The Griffin Studio Connect is aptly named; the vast array of music apps for the iPad make it very tempting to integrate into a production setup… but how? Via a production focused docking device, of course, and that’s exactly what Studio Connect is designed for. It adds inputs and outputs to the iPad’s basic 3.5mm jack, as well as MIDI connectivity – let’s take a look at whether it’s worth a punt in our Griffin Studio Connect Review…
The Studio Connect is light, and quite attractive for what is admittedly a pretty cheap construction. The thing is that presumably having the Studio Connect on the go is a major point of purpose, and so its lightweight yet pretty sturdy build works in its favour. That said, the device doesn’t work without external power (some kind of cut down ‘emergency mode’ featureset would have been nice to see), so truly portable production is out. On the plus side, when the Studio Connect is plugged in it will charge your iPad too.
There are only two moving parts on the device, the main volume and headphone slider, and neither betray the sturdiness of the Studio Connect’s construction. The main dial is an attractive standout for the unit, its shiny metallic paint job and subtle indigo blue lighting setting off the speckled matt plastic body nicely.
Perhaps most importantly the holder for the iPad is soft and won’t scratch your shiny Apple slate, and the base is nice and grippy on the desk. In all, the Studio Connect fits in well with a desk based setup; the footprint of the device is small but it doesn’t fall over, it’s plastic but it looks and feels like a little more than the sum of its parts.
Whilst comparisons directly inside reviews is something we try to shy away from, I do need to bring something up. Compared to the Alesis ioDock, which we reviewed a while back, the Studio Connect has far fewer features for not nearly enough of a price difference (if, in fact, any at all). There’s 5 pin MIDI in and out, 3.5mm stereo input, an unpowered 1/4” mono input, stereo RCA out and a 3.5mm headphone out. No USB MIDI (interestingly the box graphics show an illustration of a very Akai LPD8 looking controller plugging into the Studio Connect, which isn’t possible due to its USB only connectivity), no phantom power input, no balanced outputs, no footswitch… the Studio Connect provides bare bones connectivity for those of you that don’t need any of those things, but the lack of USB is something that most users will lament.
The Studio Connect does have a distinct advantage over some competition docks; without a convoluted way to clip in an iPad, Griffin simply deciding to use a cable protruding from the Studio Connect, there’s really nothing to stop you plugging an iPhone into the unit. I’d also venture a guess that the new generation of iDevices that use the Lightning Connector (which is forced obsoletion at Apple’s most cynical) will work with the requisite adapter. If anything I’d have preferred Griffin to go the whole hog and provide a long cable to make it possible to pick an iPad up off the dock and hold it comfortably whilst still having connectivity, maybe with some kind of retractable cable system. As it is, at least you have some freedom – although it’s not advertised like it, you can use the iPad in portrait mode, for instance.
The Studio Connect’s digital output means that the audio isn’t coming out of the iPad’s line out, but in reality it’s not sparkling, night and day difference. One thing it definitely is, though, is handy. Inputs and outputs are nicely separated, you can use better connections, and simultaneous input and output is obviously a step towards making the iPad a credible music production tool.
Griffin Studio Connect Review: Overall
The Studio Connect isn’t the most well featured nor the best sounding iPad audio device on the market, but it sits somewhere in the upper middle. Its cabled connector is handy, especially because of Apple’s canning of the connector that’s served them so well for over a decade, and it’s light, good looking, and sturdy. In all, it’s a device that will likely appeal to those of you that use the iPad as part of a larger setup, perhaps as a synth with audio output and MIDI connectivity, and to be honest it works very well as a more standard dock to sit and type at whilst having much better audio connectivity than most docks too.