Echo are the maker of quite affordable, nice audio interfaces; they’re perhaps best known for their ultra-compact PC Card (CardBus) interfaces and, before that, PCI-based interfaces. They’ve gotten into FireWire, but initially in the 10×10 and 12×12 configurations, where there’s plenty of competition. There are far fewer FireWire interfaces that are smaller and less expensive, which is why Echo’s latest could catch some additional attention.

The new interfaces are:

  1. AudioFire2: 2 x 2 ¼” balanced analog inputs/outputs, an independent stereo headphone output with volume knob, a removable dongle for S/PDIF and MIDI i/o, an 8 foot 6-pin FireWire cable, a 3 foot 6-pin to 4-pin FireWire adapter cable, and an external 12VDC power supply. US$199
  2. AudioFire4: 2 auto-sensing universal inputs with mic preamps, phantom power and trim knobs, 2 balanced ¼” analog inputs, 4 balanced ¼” analog outputs, a stereo headphone output with volume knob, S/PDIF and MIDI i/o, an 8’ 6-pin FireWire cable, and an external 12VDC power supply. $299.

AudioFire2 [Echo Audio Product Page]
AudioFire4 [Echo Audio Product Page]

Hmm … lots of I/O, same high-quality innards as their higher-end models, and all the extra widgets and cables and whatnot actually included in the box? I wish this were a lot more common. Better still, both are FireWire bus-powered and promise low-latency drivers. (Bus power won’t help most PC laptop users, however: for reasons I don’t understand, most PCs still ship with 4-pin FireWire jacks, unlike the Mac.)

Bundled in the box is Tracktion 1 — dated, but no matter, given these otherwise seem worth a look.

Echo Vista Compatibility Update

As I write this, Echo happens to have just announced Vista drivers for their full line of current products. That means all FireWire devices (AudioFire 2, AudioFire4, AudioFire 8 & AudioFire 12), Layla3G & Gina3G, the PC Cards (Indigo, Indigo io, Indigo dj), and Layla24, Mona, Gina24, Mia, MiaMIDI. Check the driver download page for details.

For more compatibility information, check our Vista Compatibility Roundup:
Vista Launch Day: What’s Compatible for Musicians?

And stop your snickering, Mac users. We’re still waiting for Universal Binary compatibility for a lot of software, and now Leopard is about to hit. The developer updates never end.

  • Zach

    I believe their site says that these use the Core Audio driver and don't need a driver from Echo. I wonder how well this works. Is it full 24-bit with the native driver. If so, that's pretty nice! My FastTrack Pro only does 16-bit without the M-audio driver. The driver is buggy and freezes the computer (sometimes until restart) when turning the thing on and off. Which is frequently because USB doesn't wake up from sleep like it should. I sure wish these Echos had been around when I was shopping for sound cards because I was pretty sad to give up my Layla when switching to Mac.

  • http://www.andrewswihart.net Andrew Swihart

    Tried a Layla 3g recently, the sound quality was not very good, but I'm comparing to a LynxOne, so that's a high benchmark, but still, it turned me off to Echo products.

  • http://unrecnow.com/mapmap marc

    why does the AudioFire2 say 'Line Outputs' on the front and the back?

    maybe it's a four out/no in kind of box?

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

    Sharp eye, Marc. That was the press photo I got, and I think it was a mock-up image. It's definitely 2 line in, 2 line out. I've replaced the image with a new photo from their website.

    Zach, there's definitely a driver for download on Echo's page. Of course, all drivers on OS X run on Core Audio, so I assume they're referring to optional class-compliant / driver-free operation.

  • http://blog.whats-your.name carmen

    no linux drivers :/

  • http://blog.whats-your.name carmen

    i do think they mean the best, but they are a small operation. i mailed them in october of 2004 asking when x64 drivers were coming for their PCI cards, and was told soon (at this time, the preview of XP64 was out), but they didnt show up on the website until right before you posted this.

    it may be class-compliant for freebob. but i dont want to be the guinea pig. anyone want to be ?

  • http://www.zerobae.com Zerobae

    I've got an AF2 and it's a beautiful device. I could do with a little less latency, but then I use it with my old iBook, so…

    Anyway, even with the latest firmware update (3.1) there's apparently still problems with AFs and MacBook Pros — find out more here.

  • http://www.augustengkilde.dk August

    I got the Echo Aufiofire4. Very nice, small and light!

    I tested the Audiofire 2 also, very very small! And yes it has 4 outs! The headphone outs are their own outputs, so you can have another mix or whatever going to your headphones.

    I choosed the Auidofire4 because I needed the mic pre's. The pre's are not as god as in the TC konnekt, but pretty okay. THey get noise in the very last millimeter when you crank it all up, but all pre's more or less do that.

    The only drawback is that the audiofire4 headphone output are not separat outputs as on the audiofire2. On the audiofire4 they are shared with the output 1 and 2.

    The firmware get updated automatically from the console app.

    /August

  • http://www.augustengkilde.dk August

    And another nice thing: It can run from the buspower of the new Macbook pro 15" 2.33 Dual2. !!!

    That's not the case for the TC interfaces! And a lot of other firewire interfaces, after Apple have fucked up the output on the some of their new laptops. I know it's for security reasons, but what's the point if you can't buspower it? At least I don't wanna carry around hundreds of power-supplies when going to a gig.

    /August

  • http://www.rolandreinke.com Roland

    Seems like the box to get for mobil i/o!

    I'll definitely consider this for my mobile computer.

    R

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

    August, Zebroae, thanks for the feedback! So, if the headphones on the AF4 are shared with outs 1 and 2, does that mean you can still route audio to 3 and 4 and monitor only 1 and 2 as a "cue" output?

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » Vista Launch Day: What’s Compatible for Musicians?

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ Flip

    I recently got myself a Mackie Satellite with Onyx preamps for about $399. As soon as I started recording with it, all I could think was "WOW". Extremely portable too, if you're doing something on location. I highly suggest anyone check it out:

    Mackie product page

  • http://www.andivax.com andi vax

    i just win AF4 in a track competition.

    i use Echo Indigo IO in my gig laptop. Now i think it is a good day for change PCMCI to Firewire.

    I only need monitor 3-4 out to headphones.

    Is it possible?

  • http://www.augustengkilde.dk August

    Hi Peter Kim

    Yes you can monitor on line 3+4 and and route 1+2 to whatever else you need or the other way, Monitor 3+4 and route 1+2 to something else.

    But 1+2 and Headphones will always be the same you get out.

    /August

  • http://www.augustengkilde.dk August

    Sorry Peter Kirn, I got your name spelled wrong :-)

    /August

  • mn

    Just got an AudioFire4 for my Dell 1505 (vista basic). Out of the box and with the new 3.1.1 drivers it works great, no midi latency – but it has random pops and clicks. These clicks are really similar to buffer sounds, but they happen 2sec, 10sec, 1min – randomly. I'm tweaking it but look out.

    As a side note, I bought this card to replace a Maudio Audiophile firewire – vista didn't like the midi on it (and I never liked the box much anyhow).

    Ps – mac users, don't go crazy on this vista knocking. I have a MacPro desktop also, and I could list a million problems that OSX/Mac has as well ;) .

  • AchternStyg

    Hei, guys. I just got an Audiofire4 running on a Dell 6400 ( the Ricoh chipset seems to be fine afterall ). I am playing 20 wav tracks 24bit 48kHz and record another 4 on top at 64-128 buffersize while midi is busy, net is busy, virsus canner is on, and some more stuff, all this without a single problem. Actually, after a terrible experience with M-audio Audiophile Firewire and some other cards, I have been trying to crash my system just for the fun but the Echo card is behaving splendid.

    The only "unsatisfaction", to be really picky, is that there's no direct bus for the headphones so that I cannot listen to 3/4 or a mix of 1/2&3/4 in the headphones. One could instead use 3/4 as main and monitor 1/2 in the headphones. I was wondering if this is something they might fix in the next driver or just a hard wired decision that we have to live with.

    The M-audio card I mentioned above had its bad sides but it would allow me to switch on the headphones between several sources. So I wrote to Echo about it. Waiting answer.

  • moretroops

    Hey AchternStyg, any progress isolating the headphone from the main mix? I purchased the AF 4 in order to DJ using Traktor, and this funcionality is an absolute must. Let me know if you here anything, thanks.

  • kwik

    hello there i just got audiofire4…i want to record a vocal track on my ableton live 6….anyone can suggest a good vocal effect software????

  • Zach

    The only software needed is a console application that controls levels and input routing. There is no driver for the AudioFire cards, so it works (all 6 inputs/outputs detected at 24-bit) without the console software installed. It is plug and play with OSX, but the console application is needed for levels, routing, and to use phantom power. For Windows, the AudioFires need drivers installed. The only thing I don't like about this interface is a lack of a hardware knob for main volume, though I use a Presonus HP4 to solve that issue.