Digital recording systems keep getting more affordable, and the new EZbus from Event Electronics is an excellent example of that trend. Priced at $849, EZbus combines a USB (MIDI and audio) interface for connecting directly to your PC or Mac, a console control surface for operating the onscreen mixers integrated into sequencers such as Cubase, Logic Audio or Cakewalk, and a digital mixer with 24-bit/96kHz converters. There are eight locate points, jog/shuttle wheel, recorder-style transport keys (for sequencer or MMC control) and fingertip access to volume, pans, aux sends, mutes and solos.
"Conceptually, we started from the idea that PCI-based computer recording systems were a total hassle. So USB became the obvious choice-just plug it in and go," says Event's Michael Marans. "The EZbus name stems from the fact that it's 'EZ' to use, combined with 'bus,' relating to its audio routing capabilities. We also wanted to let users get lots of audio into the system, whether they're creating a substantial mix for live, for monitoring while recording into a computer or for sending the whole shebang over USB."
Despite its affordable price, the EZbus is geared toward a variety of applications, from entry-level to gigging musicians to project studios to higher-end uses, such as a compact edit suite mixer/routers in post facilities. With that in mind, EZbus pays special attention to audio quality, offering pro touches such as 24-bit/96kHz converters, balanced inputs, low-jitter word clocking, asynchronous sample rate support and sample-rate conversion capability.
The benefits of USB interfacing-such as hot-swappable components, PC/Mac compatibility and 2-in/2-out record/playback at up to 24 bit/48 kHz over the USB link-are well known. However, EZbus is not entirely linked to computer-based audio, as the product can also operate as a full-function standalone digital mixer, featuring 18 analog inputs (16 TRS balanced line inputs and two mic preamps with phantom power); eight channels of ADAT Lightpipe I/o, stereo S/PDIF input and two independent stereo S/PDIF outs; main and alt stereo analog outs; 4-band EQ (two parametric bands and sweep high/low shelving); onboard programmable dynamics; and 32 snapshot memories of all parameters. The Lightpipe output defaults to provide direct outs of all primary channels for use as a front end for an ADAT or Lightpipe-equipped audio card.
The architecture of the system supports eight input channels, each with level, pan, EQ and dynamics, plus four returns that can function as additional inputs. The Lightpipe or S/PDIF digital inputs can be routed through any of the eight channels, so, for example, ADAT input channels 1-2 could be routed to channels 7-8 and processed with EQ and dynamics. Four virtual sends per channel are assignable to any output. The I/o structure is essentially a matrix audio bus, with a large number of sources and destinations that can be tailored for a variety of applications.
To showcase EZbus' routing flexibility, Event's Dave Hetrick offered this scenario: "A keyboard player at a live show runs an entire synth rig through EZbus connected to a laptop-via USB-which is running Cubase VST and loaded with virtual synths. MIDI out from the player's keyboard controller connects to the MIDI in of the EZbus. That MIDI signal goes out USB and triggers the virtual synth in the laptop, with the synth's audio returning to a couple of EZbus channels via USB. That signal is mixed with your regular hardware synths (plugged into other EZbus channels). Then the EZbus Main Mix out goes to the house mixer, while the Aux out feeds the stage monitor system. Then route the output of the house mixer back into the EZbus, and send that signal out USB to the laptop to record your show."
But there's more: As a software-driven device, additional EZbus features are planned in future upgrades, loaded via USB-of course. Initial deliveries are slated to begin next month.
Event Electronics, Box 4189, Santa Barbara, CA 93140-4189; 805/566-7777; fax 805/566-7771; www.event1.com.