Review: Miglia HarmonyAudio
GarageBand has become a smash hit for anyone who is doing basic music composing. You can plug a USB MIDI keyboard in to play all kinds of instruments, but what about guitars and microphones? What if you have other devices, such as a turntable, mixer, or tape deck. The HarmonyAudio from Miglia is a step up from the multitude of USB audio products, but still in the price range of many amateurs.
HarmonyAudio Front Jacks
HarmonyAudio Rear Jacks
The HarmonyAudio is priced around $300 (depending on conversion rates and the like), but can be found for as low as $200, depending on the vendor. Although this is considerably more expensive than many USB audio products, it’s not designed to do the same exact thing (Think of it like Final Cut Express vs. iMovie).
Featuring an attractive design, similar to Miglia’s EvolutionTV, the HarmonyAudio connects to your Mac through any free FireWire 400 port, with the included cable. Not only does this carry the signal, but also provides power, perfect for mobile users. If you need additional power for some reason or another, an AC adapter can be used, but is not included.
Two 1/4″ input jacks adorn the front of the HarmonyAudio, for connecting guitars, microphones, or any other monaural devices. Next to each of these is a gain control (up to 55dB), a high/low impedance switch, a SoftClip™ switch (which prevents digital clipping), and a clip LED (its intensity changes as audio signal approaches clipping). The high/low impedance switch is for selecting the type of device you plan to use (low for dynamic microphones, high for instruments or active microphones).
Also on the front panel, there is a 3.5mm headphone output, which is the same signal as the line out channel 1/2 on the back (more on that later). This allows you to use whatever speakers you have, and not worry about unplugging them to use a pair of headphones. A volume control allows you to adjust the signal.
On the back panel, there’s 4 3.5mm output jacks. Each of these carries two channels, for you to connect anything up to a 7.1 surround system. The first jack carries the first two channels, which is where one would connect a 2.1 speaker system. A pair of FireWire ports allow you to connect the HarmonyAudio to your Mac and still chain a hard drive, iPod, or iSight after it. Also on the back panel is a 3.5mm line-level input jack, with two trim pots allowing levels from 0.1v to 2v.
The HarmonyAudio is based on an Oxford 970 architecture, and works at 24-bits. It supports frequencies of 32 kHz, 44.1 kHz, 48kHz, and 96kHz.
Out of the box, the HarmonyAudio works with any FireWire-equipped Mac that has 256MB of RAM and Mac OS X 10.3.5. This device works with GarageBand, LogicAudio, LogicExpress, or any other Core Audio application, without any special drivers. We really appreciate its true “plug and play” nature, as mixed with its good looks really benefit the whole package. The only thing on the included CD is a brief instruction manual.
We tested it with GarageBand and Felt Tip’s Sound Studio on both an iBook G4 and a Mac mini. On both machines, we had it working in just a few minutes, and tested it with a few different things, including a Fender electric guitar, a Fender bass guitar, and a pair of Samson R11 microphones.
Although we would have liked to see dedicated XLR inputs for microphones, like products from competing companies, Miglia’s decision to use 1/4″ jacks is probably for the better, as the jacks are smaller, and adapter cables are plentiful, and rather inexpensive. Phantom power is not provided, either.
The two input jacks on the front are seen by the computer as one stereo input, so you can select each channel as a different track in GarageBand. This allows you to record any mixture of guitars, mixers, or microphones as separate tracks. The rear input is seen as a stereo input, and perfect for connecting tape decks, VCRs, other other line-level audio sources.
Also, it’s worth noting that HarmonyAudio can process audio at higher frequencies, although GarageBand doesn’t support them. If you’re using any pro-level audio application, you’d get that extra benefit.
There are only two complaints we have with the HarmonyAudio. The first is its price—audio products from competing companies are slightly cheaper, but if you buy it from another vendor (bypassing the £ to $ conversion), it will be significantly cheaper. We found the levels of the microphones to be a bit on the low side compared to the Griffin iMic, but still quite usable (this varies with the microphones, and using even the cheapest microphone amp will remedy this).
Speaking of the iMic, it’s hard not to compare the two products, even though they are in slightly different classes. The iMic is geared at those who want to do basic recordings from instruments and microphones, but still have a high-quality stereo output. The HarmonyAudio is designed for those who want to get into recording a few things simultaneously, additional controls, and surround sound processing.
Finally, the HarmonyAudio has one other excellent use—podcasting. Since the HarmonyAudio works with all standard audio applications, you can create a podcast that sounds a bit more professional than using just the built-in microphone on your computer.
Overall, we found the HarmonyAudio to be a well-made, simple-but-powerful, and flexible audio product. It’s not perfect, nor for everyone, but for many users in its target market, it will work perfectly for their slightly-more-than-basic audio needs. If you just want very basic audio functionality, the HarmonyAudio might be overkill.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
If you’re looking for an external audio device that has more features than many basic USB solutions, but still is easy-to-use, and looks great, the HarmonyAudio might be just the thing you need.
Pros: Eye-catching design, great audio quality, easy set-up, sufficient amount of inputs, surround sound outputs, two year warranty
Cons: On the pricier side for “basic” audio devices, microphone support could be better (XLR jack with phantom power)