April 24, 2011
It's been a busy week for those keeping up with iOS and the music industry. No, not because of that -- I'm talking about the smaller guys, the yous and mes recording music on our iPads. With Yamaha's recent i-MX1 MIDI controller unveiling, Apple's flagship mobile products are about to get a lot more useful for the serious music set. Doing their darnedest to steal Yamaha's thunder (add some reverb here), industry big-wig Alesis has arrived on the scene with its aptly-titled iO Dock. Their idea of a competing product, somehow, is to surround the svelte iPad with a cumbersome, portly body full of ports. And please note that I wrote "iPad," as in "iPad 1": This baby doesn't seem built with Apple's newest slate in mind, and that's important because it employs a sliding-dock system (and the iPad 2 has a vastly different shape around back). Still, the thing does offer a decent feature-list, sporting dual quarter-inch XLR ports, three standard audio jacks with individual level controls, RCA video output, Core-compatible MIDI-in and -out, and an app-assignable "Footswitch" interface. On paper, it seems impressive. As to the usefulness of it all, I am in doubt. First, I can't speak to how well XLRs will work with the iPad, as I am not familiar with the way they function and whether or not they deliver sound at a bit-rate or in a manner that iOS can make higher-quality use of. Secondly, I just can't think of a compelling use for app-controlled RCA video-output. Thirdly, and lastly (and most importantly!), the iO Dock reportedly costs upwards of USD 200. Whereas Yamaha's solution is iOS device-universal, eminently portable, and probably inexpensive (somewhere in the USD 100 range), this already-outdated behemoth is a costly proposition. If XLR mic-in and stompboxes or guitar controllers matter a lot, and you already have a first-gen iPad, go for it. As music instruments go, the price isn't horrible; and Alesis makes good stuff. We'd simply recommend you try Yamaha's entry first.