Friday, December 9, 2011

Testing the iO Alesis Dock

The iO Dock iPad finally arrives resellers of our country, after a presentation at NAMM in January in Las Vegas. To house the tablet with a view to graft the necessary interfaces to the needs of musicians, the iO Dock succeed there to attract these users increasingly demanding? Attempt to answer in the following lines ...

Objective connections

The iO Dock comes in the form of a desk in plane slightly tilted forward, so as to facilitate the viewing angle of the user to the iPad and avoid the problems of the best reflections. Built entirely of hard plastic, the case seems high impact, weight (970 grams with the iPad) giving good stability on a flat surface.

Designed as the original iPad was in force, via a shoe (included) that the musician adapts iO Dock 2 to the iPad. The latter make up the difference in thickness between the two models so that the insertion of the tablet automatically adjusts to take internal dock. The shoe locks into the housing via a dedicated lever, history that nothing can move inside. Note that the purchasers (abroad) of the first models of iO Dock can get free said shoe when not included in the package.

Before inserting the iPad (2 for review) in the device, it is imperative to flash the firmware internal copies currently delivered by Alesis is not updated with version 5 iOS normally present 2 on the iPad. This requires a utility to download the ad-hoc section of the site of the manufacturer. The first is to connect the Dock iO sector using the supplied power (6V/3A Universal) and Mac host via USB (cable not supplied) and the base located on the left edge of the desk . After unpacking and launching a drag / drop the firmware file in the Windows Updater Alesis IODock enough to trigger the process and make it compatible iOS5 (firmware version 1.07).

By the way, you will notice the presence of a soft switch designed to enable / disable the video output. We will come back, you just remember that it is with this utility is that it manages. Before starting, let's see what we offer in connection Alesis.

Tower taken

Ergonomics and the distribution of connectivity is one of the strengths of iO Dock. This is the rear section that collects most of the audio jacks.

The base area is supported by a cable reel safety (to avoid inadvertent disconnections) and a switch turned on. If the external power supply provides power to the internal electronics and recharging of the iPad docked, impossible for iO Dock to function independently from the internal battery of the iPad. This is unfortunate, especially for those who like to save anywhere, even where electricity is not present. Nevertheless, in this case, the battery of the iPad would certainly discharge very quickly ... to see!

Side audio inputs, 2 combo jacks (sockets that can accommodate both a guitar jack 6.35 a XLR microphone) are available. The first has a switch for switching between standard guitar and mic / line. More convenient for bassists / guitarists who will use this entry as it is to record their favorite instrument without using any adapter / external preamp.

The second input is content to be mic / line. But both have, thanks to a switch, 48V phantom power for microphones, some need to function (condenser microphones, for example) and a potentiometer for level control.

On the output side, a pair of jacks 6.35 is available. The user can, if necessary, use the switch to listen Out Direct input sources without being affected by a possible latency (delay) induced by turning on the iPad app. Master volume is adjusted via the right edge of the dock and a potentiometer iO dedicated a second independent control manager headphone output located immediately next to him.

The opposite edge is managing everything about MIDI. Indeed, the base USB Type B This is to convey the data sent / received by a sequencer (or other compatible software) running on the Mac, but not the audio. This implies that the iO Dock is seen as a MIDI controller but not as an audio device by the host Mac. Also difficult to know whether it is possible to use this jack using an external MIDI controller, most having themselves a base type B. Same question about the power of that device.

In conclusion, it must go through the standard MIDI OUT MIDI master keyboard to communicate with the MIDI IN of the iO Dock ... and connect to the mains, a reflex lost with mini keyboards like Oxygen8 M-Audio and others. In this case, all communications are possible, both to the app loaded on the iPad to the sequencer. To better appreciate the flow of the internal MIDI iO Dock, one must view the scheme proposed by Alesis.


To complete the connection, we note the presence of a composite video output designed to project images in the background of a stage performance (for example). You can disable it via the utility for updating firmware if the function is not used. There remains the clever stereo jack for the reception of an external pedal, single or double switch. The musician then used as the control start / stop / pause within an app that knows how to interpret, no hands, of course! Just have to drag the object in our iPad!

Taken to the quick

The iPad is guided in translation when inserted in the iO Dock via its upper edges. They reveal the entire display surface area while providing good protection for the tablet. Pushed completely, it clips onto the dock taken internally and can not move. A real asset side security, on stage or in the set-up home studio, a disadvantage when one wishes to extract. Indeed, as docked, the iPad provides little taken to push outward. The 2-inch side dock appear to be the best solution. Take a shot at it!

A detour through the general preferences of iOS 5 to verify the correct firmware update of the iO Dock with a specific panel.

Ideally, at least to start, is to use the iPad version of GarageBand, perfectly suited to the recording of a complete understanding. No problem to make a guitar made from the Dock and decision iO dedicated rear panel. At most, it should make it clear to the socket used GarageBand (right or left) via the switch expected in edit mode of the instrument.

The interface behaves transparently, no sense of distortion or latency does being felt during this phase. Same conclusion when taking voice from a microphone that requires phantom power. Only problem, but independent of the iO Dock, the impossibility of the simultaneous acquisition of these 2 doses. We need editors and / or Apple iOS change or adapt their apps to support this feature. Therefore, the use of such a solution for home recording becomes totally believable, even if the iO Dock, at the present, comes close a lot.

Entering agreements or the game on a virtual instrument can also pose no problem from the MIDI keyboard connected to IN the external construction of a piece is greatly facilitated.

Used in conjunction with a sequencer, the iO Dock becomes eligible for a MIDI device input and correctly receives the data sent by Cubase (in the example).

Another place where the iO Dock is significant, it is on stage or in the live setting for the game as a Software Instrument iMS20 the Korg, the iPad for SampleTank IK Multimedia or the recent Camel Audio Alchemy Mobile ( among other things, this is not the kind of apps that are missing). The housing is positioned easily on a stand or a desk near the keyboard, or even over the place where the connector at the rear where it would not interfere. The downside however, the iO Dock offers no comfort to the DJ especially eager to perform with Djay (or another app to mix). Unable to use other than mono PFL headphone output, even after enabling the separation of the channels (stereo to mono 2 on the master and helmet). The two pairs of audio outputs proposed (master and headphones) work by copying only their volumes are dissociated. Too bad!

In conclusion

The iO Dock is a good deal! If it is a little more expensive than buying separate a good audio interface such as the Jam Apogee and a MIDI interface as MIDI IRIG IK Multimedia or i-MX1 Yamaha, it allows doing everything without disconnecting, when you want to switch from audio to MIDI. The time to do so, the ideas are often already vanished ...

On the other hand, the iO Dock offers significant protection to the iPad and even improves its ease of use when used so sedentary. On stage, it should be unanimous among the players synth, guitar or bass to see if they find the right app (like Amplitube apps are not compatible for using the mini jack input for iPad). If we could ask for improvements? The possibility that the iO Dock behaves like a real sound card with respect to the Mac via USB and that we can benefit from two pairs of audio outputs are freely assignable to the top. For the rest, that's good!

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