Tascam’s newest portable USB interface, the iXR ($159 street), covers a lot of ground within a small footprint. It supports Mac and Windows, as well as iOS 8 and higher, and is about the same size as other portable USB interfaces. But with its metal housing, this definitely feels like a product you can toss into your gig bag without worrying about its safety.
The iXR sports dual inputs and a headphone jack on its front panel, with trim knobs next to each input. The combo connectors accept 1/4" and XLR input—whether it’s mic, line, or instrument level—and +48V phantom power goes to both inputs when switched on. The back panel includes two USB ports (one for your iOS device via Lightning), standard MIDI I/O, and a pair of balanced 1/4" TRS jacks.
Setting up the iXR is straightforward: Simply install the drivers for your operating system and you’re in business. The iXR supports 16- and 24-bit wordlengths with sample rates up to 96 kHz—a broader resolution than many iOS-centric interfaces, which typically top out at 44.1 kHz. When used with an iOS device, the iXR requires an external source of power via the second USB port, and Tascam recommends using an official Apple USB power adapter.
I tested the iXR on both my MacBook Pro and an iPad Air and the unit performed admirably in both the audio and MIDI departments. At extremely low buffer settings, the iXR felt snappy with no audio break-up. However, I wasn’t that jazzed about having to connect the unit to an Apple AC adapter, so I used my iPad/iPhone backup battery (Anker: less than $20 on Amazon) as an alternate power source: This made the iXR fully portable and it worked flawlessly with a Korg NanoKey Studio Bluetooth MIDI keyboard.
Tascam bundles the iXR with Cubasis LE for iPad and Cubase LE for Mac and Windows. While most computer users will probably already have a DAW, the addition of Cubasis for iOS users means the iXR provides a complete solution out of the box, regardless of platform.