I wanted to buy a USB audio interface to use at home when working on the backing track for MBI Winds. Our winds group uses a multi-speaker setup (currently 3 channels) that I wanted to be able to easily replicate at home without pulling out 2x 100-pound speakers and a 32 channel mixer 😅
So many choices!
I started by looking at interfaces on Amazon, starting with the hugely popular Scarlett and the Behringer 4-channel units. I asked around at work because lots of folks like to use USB audio interfaces for podcast mics, or simply to get rid of headphone noise induced by their computer’s main board. After asking my list went from 2 to 6 units.
Then I found myself on Sweetwater looking at their expansive list of USB audio interfaces (over 200 😲).
Pitfalls of channels 3 & 4
I started combing over the instruction manuals and found an issue. Most of the 4-channel USB audio interfaces simply passed the channels 3-4 along at line level without an option to adjust volume. This included the Scarlett and Behringer models I was looking at.
Homework or help?
I had my work cut out for me, but rather than digging in, I reached out for help. Cristian Good is our sales rep for the drum corps, and he really knows his stuff. This was a personal purchase, but I reached out to him anyway. At around 4pm on a Friday I sent him a message asking about units that could also adjust the volume on channels 3 & 4. I figured he’d get back to me on Monday as the homework seemed daunting. Nope, he got back to me within an hour recommending the Solid State Logic SSL2+
There it is, right on the front – the “Phones B” output can be changed to send channels 3 & 4 and be adjusted with that knob.
Channel 3 & 4 outputs
The SSL2+ has a few options for channels 3 & 4 – there are RCA jacks on the back, but these (like the other brands) pass the signal on at line-level. But press the “3 & 4” button and it will switch the Phones B output to channels 3 & 4. You can see the Phones A & B outputs and their corresponding knobs below:
So I have a couple options on how to hook things up at home. I can use the balanced outputs (to the right of the RCA jacks above) for the main left and right channels (1 & 2). Hook it up to a pair of studio monitors and use the big blue knob for the main level.
Or I can use the unbalanced Phones A jack for main left and right channels (1 & 2) and use the Phones A knob for main level.
Channels 3 & 4 will have to use Phones B which is also unbalanced, but that’s not really a big deal to me. I’m not running long cables and the line-level RCA outputs aren’t balanced either.
My next move will be to get some speakers to complete my mini home audio studio. Cristian has already recommended to me this JBL 8″ model, so that’s likely my next purchase 😎