New Avid Pro Tools Mbox 3 and Mbox 3 Pro

Rumors have been circulating the web for months now, well even longer than that probably, but the day has finally come. The new Mbox family is here. Avid is dropping the 3 from the name though and is sticking with just Pro Tools Mbox and Pro Tools Mbox Pro. I’ve gotten my hands on the Mbox but not the pro, the above picture is one that I took of the unit I got to check out. You know that I prefer to have you listen than read, but unfortunately there is no chance of me getting to track with this thing so you’re stuck with me rambling. Let’s go.

First off, as I’ve said many times, I judge things right off the bat on their weight. It’s silly but if something feels solid, I just feel better about it, and trust it a bit more. Now I don’t want this post to turn into an Mbox 2 bashing session (although I fear it will sound that way), but the Mbox 2 and Mbox 2 Pro always felt flimsy to me. They felt like they needed to be babied. Strangely the Mbox 2 Mini always felt more sturdy, with it’s all metal housing. This new breed of Mbox feels VERY solid. It easily ways 5 pounds or more. It’s an all metal (I believe aluminum) chassis, and you could easily break a car window with it. The knobs, switches, everything feels great on this.

Another very tactile difference is the volume pot. On the previous Mboxes you had a very small pot, that looked identical to every other pot, and was pretty hard to get at if you have stumpy fingers like mine. This new piece has a nice big, great feeling volume pot, which is a big deal to me.

Sound quality. I’ve heard so many people knock the sound quality of the previous mboxes, both on the pres and on the converters. I can’t really argue with any of you on that either. They were never all that impressive. They worked, and that was about all you could say for them. All of that has changed with the new breed. I heard a few different projects tracked on the new Pro Tools Mbox, and monitored them through the Mbox as well and I was very impressed. In this pricerange, and with this i/o compliment I know everyone will be comparing this with the Duet. I think it’s a bit silly as they’re both meant for entirely different systems, and if you want Logic you’ll go one way, and if you want Pro Tools you’ll go another, but I’m a silly guy sometimes too. I think this thing is right on par, if not slightly better (did not do a direct shootout), than the Duet. Bold claim I know. Keep in mind, I don’t work for either of these companies. I sell them both, so frankly it does me no good to plug either. While Pro Tools is my life’s blood, I’ll be the first in line to point out Avid/Digi’s many failings. This new line isn’t on that list.

As far as i/o, no real surprises. It’s all basically the same, but what else can they do. It’s a 2×2 analog interface with 2×2 digital. Standard fare. Nobody has come out with a 3×3 yet. 🙂

Here’s a shot of the packaging and a couple of closeups for you.

Now onto the Mbox Pro. I didn’t get to see this one, but the specs alone are pretty impressive. This is the Pro Tools interface that a lot of people have been waiting for and features a ton of additions that many people have requested.

First off it has 4 mic pres, with inserts on each, on it. It also has meters on the front panel. 6 line outs, word clock i/o, 2 headphone jacks with dedicated volume control, mono knob, it really is the wishlist of most LE users. This finally bridges the all too distant gap from the Mbox world to the 003 world. For the complete specs you can go here.

Again, it’s build with the window breaking, intruder clubbing, ruggedness of the other members of the family, and has the same pres and converters. I think everyone will be pretty impressed with the sound quality on these interfaces once they get into people’s hands. Both the Mbox and the Pro have higher sampling rates than their predecessors, the Mbox coming in at 96kHz and the Pro coming in at 192kHz. They also both feature onboard DSP for cue mixing, w/ onboard effects. Like I said, Avid has finally fulfilled the wishlist of most of the users out there.

The last new member is, of course the Pro Tools Mbox Mini. There are no real surprises here on the i/o. It’s basically an Mbox 2 Mini but with the updated chassis and circuitry. All of the above applies in those cases.

As a parting note, I must point out that the main brain behind these new interfaces has one of the most glorious beards that I’ve ever come across on a living person anyway (kind leonidas and honest abe are excluded from the runnings). I’ve also included a picture of him as his beard is almost he most important spec of these new interfaces.

So what do you think? Did Digi, er I mean Avid, hit it on the head? Did they miss the mark? Are you already tearing at your wallet and phone to call the smiling faces of Sweetwater to order one of these? Let me know in the comments below.

Until Next Time
The Bearded Man


~ by beardsandgear on September 14, 2010.

46 Responses to “New Avid Pro Tools Mbox 3 and Mbox 3 Pro”

  1. Thanks for post. Both the beard and the gear have been a labor of love for the past two years.

  2. +10 for the beard…truly rockin…fit for an eagle’s nest.

    As for the interface. Looks nice…will have to hear the pres. Otherwise, seems like a nice incarnation of an obvious mainstay of the compact interface market. All things being equal, it would not stand a chance, but the PT connection offers (forced) value that cannot be denied.

    • On the previous gen of mboxes I would have agreed with you. If you didn’t have to have it for pro tools, you probably wouldn’t want to get it, but with this latest offering I’m really impressed. I could actually see buying this even if I wasn’t going to use Pro Tools. It really does sound good. I could see using this with Cubase, sonar, etc. Logic is still an exception for me because of the tight integration with the duet, and the fact that the duet sounds good as well.

  3. Does each new Mbox come with a free whisker?

  4. Nice post. It’s cool to hear about it from someone who has actually handled it, and felt its solidness.

  5. Does this new Mboxes works well with Logic Pro?

    • I haven’t personally tried it with any DAW other than Pro tools yet, but I’m told that they work smoothly with all the major ones out there, including Logic. I can say that the old Digi hardware (003, Mbox2, etc) have worked fine with Logic for me. I use my 003 with Logic 8 whenever I have to work in Logic.

  6. Thanks.

  7. Thanks for the article… How do you feel the new generation ‘Pro Tools Mbox Pro’ stacks up with the 003 rack / control-surface?

    • Good question. I haven’t had a chance to do a direct comparison so this is a bit of a roundabout guess, but from what I heard on the new Mbox Pro’s, I’d say that they’re a step up from the 003 in both preamp quality and conversion. Again, I have NOT done any direct comparisons, but this is my initial reaction based on my experience with the 003 and hearing the new mboxes a few times now. Of course the merit of the 003 family is really in the amount of i/o, and not necessarily in the quality of the i/o.

      • Thanks for the answer. Do you think Avid will upgrade the 003 line to a fourth generation interface in the near future? Or would it likely be a few years yet?

        • Not sure on that one. Anything I say on the subject would be complete speculation because Avid hasn’t announced, or even whispered about anything. If I had to speculate though, and this is completely a guess, I’d say a 003 upgrade is in the cards for 2011. The reason I think that is because the 002 was around for about 3 years before they got rid of it, and the 001 was about 3 1/2 years as well. The 003 came out in 07 so we’re approaching the time when they seem to phase things out. Nothing’s been announced, and no one would comment on it from Avid when I asked about it recently so that leads me to believe that we’re at least 6 months to a year out on those. Who knows though? Could be next week, or another 3 years! 😉

  8. lol… Yeah, I guess we’re at Avid’s mercy on the upgrade front. One more questions…

    What are your thoughts on the soft-clip limiter feature? Is it something special, or just a nice extra [something fairly attainable with a work-around ex. inputing the signal on a limited aux track, and bussing to a record track]?

    Thanks again!

  9. I’m only recording vocals on my setup, and am wondering if there is any need for the Pro, since the main difference is the larger number of i/o’s? I am a bit worried about issues with the usb connection, as many reviews state that you’re unable to have other usb connections if you use a usb connection for your interface. I would only be looking at having a keyboard and mouse as usb connections, and am just wondering if the firewire pro would benefit me at all, seeing as i don’t need the increased i/o’s, and i won’t be doing anything outside of recording vocals on my computer. Don’t wanna spend extra money if it’s unnecessary. Can anyone help with this inquiry? Thanks in advance.

    • If you’re only going to record one track at a time, then I can’t see much of a reason to go to the Pro model. The Mbox will have the same pre, the same converter, and all of the other functions that would be useful in your situation. If you decide you want to order one of these, contact me at work and I’ll get you taken care of.

  10. I have an original mbox, and have problems with the gain. I usually only record live classical piano and violin (or cello or trumpet) and have the gain at 3:00. At that point there is no such thing as a small adjustment there. Just touching it slightly drastically changes the input level. Any idea of this new mbox is any different?

    • From what I could tell, the gain adjustment was much more subtle towards the upper positions than what you’re describing, but I also didn’t have the same experience as you with the original Mbox. Typically (and I don’t know this for sure on Mboxes) gain or trim is on a logarithmic curve, and the closer you get to unity the more subtle the adjustments become. An example of this can be seen on your faders in Pro Tools LE. Again, I could be wrong on the original Mboxes, but I just don’t remember that being the case.

  11. Hmm interesting, I like the idea of the pro at least.; dislike USB still. I have the duet but I’m curious to here sound comparisons. I started out on Protools and to me at least, there is no better recording and editing software than PT. But I moved to logic with a duet because the 003 I have is not all that good for A/D and D/A, which is muddy and preamps are thin (IMHO). The duet is limited but sounds great! I’ve even thought of going to Mackie with PT M as an option as I use a 1640i at work with Audition 2.0 (which is one of the crappiest pieces of software I’ve used) (getting them to switch to PT). Anyway, I get good results with Apogee Duet but the I/O is limited; so my ears and eyes start to rove.

    I would have liked to see some ADAT on Avid MB-ox Pro especially with the word-clock already there and with that high of a price tag. Otherwise looks pretty solid for at home recording and maybe mobile recording. Although, bus powered would be an nice upgrade they might have added. Low I/O with quality components seems to be the way to go for great sound.

    PS… I have stubby fingers (looks like a starfish splayed) as well and like the bigger encoders too.

    • Hey Jordan, agreed, the duet sounds better than an 003, as sad as that is for me. The duet does not sound better than an Mbox Pro. Actually they sound REALLY similar. Can’t do a direct comparison given the software limitations but they are really really close. Optical would be good on an Mbox Pro but it would kill the 003 and they’re not going to do that. Also I don’t think you could bus power the Pro since it has 4 preamps with 48v on each. I’m not sure, but it doesn’t seem practical. I’ve heard the onyx boards as well. Those are good, and being able to sum in the analog realm is a big up for them, but the Mboxes still sound better on the converters.

      • Yeah, agreed about the 003 and M-Box not killing it. I have often thought about the RME 400 but don’t like the crazy price and don’t know anyone who likes the box or uses the Pre’s. Also no hard volume control is crazy for that price.

        I use the products in different ways so they never quite live up to my harsh expectations. But I guess all in one solutions are never the answer.

        I’m interested in seeing what Avid does with Euphonix as well.Would love to see a new eucon 003 synthesis.

        1640i is great for large recording sessions but pre’s aren’t as good as Duet either. If I had the money I would go to symphony but will have to wait til I have the cash.

        I think the soft limiter on the M-box 3 is really great as well.

        Oh and nice beard. Mine is always in flux. Beard today gone tomorrow.

        • A beard should be as unchanging as the color of your skin. It should always be. I’d be shocked if we don’t see a hybrid 003/Euphonix product coming some day. Why else would they buy the company. My wishlist would be the pre’s and converters from the new mbox, the i/o of the RAck plus, and the control surface of an MC series. Let’s hope Avid hears our prayers.

  12. […] also some big implications here for the future of Avid hardware. As I’ve made pretty clear in previous posts, I’m not the biggest fan of Avid’s hardware, with the exception of the new mboxes. The […]

  13. Hey how do think the new mbox pre’s and cons. compare to the digidesign 11 rack? I have both the 003 control surface and the 11 rack and the 11 rack seems to sound better than the 003… Have not been happy with the results of the 003… Wondering where to go from here… Also your thoughts on the BLA tweeks?

    • I personally think that the pre’s and converters on the new mboxes sound better than any of the other LE interfaces currently out. I’ve got a 003 and I’ve never been satisfied with the results of it either. I opted for outboard pre’s and converters and just use my 003 as a way into pro tools and a control surface.

      On Black Lion it definitely makes a difference. I’ve heard 002’s and 003’s pre/post mod and you can certainly hear the difference. But to me it’s only a sensible option if you plan on stopping your studio’s evolution there. What I mean by that is that the sound post-mod still isn’t nearly as good as something like a Rosetta 800 or Lynx Aurora, with some nice outboard pre’s. I’d rather save the cash from doing the mod and put it towards something like that.

  14. Just read the article, and i’v noticed an error.

    The pro model does NOT use the same converters as the other 2 models.

    The pro model uses the Cirrus Logic CS4272 converter. Which are the same ones used in the duet and ensemble.

    The mini and mbox do not. This information has come from Avid

    • I was told otherwise by Avid, but could you point towards where you got this info. If I’m misinformed I want to correct this.

    • This is straight from the designer of the the new Mbox series:

      The Mbox and Mox Pro are the exact same converters and preamps. The Mbox Mini uses a very similar converter that doesn’t go all the way to 192kHz like those used in the Mbox and Mbox Pro. The sound across all three were designed to out perform the Mbox 2, ProFires and Duet. I think they sound amazing but I work for Avid. I’ll let your ears be the judge.

      BTW, the converters in the Mbox and Mbox Pro are Cirrus Logic CS 4272

      Ray Tantzen
      Sr Product Manager – Hardware

  15. […] are also some big implications here for the future of Avid hardware. As I’ve made pretty clear in previous posts, I’m not the biggest fan of Avid’s hardware, with the exception of the new mboxes. The old […]

  16. […] setup out there. Avid releases a single rack space interface with 8 mic pre’s from the new Mbox line, as well as the same converters from the Mbox, throws in two banks of optical i/o, the ability […]

  17. I own both the older Mbox Pro, as well as this new 3rd generation. I can tell you that the older ones felt like they were made for kindergartens and these new ones are made for recording rifle and grenade sounds in soggy trenches in Eastern Europe somewhere.

    Night and day.

  18. At what buffer settings have you tested these? Is there a noticeable CPU-overhead increase when you run it at 64 samples?

    • The CPU usage will increase as you lower the buffer settings, but that’s going to be the case on any interface that doesn’t have onboard DSP to handle the audio (such as Symphony, or Pro Tools HD).

  19. So, is the new Mbox/Pro Tools the best thing out now to record guitars? I believe it has simulated instruments kind of like the Line 6 UX2. The only reason I considered the Line 6 UX2, is so I could use the simulated instruments to record my cleans since my amp doesn’t have a good clean sound. But they never could get it to work right with Windows 7.

    I plan on only recording guitars. Would the Mbox give better peformance compared to the Mbox mini? I know I could use the Mbox Mini since I’ll only need one input (XLR), but I don’t mind paying extra if the Mbox will record better and give me a better sound.

    I also know sometimes the cheap units come with crappy software compared to higher priced units. I don’t know if the Mbox Mini or Mbox has limitations in Pro Tools compared to the Mbox Pro.

    And is it better to pay more and get Pro Tools 9 compared to just getting Pro Tools 8?

    • Lots of questions, and most of them require more than a yes or no answer. In short, the Mbox is good for recording guitars, but “best” is dependent on a lot of factors. Definitely better in terms of sound quality than the UX2. If you only need the one input then the Mini will be just fine. I’d opt for the version with Pro Tools 9 though just because of how many more features Pro Tools 9 brought on that people have been begging for. Hopefully that helps. If you want to discuss this more in depth we may need to have a conversation outside of the comments section. 🙂

      • The Mini has 1.1 USB. Will that work just fine compared to the 2.0 USB in the regular Mbox?

        I noticed the regular Mbox has alot more buttons compared to the Mini. But not sure if those extra features on the Mbox are needed compared to the Mini.

        I noticed the regular Mbox has a Soft-clip Limiter. But the Mini has a Mix control for low latency. Not sure why that feature was ommited from the regular Mbox.

        • Again, these aren’t necessarily yes or no answers. 1.1 is sufficient for the channel count of the Mini but it is a slower protocol and latency is definitely going to be something you’ll have to live with. If you’re simply recording a guitar input then the Mini is probably fine, but the Mbox, or even the Pro may have useful features for you as well.

          • I think I’m just going to get the regular Mbox instead of the Mini. As it looks like it has extra features on it that I could use even though it has extra inputs I don’t need.

  20. What is your contact info?

  21. Mr.Luke i’m Sibi from India ..i’m thinking of buying MBox 3 Pro .so i went to a dealer to know about it , but he said that many complains coming in MBox 3 pro and so he told me to get Mbox 2 pro or M-Audio Profire610 . .I that true there any problems in new MBox 3 pro

    Please help me out I really need your Advice

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