Sonuus i2M Musicport Review

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Despite an ongoing dispute with the laws of physics, MIDI guitar enjoys a significant niche following. The i2M, a tiny Windows/Mac audio/MIDI interface with a 1/4-inch phone jack input on one end and USB port on the other, provides low-latency, monophonic pitch-to-MIDI conversion with quite a few extras.

The i2M is class-compliant. Under Windows, WDM latency wasn''t really acceptable, however direct monitoring is available. Although Sonuus offers a beta ASIO driver (Windows XP/Vista/7, 32-bit only), with my XP system, this worked only with Ableton Live and Studio One Pro. Other programs I tried either gave no sound, or crashed. To be fair, though, it''s a beta—when it''s ready for prime time, presumably the i2M will work as well as it does on the Mac under Core Audio.

On either platform, MIDI tracking is extremely fast, and there are many ways to optimize performance. I had no problem triggering realistic sax lines, doing huge synth pads, and generally, being surprised at how well it worked.

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Fig. 1 The Desktop Editor is both flexible and deep, and can route data to six individual zones. (To save space, only three are shown.)

Part of this success is due to the Desktop Editor (Figure 1). There are four modes (with individual legato note detection), and four possible instrument optimizations—guitar, 4-string bass, 5-string bass, and voice/wind. Each mode can have a custom MIDI configuration for six channelized “zones,” each of which offers:

Pitch-bend response, or chromatic (quantizes to semitones or any of 23 scales—you can''t play out of key)
Transpose (+/-36 semitones)
Pitch-bend range
Breath controller data extraction from amplitude
“Note gate” that restricts note detection range
Hold option—sustains a MIDI note upon receiving a suitable controller message
Note constrainer (sets the range over which MIDI notes are output)

Multiple zones mean extreme layering possibilities: For example, only low notes can trigger a bass note in a different zone, set to chromatic while a lead does pitch bends. You can also adjust the overall preamp gain—very helpful. No MIDI guitar tracks perfectly, but by optimizing i2M performance, the synth you''re driving, and playing with reasonable care, the i2M does a far better job than expected—and a little MIDI editing will clean up a part. Sonuus shows no signs of letting up in its quest to make MIDI guitar both reliable and inexpensive—and the i2M delivers.

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Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Sonuus product page.