iodock

Video: Alesis iO Dock Review

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…

Livid Block

Review: Livid Block with Expansion Ports

Livid make handsome controllers. Block is the mid sized of the three in their current stable, but Livid have produced many more than just three models. With a production process focused on refinement Block, like its brothers Ohm64 and Code, has received tweaks and updates over its lifecycle to bring it to where it is today. We’ve got the newest version, which features a DIY expansion adapter on top of all its existing features – let’s see how it does in the lab…


REQUIREMENTS:

Mac, Windows or Linux operating system – standards compliant USB MIDI.

PROS:

  • Good looking
  • Well built
  • Expansion ports
CONS:

  • Single colour LEDs
  • Comparatively pricey
Price at review: $399USD 

Block looks and feels great, it’s easy to set up and it’s got that ’boutique’ feel. At the same time it lacks some of the polished features that some of the big boys have and it can’t match them on price, but its expansion ports edge it into worthy competition.

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The first thing you’ll notice when you receive Block is that it travels light. Frugal packaging earns Livid environmental brownie points, and the spartan approach carries through to the lack of any ‘bumph’ – all documentation and software is online, so there’s not even a CD in the box. We’re not totally sure how we feel about that… on one hand it ensures that there’s no confusion when it comes to getting the latest versions of the software, on the other it does feel a little bit too much like scrimping.

Pull it out of the box and looks wise Block is difficult to fault.

Pull it out of the box and looks wise Block is difficult to fault.

A 64 button matrix in a sleek, formed aluminium chassis with bevelled edges and wood end panels, all of Block’s buttons glow ice blue. If you’ve the readies, you can even customise Block with red, white, or green lighting, a black or white chassis finish, and a selection of exotic woods for the side panels. It’s obvious that there’s been a lot of love poured into the hand crafted design of Block, and that’s something that transfers its way into your studio environment.

It’s not just all looks, though; Block feels good in your hands.

the buttons have nice bouncy feel to them

The faders have studio style caps on them, which makes them better suited to tweaking than live play, but they’re very smooth and have standard 4mm stems for you to connect a different cap should you prefer. The slits are smoothed off nicely, although we’d have liked to see them rounded off even more. The knobs are smooth, and the buttons have nice bouncy feel to them that you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever played with any number of Monome inspired controllers before. As well as the matrix, there are also some extra buttons which are useful for transport and other controls.

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Review: Alesis QX49

 

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″

Weight: 5.9lbs

Styling wise, the QX49 nails the smart casual look with matt black plastic, round bevelled edges and an ice blue backlit display.

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.

All these features do come at a price, though… and in lieu of the actual price tag going up, build quality inevitably takes a hit.

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.

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Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

Review: Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

Native Instruments, in their quest to streamline their product lineups into easily understandable categories, recently released the Komplete Audio 6 and booted their Audio Kontrol 1 into retirement. Rather than a simple rebadge however, they’ve designed a whole new product; we take a look to see what’s changed…

Product: Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

Compatibility: Mac/PC

Connectivity: 4x 1/4″ TRS outputs and stereo S/PDIF out, 2x 1/4″ TRS inputs, 2x combi inputs with +48v and stereo S/PDIF in. MIDI in, MIDI out, headphones.

Price: £249GBP / $299USD

The Komplete Audio 6 doesn’t stray too far from the design blueprint NI laid out for their audio interfaces a while ago; a thick steel coat wraps around three and a half of the box’s surfaces, with the sides tough matt plastic and the fascia a glossy black with lights to indicate levels and inputs.

The Komplete Audio 6 doesn’t stray too far from the design blueprint NI laid out for their audio interfaces a while ago

NI have given the displays a refresh, and the new look (shared with the Traktor Audio 6 and 10) makes it easier to take in information at a glance… and we think it looks nicer too.

Input and output wise, every analogue connection is balanced, with a stereo S/PDIF input and output, four ¼” TRS outputs and two inputs round the back, and two combi jack inputs on the front which can provide phantom power. There’s also MIDI in and out on the back, as well as a clever USB port that locks the cable in and makes it really difficult to pull out by mistake – perhaps a feature developed more for NI’s Traktor Audio range than what will in most cases be a somewhat sedentary piece of equipment, but cool nonetheless.

The Komplete Audio 6 supercedes the Audio Kontrol 1, and the hardware is much more streamlined.

Komplete Audio 6 supercedes the Audio Kontrol 1, and the hardware is much more streamlined

The top panel now simply features an analogue 5o’clock – 7o’clock dial which attenuates the level of output one and two, with gains for the inputs and direct monitoring channel on the front of the unit. Output three and four adjustment no longer have analogue gain attenuation, permanently set to 0dB.

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MOTU Audio Express

MOTU Announce Audio Express Interface

MOTU have just announced a new desktop audio interface: the six channel in/out, hybrid USB/FireWire400 Audio Express. Featuring two TRS jack and two pre-amped combo inputs, four TRS outputs and 24/96 stereo S/PDIF in/out.

The most interesting feature of the Audio Express is its standalone capability

 

There’s also MIDI I/O, complemented by MOTU’s Direct Digital Synthesis for sample accurate clock locking,and a headphone out.

The most interesting feature of the Audio Express is its standalone capability; aided by front panel mixing controls, the Audio Express doesn’t require a computer connection to accept inputs and route them through to its outputs, and MOTU’s Precision Digital Trim technology enables 1dB audio adjustments with save and recall of channel settings.

Audio Express looks to be a really interesting purchase for a home and small band user that uses a computer for tracking and finishing, but has standalone instruments they use for composition – its £330GBP retail price is quite high in light of competition from Focusrite, but its hybrid nature and combination of portability and mixing control sets it apart slightly. More news on how it sounds when it’s released and I get to test it… until then, you can check out more at MOTU’s site.

Footnote: I’m also conscious of the number of forward slashes I’ve put in this piece.

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