What do you get when the love child of a dusty old Nintendo and an unused and unloved Atari decides it wants to get involved with music production on a budget? You get the Ebox44. One of the most common questions I have seen going through digital DJ forums is good gear for the new DJ on a budget. The $100 audio interface market is extremely limited, and the options of those interfaces are, well, lacking. Enter this retro looking box. It’s built like a tank and actually offers more than the bare minimum of features.
Out of the Box
After opening up the box you are greeted with the standard fare: the interface, a CD for drivers, a USB cable and 2 RCA cables. The Ebox44 is a 4 in/4 out interface with a headphone out and a ¼” mic in. There are small knobs for the headphone volume and mic gain.
The interface itself is not for everyone. I think of it as a lovechild of a bygone era of technology, but I’m sure there are many that do not share my nostalgia. It is a sturdy box, however. The outside feels like brushed metal, the plugs have no give whatsoever. There’s just enough weight to give it stability, but it isn’t overwhelming.
The activity LEDs are large and super bright, and everything is pretty well labeled. I wish the Mic Gain knob and the Headphone Volume knob were a little chunkier, but for the price point I can’t really complain.
Installation and setup
I ran into some issues installing the drivers, Windows kicking out that they were not digitally signed. Those issues were pretty serious, and I was getting some very strange errors. But I changed some security settings and we were off to the races.
The volume control panel is made up of 6 faders (one for each Stereo In/Out), each with a “gang” button. While the gang button is selected moving one fader in the group will move the other. So, if I want the input level for ins 1/2 and 3/4 to be the same level I just need to move one fader. Moving the fader does not give you a real time volume change, but after you release it in the new position the volume will gradually increase/decrease to the new position. This was a little annoying, but for the frequency I use these it wasn’t a make or break function.
The headphone volume control also has a selection for 1/2 and 3/4. Any signal coming out of or into channel 1/2 will come out of the headphones. This can be both a bane and a curse. I find myself having the 1/2 signal at 0 and the 3/4 at full volume, mainly because I’m using this to cue in DJ software and I don’t want to hear anything coming out of 1/2, well, ever. But, if I want to have a good cue of a song I’m recording from a turntable or CD deck, I don’t need to route anything in the recording software and control it all directly from the drivers.
I would prefer, though, for an independent headphone channel that I can control the routing for from within an DAW or DJ application. This is far from an end of the world decision, but it is my personal preference.
Now, the really nice thing about having ins and outs is this soundcard could be used for open source timecode. It won’t work on Traktor or Serato, but it could with Mixxx, with both turntables and CD decks.
And that brings me to my one gripe with this unit. You can switch the RCA ins from line and phono. This only works, however, as a global change. It’s a small gripe, I know, but it would be nice to be able to choose on a per-channel basis, as opposed to all or nothing.
How Does it Sound?
This is what matters, right? Well, it’s just fine. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it can pump out audio loud and clean, giving me no muddling through my Rokit 8’s at high volume, and has no shown no latency issues at the standard settings. The headphone port, however, does not get loud enough for my tastes. Granted, I’m spoiled with the Audio 8, being able to make my Sennheiser 25-II’s into little monitor speakers, but it works just fine for what it is.
The microphone port should never be used for serious recording, but for DJ drops or scratching out ideas when the inspiration hits it is a perfect solution.
The Bottom Line
It’s a $100 interface that offers a unique look, actual ins and multiple outs and a routed headphone out. There is an option for time code control, the ability to record vinyl and a mic in. At this price point there are very few options for the budding DJ or producer that can compete with this item. I would vote for this to be a great buy for someone entering the crazy world of digital DJing, or an experienced guru who wants an inexpensive, small solution that offers more options than the current products.
Who: New DJs, people who want to record vinyl, starting producers
Why: less expensive than most competition, offers a simple volume panel, 4 ins, 4 outs, headphones and mic in
Pros: Inexpensive, solid build, looks like something a Nintento/Atari lovechild, multiple ins and outs, sounds good, blinking activity LEDs are bright and clear
Cons: Universal switch for Phono/Line, not the best method of assigning headphone out
A note about Mac and Linux from the Editor
As you’re all aware, I’m a Mac user. So it was down to me to see how it handled OS X, especially the new Lion update. I’m happy to report that it all worked just fine without the installation hassles that Jared experienced on his Windows machine. I’ve had it running with algoriddim‘s djay 4, M-Audio’s Torq 2 and Traktor Pro 2without a hassle.
The same cannot be said for Linux. DJ Pegasus is a Linux advocate, and while the Ebox can be seen in Linux, it doesn’t work yet. But there is some proactivity between Pegasus and the Ebox people to try and get this working.