Sonic LAB: Alesis IODock Review

iPad connectiviy for the desktop      09/08/11

   QuickTime (MP4)  | iOS MP4
10:1 mins    

 

There’s been a lot of interest surrounding the Aelsis IODock - originally announced as the StudioDock , an audio and MIDI docking station for the iPad(1), it was first spotted in January at NAMM, as with many companies, the ship date was some way off - and this was exacerbated by the almost immediate announcement of the iPad2 which meant that Alesis had to sort out an adapter to accommodate the new form factor. Which they have done now and its now included in the box with shipping units.

What Is It?
This is a docking station for iPad which hooks up all the connections power, Audio, MIDI, USB and video into a single unit so you can connect mic, line or guitar signas and MIDI IO whilst still powering the ipad.

First Impressions
Out of the box, Its made of plastic - not flimsy and insubstantial though with all audio connectors mounted either via plastic bolted ¼ jacks or screw fixed combi connections. It feels sturdy enough to use in a live situation though and mounts the iPad in portrait mode at a usable slant when sat on your desk or space on a keyboard.

Connections
Starting at the rear, we have 5v power with switch, video (composite), footswitch, phantom power switch, 2 mic/line inputs on combi connectors with input 2 switchable between mic/line and  guitar, each input has dedicated gain control. Direct monitoring switch -for routing the input to the outputs for instant monitoring, stereo balanced ¼ jack outpus.
On the Left side, there’s a USB connector (destination type) and MIDI in and out. This allows for CoreMIDI hookup either via the MIDI sockets or from the USB MIDI io. On the right hand side  there’s a dedicated headphone out with separate monitor level and a level control for the main outputs

Facts - Correction
Alesis have informed me that the iODock DOES in fact handle ADC and DA conversion when sending and recieving audio to and from the unit. KNowing that this is the case, I can say that the audio does sound fine and does not appear to introduce any latency.
 
The USB connection is purely for MIDI, and cannot be used as an interface for driving devices without a computer host. Unfortunately it does not allow for sync between host computer and the iPad - you will need to remove the iPad from the dock and plug in using your Apple sync/charging cable.

In Use
First thing to mention is that it really makes the iPad much more usable ergonomically - gone is the unwiedly shape that means your iPad is constantly spinning and slipping around on any hard surface, you can now prod and dab without fear of it moving - I like!

I used it with Apple’s own Garageband for iPad and it worked very well - seamless MIDI and audio integration, playing from the MIDI out of my keyboard without problem. Also audio input worked fine with both guitar and mic (including phantom power) working as expected though only while powered. No trouble either with nanoStudio - another favourite of mine.

Compatibility
Many of my coreMIDI apps worked fine, iMS20, NLogs Midi Synth,  Sunrizer Synth, but not iSyn or beatmaker 2 (though this is only an iPhone app). When I tried  IK Multimedia’s Amplitube for iPad and Frontiers iShred - both fairly decent guitar effects simulators - I ran into a couple of problems  - firstly if you are using an iPhone version - it will run in portrait mode - meaning the orientation will be off - not a problem for native ipad apps, but also Amplitube nor iShred would recognise the audio input - meaning they just dont work with IODock.
For many of the other coreMIDI compatible apps this is fine - the IODock is compatible, the problems appear to be with audio input apps.
More on Audio Input from Alesis - Regarding apps/compatibility, the reason some apps, like the ones mentioned in your video don't work with the iODOCK’s Audio inputs is because the app doesn’t allow audio input via the dock (30-pin) connector. If the app developer turns that feature on (which is easy to do and we're happy to work with them), then it will work. 

Conclusion
I love the form factor - it means I can use the iPad in my studio setup - I just discovered TouchOSC and I’m happily controlling Logic as if I had a dedicated control surface. If there was a definitive list of compatible apps I think it would help with the purchase decision, but for me - its a keeper - and the price I’d say is fairly reasonable given its utility.
Available now
Street price: £139, €175, $199


 

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