Lexicon Omega Studio As promised, here’s another review of a piece of equipement, this time the Lexicon Omega Studio. This is a 4-channel USB audio interface with 2 mic inputs, 4 line inputs, MIDI in- and out and SPDIF in- and out. Other interfaces like the Tascam US-144, M-Audio 410 firewire interface or Digidesign MBox 2 do a similar job. However the Lexicon Omega Studio has a few nice features:

  1. It’s cheap.
  2. It doesn’t need a computer to run.
  3. It doesn’t need drivers on Mac OS X.

The first item won’t need any explanation. The second one is perhaps a bit strange: why would I need an audio interface when my computer is not running? Well, this comes in very handy for connecting my camera to my speakers without the sound passing through my computer. Other interfaces can do this as well — the feature is called zero-latency monitoring — but they need a software app to control the routing from input to output. The Lexicon unit doesn’t, it is in fact a pure hardware mixer — in a funky form factor — and an audio interface in one.

The third item is the most important to me. This interface is USB audio device compliant, which means that you can plug it in to your Mac and it works. No drivers necessary, everything is included in Mac OS X. The interface works out of the box with all Mac software including Final Cut Pro, Soundtrack Pro, Logic, Audacity and everything else you want. The interface will keep working throughout Mac OS X updates. You won’t need to wait until M-Audio or somebody else provides a new driver for a new version of OS X.

Why is this “no drivers” thing so important? Well, 3rd party drivers are the first thing any knowledgeable computer technician will look after when faced with system instability. What’s more, the M-Audio 410 drivers on OS X 10.3.9 cause a multi-second delay when you change the master volume. That’s right, the volume knob on an M-Audio 410 is not some kind of potentiometer but a hardware front-end to a software program. Digidesign’s MBox 2 CoreAudio drivers limit you to 1 (one) active program at a time, no switching between Final Cut Pro and Soundtrack Pro.

So, after all this praise for Lexicon Omega Studio, what’s wrong with it?

It doesn’t have separate headphone volume control.

It doesn’t support ProTools — look at M-Audio and Digidesign for that — and the included version of Cubase LE is worthless for video since it can not import OMF files.

I’m not sure about the Mic preamps, but I don’t really need them as a video editor.

So after all, a cheap interface that works. What more could you want? A mixer, firewire audio interface and control surface all in one? Look at Tascams FW-1082 instead, but be prepared to install some drivers…