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More Upgrade Fever: Surviving the Computer Replacement Cycle of Late 2021

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Part 2: How the Metric Halo audio interface brain transplant fits into that cycle (whether or not you own one of their interfaces)

We established in Part 1 that there’s probably a computer upgrade in the near future for those of us who want to stay in the music software game. That’s because Apple is moving Macs to new, more powerful processors, and developers are going to move with them. And we can expect Intel and AMD to mount a response.

The first M1 Macs don’t have quite enough memory capacity (16GB max) for most musicians, but there are loud rumors on the Mac sites about new machines coming out this year. They won’t share that limitation.

Meanwhile, asking for a friend, do we want to upgrade all the software and hardware running on our current machines? Or, asking for the same friend, do we want to keep our old machines running while we add a new one?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course. Note that this is not the same thing as using remote computers to stream software synths and sample libraries into your main machine (using Vienna Symphonic Library’s Vienna Ensemble Pro). This is using more than one computer that accesses all the same audio and MIDI hardware and instruments.

And it’s the multiple-computer support that convinced me to upgrade my Metric Halo audio interface – after resisting it for a couple of years. The upgrade has other important new features too, but that was the kicker. If two computers are to access the same sets of speakers and other hardware, this is important.

Metric Halo has been around for over two decades, and from the beginning their pledge was for nothing they make to become obsolete. That started with their 2882, a really nice interface that has been running 24/7 in my studio since then.

They’ve made good on that. The 3D upgrade, which came out a couple of years ago, is the second hardware one they’ve offered for their interfaces.

Now, I have deep admiration for the company’s non-obsolescence credo and want to support that. The people at the company are also very nice, and of course a hardware upgrade with this much development has to cost a few hundred dollars.

Grumbling?! Okay, I’ll admit to having groused about the amount of money the 3D upgrade costs (not the price, the $ out of pocket) to anyone who would listen, from other musicians to innocent passers-by on the street. After all, the 2882 was working perfectly; the only thing it needed to keep working was a 64-bit driver that works on the latest Mac OSes (Catalina and Big Sur). Metric Halo has understandably moved on to their latest hardware.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for a Metric Halo fanboy (in this case; could also be a fangirl) to apply the money toward one of their newer, higher-end ($3-4K) interfaces?

Being endowed with an amazing high-end mic outboard channel strip – Millennia Media STT-1 – makes the 40dB gain limitation in the 2882’s preamps not much of an issue for me (although I’d be a customer for an analog board upgrade). And while the 2882’s line-level I/O may not reach the touted “archival quality” digital/analog (and v.v.) conversion standard of the company’s upper class interfaces, it still sounds extremely good to this audio snob.

So yes, there’s always something better for a price if you need it. Maybe later. But what I do need is the 2882’s eight analog ins and outs, because I don’t use an external mixer in my studio. (The 2882 does also have digital I/O and extensive internal bussing, which we’ll discuss another time.)

Besides, there are only a couple of other audio interfaces in this price range if one were to make a lateral move. And there’s nothing of this quality on the market that supports two computers, let alone that has all its other features.

What’s more, Metric Halo is developing support for “multi-computer domains,” i.e. full support for more than two computers. Exciting, but that’s for the future, not here yet.

Next: The actual upgrade and how it went. (Spoiler alert: very well.)

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