Recently Harman gave us the opportunity to demo the (little known in this country) entry level Lexicon interfaces. If you are unfamiliar with Lexicon products then you have probably been mixing in your bedroom for too long. Lexicons heritage is just plain damn incredible with a reputation for pioneering and producing the worlds best reverb algorithms . The Lexicon 960L became a high end industry standard for 5.1 and 7.1 surround reverb processing. But at $ 6 500 second hand, its no drop in the ocean. I remember buying my first Lexicon processor back in 2001. Feeling like I had just lost an arm and a leg I began to appreciate the value of loosing every penny simply for the purpose of enjoying a decent sounding reverb in my mix. So yes, you could say that I’m a fan of Lexicon and have been for years.
I was curious at first. Here we have a company like Lexicon, a heritage to boot and suddenly these cheap little interfaces come out of their stable. Providing serious competition for the likes of M-Audio, AVID and Focusrite. It all makes sense when you realize that Lexicon was bought out by industry titans Harman a few years back. A movement that upset a large number of the world recording and mixing fraternity as many of the original Lexicon designers where left out in the cold and some lower quality products tarnished the their good names. I wouldn’t say that the U42s and LambdA interfaces make up for that, but they do provide some good value for money when compared to the competition.
Lexicon I-ONIX U42s
The U42s is a 4 in 2 out desktop based audio interface. It features 4 mic pre’s (Mic / Line) 2 x DI inputs, a main stereo output a couple of headphone outs, MIDI I/O and S/PDIF digital I/O. Its a sexy looking beast but I must admit I don’t like the idea of desktop interfaces, period! Although, this little box provides a nice angle and set of controls to live directly under your monitor. With the large volume knob as my favorite feature this unusual layout actually serves a purpose rather than thieving footprint space from a desk which is already cluttered with variety of USB goodies, keyboards, controllers, coffee mug warmers and comic books. At least this way I get some functionality from its 380x85mm desktop real estate requirement. The interface boasts 4 mic pre-amps all armed with phantom power and individual input PPM LED’s. There is a large output level knob which is kind of reminiscent of Mackies Big Knob monitor controller. The headphone outs are found on the left hand side of the unit and the DI’s on the right. This alone makes the unit “un-rackable”, unless you want to loose the functionality of the DI’s and headphones.
In use the u42s is a bit of a hit and miss affair. The mic pre’s are clear and detailed up to a point. On the model tested the mic pre’s started to give off some rather bad side effects at high gain. A nasty modulation noise is very evident as soon as the trim goes past 4 o’clock. Rendering the last 10% of the trim pot basically useless. This makes it difficult to get enough gain from dynamic mics on slightly softer sources. Not a problem with a hot condenser, but major issues if all you have is an SM58. The Monitor mix control is very similar to the Mbox latency solution which allows you to cross fade between the input signal and output signal. Personally I hate this feature, but with USB interfacing its difficult to get around. Another issue for me is the lack of a second set of analogue outputs. This would become a major problem if you where intending on integrating some outboard analogue processors into the mix and will most certainly require you to buy a new interface as soon as your ready to expand your studio. Lack of outputs means It will not integrate very well with an existing analogue mixer and is clearly aimed at “in the box” people. There is however S/PDIF facilities which would allow for digital integration of some but not all outboard processors.
The saving grace of the U42s is its output sound quality. Quite stellar to be honest. The headphone amps are clear and crisp with loads of gain. The stereo out’s sound great on our test rig and to be honest was quite a lot better compared to our standard DIGI interfaces. Another saving grace is the driver software and software integration. Seamless and rock solid in Pro Tools 10 and Reaper but displayed some setup issues in Cubase LE. And since I woke up to the issues surrounding Cubase years ago I was quite happy to stop wasting time, ”apple + Q” and launch Reaper which provided a “drummer proof” setup procedure and I was recording happily in no time.
In the box you also get some great software. A lite version of Cubase is included (If its up your alley that is) The impressive EZDRUMMER lite, as well as a high quality plugin based Lexicon reverb called Pantheon. This makes for a rather “all in one” solution and will perhaps sway some of the more “need a studio in a box” type punters. All this being said, the u42s shows great build quality, rock solid driver’s, some rather nice headphone amps and a nice big knob to turn the monitors up with. As well as MIDI I/O and S/PDIF integration. Its not the best box out there, but it’s unique enough to a fill a gap in an overcrowded market. I would have been very happy with this when I was first getting into desktop production and it should provide a good solution for bed room warriors everywhere. If your main goal is affordable electronic desktop production with an option to record, then the Lexicon u42s is a rather arousing option, especially when it looks this good sitting under your computer monitor.
Well, it looks like lexicon are little behind the times. AVID did away with the vertical interface when they buried Digidesign along with the ever puke inducing Mbox MK1. Ok the Mbox MK1 was pretty good for its time, but it quickly dissolved away into interface history, you still see 002′s all the time, you never see any of those old, light blue Mboxes. Guess some things do work out. So! Is the LamdbA a regurgitated Mbox? Or something a little more interesting. It’s heavier than the Mbox, this is a good thing.
The LambdA interface is a 2in 2 out desktop unit that sports some pretty cool features. Its got 2 mic pre’s, a stereo out, 2 x insert points and MIDI I/O! Now that’s already better than the old Mbox. It also carries the “cross fade between in and out” thingy, that seems to be a standard way of controlling latency issues on USB interfaces. And it comes with some rather nice bundled software to boot. There is a small problem with the tiny rubber feet. They are destined to pop off when being moved in and out of ones rucksack.
In use the LambdA seemed quite capable. Ok, its not going to replace my current portable setup, but if your looking for a low cost interface that you can drag around with you and use in the coffee shop, then look no further. It works great with Pro Tools 10 and Reaper and even seemed to setup easily in Cubase. The real jem with the Lambda is that it has insert points! This is a big thing for me. It allows for the use of some outboard processing and could be considered the units saving grace in my opinion. Why did Lexicon not include this feature with the more expensive u42s? Go figure? The units Sound quality is more than acceptable even if the pre-amps do leave much to be desired. Compared to the u42s there isn’t a huge difference in audio quality and at the end of the day this interface is a very capable little box. For the price? Its a no brainer. I might get one as a laptop headphone amp.
These Lexicon interfaces are rather appealing. For the cost vs feature set, I’m quite impressed. Solid build quality, decent sound quality, portability and MIDI make the Lexicon interfaces a good option for the entry level engineer. I wish there was more support from local music shops with this one. It seems to me that you are faced with the usual suspects every time you walk into a gear shop in this town. Lets see some variation people! Whats with the politics? Its a simple practice of supply, demand and choice! Get these interfaces in! They are actually pretty good value for money.Share