“ Manufacturer: E-MU / Type: USB 2.0 Audio Interface / Suitable for: Mac & PC „
The E-MU Tracker Pre audio interface is a a small and portable audio interface targeted at musiciands who need a portable high quality audio recording solution for their laptop. It features 2 XLR/TRS inputs for microphones, guitars and Line level sound sources, has phantom power should your microphones require it, and features 24-bit/192KHz A/D and D/A converters.
I have an E-MU0404USB, which is the model above the Tracker Pre in terms of cost and features. Because I like that interface so much, I wanted something similar that would be portable enough that I could bring it with me when doing mobile recordings with my laptop. Compared to the 0404, the Tracker Pre preamplifiers seem to be somewhat less powerful. There is plenty of gain here, but I think the 0404 has a bit more gain to offer. There are also no MIDI ports on the Tracker Pre. The 0404 has MIDI IN and OUT. However, when looking at the Tracker Pre by itself, it is a very solid product for what it is. Phantom power is a big plus to get in such a small unit. The quality of the converters is also comparable to the 0404, which can't be beaten in this price class. I have primarily used the Tracker Pre interface with my laptop, both when travelling abroad, and also to do recordings in a rehearsal room. It just simply works, does the job, and the resulting sound quality could really not be much better when looking at products in this price class.
The Tracker Pre can, similarly to the 0404, be used without a computer, as an amplifier, for instance for your stereo. This requires an AC power supply, which is provided with the unit. When using the Tracker Pre with a computer, use of a power supply is optional, as sufficient power is provided by the computer, even for using phantom power. There is a direct zero latency monitoring feature, so, for instance, if you have an electric guitar plugged in to the interface with a bunch of effects running live on your computer, you can have the clean unaffected signal played out of your speakers as you record, at zero latency. This is a very handy feature, although I wish there was more gain available for the monitored signal, as when recording a low volume instrument, such as an electric guitar or a bass with passive pickups, you might not be able to get the monitor volume up load enough to hear the signal above the rest of the mix. A very handy feature is a set of ground loop switches that can be switched to get rid of ground loop noise from where your computer is plugged in. I had very loud buzzing noise when using the interface in one location, and couldn't for the life of me figure out where it was coming from. I turned on the ground lift switches, and the noise disappeared instantly! Finally, the interface is compatible with Windows XP/Vista and Max OS X. While there are no Windows 7 drivers yet, the interface does work fine in Windows 7 with the Vista drivers. Apparently Windows 7 drivers are in the works.
The E-Mu Tracker Pre should set you back about £120 new, or if you manage to find it second hand, you might be able to get it for about £70 or so.
I can recommend the Tracker Pre if you want a light audio interface and treasure portability. However, if you are unlikely to move your interface around much, I would suggest the E-MU0404USB over this one, as it offers more features and louder gain at only a slightly bigger price (£150). For portable audio recording, you could do a lot worse than the E-Mu Tracker Pre, though!