Sound Devices USBPre

The Sound Devices USBPre was an industry standard for 2 channel audio measurement purposes until the USBPre 2 came out. I’ve always been curious about both of these devices due to their quality, size and popularity and recently came across a good deal on a USBPre and thought I would try it out. The short story is that the device is well built and works if given the right circumstances. The long story is that I would not recommend a USBPre for modern measurement purposes. It’s got too many things working against it. If you already own one, it certainly has value. If nothing else as a high end headphone amp and 2 channel recording interface. Consider the following before you purchase a legacy USBPre.

1. The USBPre has unbalanced RCA outputs so in order to do a reference measurement loop and feed pink noise to a sound system you need adapters or a RCA to 1/4″ cables. The balanced 1/4″ inputs can be configured as LINE or DI inputs, neither of which is ideal for interfacing with unbalanced RCA level signals.

2. Since the USBPre is discontinued and no longer supported by Sound Devices, it will NOT work with modern 64 bit operating systems using the existing Sound Devices driver. If you have an older PC (running 32 bit XP, Vista or Window 7) or a Mac running OSX 10.6 or older, there is no reason a USBPre can’t work for audio measurement purposes. I did exactly this tonight using a MacBook 2008 running 10.6.8, SpectraFoo Complete. There are a few things you have to do to get it to work but it works. I had to create an aggregate device in the audio midi setup that includes USBPre – 2 inputs / 2 outputs. By default the USBPre inputs / outputs appear as two separate devices (2 input OR 2 outputs) in OSX.

There is a 3rd party driver that in theory will allow the USBPre to work with a 64 bit OS:
USB Audio – universal driver
There are no guarantees the driver will work for your system and I’m not sure it’s worth nearly $50 for the driver but I got the demo driver to work. It makes a beeping sound about every 30 seconds but I was able to get my USBPre configured in Smaart 7 / OSX 10.9.5.

I love the form factor of the USBPre and now will budget for purchasing a USBPre 2 in the near future. When you’re traveling, size is a factor and the USBPre 1 & 2 are about 1/3 the size of my Metric Halo and RME interfaces.

If you are in the market for a portable 2×2 audio interface for measuring purposes the Sound Devices USBPre 2 is hard to beat.