Terratec DMX 6Fire USB review
Needs Intel processor + Mac OS X 10.4 or later + 512MB Ram + USB port
Review Date: 8 Oct 2008
Price when reviewed: (£170 ex VAT)
Reviewed By: Kenny Hemphill
Terratec's DMX 6Fire USB is a USB 2 version of the company's PCI audio/Midi sound card, which was only available to PC users.
The USB 2 box includes Mac drivers, although only for those with an Intel processor, and is aimed at musicians, DJs and podcasters, as well as gamers who want to hook up 5.1 surround sound speakers.
The robust black box is slightly larger than the average paperback novel and has a raft of inputs and outputs on both the front and rear. On the back of the device, alongside the power and USB sockets, there's Midi input and output, a pair of phono RCA inputs, and two sets of line-level RCA inputs. There are also three pairs of line-level RCA outputs.
On the front is an XLR microphone input with a 48V phantom power switch, a - 20dB Pad switch and separate gain control, a 1/4in headphone jack, a 1/4in instrument jack input for guitar or bass, S/PDIF optical input and output, and coaxial digital input and output.
The headphone and instrument jacks have their own gain controls, and the phono input's preamp has built-in RIAA curve equalisation and a gain control. DJs can cue upcoming tracks from a turntable connected to the phono inputs using the input's monitor control.
The DMX 6Fire now supports sampling rates of up to 192kHz at resolutions up to 96-bit. And the device's firmware can create a virtual 5.1 surround sound output from stereo inputs.
The Mac drivers weren't bundled on the CD that shipped with the unit we tested, although they will be soon. Installing the drivers, which we downloaded from Terratec's website, presented no problems, although it did require a restart. The only thing left to do once the drivers are installed is plug the DMX 6Fire into mains power and your Mac. Or, at least, it should have been. Launching the driver displayed an error message that seemed to indicate that the drivers didn't detect the device. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that the DMX 6Fire has no power light nor any other visible means of displaying the fact that it's receiving power. As it turned out, both the power supply and driver were at fault. Terratec tells us it has now changed the power supply that ships in the box to a higher-rated unit and it updated the driver during our tests.
With a new power supply and the updated driver, the DMX 6Fire worked very well indeed. Choosing it in the Sound Preferences pane enabled us to use it for all inputs and outputs, to and from our Mac. The driver itself provides a host of controls for routing signals to and from the various inputs and outputs on the device, as well as controlling their levels using graphical version of the faders you would find on a mixing desk.
The audio quality from the DMX 6Fire is excellent. When compared to audio output through our iMac's headphone jack, it was brighter, punchier and had a wider dynamic range. At £200, it's not cheap, but if you need a way of adding multiple, high-quality, inputs and outputs to your Mac, it's an excellent choice.
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