New Gear Review: iXR Interface from Tascam

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At just 1.38 inches tall, the iXR interface by Tascam is the thinnest XLR-equipped interface on the market, making it a perfect travel companion for those who need to record on-the-go.

Raise your hand if you have a myriad of music apps on either your phone or your tablet.

Perhaps after downloading, you were super-excited to use them, and imagined just how much great music you could make with them… and then, for one reason or another, that just didn’t happen.

Part of this may be attributable to workflow restrictions, and it with such a saturated market in inexpensive and free mobile apps, it can be hard to imagine using all the ones your might download.

But if you do plan on actually on using all these apps, having the right interface to use in conjunction with them is key. The new iXR interface from Tascam aims to finally provide a great solution, offering up the missing link in the mobile music maker’s workflow.

Features

Tascam’s iXR is a portable USB audio interface capable of recording at up to 96kHz/24-bits, with MIDI I/O, 2 Mic In/Out (XLR), Instrument In/Out, a headphone jack, and phantom power.

With a compact and durable design, the iXR has an aluminum casing, and at 1.3lbs it is reported to be the very thinnest audio interface you can buy with XLR ins. This makes the iXR ideal for carrying with your tablet. (There is even an optional neoprene sleeve designed for this purpose.)

This bus powered interface is equipped with Apple’s “Made for iPhone/iPad” chip sets so that iOS devices can be plugged straight into the interface using the Lightning to USB charger cable. Lastly, Tascam have included a free license for Cubasis LE (a streamlined version of Cubase LE for production on your mobile device) as well as Cubase LE for Mac and Windows. (Windows/Android users you are included in this!)

Whether you are making music on the road, working in sound design, or aiming to keep your setup minimal, the Tascam iXR could be a great solution for your portable workflow. At a price point of $159.99, the iXR is also an affordable starting point for beginners or those who don’t have the budget or desire for an extensive mobile rig—or home recording rig, for that matter.

In Use

For my test run with the iXR, I used both my iPad 2 (16GB) and my iMac running OS X 10.8.5. If you are getting the iXR set up on your tablet, you’ll notice that once you connect the interface, all the audio will now be through the interface, so your headphones should be connected directly to the iXR. The installation of Cubasis is easy and takes only a few minutes, and once you’ve connected the iXR to your mobile device, restrictions on its use are removed.

The bundled Cubasis software comes with a few loops which may be handy for songwriters and those who are looking to create on-the-go. There are expansion packs that can be added which feature more loops—and all this can be done from within the app. If you do take the plunge and upgrade Cubasis to the full version on your tablet ($29.99), you will then have access to features such as Audio Copy support, Inter-App use, and the ability to slave compatible apps to Cubasis.

Don’t be fooled by the iXR’s size—although it can be used with your smartphone or tablet, it’s also compatible with fully-featured DAWs.

The ability to build sessions around all kinds of music creation apps is what I really love about the iXR bundle. I have always wanted a more seamless workflow with mobile applications, and this allows me to finally harness the full potential of a tablet as a more serious tool for music creation.

Furthermore, the ability to then make the jump to your desktop/laptop computer and keep working in Cubase LE makes for a great workflow, especially if you are already a Cubase user! (Full disclosure, previously I hadn’t so much as touched Cubase since 2003, and still found it easy to start creating at my dinning room table just a few minutes after installation.)

If you’re an entry level user or someone who doesn’t own a computer, the iXR could be a great way to get your feet wet before making a larger investment. For more serious users, this is a solution that has been sorely needed for some time.

In addition to making better use of the plethora of music apps available on the market, it’s also a great tool to enable songwriters to work on the road, and for sound designers to capture and collect key recordings and edit them quickly on-the-go. Because of the iXR’s light weight and durability, it is something I can see myself easily tossing in my handbag with my iPad.

To Be Critical

There are some tweaks I would like to see made for future iterations of this product, great features not withstanding. As mentioned above, you have to make the full upgrade to use features like Audio Copy and Inter-App audio. It would have been useful (and a great selling point) to have those key features available in the Cubasis LE version, though this is ultimately mandated by Steinberg and not Tascam. Regardless of the other bells and whistles offered in the full version, I found myself going for the upgrade just for these features alone.

Perhaps for the next version, Tascam may want to consider adding one more USB port to the interface. At present you only get one, which is used by your mobile device’s connection, but to have another would be great for further connectivity with external devices. Guitarists can easily plug in and play, however an added USB port can prove to be helpful for electronic musicians and Djs who can benefit from the added connectivity.

Summing it Up

With the iXR, Tascam have created one of the most portable and affordable audio interfaces on the market. Considering the bundled Cubasis software, the price point of $159 feels very reasonable. Sure, there are plenty of microphones that you can attach to your mobile device, but the iXR and Cubasis allow for important added flexibility, making songwriting, recording and audio editing a breeze for users.

This device closes the loop for any music maker or audio recordist who has been looking for a portable interface that allows the integration of other mobile apps into a session. The iXR’s compact design, solid build quality, and variety of flexible workflow options make this solution a keeper for anyone seeking a flexible, on-the-go recording experience.

Kallie Marie is a producer, composer and educator who lives in New York.

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