Hey guys I'm trying to get a home studio going here. I mainly play guitar so of course I want an awesome interface to work with. So far the best options appear to be the Line 6 Pod HD Pro Rack and the Avid Eleven Rack. Both fairly pricey and I wonder if they're really worth every penny, nickel and dime that may or may not have gone into the making of them. I mainly play Death Metal, however I want it to be versatile, covering my acoustic projects, garage rock, etc. I also would really like to be able to record bass, an electric ukelele, and an electric mandolin through the interface as well. What do I buy?
Are you using Mac or PC? I wouldn't recommend using anything Line 6 with a PC. They don't play well together- too many separate drivers are needed, and Line 6 doesn't bother to update them often enough. Plus, you have to figure everything out on your own, because Line 6's customer support leaves something to be desired. I use a Line 6 UX8 interface (sort of like the predecessor to the POD HD Pro) with a Mac and it works pretty good, but with my PC it's not even worth the effort. The POD guitar sounds are good, but the company builds their stuff cheap, so don't expect it to last.
The Avid option would be my recommendation. But if you are using a Mac, then the POD HD would be good too, but make sure you buy the extended warranty (that's coming from a guy who never buys extended warranties).
I can't comment on the Line 6 but I do own an Avid Eleven rack & I will comment on that.
I am very happy with my Eleven. I do believe it is worth the price but if that concerns you please note that there is usually no problem finding them on ebay for approx. $700. If you decide to buy one on ebay, check to make sure that the seller includes the expansion pack. If not, you will probably want to spend another $100 to get it.
You also probably will want to use an expression pedal/footswitch with it. There is a special way to go with this. Sweetwater sells a Mission EP-11-S that is specifically customized for the Eleven R. It is my understanding that this is a Sweetwater exclusive optimization.
I have posted some disparaging comments about Avid mbox 3 interfaces in the past so it might be best to do some comparisons here.
First the bad news.
The mboxes have very low microphone gain. The Eleven microphone input is the same. This is not a problem at all for most applications but if you intend to do chamber music with ribbon microphones, this is not the mic preamp for you. There is no problem with the quality, the gain is just very low. This is only the microphone input, the guitar input is just fine.
Also on the bad side, like most hardware today, a schematic is not included in the manual and I have never found one on the internet. You may not care about this, but it really irritates me.
I probably should also add that some users have reported a clock problem on the Eleven R when using 44.1. It isn't a disaster. Sometimes it doesn't start unless you go to 48 (or anything else) and back again. I have never experienced this but I wanted to included it so you know that the problem is lurking out there but you don't need to worry too much about it. Once the clock is started, it runs reliably.
Next, the good news.
The mbox microphone faders have an incorrect taper. That's not a problem with the Eleven. It is just fine.
Unlike their mic inputs, the mboxes have high line level gain. I don't know what they were thinking. This is not a problem with the Eleven. When you put +4 into the line inputs, it comes out at -18 on the channel...just where it should be (I know many people like to work at -20 let's not argue over 2 dB the mboxes have a much larger error).
There is no way to calibrate the monitoring on an mbox....there are no panel markings. The Eleven has a detented control and the display reads out the position. Really nice, IMO. No problem working to a calibration.
I am very happy with the quality of the converters and the amps. You may have heard that earlier Avid interfaces haven't been very highly regarded for audio quality. The Eleven is significantly better.
If you have any specific questions, I will be happy to go into more detail.
Personally, I'd be wary of anything Line 6...
While the concept is cool, and when they are working they are fine, but that's the rub.. when they are working.
I have a buddy who has gone through at least three Line 6 pedal board controllers in the space of a year, and that's not counting the various repairs made by authorized Line 6 repair centers before they gave up and finally gave him replacements based on warranty.
I will say that they've been very good about servicing and replacing it, but the fact that it needed that much servicing and ultimate replacement says something about the product's quality to begin with.
Now.. to be fair, his use of the pedal board controller is for primarily live work. You might be fine if your rig is static in a studio situation.