Back in 2001, I was seduced by the advertising of Event Electronics as they prepared to launch the Event EZbus, a 3-in-1 audio interface, software control surface and standalone digital mixer. This was just what I had been after. I needed a good mixer to route all my hardware synths and samplers through and I needed a capable audio interface and the lure of a control surface with which to use Cubase with was a temptation I couldn’t resist. And so off I trekked, to Academy of Sound (RIP) and took out some finance for £699 and walked home with one. With specs like these, who wouldn’t have wanted one…
Stand-Alone Digital Mixer
First impressions were that this was a hefty, well built beast with lots of potential, but it became very apparent, very soon, that it was flawed. As a standalone digital mixer, it was beyond compare at this price point. Loads of ins and outs, digital (ADAT, Co-Ax), MIDI, built in FX… it had a heck of a spec. As a control surface, it was ok, but relied upon a software app on the host computer to perform translations. And there weren’t many templates, although these were promised. Also promised was good driver support for the audio interface. Sadly, this was its Achilles heel. The EZbus used the USB 1 protocol. USB had been around a little while and was excellent for connecting peripherals like scanners, printers, etc. The EZbus was one of the first USB based audio interfaces. It was a sign of things to come, but if only it had come a little later when USB 2 had been born, maybe its history would’ve been more favourable. USB 1′s bandwidth of 12Mbit/s was just not ideal for digital audio. Event stated that you could record two channels of audio, whilst monitoring two more back. I’d be surprised if anyone regularly managed to do that. Maybe that is why they also produced and sold the EZ8 PCI expansion card with an ADAT connection for you to connect your EZbus to your computer with and get 8 channels of digital audio in and out of your DAW. I never bought one, so couldn’t say if it improved things or not.
So, £700 down, I wasn’t best pleased when it didn’t completely live up to its hype. Event didn’t help themselves either by being incredibly unhelpful when it came to support. Virtually all of my emails went unanswered and the promised updates to control surface templates and drivers never materialised. Within a year, the web page had ceased to be updated and it wasn’t much longer before the page disappeared completely. That was it. All of us EZbus owners had been cut off and left to drift unaided in the sea of useless products.
The EZbus’s saving grace was its ability as a standalone mixer. It is the only reason why I have still got it to this day. All those inputs are incredibly useful and I can hook up my Alesis Fusion to it over ADAT to get a full 8 channels of digital audio from it. It is quite apt that a short lived, over promised keyboard workstation should complement a short lived, over promised mixer so well
One day, whilst trying to find ways to resurrect it, I discovered a German company called Ploytec. Ploytec seemed to do one thing, and one thing only. And that was producing a generic USB Audio interface driver (They now do much more!). And it seemed that it was good enough for companies like Yamaha & Roland to use in their products. Ploytec also stated that their driver would work with a host of other devices, and I was overjoyed to find that the EZbus was amongst those listed. Of course, this being a 3rd party driver, there was a cost, and rightly so. But us EZbus users had been shafted by Event, and so I contacted them. Firstly, I made them aware of the existence of the driver and suggested that they do a deal and get this driver out there as an official update for all of its users. I followed that up by asking that if they wouldn’t do that, would the cover the cot of me acquiring the driver so that I could actually use the device I had paid them so handsomely for. And, as yo may have guessed, I got nothing. Apart from a stony silence. And so, I bought the driver myself and found, to my delight, that it worked, and worked well. I now had acceptably low latency but it rendered the MIDI ports on the EZbus useless. This wasn’t the fault of Ploytec, but that of Event for designing a product so badly. But that wasn’t a huge issue and I started to get more use out of it. Sadly, the restrictions of the USB1 protocol rendered the EZbus as a crippled and lame duck and very soon, I spent another large sum of money on a Creative Audigy Platinum eX system which was incredibly good and served me very well for many years until it got replaced by an E-MU 0404 and subsequently, a Propellerhead Balance unit.
And so, once more, the EZbus became nothing more than a mixer. And as I moved more into the realms of software synthesis, it became even less used. Right now, it sits about 18 inches from where I am sat right now, writing this, and it has nothing going into it at all, apart from my Fusion, which I rarely use for its on-board sounds anymore.
But when I got my iMac, I found myself trying all sorts of hardware with it, mainly because I couldn’t get over how easy it was to connect hardware to! Plug stuff in, no driver install, and there it is, in the system, ready to use. I pulled out a USB cable and wondered how the EZbus would fare. I hooked it up, and if you’re a Mac user, you’ll no that, unlike Windows, there is no two tone audio warning that you’ve connected something, no text balloon popping up from the system tray telling you that it is looking for drivers. I went to the Audio/MIDI control app and there it was, correctly identified by name, showing as a 44.1KHz/16 bit, 2in/2out device. I fired up Reason and there it was in there too, as well as the 3 MIDI ports it offers. I was a little amazed. So, I loaded up a song or two, stuff that would tax it and at 512 buffer samples, it would get clicky, poppy and anything below 256 was just not even bothering. However, knocking the buffer up to 1024 saw clean, crackle free playback and an borderline acceptable latency for live playing. My flabber was well and truly ghasted!
I didn’t even bother hooking it up to my Windows 7 device but, upon further investigation, Ploytec have kept on top of their driver updates and produce drivers for all versions of Windows from XP onwards, in both 32 and 64bit modes! Whilst I haven’t tried it, I’d wager that this driver still works well. And it’s still only €44.
A bit of Googling shows up a number of 10 year old forum posts by disillusioned EZbus users, myself included, a scattering of reviews and very little else. But I did find a site where the owner had gathered up all the final versions of drivers, apps and installation programs, along with PDF’s of the manuals, and made them available for public consumption. I am sure there is a copyright law somewhere that would get a lawyer all excited about hosting these files, but for a product that was dead the moment it shipped from the factory, I’d be very surprised if Event kicked off about it in anyway. And in a show of support & solidarity, I am hosting all those files myself, for all you fellow EZbus users, just in case you feel like trying the old girl out again. If anything, the manuals might be of some use.
So, if you have arrived at this page via some nostalgic, desperate and inquisitive attempt to revive your EZbus, feel free to download any of these files and share your thoughts and findings in the comments below.
The world of digital audio has changed immeasurably since the days of the EZbus, but I have to say that when I got it working with a good degree of success with my iMac, I did feel a certain vindication for having persevered. And if you’re from Event, and you happen across this page, I don’t hold a grudge against you personally, either as a business or as individuals, but this was a very unpleasant experience for all of us who parted with large sums of money for a very expensive door stop. It could’ve been so different, it really could. If anything, it has made me incredibly diligent when purchasing new software or hardware. I always look for signs of longevity and stability, both from the unit and the manufacturer.
*Many thanks to the Wayback Machine for some of the old Event links.
I cannot take any responsibility for any issues that arise from you downloading and installing these files. You do so entirely at your own risk.