|Interesting. I was always told by the guitar center crew that Echo was where it's at.
First clue is there
Guitar Center, while not as bad as some places in my experience, still deals a LOT with lower end stuff, and are paid to sell that stuff as most professional organizations end up going through a dealer that specializes in their field. Guitar Center is still a consumer outlet in the end of things though they do deal with better stuff than you would get at say Best Buy by being concentrated ona more specific field. M-Audio I have had spotty experience with. I own a 410, and am considering getting their new lightpipe only interface for a dedicated use, as well as owning a Keystation Pro 88(NOT ProKeys 88 though I have heard decent things about that as well). In general I have found since their purchase by Avid/Digi their quality has dropped somewhat, though for the money they are still a good option, and still much better quality IMO than Behringer. My 410 I need to resolder one of the volume pots due to the solders breaking, but I am happy with my Keystation as a hobby pianist at best(Sound Design and Engineering are my main fields) Echo, walks a fine line. I wouldnt call them 'professional' per se, though they DO get used in professional applications. The primary reason I think, is because for the most part what does get used for that purpose in professional applications tends to be a higher quality in AD/DA, mic pres, etc. As such I might I suppose call them ProSumer, as they are most definitly a step above MOST consumer quipment, I would ALWAYS take them above Creative for example, and even generall will take them Above EMU, though that has more to do with a prejudice against Emu than anything I think
MAudio would probably get put into this category as well, they are used by both Pros and Consumers, though the Pros tend to have better equipment around as well. However as I have stated in my many rants on ProTools being considered the 'best possible choice' for a multitrack audio editing solution, past a certain point your talent plays a MUCH larger role than the equipment you use and you can get professional results from really crappy equipment, whereas someone with 'professional' equipment and little talent will still get crappy results. Many studios in fact keep around some crappy equipment because they want the sound it gives, I have worked with one guy that still used carbon mics on occasion in recording for the sound they make. Seablade