[LAU] M-Audio Fast Track Pro: unreliable, distorted recording

David Kastrup dak at gnu.org
Thu Aug 2 17:49:58 CEST 2018

Ketil Thorgersen <ketil.thorgersen at gmail.com> writes:

> Den 2018-08-02 13:42, skrev Christopher Arndt:
>> Am 02.08.2018 um 11:29 schrieb Ketil Thorgersen:
>>> So - dear clever people: Should I abandon the card or do you have some
>>> ideas for a possible solution for me?
>> Depends on what is more valuable to you: your time or a few hundred
>> bucks for a new interface. Nowadays there is quite a choice of midprice
>> USB audio interfaces, which work with Linux without hassle.
>> My experience with M-Audio interfaces (I have a Fast Track Pro) on Linux
>> is also that it's driver seems to not work correctly too often.
>> For a band I would take a look at the MIDAS MR18, for example. It can
>> also replace your mixer (because it is one).
> Thanks a lot for your answer! I do not like to waste money (and the
> resources of the earth) without at least trying to fix things
> first. But that looked like an interesting piece of gear
> https://www.thomann.de/gb/midas_mr_18.htm?ref=intl&shp=eyJjb3VudHJ5IjoiZ2IiLCJjdXJyZW5jeSI6IjIiLCJsYW5ndWFnZSI6ImVuIn0%3D. Am
> I right in assuming that it can record 18 tracks simultaneously? And
> it works flawlessly under linux? Can you even utilise the built in
> effects under linux?
> Any other tips for a decent replacement if I need one (perhaps
> slightly cheaper than the Midas)?

In the "slightly cheaper" category I'd have a Mackie 1220 Onyx (which
has 4 mic preamps and 4 stereo channels), an RME HDSP Multiface I, a
Cardbus interface card and an Expresscard adapter, and a DB25-to-8-TRS
multicore cable to connect the recording outputs of the Mackie to the
inputs of the Multiface (the TRS plugs are slim enough to fit the
Multiface; that doesn't work with the commonly available cables using
Neutrik plugs).  The Multiface will synchronize to ADAT (at 48kHz with 8
channels or 96kHz with 4 channels) so you can hook up another A/D
converter.  It will also take/deliver S/PDIF.

The HDSP is quite well supported under Linux/ALSA (it was one of the
first audio cards) and has very high quality converters (hardware
configurable to -10dB, +4dB and HiGain levels).  You need the
alsa-firmware package and a few others.

Upside: full mixer, converters are high-end quality.  Downside: bulk,
just 4 mic preamps in this configuration, recording cable can be used on
_either_ the mic _or_ the line inputs due to the distribution to the
DB25 connectors (when I needed both, I wired the mic inserts to free
line inputs and recorded the line inputs: not great but workable).

Also, the Expresscard/Cardbus adapter is more awkward than an RME HDSPe
Excpresscard, but the latter is priced beyond reasonable.

I'd let the bundle go for €500 and help with the setup under Linux.  The
price is ok if you want the mixer, it makes no sense if you don't.

RME is one of the few companies with good legacy support so this thing
will also work under MacOSX/Windows.  That is different than the OS
support of Mackie's Firewire offerings: for that reason Onyx mixers with
Firewire are quite affordable on the 2nd-hand market and are a nice
option for Firewire-capable Linux systems.  The specs of the converters
are quite reasonable even if not in the RME ballpark.

Mackie devices with Onyx in their name that I'd recommend against:

Mackie Onyx Satellite (ridiculously bad phantom power supply, delivers
something like 38V and cannot be used with the other input being Hi-Z
since it whines into it, noise-susceptible base station).  In connection
with 2 mics tolerating the low voltage and just the satellite, it's
actually a reasonably portable thing but in contrast to USB cards it
needs its own power brick.  Doubles nicely as a headphone amp with
balanced line inputs.  So basically usable for a few things but by far
not everything that it's supposed to be good for.

Mackie Onyx 400F (the Echo Fireworks DSP card appears to brick far too
easily: I suspect power supply problems in connection with non-volatile
configuration memory).  Once bricked, you have 4 preamps with
unfortunately unbalanced outputs (namely the inserts which are in the
analog path).

David Kastrup

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