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Alesis iO Dock for iPad Review

12/1/2011

The iOS app world is thick with cool audio, recording and composition apps. But the frightening thing about the current crop of audio I/O solutions for all iOS apps is they require a dongle-type interface that connects to the 30-pin connector on the bottom. Unfortunately a standard 1/4" guitar cable has enough weight to rip out that 30-pin connector, and your heart, in a fleeting moment.

Docking seems so…“space age”!

The Alesis iO Dock provides serious I/O for the iPad''s iOS platform. Made of resilient plastic, the iO Dock is lightweight and tough, bristles with killer I/O potential, and sports a clean industrial design that integrates inconspicuously with the iPad. It''s completely plug-and-play; just slip your iPad into the iO Dock''s rails and once docked, the whole thing grips your iPad firmly. Angled at about 20 degrees, it creates a very comfortable work surface that didn''t cause my musculoskeletal system go numb in 30 minutes. An inset (provided) compensates for the iPad 2''s thinner profile.

GOOD I/O IS THE TAKEAWAY
The iO Dock packs some good connections with the pro audio world. Inputs one and two feature combo jacks that accept both 1/4” and XLR balanced connectors; these lead into a pair of preamps with low noise, plenty of gain, and a pleasant vibe. Input Two can switch between mic/line and guitar. I tried everything from a Shure SM 57 to an AKG 414, and was rewarded with the most awesome instrument and vocal sounds I''d ever captured with my iPad. Ditto for guitar. And within GarageBand, you can route each input to a separate track for the multitrack experience.

The main outs are 1/4" balanced, and sounded fine whether connected to powered monitors or club PA systems. To keep the monitoring real, a switch toggles between direct monitoring of the iPad and iO Dock. There''s also a main output control and a 1/4" stereo headphone out (with its own gain knob).

You''ll find a set of old-fashioned 5-pin MIDI connectors, as well as a USB port labeled “USB MIDI.” Unfortunately GarageBand supports only MIDI in, but I can confirm that MIDI in on both connections works fine. However, while you can charge your iPad from the dock, you can''t sync your iPad from iO Dock''s USB MIDI port.

While Alesis''s iO Dock performed flawlessly with GarageBand and various synth apps, my beloved AmpliTube would not work. An email to Alesis elicited the following: “The iO Dock conforms to all current Apple MFI development standards for apps including Core Audio and Core MIDI. If a developer has followed Apple's standards and enabled I/O via the dock and permits landscape orientation, then the app very likely works with the iO Dock.” That''s good news, as the vast hordes of audio apps—although not all—comply with this standard.

WHAT'S UP, DOCK?
Fear flimsy connectors and sub-standard audio no more: iO Dock transforms your iPad from an audio dongle-dangler to a wicked 21st-century portable studio interface that handles the majority of your pro audio interface needs.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Alesis iO Dock for iPad product page.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Alesis iO Dock for iPad product page.

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