Unhappy with mBox and DigiDesign

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by Gooddoogles, May 25, 2005.

  1. Gooddoogles

    Gooddoogles Active Member

    Jun 5, 2004
    Home Page:
    Based on feedback I got to a post on this site last Summer I ended up buying an mBox. I have to say I'm very disappointed.

    First, some background: I sold my analog recording studio when my family (2 young kids and wife) and I moved from a house to an apartment. Space is an issue, but so is time with two small kids.

    I used to perform professionally, mostly as a musical-theatre actor/singer and occasionally as a pianist. I also write songs and play guitar. I have an extensive set of home demos recorded on a Fostex 8-track reel-to-reel.

    I have a nice grand piano in my apartment as well as a low-end Martin Guitar. I teach technology at a local high school and recently moved from using Windows and Linux on a Dell computer to a Mac PowerBook G4 (kind of like moving from a Hyundai to a Mercedes).

    When I sold my analog gear, I kept a few good mics, including a condensor vocal mic and a home-made stereo mic rig built with Radio Shack (aka Crown) PZMs and plexiglass.

    What I wanted was a simple, high quality way of recording demo recordings of my piano and voice or my guitar and voice. The mBox touts its high-quality preamps. I was a little concerned that it used USB1 rather than FireWire, but figured that for 2-channel recording there would be enough throughput.

    The results were disappointing. The sound quality is fine. The problem has been getting the system to work with my computers. My Dell Inspiron 8200 has a Pentium IV processor with 768MB of RAM and runs at 1.4 GHz. It's running Windows XP SP2.

    After a few minutes, ProTools would stop recording and complain about the cache size or something similar. After tweaking the settings (which increased the playback latency), I finally got it to work consistently, but I still feel like I couldn't count on it. I would be worried, for instance, if I was doing a live recording of something I really cared about.

    I bought a Mac PowerBook G4 in August. It's a much better machine than the Dell. It has the exact same amount of memory and same processing speed, but it seems to run faster and has no problem with tasks like editing video, which the Dell had problems with.

    I tried the Mac with ProTools and the mBox, and I got the same messages about the cache size. What gives? I can record, playback, and edit NTSC video in real time, but ProTools can't even record 2 channels of audio without crapping out. (This is even when I used NO effects whatsoever and recorded onto a clean session.)

    Again, after adjusting the parameters to the maximum settings (increasing the latency and so on), it seemed to work O.K.

    Then, however, I upgraded my OS per the normal Mac Upgrade Software process, and ProTools doesn't work anymore on my computer.

    So, here my beef with Digidesign begins. I hunted around their website, and they offer a new version of their software, but only to people who bought their mBox since October 2004 (I bought mine, I think, in July). I called customer service and explained to them that I don't care about bells and whistles; I just want the mBox to work on my Mac. They hemmed and hawed about upgrading, so I responded by sending in all the registration info, receipts and so on.

    Currently, I'm waiting to see whether they will even respond to my request. I sent the stuff in about a month ago.

    ProTools seems to be much more than I need, but, worse than that, it doesn't seem to be 100% stable. I would like compression, reverb, and delay, but I don't need a whole lot of other stuff. I certainly don't need all the "Factory" plugins that I paid an extra $100 for. Indeed, I didn't bother to install that stuff on my Mac, because I find it annoying to have to use the USB key.

    What I do want, and I figure I'm entitled to for $550, is a stable recording playform that works with my state-of-the-art Mac computer and high-quality mics to give me professional quality demo recordings. Is this too much to ask?

    Anyway, if DigiDesign has a change of heart and actually helps me out, I'll let you all know.

    I do have one request for those of you who have perservered through my ranting. Could you recommend an alternative? My mBox is now basically a paperweight.

    I'm a computer guy -- after all I teach technology, but I'm sick of configuring and messing with settings. I would just like to run a program, press record, and go. I would use GarageBand, except that the mBox won't work with it.

    My priority is high quality, user-friendly recording. I liked that fact that the mBox was bus powered, so I could just set my laptop on a side table next to my piano with the mBox, plug in the mics, and go.

    Any suggestions?

    Steve C.
  2. well i can almost guarantee you digidesign will be of no help, they're so useless, and since pro tools has the market share, they can be of no help and not care.

    i'd say get logic express (i'd recommend logic pro, but it seems like you don't need those features) and just use your mbox as an interface. i know a lot of people who are doing that now
  3. jonnyc

    jonnyc Member

    Apr 21, 2005
    hey fox, if you're speaking from personal experience you should say so, otherwise you should'nt say things like that based on what you've read. digidesign has a forum thats very helpful and often has their own tech guys moderating and answering questions. I had to make a phone call to ask them something important before i bought my 002. They had my question answered within 5 minutes. Maybe instead of assuming you won't get any help why don't you just try.
  4. sdelsolray

    sdelsolray Active Member

    Jul 5, 2003
    Portland, OR
    You must have some bad luck. There are perhaps 10s of thousands of happy MBox, Digi001 and Digi002 users out there, both on Mac and PC platforms, all using PTLE. Go the the Digidesign DUC and trouleshoot your system. You've most likely got wrong versions of various software that don't seem to work together. It's easy to downgrade OS X. Reinstalls of PTLE are simple to. If you had the correct versions, you could do it all in a hour or so and be running just fine.
  5. PCM

    PCM Guest

    HI there. Pro TOols runs VERY well on computers that adhere to Digi's strict standards of compatibility. i.e. make sure you are running the right OS version with PT, make sure you are using a FW400 drive with an oxford 911 chip for audio (or second internal drive), etc. Check the sticky on the digidesign forums for compatibility and once you've gone through the checklist, you can REALLY begin to troubleshoot if you're still having trouble. Pro TOols is a great piece of software. For your application, forget Logic as was suggested. It's great for MIDI and VIs, but very bloated and too much of an "all-in-one".

    Good luck.
  6. Nika

    Nika Guest


    Let me echo the response by PCM above. Frankly, if you were to call me with your needs I would recommend the Mbox still today. You need to make sure that your computer is compatable in all ways with Digi's compatability documents found here:


    It is very tempting for a "computer guy" to attempt to sidestep these documents and opt for a different, less expensive harddrive, or opt to get the latest OS. Until it is mentioned on this page, don't do it!

    Second, Digi's software upgrade to the latest version is always free for customers who have recently purchased but is a paid upgrade for customer's who purchased prior to a certain date. This is standard protocol for ALL software in this industry. The software update is normally a nominal price ($79 or so?) but if you want to update your computer OS to the latest version you may need to do the same with your Protools (or Logic or DP or any other) software as well.

    For the problems you are having with cache size something is definitely wrong with the setup or the RAM or otherwise. To record two tracks with no effects with a compatable external harddrive (make sure it's compatable!) you should certainly not need to have the latency settings at maximum. For this problem I would advise posting your specifics and asking for help on Digidesign's forums, where thousands of users congregate and help each other every day:


    Unless you needed that software upgrade on this Mac (and I don't know why you would?) go back and reinstall the previous one and get back to work on your Protools software with the Mbox.

    I hope this is helpful.
  7. Gooddoogles

    Gooddoogles Active Member

    Jun 5, 2004
    Home Page:
    Thanks for Your Responses, But . . .

    Thanks so much to all of you who have responded to my post.

    The saga is not over and I will keep an open mind, however, perhaps some of you have the wrong idea about my computer use.

    My laptop is not used exclusively for music recording. Indeed, I primarily use it for checking email, browsing the web, and doing work for school. I also do some video editing on it.

    As such, it is only natural that I would want to upgrade my OS. There are security updates, bug fixes, and feature enhancements.

    In my view, a well designed software package does not work for OS version X.2 and then suddenly stop working for version X.3, for example. None of my other software, which includes a bunch of non-Apple software has this problem. Indeed, video editing software, which I assume is more processor intensive that ProTools, works fine with the upgrades.

    I'm guessing that ProTools bypasses standard protocols for handling things like USB input and disk writing, probably because they can make some efficiency gains by doing so. The problem is that, when the OS changes, their efficiency "hacks" may no longer work. It's more desirable to work with the OS; after all, OS X is based upon a Linux-like kernel and there are well tested and efficient ways of doing fundamental things such as reading and writing to disks in the OS itself.

    In any event, why can't DigiDesign provide me with a basic driver that would allow the mBox to work with other software such as GarageBand?

    With regard to software updates, I've owned the hardware for less than a YEAR. It seems outrageous for them not to support routine OS upgrades in such a short time period.

    Again, thanks for your various opinions.

  8. Nika

    Nika Guest

    Re: Thanks for Your Responses, But . . .

    I understand this opinion, but I don't think it conforms to many of the software options in this industry. It is certainly status quo for software in other industries.

    Not necessarily. Video is potentially more processor intensive due to sheer data capacity requirements, but there are other ways in which audio is more burdensome to the computer.

    The typical amount of time in this industry for free software upgrades is a 90 day window. After that there is generally a fee.

    Again, Digidesign makes it pretty clear what the compatability requirements are for this system you are putting together - a system which involves a piece of external hardware that couples with some rather comprehensive internal software. It sounds to me that you are frustrated because you ventured outside of those compatability requirements "because you thought you should be able to based on your experiences with other pieces of software" and now are frustrated because of it.

  9. jonnyc

    jonnyc Member

    Apr 21, 2005
    Are you sure mbox doesn't work with garageband because my 002r does everyday. Fact is digis hardware will work with other softwares.
  10. overlookfran

    overlookfran Guest

    in all fairness, My 002R had the dreaded Power Supply Harness problem recently. Digi Tech Support diagnosed the problem around 2:30 pm Eastern Time, and I was up and running about 5:30 eastern time the NEXT DAY. the documentation was solid, and I thought it couldnt have been handled better.

    there are lemons in life. I know this, but for all the whining thats been done in other threads about Digi...I have to say that I think Pro Tools is a killer application with lots of flexibiltiy. I agree Logic is solid as well, but is a horse of perhaps too many colors.

    good luck
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