M-Audio is a digital music equipment company that specializes in tools for the home recording studio. In addition to their speakers, MIDI keyboards, mixers and DJ equipment, M-Audio markets a line of audio interfaces, such as the Fast Track Pro and the Fast Track Ultra. These interfaces are invaluable to the independent musician because they function as external sound cards for the home computer, featuring audio jacks specifically for microphones, instruments and recording hardware. In other words, you can use one of these interfaces to connect all of your musical equipment directly to your computer for crystal clear recording.
Install the M-Audio driver CD included with your interface. Each M-Audio interface includes an installation disc, which enables your computer to communicate properly with the USB device. If you have misplaced your CD, you can download the appropriate driver from M-Audio's website.
Connect the M-Audio interface to your USB or FireWire port. Most M-Audio interfaces connect to a USB port (indicated by a trident symbol), but some interfaces, like the M-Audio FireWire Solo and the FireWire 410, connect to a FireWire port (indicated by a letter Y). Not all computers support FireWire, so check your hardware before investing in a FireWire interface.
Connect your XLR microphones to the black XLR jacks, which contain 3 holes in a triangular formation. If connecting a condenser microphone, turn on the "Phantom" switch to enable the necessary pre-amp power. Every mic-enabled M-Audio interface includes a Phantom switch.
Connect guitars, bass guitars and analogue keyboards to the 1/4-inch input jacks, sometimes indicated by the word "Guitar." If connecting a keyboard with only one 1/4-inch stereo cable, use the "Mono-L" jack on the keyboard, or simply the "L" jack, if the word "Mono" does not appear.
Connect stereo equipment like turntables and tape decks to the red and white RCA jacks. The red cable connects to the red jack and the white cable connects to the white jack. Some M-Audio interfaces (like the Fast Track Pro) also contain orange S/PDIF jacks, to which you can connect compatible stereo equipment.
Connect MIDI instruments like synthesizers and drum machines to the black MIDI jacks, which contain 5 holes. Interfaces like the Fast Track Pro and Fast Track Ultra contain MIDI jacks, but others (like the Solo and MobilePre) do not. If using the M-Audio MIDISport Uno, insert both MIDI connectors into your MIDI device (via the "MIDI In" and "MIDI Out" ports), or just connect a single connector for one-way transmission. For instance, connect one cable to "MIDI In" to transmit data to your MIDI device, or use "MIDI Out" to transmit from your MIDI device to your computer.
Open a digital recording program to transmit audio to your program. You can use any recording program such as Pro Tools, GarageBand, Logic, Reason or Cubase. Open the program's "Preferences" and select the M-Audio device as your primary "Input" source.
Turn on your M-Audio interface and begin playing your instruments or transmitting audio through your connected microphone or stereo equipment. Some M-Audio interfaces are bus-powered, meaning that they receive power from the USB or FireWire port and so you will not need to turn them on or off.
Monitor your volume. Most M-Audio interfaces contain a peak meter light directly on the device. If the light remains green, you can proceed with your audio transmission. If the light turns red, lower your volume to prevent clipping. Do this by turning down the "Gain" knob on the interface.