Pro Tools/M-Audio interfaces
So basically, I'm going to need a Pro Tools rig soon. Virtually every school I'm applying to transfer to in the Fall requires that I have a Macbook, a copy of PT, and an appropriate audio interface. Not to mention the fact that I run an indie record label, master many of the releases, and do tons of recordings of my own, I need to start working towards having and being comfortable with the so-called "industry standard" software.
And, as some of you may know, having Pro Tools also means needing a compatible M-Audio interface. But while browsing my options this evening, I realized that M-Audio has a tendency to skimp hard on their mic and cable inputs. Unless I were to get a rack mount, which is completely infeasible as I would have to both lug it around and afford to pay for it, it seems as though I would only be able to get two built-in inputs at the most. My current Lexicon Lambda on the other hand, while not being the most high-quality of interfaces, sports nine glorious inputs. Thing is, having only two inputs isn't a big deal if all I'm going to do with it is bring it to class and plug it into the equipment there, but it becomes a very large problem when I need to record a full band's worth of instruments on my own time in someone's back room with only my laptop. Even with multitracking, it is not very feasible to record an entire drumset with only two microphones.
Is there a reasonably prices M-Audio interface that I have missed? Is the solution to buy a new mixer on top of the audio interface, which will output through the interface and provide me with the inputs I need? And, if this is the solution, what would be the best way to balance my budget on buying both a mixer and interface? Do I sacrifice the quality of the mixer in favor of a better interface or vice-versa?