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This article was originally published in issue #44
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'Which Audio Interface should I buy?' It's a common question in online recording forums and groups, and it's generally fairly easy to answer because most of the big-name brands have offerings that are broadly similar in features and quality at any given price point. Decide what you need it to do, check what has good drivers for your operating system, and then buy whatever you can get the best deal on! I'm a big fan of this approach because I honestly believe that recording should be about the results, not the kit, and I'd defy just about anyone to listen to a mix and tell what make of interface mic-pres were used to record the banjo!
Occasionally though, a manufacturer paints just a little bit outside of the lines and makes something that's slightly different. Audient uses the same microphone pre-amps throughout its range - not 'inspired by' or 'based-on', but the actual same design, from the big consoles through to the baby audio interfaces; the Audient boxes that I've reviewed (iD22 in GI issue 34 and the ASP880 in GI 36) have superb pre-amps, and they carry down intact to the new baby iD4. It's a twin channel, USB2 interface and monitor controller in an all metal desktop format. Layout is dead simple, mic/line combi-socket (with phantom power switch) and balanced monitor outputs on TRS jacks on the back panel, DI socket (connected to the very nice Audient JFET DI stage) and twin (1/4” and 1/8”) headphone sockets on the front, and four knobs and three switches on top. You don't even need to worry about a power supply as it's USB power only.
In use: plug in a mic, adjust its gain control and check the output level on the LED ladder meter (-36, -18, -12, -6 and 0 dB). You do need to be a little bit careful; I turned-up the monitor level and thought that for some bizarre reason the LEDs were showing me the monitor level - they weren't - the meter changes function to show the position of the volume control knob when you adjust it (just read the quick-start guide, Andi!). The line input appears to be the mic input with a pad, which isn't ideal as you get the sound of the pre-amp on the line input, but in the real world it works just fine and helps to keep the cost down. Plug in a DI source and adjust the gain, check your output level on the LEDs and in you DAW, and record. The Volume control adjusts both speakers and headphones (again, not ideal but practically I don't tend to use both at the same time), Monitor Mix adjusts the balance of the input to DAW return signal, and for when you're recording using headphones there's a button to mute the speakers. Press the Mute and iD buttons together and the Volume control adjusts the monitor pan from left to right, and press the Volume control to dim the output level (that's the fourth switch I promised you).
What about the iD button? Well, if you hover your cursor over something that's adjustable in your DAW and press the iD button, then you can adjust the adjustable something using the Volume controller. It's clever, and it works well in my Cubase Pro 8.5 setup, but as I had to mouse to select what I wanted to adjust anyway it didn't seem to be very useful for my personal workflow.
Audient has made a couple of compromises on the iD4, specifically the padded line input and combined monitor/headphone level control, but they've maintained the raw quality of the larger interfaces in a compact and cost-effective box. As always, you need to think carefully about what you really need your interface to do, and for many people who need a simple-to-use box that they can plug a mic and a guitar into and record top quality audio, the iD4 hits the mark and hits it well.
Over all the Audient iD4 offers a great sound and solid build quality in a simple, compact and cost effective package.