Want to improve the sound quality of your recordings without spending $1,500 or more on a FireWire digital-audio device (see Reviews,
October 2004 )? You might want to consider upgrading your current audio-conversion gear. We tested two dedicated converters—Metric Halo’s ULN-2 and Lynx Studio Technology’s L22—that leave the Mac’s built-in converters in the dust.
The portable, FireWire-based ULN-2 can handle 24-bit audio at 96kHz. It provides four inputs, as well as balanced 1⁄4-inch send-return jacks for routing to hardware effects units. Its eight outputs include pairs for master monitoring and routing, S/PDIF, and AES; it offers Word Clock in-and-out; and its two mike preamps sound great.
If you’d prefer a PCI card converter, the L22 is a first-rate choice. It offers two channels of 24-bit, 192kHz in-and-out, and it runs on balanced XLR cables that attach to it. A second cable supplies Word Clock timing control (via two BNC and XLR connectors), and you can buy expansion I/O cable modules for 16 channels of ADAT ($249), or eight channels of AES/EBU or S/PDIF ($469).
Both ship with software mixers that let you route any input to any output. One tip: download the latest drivers (and the L22’s firmware update) for maximum compatibility.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
For high-quality audio conversion, either unit will provide best-of-class performance. Metric Halo’s ULN-2 is a great choice if you want a portable converter that’ll connect to your Mac via FireWire. Lynx Studio Technology’s L22 isn’t portable and has no mike preamps, but it is less expensive.