Looking for the perfect place to start your home recording? Andi Picker checks out an ideal go-anywhere, do (more or less) anything interface from PreSonus.
The PreSonus iOne is part of a family of no-frills audio interfaces that’s aimed straight at the singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer who wants to be able to record wherever and whenever it suits him. The iOne reviewed here is a 2 in/2 out audio only USB interface with one mic and one instrument input. The slightly (not much) larger iTwo has two mic/inst/line inputs plus MIDI.
The iOne is small (43.5 x 135 x 150 mm) and light (0.62kg), has a metal case that should stand-up to being stuffed into a bag, and will plug into a PC/Mac or iPad, taking power from the USB port (note that you’ll need a power adapter with a USB lead for iPad use). Its simplicity and construction make it an ideal carry-round box for recording good quality sound without a complicated rig, and the audio quality is plenty good enough to use in final release recordings. The Class-A mic pre has ample gain for most uses (0 – 52dB), extended frequency response (10Hz – 40K Hz at the +/- 3dB levels) and most importantly sounds good.
When I’m engineering on a session I’m happy to spend time setting up equipment, but when I’m recording myself I really do just want to plug-in, set a level and press the record button. The iOne is about as simple to use as it gets, plug in, set a level and press the record button. Metering is very minimal; there’s just a signal present and clip LED so you need to use your on-screen meters to set levels, but in practice I had no problem with adjusting the gain to just clip on a loud signal and then winding it back a bit - 24 bit recording is very forgiving of low levels and you can afford to leave plenty of headroom. Just to be clear, the inputs are for mic and instrument - there is no line level input on the iOne. I viewed this as an omission when I reviewed the AudioBox 22VSL back in GI issue 23; it seems like less of an issue on the simpler iOne format (and interestingly the iTwo gets a pair of full mic/line/instrument combi inputs) but be aware.
The headphone amp gave plenty of level for monitoring or mixing with a variety of headphones I tested with, and the balanced monitor outs drove my test monitors nicely. Each output has a dedicated control, so just twist to taste and off you go. For monitoring as you record, there’s a simple direct switch that mixes playback and input signals (the iTwo gets a monitor mix knob) and the front panel is completed with a 48V button for the mic input phantom power.
To round-out the package you get the free software; Studio One Artist for Mac and PC and Capture Duo for iPad. I haven’t tested Capture Duo, but from the specs it appears to be a nicely featured 2-track recording app - and there is also a paid version with multitrack capabilities - take a look at www.presonus.com/products/Capture-for-iPad for more details. Studio One Artist is, in my opinion, a great piece of software. It’s a well specified DAW with unlimited track count; you can’t use third party plugins with it but it ships with a decent selection of its own and there’s an upgrade path if you find that you want more. For anyone who doesn’t have a DAW already this could be a reason to choose a suitable Audiobox interface, and if you already have a preferred DAW it’s still convenient for a mobile set-up as it doesn’t need a dongle. Even better, if you use both iPad and computer you can record into Capture and wirelessly beam your tracks to Studio One for mixing and mastering.
The PreSonus AudioBox iOne is a great entry level/mobile interface for the user who doesn’t need MIDI or digital IO. Construction and sound are good, it’s dead easy to use and the included software makes it an excellent option at a very affordable price.