Record producer, mixer, and audio engineer Andrew Scheps has decided to migrate away from an older Mac Pro tower as his main CPU and move to a more portable solution with a MacBook Pro. “The biggest issue was three PCIe cards that are essential to my work and that had, up until now, been residing nicely within the Mac Pro chassis,” Scheps said. “I had to find a way to continue using the two Avid Pro Tools | HDX cards and a Universal Audio UAD Octo DSP accelerator – and everyone knows just how extensible a MacBook Pro isn’t.”
The solution came in Sonnet Technologies’ Echo Express III-D, a Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe expansion chassis that holds up to three PCIe cards, originally designed for use inside desktop computers, and connects them via Thunderbolt 2 to any Mac computer with a Thunderbolt port. The chassis has dual Thunderbolt ports and accommodates three full-length, full-height, single-side PCIe 2.0 cards. In addition, the Echo Express manages its air flow in a quiet manner. “The Echo Express is so quiet, in fact, that I don’t bother putting the chassis in the machine room,” Scheps remarked.
“I’m a creature of habit and I prefer to work with my specific Pro Tools rig even when traveling to offsite production facilities,” Scheps said. “Previously, dragging the bulky Mac Pro tower along wasn’t really an option, which meant I would have to bring along a startup drive that approximated, but didn’t completely match, my preferred configuration. The only other alternative was to spend hours installing hundreds of customised plugins and tools, each with its own authorisation, at the offsite studio.”
Now, with the MacBook Pro/Echo Express III-D, Scheps can carry his Pro Tools rig to any location, plug into the remote studio’s audio interfaces, and be ready to go in minutes. “Whatever work I’m in the middle of when I leave my studio, goes with me, and when I arrive, it’s as if I’m working in my own studio with no setup required,” Scheps noted.
To date, Scheps has used his new MacBook Pro/Echo Express III-D combination to engineer recordings for several high-profile acts, including Ziggy Marley, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Hozier. “The rig has worked flawlessly from the first time I powered the systems up.” he said.
“In fact, I’m enthusiastically recommending the Sonnet gear to any studio that is in the midst of an upgrade,” Scheps stated. “At first, it seemed inconceivable that such a small chassis and a tiny Thunderbolt cable could deliver the same connectivity and power as a tower computer with a motherboard. This is one leap of faith that I’m very glad I took.”
Photo Caption 3: Sonnet Echo Express III-D Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe card expansion system, Avid ProTools|HDX 2, and Universal Audio UAD-2 Octo