    Anyway. A laptop, my AKG K240s headphones, the MBOX 2 Mini and a thumb drive and I’m off to Starbucks to complete a few radio spots.

    Peace!

    Did I mention that Nuendo runs fine on the MBOX…..

  • Michael Gallagher

    Hi Guys,

    Looking for some advice on same subject.

    I am investing in a group of young guys who are currently writing and developing tracks using Reason and Sonar6(PE).

    I am looking to spend about AU$1,000 (about $830 US) in total on a setup (software and hardware interface) for creating (midi and wave) and editing (slip editing mostly) drums, bass, vocals, etc. basically the whole nine yards, from creation to mixing and mastering, but we do have studio time to mix and master and are more likely to take the raw product and re-record vocals in studio and them master in studio..

    So I guess what i want is the ease and sleekness of Pro Tools, the dynamics of Ableton LIVE, the complexity of Cakewalk SONAR and the clarity and style of MBOX interface, to professionaly and powerfully create, edit and bounce R&B/hip hop tracks, but without the sales people giving me hollow advice when they know less than me.

    MBOX2 LE is a great choice, but i'm thinking of MPOWERED so i can choose another HW interface if there is a better one..

    Thanks for any input.

    Michael.C.Gallagher [AT] gmail.com

  • http://rlzombijesus.conforums.com bill

    the stupid thing is that you need a firewire external hard drive to run pro tools when the m box is only usb1.1… my question is why do you need to transfer data out faster than you bring it in? why wouldnt a usb 2.0 drive work well enough???

  • nandalal

    I wish Pro Tools would put in the M Box Mini 2 set up, a much clearer bit of information on the installation aspect. A guy from the shop I bought it from came and helped rectify my 'Micro School of Computer Dummies' mistakes and as I watched him load it in and back and forth with those emails and downloads, I thought if no one shows me what the numbers are and where they go, my M Box Mini won't even let me hear it.

    I'm fifty, not a computer whizz kid. I remember the old TR 707 Rythm Composer and that had an equally confusing manual, but also in the box was a map of the front of the machine and a simply written flow diagram of how to operate it and exactly what to do? I was writing in five minutes with the flow chart diagram but with the manual, well, I never would have got there.

    Can anyone out there help me install this on my Windows XP? I'm on a DSP, not a doctors wages. I just want to be able to get in there, write and hear and use it, not spend hours trying to install it and just giving up because the whole mess is just too damn confusing for me.

    thanks, Pro Tools, put a better instruction in your next bits box. One for the compu whizz kids, and one in nice simple language for the old 'bastards' like me, who can still just barely send an email.

  • http://www.joewhitemusic.com Joe White

    I used to have a huge TDM system. Produced some major stuff. Loved it but sold it because I was burned out and out of cash to keep replacing my Mac every time the OS changed. I found life without Protools to be frustrating. Bought an MBox Mini to attach to my resonably robust PC. It won't work and the crap I have to go through to get it to work it draining every bit of my life force. I am saving up for a Mac which I imagine will work perfectly from moment one

  • Chris Taylor

    nandalal, if you still need a Pro Tools installation walkthrough, you can Email me for help. and joe…ive hot PT on a PC and no probs…but theres always that problem when one tries to switch platforms.

  • Lisa

    Still waiting for this to be compatible with Windows Vista. Digidesign stated on its web site that this would happen this summer…

  • Andreas

    I purchased the M2 Box Mini nice unit, hoever when the mac firmware updates the pro tools won't work anymore

    I am running Mac and windows Xp I need help

    Thank You

    Andreas

  • http://yahoo.com Carissa

    why won`t my digidesign mini box 2 work

    it use to but now it says it cant keep up are something about fragment or something about firewire bandwith and upgrade some like that

    i have pro tools LE