New Year, New Options

I’ve been wanting to acquire a Presonus iTwo interface since I first read about their pending release.  Nothing I’ve read about them since they hit the market had changed my mind.  Sure, some people didn’t bother to truly explore what the little interface was capable of before writing them off, but doing your homework and being creative pays dividends.

The obvious, it has two combination XLR / 1/4″ inputs for microphones or instruments, with individual preamps, and a wet/dry mix of what you’re recording vs. what you’ve already recorded, and has phantom power.  Also, as the text implies, it works on iPads (version 2 or newer), and via USB for either Mac or Windows.  There are 2 – 1/4″ monitor outs (L/R) on the back, as well as a midi in/out, and is marketed as a portable interface, for recording on the go.

The portable part is where less creative types start to fume.  When connected to a Mac or PC, the iTwo (and smaller iOne) are powered by the USB bus.  When connected to the iPad, the iTwo requires external power.  Reading this, people start screaming about how that ruins the whole concept.  Contrary to knee jerk reactions though, the iTwo is more than happy to run for hours on a low end $9.00 2600 mAh portable phone recharge battery.  You can literally hike off into the woods, set your iPad, iTwo, and external pocket sized battery on a log, plug in an instrument and a mic, two instruments, or two mics, and start recording.  

That much I expected, and was very pleased with.  The marketing for these devices is heavily geared towards using their Capture for iPad app, or the free Capture Duo when on the go.  That doesn’t really make sure of the midi ports until you return home, plug the iTwo into your computer and compete your tracking.  By the way, your Capture tracks wirelessly import to the full StudioOne DAW when you return home.  That said, you can record with Garage Band, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my old, cheap (and battery powered) midi keyboard actually works in that app just fine.

I also found that while not supported for the iPhone (Capture isn’t available for phones in the App Store), the iTwo works perfectly well connected to my phone as well.  Granted, I don’t have much storage on my phone, but my camera is a much higher quality, and I haven’t tested it yet, but I’m hoping that I can live stream concerts using my phone camera, no the iTwo for audio capturing, rather than relying on the built in mic.

If you were really determined to go wireless for an extended escape, add battery powered speakers, and a high capacity device recharge battery (I found one as high as 26,000 mAh with three USB charging ports).  One caveat, however, is that the 30 pin or lightning port on the iPad or iPhone is connected to the iTwo, and does not charge through the device.  Unless you can find a splitter that allows for two cables in, or for recharge and one for connection, your session time will be limited to the battery life of your iPad … which has been plenty for my uses so far. 

With all this talk of where you can take it, some might wonder about track quality, bit rate, etc.  Audio is captured at 24 bit, and up to 96 kHz.  As the Presonus software is intended for capturing a performance, rather than mixing and editing, the app will appear to some as stripped down too far.  There are no effects, no EQ or compression, and what you see is what you get.  That said, I find I am far more productive at capturing ideas here, and porting them over to the studio for editing later.    I’m still in the early testing phase, but I was laying down track after track quickly and effortlessly.  Add a track, arm a track, rewind, record, repeat.  The vocal and direct in acoustic guitar tracks sound incredible raw, and will only get better once mixed.  Percussive guitar did sound weak when direct, but I expect that will capture better when mic’d.

Two thumbs up for an awesome Presonus product!

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