BandLab Link Analog Version 1 Audio Interface for Mobile
Now you can be creative inside the box!
by Chris Loeffler
BandLab debuted a family of three portable audio interfaces at 2018 Winter NAMM and walked aways with the Best in Show Award in the “Gotta Stock It” category. As if industry accolades weren’t enough to make the BandLab Link Analog (the lowest priced of the group) worthy of our attention, the fact that it’s a simple, dedicated hardware interface for under $40 is something of a game changer as it effectively puts entry-level recording into the affordability bracket of any musician.
The BandLab Link Analog is a simple, one knob audio interface with a single channel of input/output that was designed to pair with most popular DAW mobile apps. The Link Analog is powered by a rechargeable internal battery via USB charging and accepts 1/4”, XLR, or Neutrik input and has two 1/8” outputs, one to connect to mobile devices (or a computer’s audio input) and the other for headphone monitoring.
What You Need to Know
The BandLab Machines Link Analog Portable Studio Recorder ships in a diminutive cube package that includes the Link Analog device, a shielded TRRS cable to connect the interface to a mobile device or mixer, a micro USB charging cable, and a bare-bones infographic for first use. The form factor of the interface is pleasingly spartan, with a black on white aesthetic and icons in place of text for labels. While there were certain concessions undoubtedly needed to hit the price-point, like plastic connections and knob, the housing itself feels sufficiently suited to the bumps and bangs of life on the go and is weighted enough to stay stationary with the light pulls and pushes of the input and output cables being jostled during recording. Even with consistently careless storage during the evaluation period I didn’t cause any wear or stress on the components.
The BandLab Machines series were designed with BandLab, Garageband, Music Memo, FL Studio, and more in mind and I had all four of those, plus a couple of powerhouses like Logic Pro X and Pro Tools 10, immediately recognize the device upon startup. In fact, the Link Analog may be the first audio interface I’ve used that didn’t require a little menu diving in at least one of those programs upon initial launch.
It’s worth noting, if you don’t already use a basic DAW, that BandLab is a free app and Garageband is preloaded into most Apple products, so the full price of admission to the world of scratch and mobile recording is still only $39.99.
The BandLab Link Audio features a combo input that accepts 1/4”, XLR, and Neutrik cables with an accompanying gain knob to find the optimal spot between increasing input gain without clipping the preamp. There are two separate outputs for simultaneous feeding of Headphones and TRRS to run into a mobile device or monitors.
In service of being a mobile solution, the BandLab Link Analog features a rechargeable battery with a 350 mAh battery capacity and a healthy eight hour active recording time between charges. I brought the battery from dead to fully charged in less than an hour, and over the four months of continued evaluation I didn’t experience a reduction in the battery life. An additional benefit to being powered by an internal battery is a dramatically lower noise-floor than other entry-level interfaces utilizing traditional wall warts or USB powering, which introduce ground issues, dirty power, etc.
Even players with zero prior recording experience will find setting up and dialing in the Link Analog to be incredibly intuitive. The green LED light indicates the Link Analog has detected an input and is being accessed by software, so it’s easy to see if there is a problem.
How does it sound? Removing all external factors (DAW preference, any virtual instruments piled on, etc) I found both instruments like guitar, bass, and keyboards and microphones for vocals or acoustic guitar recording to be clean, neutrally EQed, and with little-to-no white noise in the background. Obviously, when examining the waveforms and EQ graphs for the Link Analog in Logic Pro X and compared to signals captured from studio-grade preamps I was able to see where headroom and some of the furthest reaching frequencies on either end were slightly truncated, but using just my ears I was able to easily capture mix-ready scratch tracks to reamp.
The noise floor is exceptionally manageable (considering the price) and even when running a Strat with single coils into a Tech21 Character Series Liverpool with moderate gain there was little hiss to hear between notes. Although the typical application for the Link Analog is leveraging the amps and effects simulators in BandLab or Garageband, I was especially pleased with the results from using an amp simulator in from of the interface for a more “analog” approach to dialing in tone.
I tested a few vocal mic classics, like the SM57 and Electro-Voice RE20, and was able to capture reasonably full and rich recordings through basic best-practice mic techniques. While I found a couple mics to require quite a bit of gain boost to reach the level of detail and presence I wanted, the fact that I was mostly working against the character of the microphones is a testament to the transparency of the interface.
There isn’t a clipping indicator on the device itself, so you’ll ned to rely on the input clipping meter within the DAW.
No phantom power.
If you don’t already have a solution for scratch recording, demos, or basic field capture there’s a lot to love about BandLab’s Link Analog… it’s dead simple, integrates across platforms without issue, and is likely the most affordable dedicated audio interfaces available. The minuscule form factor and internal battery are perfectly suited to storage in a gig bag or backpack, leaving the only real question as to whether or not the BandLab Link Analog is for you… do you have a current solution to mobile recording or basic track creation? If you don’t but aren’t ready or willing to drop serious coin on a more traditional recording setup, the BandLab Link Analog is the perfect entry into recording, mobile or otherwise, and will likely you take you a lot further than $40 ought to. -HC-
Buy BandLab Machines Link Analog at Amazon ($39.99)
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.