The Alesis iO Dock is designed to be the missing link between your iPad and the growing number of production focused apps for it and your studio equipment. Ins and outs galore, it’s not got a lot of competition right now, so can it step up to the plate? The usual dose of words and photography will follow shortly; here’s our video breakdown of the Alesis iO Dock…
Miniaturisation has been vogue for some years now – 25 key keyboards were first, and then mini controls blocks saw 49 and upwards sized keyboards increasingly forgotten in the budget market. Alesis know that when it comes to keyboard control, bigger can be better; here we have the QX49, a 49 key controller with a host of features. How does it fare?
In/Out: USB out, MIDI out, MIDI out from computer.
Bundled: Ableton Live Lite 8 Alesis Edition
Dimensions: (WxDxH) 32″ x 9″ x 3″
The QX49 nails the smart casual look
The pads illuminate red when pushed – the transport controls don’t, though, however much they look like they might.
The QX49’s main attraction however is the sheer number of controls it features for its knockdown price. As well as a 49 key keyboard with dedicated pitch and mod wheels there are eight faders, eight pots, four velocity pads, transport controls and system buttons. You also get expression pedal input, a MIDI out for the keyboard and a thru from the computer. There’s a 9V DC power option for controlling other hardware (not included), although the QX49 takes power directly over USB.
The top panel bows when banging on the pads and tweaking the controls
The top panel bows when banging on the pads and tweaking the controls, and whilst it doesn’t feel like there’s any danger of it breaking it does have have an effect on the feel.
When the iPad was released in April last year, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it took the world somewhat by storm. Despite not being the first to do a lot of the things it was lauded for doing (companies like Jazz Mutant were releasing multi touch screens for musicians much earlier, for instance) it was certainly the most conspicuous; perhaps the iPad’s greatest feature was the way it opened peoples’ eyes and imaginations to the realities of the progress of consumer level technology. Whilst the traditional keyboard and mouse paradigm of computing is some way from being shaken out of its position as the power user’s choice, light, touch friendly apps on the iPad are capturing peoples’ imaginations.
light, touch friendly apps on the iPad are capturing peoples’ imaginations
The way I see it, there are two main barriers to the adoption of the iPad (or of course any other multi touch tablet – right now the focus is on Apple because I genuinely think they’re the only ones doing it right at the moment): power and connectivity. There’s a possible third, too, and I’ll get onto that later.
When it comes to power, even computer nerds are starting to find it difficult to keep up with the colossal speed at which progress is being made. We’re a long way from the simpler times when a bigger number meant a faster processor, and what with multiple chips, cores, faster buses and all the other wizardry that’s being squeezed out of silicon, the number of mHz written on something isn’t really relevant anymore – especially where custom chips built for bespoke computers with matching software are concerned. No, the reality is that technology is moving forward at such a frightening rate that in less than a year, processing power of the iPad 2 is reportedly double that of its predecessor. iPad was already fast enough to run software like Korg’s iElectribe, a very convincing virtual remake of one of its most successful groove boxes, and Akai’s SynthStation, a full studio in a box tool that really proved that iPad meant business when it comes to audio.
When iPad 2 is launched, GarageBand for iPad will follow shortly.
When iPad 2 is launched, GarageBand for iPad will follow shortly. New hardware, from Apogee’s JAM to Alesis’s StudioDock and the Akai SynthStation 49 are all pieces in the puzzle that provide solutions to connectivity issues of such a standalone piece of equipment, with more, I’m sure, to follow.
Predictions? A future update of iOS will improve app to app interoperability, increasing the practicality of investing in the burgeoning iOS synth market and paving the way for Apple to release an iPad version of Logic with a plugin system. Propellerhead, one of the kings of the studio in a box world, will bring out their own studio in a box iPad app and Imageline, the other king, will up their game after testing the water with their recently released ‘in name only’ FL Studio. I’d also be surprised if Akai weren’t to bring out an MPC like sampling workstation and pad controller with audio input for sampling.
But what does that mean right here and now? The truth is, iPad 2 still doesn’t have the power to compete seriously with a desktop operating system when it comes to the kind of quality and quantity we’ve come expect from home studio software. However, it’s more portable, more tactile, and has a much shallower learning curve – if you already own both a computer and an iPad and want to simply enjoy yourself with music, then the iPad 2 is beginning to look like it might be an even better choice than traipsing through the minefield of computer software decisions. And, one day soon, we won’t even have to choose…
Another 4/4 audio interface that also includes insert points, with channel 1/2 and 3/4 switchable +48v phantom power, MIDI in and out, and balanced throughout including headphones, the Alesis iO4 is practically identical in features to stablemate Akai’s EIE.
the Alesis iO4 is practically identical in features to stablemate Akai’s EIE
I’ll be very surprised if the iO4 isn’t less expensive than the EIE, though – and it’ll be interesting to see where economies are made aside from build. Nevertheless the iO4′s top down design will better suit some project studios set up, and the inclusion of Cubase LE is a definite value adder for those starting out their studio…
The Alesis multimix series has been around for a while now, in a variety of formats and sizes. The Multimix 16 USB FX is, as you might imagine, more or less the Multimix 16 USB with some onboard effects.
A switchable delay, reverb or phaser can be selected as an internal send effect, and one can select pre/post fader per channel
A switchable delay, reverb or phaser can be selected as an internal send effect, and one can select pre/post fader per channel.
Aside from that it appears largely the same as the existing non-effects version, but with better signal to noise ratio and around 1/3 less power consumption. It’ll be interesting to put one through its paces when it comes out to see how it fares against the competition…
The Alesis Studiodock: A pair of combo jack inputs, both +48v phantom power switchable and a guitar level switch on input 2, MIDI in and out DINs, TRS outputs and headphone jack, and a composite video output. That’s a lot of connectivity – and it should go some way to making the idea of the iPad as a central hub for small scale and on location music production a reality.
it should go some way to making the idea of the iPad as a central hub for small scale and on location music production a reality
No word on whether the power supply is required for all functions, for instance simple MIDI in, or whether there is a battery slot for functions such as phantom power where external power is almost guaranteed to be a necessity. Another thing necessary to note about this and many other iPad compatible devices is that they are still pending Apple certification. Strong rumours of an announcement of an imminent iPad update are on the horizon – are the manufacturers working with new specs, is the form factor of the new iPad going to be compatible with the equipment, or in a worst case scenario, will the products fail certification due to an incompatibility with the new iPads? The latter is doubtful, but nonetheless…
The 49 key controller market is pretty saturated, but most of the products in it have something small to differentiate them from the pack. The Alesis QX49 looks like it’s shooting for the midrange players in the market, with a decent feature set including eight faders, eight 7 o’clock – 5 o’clock knobs, transport controls, and four pads which look like they are probably the same as the Akai LPD8/MPK Mini offerings.
The Alesis QX49 looks like it’s shooting for the midrange players in the market
Nothing particularly special there, although interesting features like the purported ability to split the keyboard to allow different instrument control and the included Alesis edition of Ableton Live Lite could help give the keyboard an edge.
Its success will, I imagine, depend largely on its price point, although I’ll have to get my hands on it to see whether the overall quality of the QX49 can outshine the competition.