What Is It?
This box is a small desktop mixer-like box with an analog channel strip and mixer-like monitor section. On the input side it has a mic pre with phantom power and a 80Hz low cut button, hi Z instrument input, stereo line input, auxiliary input, channel insert, simple EQ for both the mic pre (Hi shelf at 7.5k, Low shelf at 100Hz) and the line input sections (Hi shelf at 9k, Low shelf at 120Hz), a compressor knob called “Fat”, separate record input level knobs and mute buttons, and an overall gain knob. The meters are switchable between input levels and output.
On the monitor side there are two headphone outs with separate volumes, outputs for three sets of monitors with individual selector buttons, a button to switch your output to mono, a dim button, and a talkback section with built-in mic and level control. The recording monitor section, or the “zero-latency monitoring” section, features a 3-knob mixer for mic/inst, line, and aux-input levels.
The T.R.I.O. interfaces with your DAW via RCA plugs for the analog connection and an optical Toslink S/P-DIF for digital and supports up to 24bit/96k syncing. There’s a button for activating the connection to the DAW and a monitor on button.
What Did I Do With It?
I approached this test with the intention of recording a simple cue using only this box, a couple of instruments and microphones. I connected the T.R.I.O. to the DAW via the analog RCA ins and outs. I dropped a drum loop into my recording software, plugged in my headphones and everything so far was fine. I then plugged a bass into the instrument input, set the level, and was happily surprised to hear a nice, fat, clean direct tone. I tried the “Fat” compressor knob and it seemed to boost the gain but didn’t really help the tone.
Next I tried an old Jaguar in the direct input. First off it was difficult to get enough level. I had everything cranked up. I even set the analog output adjustment screw on the back to +6dB and still couldn’t get it to hit well. Hence the guitar sounded thin and brittle. With the high EQ cut at 7.5k, I was able to kill some of the brittleness but it also killed the overtones. The “Fat” knob boosted to gain and tended to hype the top and increase the brittleness even though it was audibly limiting the attack. I was able to make the box crap out and distort pretty easily. I decided to give up on the direct electric guitar sound and try miking the guitar through an amp. I stuck an Audio Technica 4033 in front of a Fender Deluxe and connected it to the T.R.I.O.’s mic pre. I engaged the phantom power and the 80Hz low cut and got a good level. The mic sounded flat — a bit thin, but for this demo-like purpose it worked fine. I used the insert send and return to hook up an old ADA delay to add some space. The test worked fine.
Next test was the mic pre on a vocal. I had a friend stop by to do some atmospheric ooohs and aaahhs on the track. I used a Neumann TLM 103. We hooked up another set of phones to the second headphone input and I put her in another room so we could test the talkback system. I never have much need for this when I’m recording at home, but it was cool to have — I didn’t have to yell directions through the door. The talkback was a cool feature. The vocals also sounded a bit thin and flat. But with all the delay inserted and the demo-purpose, it worked fine.
I then hooked up a set of Roland MA-12 powered multimedia speakers to the main speaker output and it all sounded good. I found the monitoring while in record and listening back to be very good with lots of options. The zero-latency monitoring section worked well also.
What Did I Think?
The Mindprint T.R.I.O. Total Recording Solution is a perfect little box if you need something to interface with a simple soundcard to get sound in and out of your computer in an easy and versatile way. This could also be a good portable solution for the laptop brigade. With all the input and output options, this box is definitely something to consider when looking for your recording solution.