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CEntrance AxePort Pro USB Recording Interface Review

CEntrance AxePort Pro USB Recording Interface Review

The AxePort Pro is small, portable and delivers great sound.

The bulk of my home recording has been with a freestanding Boss recorder, but a computer interface has long been on my GAS list. So when the chance came up to try out the AxePort Pro from CEntrance, I was instantly up for it.

This is a sleek little gizmo, packing the essentials of a low noise, high quality (96khz, 24 bit), single-channel computer interface for guitar into a blue aluminum tube just 4.5” long and about an inch around.

The AxePort Pro is really easy to use. Plug your guitar cable into the 1/4” jack on one end (with a cool lighted cover!). Run a USB cable from the other end to your computer. Pop an 1/8” headphone plug into that same end and you’re in business – the USB cable that carries the signal also powers the AxePort Pro.

There’s minimal opportunity for tweaking the AxePort Pro – just one knob to control the instrument gain and another knob for the overall headphone level. All the sound shaping gets done with your computer recording software. That’s a good thing, so that you can concentrate on playing and recording.

Off For A Test Drive
To try out the AxePort Pro, I got out my 1981 G&L L-1000 bass and hooked up to my MacBook. The sound? Full, clear, true – no clipping or distortion, even through meager iPod earbuds. The bottom end was rich sounding with a nice punch to it. It was just what I’d love to hear for practicing. Plenty of volume, too.

Next, it was time for recording in GarageBand. The AxePort Pro comes with a program for recording on a PC or a Mac and another program for effects, but both were just trial versions and there was no documentation from CEntrance other than the files that came with those programs. GarageBand was the easier route to go, a known entity.

Before starting to record with the AxePort Pro, though, you need to install what CEntrace calls a “control panel,” which comes on a cute matching blue USB drive. That program controls the wet/dry mix of sound, either straight from your axe, from your computer, or somewhere in-between (there are both Mac and Windows versions).

For me, the instructions were a bit confusing because “control panel” is also an old Mac term for a preference pane rather than a program. Once I figured that out, I had to guess the program’s name (AxePort Pro) and hunt it down on my hard drive (in the Applications folder).

I was really pleased with how good my recorded bass sounded – no problems with latency while playing along with a GarageBand drum track, even with a couple of effects added in.

I also found that by setting my Mac’s Sound Preference input and output to the AxePort Pro, I could play along with songs in iTunes – a really handy way to learn a new song or for practicing late at night.

But Still…a Few Quibbles

Despite all the good points I found with the AxePort – especially the excellent sound quality – I was left thinking that CEntrance needs to go a little further with this product. For example, there was only a small instruction pamphlet labeled “Quick Start Guide.” But what I really wanted was a detailed software installation and usage guide. There shouldn’t be any guessing during software installation. (A friend who uses Windows found the software and setup very difficult and confusing, even though he has lots of experience with digital recording setups.)

The strap clip was handy for keeping the USB, headphone and guitar cords out of the way, but also a bit frustrating – it slides on the AxePort Pro, but can also slide off during use. In addition, you can’t really see the control knobs when the device is clipped onto your strap.

At first, I thought the AxePort Pro had a problem with buzzing when my fingers came off the strings. I emailed the folks at CEntrance (they replied right away!), and suggested I might have a grounding problem. The culprit turned out to be my MacBook’s power adapter. The plug I usually use goes onto the adapter itself and has just two prongs. I switched to its 3-prong grounded cord instead – all the buzzing went away.

With that problem solved, I’d have to say that the AxePort Pro is a simple, quality solution for recording a guitar or bass straight to computer, for silent practicing, or for playing along with songs you’re trying to learn.
Buy if...
you’re looking for a great sounding, straight-forward computer interface for your guitar or bass.
Skip if...
you want a computer interface with some bells and whistles, a software package for effects, and more than a single input and output.

Street $150 - CEntrance -