EDIROL UA-4FX USB AUDIO/MIDI INTERFACE
I’m cleaning up the studio and in between a pair of racks I find what can only be described as the world’s smallest USB audio interface. These things seem to be growing out of the woodwork! Roland (Edirol’s parent company) has done an impressive job of cramming pretty much everything you’d need to get audio captured and mixed in a unit no larger than a video cassette – and a Beta one at that. So what’s in the diminutive UA-4FX? Let’s take a tour.
As mentioned, the unit connects via USB 1.1 and is completely bus powered. Compatibility extends to Mac OSX, OS9 and Windows XP, 2000, ME and 98. Traipsing around the unit you’ll find stereo RCA inputs and outputs capable of recording and playing back 24-bit/96k audio streams. 96k sample rates only support single streaming unfortunately – a shortfall of USB’s bandwidth no doubt. Digital I/O is via optical Toslink connectors, which also offer 5.1 playback under Windows XP. There’s also Midi In and Out for connecting the odd keyboard or ‘sound module’ (now there’s a term I haven’t used in years). Along the forward panel there’s a single headphone output and a jack input suitable for both microphone and guitar impedances, along with the strange inclusion of a 3.5mm mini jack for powered electret microphones. For a more professional touch there’s an XLR mic input with phantom powering. The 48V switch is, however, mounted underneath the UA-4FX.
Across the console-inspired top surface there are three large knobs dedicated to mic input level, guitar input level and overall output volume. Above these you’ll find four smaller pots for adjusting the 14 on-board COSM effects (‘COSM’ is Roland’s own modelling-based effects algorithms). These consist of noise suppression, enhancement and high- and low-shelving EQ for some basic mastering. You’ll also find high and low boost, a centre-channel cancelling algorithm (to strip out vocals), a reverb feature and the usual delay and chorus effects. The final effects section provides vacuum tube simulation to serve up that extra helping of ‘fatness’ when required. The little tube LED even slowly glows when turned on. A nifty and capable unit that won’t put too much of a dent in your bank balance. – Brad Watts
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