Metric Halo 2d and MIO Console 5 (Mac) Quick Pick Review

The 2d card is an upgrade kit for Metric Halo''s Mobile I/O audio interfaces, the 2882 and ULN-2. It furnishes two channels of optical S/PDIF I/O, equips the ULN-2 with eight channels of ADAT Lightpipe
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The 2d card upgrades Metric Halo's Mobile I/O audio interfaces and comes with MIO Console, an application for customizing your own mixers onscreen.

The 2d card is an upgrade kit for Metric Halo''s Mobile I/O audio interfaces, the 2882 and ULN-2. It furnishes two channels of optical S/PDIF I/O, equips the ULN-2 with eight channels of ADAT Lightpipe, and replaces the 2882''s previous ADAT implementation. The card is already installed in any new 2882 Expanded, ULN-2 Expanded, or top-of-the-line ULN-8. Bundled with the 2d is version 5 of the MIO Console software (Mac only), with so many new features that I''ll just focus on the most significant.

The Card You''re Dealt
If you already own a legacy Mobile I/O, it can be retrofitted with the 2d hardware at Metric Halo''s factory ($489 for the 2882 and $639 for the ULN-2). If you''re a savvy user, though, you can install the card yourself with instructions from an online video ($400 for the 2882, $550 for the ULN-2).

Equipped with a 2d card, the 2882 has a more robust ADAT implementation than before. (To read about my problems with the 2882''s earlier ADAT implementation, see my February 2003 review, available at emusician.com.) The card''s physical enhancements are more obvious on the ULN-2 because that box previously lacked any optical I/O. The new card improves interdevice clocking on the 2882 and ULN-2 alike. The biggest advantage of the hardware upgrade, however, is a DSP chip with more than five times the processing power of the original Mobile I/O.

Channel Surfing
You can download MIO Console 5 for all models of the Mobile I/O, but the 2d card requires it. The most substantial update in MIO Console 5 is its new mixer interface. For tracking, the software delivers no-latency monitoring and makes it easier to set up DAW feeds. During mixing, it takes advantage of the Mobile I/O''s plug-ins and pristine 80-bit summing engine.

The new Mixer window replaces three separate panes on MIO Console''s previous GUI: Mixer, Routing, and +DSP. Metric Halo''s legacy boxes offered lots of routing capabilities, but the new interface makes it infinitely easier to send signals wherever and however you want. A mixer strip can handle signals from any of the interface''s physical inputs or any of 18 DAW channels, which are routed from any audio application that supports Apple''sCore Audio (including iTunes, web browsers, and any DAW besides Pro Tools). You can assign each strip to any bus you create in the mixer. Each bus can feed any number of analog or digital outputs, or it can route signals back to the DAW via 18 FireWire channels.

Each mixer strip has two pre-fader inserts—either pre- or post-effects—for routing a signal to a physical output for headphone feeds, for example, or to a FireWire channel for recording wet and dry signals. Watch the informative videos on Metric Halo''s website, and you''ll be making complicated routing setups with just a few mouse clicks and keystrokes.

MIO Console 5 supplies key commands for quite a few actions, many of them user-configurable. You can also customize your mixer layout by changing the order of channel strips, as well as coloring and resizing each strip to taste. Thanks to support for the Mackie Control and EuCon protocols, you can control the mixer with control-surface hardware.

All Plugged In
The 2d upgrade comes with some amazing plug-ins. Based on Metric Halo''s ChannelStrip, MIOStrip gives you extensive control over gating, compression, and EQ, and they sound terrific. HaloVerb has incredibly realistic ambience, placing you in a sonic space without sounding like you''re adding effects. Character—which has its own place atop each channel, aux, and master bus strip—is analog modeling at its finest, with 22 transformer- or tube-distortion profiles ranging from subtle coloration to thick saturation. I found Character extremely useful on individual channels while mixing and on the whole mix while mastering.

2d or Not 2d
The 2d upgrade is an incredible deal for any Mobile I/O owner. The stability, functionality, and flexibility you''ll gain is well worth the cost. The fact that you can upgrade 7-year-old hardware says something about Metric Halo''s commitment to its customers. The plug-ins on the standard upgrade will be enough for most users, but for advanced users, a +DSP license ($699) opens up loads of other plug-ins, including more delays, reverbs, and amp simulators. If this is your first time checking out Metric Halo gear, you won''t find a better time to get acquainted with a hardware/software package that sounds truly astounding and just keeps improving with age.

Overall rating (1 through 5): 5
2d product page