Feb 23

INTRODUCING THE ALESIS IO DOCK FOR THE APPLE iPAD AND iPAD2

I am new to the world of the iPad where there is now an iPad 2 and shortly arriving the iPad 3 and as a musician, I was very surprised to find out just how many Apps (applications) are out there that are so useful to me, many of them Free or very liitle – $.99 which is £0.69. One of my first thoughts as I started to investigate and move up the ladder from an iPad Muso newbie, was how do I best connect my new iOS portable music wonder to all my other MIDI equipment and the outside world? I found to my surprise that there are not many devices available and a visit to my local Apple store confirmed this leaving me with the thought that Apple have missed a golden opportunity here. I started off by looking at the IK Multimedia iRig MIDI and Line 6’s MIDI Mobilizer which they suggested in the store. These looked OK to me, were not very expensive and were small and portable and I could connect to all of my MIDI equipment. The problem seemed to be that this is all they seemed to connect to. The iPad itself has only two connections, so what about a studio setup where you want MIDI, Audio outs, USB connection, Audio In, connection for Mics and Guitars etc? Yes, you could buy more IK Multimedia iRig products that they have to connect Mics and Guitars but this leaves you with a mess of leads and connectors with limitations due to the lack of iPad connectivity. I then found the iConnect MIDI box which despite its bulky appearance seemed to be more like what I wanted. It had great MIDI connectivity and plenty of USB but unfortunately no Audio connections. Then along came the Alesis IO Dock which started me thinking that this is exactly what I need.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE ALESIS IO DOCK?

When I first saw this product, I must admit that I did not take much notice of it. The was because I believed it to be another make of an iOS device. I was completely fooled by its images when advertised, because it was so cleverly integrated with the iPad that I thought it was one whole unit. I think this is probably the best compliment that I could possibly give this product as Alesis completely designed this from both a musician’s and iPad user’s perspective – brilliant. I should have taken more notice of the name “IO Dock” but you know what those clever advertisers are like – they make your eyes go straight to the imagery. The iPad very neatly slides into this docking station which is exactly the same size (length and Width) as the iPad. You then have the iPad fully supported, angled for good visibility and use – perfect. The IO dock is wedge-shaped creating this angled view for you and sits on four rubber feet displaying the iPad in Landscape mode. OK so let’s get it out of the box, connected up and find out what it can do.

UNPACKING AND CONNECTING UP THE ALESIS IO DOCK

As you take it out of the box you will find that it is built of hard plastic. It feels solid and sturdy enough but at the same time it feels fairly lightweight. It is smart looking black plastic which is edged in silver. It was designed for the iPad 1 so included and installed is an adapter for use with the iPad2. This is really a cradle that locks into place to take account of the iPad 2’s slimmer size. As you slide it in, it connects to the iPad connector inside the IO Dock and holds and protects the iPad. Despite the fact that the iPad is exposed on one side it is held in quite firmly and will not fall out and it doesn’t scratch the iPad in any way as you slide it in regardless of its tight fit. The only thing you have to get used to is taking out of the IO Dock. It will slide out but takes a bit of oomph to disconnect from its 30-pin connector as you slide it out. With the iPad inside it weighs 970 grams so you have some good stability as you put it down for use on its four rubber feet. The IO Dock has a mains power connection and comes with a suitable adaptor. This is also good in that it charges up the iPad as well. It is a shame that there is no indicator to say that it is connected to the dock. I suppose once it is in it either will or won’t work. There is also a Quick Start guide in the box and I know the IO Dock is simply ‘plug and play’ but I would have liked it to include more information on usage and greater specification information.

I now come to the part of connecting up. Connections are on three sides of the wedge-shaped dock with obviously none at the front as it comes down to the thin end of the wedge. It is not possible to have all of the connections out of the back without increasing the size significantly. You may have visions of cables spreading out all over your desktop from the three sides of the dock but you have to offset that a little bit by the sheer amount of connectivity that Alesis has put into this.

MAKING YOUR AUDIO  CONNECTIONS ON THE ALESIS IO DOCK


The iPad to me sounds remarkably good considering how thin it is but with the use of the two main audio outs on the IO dock connected to your own Studio setup it you get a bit of the wow factor. I tried Jordan Rudess MorphWiz App, Yamaha’s Tenori-On App the TNR-I and SynthTronica and they sounded awesome. So for Audio Outs you have two 1/4″ Balanced TRS Main Audio Output jacks located at the back that I used, and on the right-hand side is a stereo 1/4″ Balanced TRS Headphone socket with individual volume controls for Main and Headphones. For Audio inputs at the back you will find two combined XLR /1/4″ Balanced TRS sockets with individual gain controls. There is also Phantom power which is switchable for Condenser Mics and a Guitar (high-impedance) switch on Input 2. Lastly there is a 1/4″ Footswitch and the function can be assigned by Apps such as stop/start or record.

COMPLETE MIDI SECTION ON THE ALESIS IO DOCK


On the left hand side you have the MIDI section with MIDI IN and MIDI OUT din connectors and a MIDI USB connector. I connected my keyboard to this and really enjoyed the fact I could play some awesome Synth Apps like Sunrizer, and I really must get around to trying Korg’s iMS20 and of course the Animoog.

WHAT ABOUT CONNECTING YOUR ALESIS IO DOCK TO YOUR TV ?

The only connection that I have not mentioned on the IO Dock is the Video Output which is an RCA Composite and requires compatible Apps. I must say, I like this idea, especially to watch some of the TV on demand programmes for things I have missed. I was watching the first series of ‘Misfits’ via my iPad but now I can put it on my larger TV screen. I did this and the picture quality was still very good as it was on the iPad. From a musicians point of view I found I could also do this with You Tube clips which is useful from the educational perspective as well as the entertainment. All I had to do was to connect the headphone out socket to the left and right inputs on my TV and connect the Video Out socket to the Video In on the TV. Another good use you might find for this is using as a means to project images / video as a backdrop on stage with your band – awesome.

QUALITY OF CONNECTIONS ON THE ALESIS IO DOCK

This is a difficult one but I certainly found all of the connections to work well. Alesis have been established since 1980 and they manufacture professional audio and musical instrument. They have provided a variety of innovative products to date and always manage to keep the cost extremely reasonable. With the IO Dock, I would say that is exactly what you have here – great value for the money. Whilst the Inputs and Outputs are not the best you could have, they most certainly do more than a good job. I did not find any excessive noise, pops or crackles and everything sounded clear and clean.

RECORDING WITH THE USE OF THE ALESIS IO DOCK

If you intend recording, you will probably like the fact that on the IO Dock you have a direct-monitor switch, which will enable you to toggle between the incoming and playback signal on your headphones – very useful. The iPad DAW that most folk are using is the excellent Garage Band. Again compared to say the £300 Daws that you buy, here is a DAW costing £3. With the aid of the Alesis IO Dock you have a very portable recording studio at an outstanding price. You can put down your song-writing ideas out on the road or connect to other MIDI devices, with the use of the MIC and Guitar inputs you can record everything quick and easily. If you play Guitar or Bass you will like the fact that with the IO Dock’s DI input, you will be able to play and record right into Apps that have Amp-Modelling Effects. From a band point of view, you can easily record your rehearsals or use it for playing back loops, sound effects etc.

THE FUTURE AND THE APPLE iPAD IN A MUSICIANS WORLD

Well Winter NAMM has just brought us a few surprises – well four of them would you believe relating to the iPad. Alesis have just announced two more docking stations but this time with particular roles in mind. Firstly the new Alesis AmpDock aimed solely at the guitarist with control knobs on the dock and a pedalboard. For Drummers there is the Alesis DM Dock turning your iPad into a Drum Module with 13 x 1/4-inch TRS trigger inputs, all of which are dual zone. It also supports multiple choke-able cymbals including triple-zone ride, and dual-zone continuous hi-hats. From AKAI there is MPC Fly, which basically houses your iPad turning it into a hardware and software MPC – great idea. Lastly for live mixing another excellent idea which integrates the iPad with specific hardware is Mackie’s new mixer – The Mackie DL1608 16-Channel Digital Live Sound Mixer with iPad Control, so you mix on the fly, out front with just your iPad – how cool is that? OK, these are all great products and wonderful ideas but to me they are all job-specific. With the IO Dock you have an assortment of connections for many different jobs.

SUMMING UP THE ALESIS IO DOCK

There is no doubt in my mind that the IO Dock is a well-designed docking station for the iPad built to meet today’s needs on the road or the studio. It has the connectivity that you need but also acts as a suitable case to protect your iPad and provides you with a solid workstation angled for good visibility and use. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of competition at present. 2012 will no doubt see further growth in Music App development and whilst people can play on the tiny keyboards supplied in the App, musicians want to MIDI this up to their own keyboard and use the App like a hardware Synth and have the Audio blast through their own Studio Setup. This is all now possible and what I really like (compared to a PC) is that the iPad gives you fast access to many Synths. You can switch from one to another without waiting for long loading times. The best news has got to be the cost of Apps and I could not believe how low they are compared to their hardware counterparts or PC Software equivalents. If you are a Musician with an iPad then you need good MIDI and Audio connections as an absolute minimum. The Alesis IO Dock has so much more and therefore has got to me a must-have for you.

NEWS OF NEW ALESIS DOCKS FOR THE iPAD AND iPAD 2

If you want to use your iPad for a job-specific purpose then you may want to check-out the new products just announced at Namm where Alesis themselves have released two new products -The Amp Dock which is a Muti-effects Guitar Processor for the iPad and the DM Dock which is Drum Module dock for the iPad.

Remember, if you are considering purchasing an Alesis IO Dock, Amp Dock or the Drum Dock for you to take your iPad to another level in terms of audio and Midi, then please consider Absolute Music for a great price and great service. Just simply click the orange banner below to go direct to their site:-

Absolute Music

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