Random Reviews is a simple collection of equipment, software and consumer reviews for creative people and artists, with really good pictures (click on photos to see hi-res versions where available). All the products are ones that I’ve purchased and used. Reviews are completely independent and are one of the many arms of CreativeMedia.org.uk..

Lexicon Omega USB digital audio interface review


The Lexicon Omega audio interface, front and back

Lexicon specifications

Sorry Lexicon, I really can’t recommend this one. Lexicon are well known amongst studio engineers as the manufacturers of some of the most drool-worthy of reverb units and other outboard effects. So for me, the idea of owning a real-life genuine Lexicon for around 60 pounds (second hand on eBay) was rather exciting. It transpires that it’s “badged” by Lexicon, so to expect similar quality to those droolworthy (and very expensive) reverbs is maybe foolish of me.

It ticked all the boxes: phantom power, XLR inputs, headphone, real knobs, line-in jacks, SP/DIF input and output (at last I could record noise-free digital signals from my Yamaha SW1000XG card!), LED level meters and even MIDI as an added bonus. And it came with a free Cubasis install disc as another bonus.

So, what am I complaining about?

Mainly the reliability of the thing: a common complaint with the Omega is clicks and pops in the signal, or it cutting out and re-setting itself, or not connecting to the computer, or the buttons seeming not to respond sometimes. A fix for some of this, I discovered via some online research, is to open up the box, find the ribbon cable, and tie it back somehow so that it no longer presses against components on the circuit board. Apparently some of these get hot which (I’ll never be an electronics expert!) is not good for the operation of the box.

Electronics aside (and, to be fair to the unit, it has done some decent work for me - it will work as a standalone unit to allow you to mains-power two phantom-powered mics so you don’t have to worry about batteries) I’m not so keen on the box itself. It’s well-enough built (though I’d prefer switches to buttons) - I lost my temper with it once and kind of drop-kicked it! But the shape is “neither fish nor fowl”. With a bunch of leads plugged in the back, it takes up a lot of table space, or is easy to trip over on the floor. It’s awkward to use on its side and too curvy to balance a laptop on top of. Upright it’s too tall and gets in the way. It just doesn’t fit in anywhere somehow.


Not the most practical shape, to my mind

Software-wise, when it worked OK, I could persuade it to work with Audacity on a Mac (OS 10.4) but not with Soundtrack Pro. SPDIF recording from the SW1000XG was disappointing; after various tests, I found I wasn’t able to get a full-volume recording, which made me think I wasn’t using the full bandwidth, and thus getting a less-than-perfect recording. Whether that’s the fault of the SW1000XG or the Omega I don’t know. I’ve ended up using the analogue audio input on a PowerMac laptop instead, which seems to be quite good enough.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t buy one of these again; Even if I’ve been palmed off with a dodgy one (I still haven’t come up with a good policy regarding second-hand electronic goods from eBay; I’ve had a few great bargains, and a few disasters), the palaver of plugging in and setting up the Omega (it’s not USB-powered, so needs plugging in with its wall-transformer too) as well as its less-than-practical shape and size would make me go for a firewire powered rack-shaped box in future.

Random Reviews Verdict: TWO OUT OF FIVE – 2/5.

PROS: Dedicated knobs and proper connectors. CONS: Not a good shape, electronic toggle buttons, and electronics problems.


Comments

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“What’s the signal-to-noise ratio like. Presumably it’s better than the bog standard built-in audio on a computer? And have you ever had problems of electronic interference from the MIDI interference? I’ve had that on other equipment before.”

“  >   REPLY: I haven’t really got the wherewithal to do a proper audio test - it sounded pretty good, though I occasionaly came across odd looking flat chunks of waveform in recordings - I don’t know if that’s the Lexicon’s fault, or a bug in Audacity. The sound quality was a little better than the built-in in audio on a PowerBook G4 but, from my amateur recording viewpoint, they were both low enough to be academic, particularly since my noise problems come from other equipment/earth loops/acoustic spill etc.”

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