Sam Bell reviews IK Multimedia’s AXE I/O ONE USB recording interface. Each knob, feature, and component on the AXE I/O ONE was carefully selected for the demanding guitar and bass player. A JFET input with continuously variable Z-Tone impedance, alongside switchable settings for active and passive pickups, provides the ideal front end for each of your instruments in the included TONEX SE and AmpliTube 5 SE. Transparent converters and a low-jitter clock deliver your performance in full 24-bit/192kHz hi-fi to your DAW of choice. And features such as a dedicated re-amp output make the AXE I/O ONE the only piece of gear you'll need on your desk.
In this review, I'll be taking a look at the latest offering from IK Multimedia. With the recent release of their new TONEX software, they keep pushing the bar forward with new hardware and software solutions for Musicians.
In this instance, I'll be diving into the new AXE I/O One interface. An interface specifically designed for Guitarists/Bassists. The AXE I/O isn't a totally new thing for IK Multimedia. However, they have the regular AXE I/O, which is a powered interface with two channels. The I/O One is a USB-powered interface with one channel in a compact unit, perfect for the guitarist on the go or the musician starting out their home recording journey.
The interface is very straightforward but has a few unique twists that will interest guitarists and bassists alike. We have a ¼ inch jack/XLR input; we can use normal or phantom-powered mics with this unit as well as instruments. There's a headphone out and a ¼ inch jack L and R output for studio monitors. These have their own volume controls, one master for the studio monitors and one headphone level. Aside from these useful and standard items, we have a switch for the 48v phantom power and a gain control for our input level, which can be visually monitored using the rainbow colour strip on top of the unit.
Where things start to get a bit different with the AXE I/O One is the ability to send line level back out the unit to an Amp if you're looking at re-amping or getting creative in other ways. Around the back of the unit, there are also two ¼ jack inputs for external controllers such as footswitches or expression pedals. This interacts perfectly with IK Multimedia's amp software Amplitube 5, of which an introductory copy of the software comes free with the unit alongside the TONEX and Ableton Live Lite software. This means you can get recording those master compositions right away with studio-quality amp sounds.
Taking the Guitar and Bass thing further, IK Multimedia has spent time giving us the best tools to shape our input signal. When working with Direct Input guitar, going into amp modelling software, it can be helpful to be able to really dial in the right line level, impedance, and tonal shape from your pickups. First up, there is a Passive/Active switch, which allows us to optimise the input topology for our pickups. If this isn't enough, we also have a 'JFET' switch. This allows us to add a little bit of emulated tube warmth to our input signal; if we don't like this, we can switch it to 'Pure', which gives us the full tonal range of our input signal.
Then there is the Z-Tone control. This is an impedance control which will interact with our pickups in unique ways, depending on what we have in our instrument. The control allows us to move from 'Sharp' to 'Bold'. Turning this affects the brightness or the fatness of the input signal. This could be very useful when recording DI Bass or dialling in an 'alive' sounding tone. IK Multimedia has mentioned in the manual for this interface that this control is to be experimented with rather than being a set' thing' that happens every time. On plugging into the unit at GI HQ, it seemed to have sweet spots (as mentioned in the video), so it's worth keeping this in mind when using this, use your ears!
The AXE I/O One is a great bit of kit if you're starting out your recording journey; the software and the tonal shaping options are very useful. The fact it's powered by USB makes it convenient for on-the-road usage. Turn your hotel room or local coffee shop into a studio! (maybe not the latter..) The interface gives you a very quick transition between input to output, with barely any noticeable latency. The interface is designed to work well with Amplitube, so you know you'll be getting the best out of the amp modelling. All within a very reasonable price range. Highly recommended!
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