IK Multimedia Axe I/O Interface REVIEW

How about an interface that’s optimized for guitarists, with guitar related software that will make the player want to plug in, and get the same feel and response of real world rigs? IK’s done it masterfully with their new AXE I/O.

The front panel of the new IK Multimedia Axe I/O is pretty well loaded up, with dedicated inputs for guitar, but input 1 has a bit more going for it with a section marked Z Tone. It has an impedance control knob that adds in some color options, like a hardness that’s nice and bright, and as it’s increased, a warmth and a bit of a darker tone. This is great to tune the input signal to specific guitars’ pickups and response differences between say a Tele’s single coil, and a Les Paul’s humbucker. Speaking of pickups, there’s a selector that optimize the input for passive or active pickups, adjusting the input signal for those hotter EMG equipped instruments.

Finally, a selector between a JFET or a pure, unaltered circuit for the input. The JFET adds in some nice warmer mid and low-mid frequencies, like a classic mic preamp. These selections give plenty of options and should cover any tone tweaking during tracking. The Preset knob allows the user to scroll through amp models in the included Amplitube 4 Deluxe (more on that in a bit), and a tuner function with a display is also available. Monitoring can be adjusted for low latency, balancing the signal between the direct, and the DAW signal. Headphone outs as well as amp out, and master control for external monitoring are located here, as well.

Getting everything up and running isn’t that hard; just download a copy of the AXE I/O control app, and then Amplitube 4 Deluxe, along with a copy of their T-racks Processing plug-ins and it’s good to go. It all pairs nicely with any DAW software, and we ran all this into Studio One with no issues. 

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As usual, Amplitube is impressive. With over 30 stompboxes that cover, well pretty much everything, 15 rack effects, 25 Amp models, 29 cabinets, (and 29 speakers), 12 microphones, it comes close to option paralysis, but within a couple of mouse clicks, dialing in a tone that’s familiar (using digital replications of the actual hardware) is incredibly easy. Let’s talk about T-racks; it’s insane, covering emulations of great studio hardware: Compressors, Limiters, EQ, Channel strips, De-essers, Mic Modeling, Room Reverbs, Tape Echo, and their all-in-one mastering processor.

Remember the amp out feature? This is the easiest way of blending a real amp with the Amplitube software at the same time — run the amp out to an input of an amp, mic it up, and connect that mic to the AXE I/O’s input, and now you can have multiple channels of a single signal.

Another great feature is the ability to connect two external control pedals, like a channel switcher, or an expression pedal. This now makes a laptop running Amplitube a practical and viable live tool. It might take some getting used to calling a MacBook connected to an interface your “rig,” but it’s actually a feasible concept.

For guitar players that want to get a nice, simple DAW interface, the guitar-centric tone tweaking options here make it a steal, and that’s not even considering Amplitube 4 and T-racks. Want to take tracks home from a studio and get amazing results without the hassles of booking time? Yeah, this is it.

PROS:

Excellent design, plenty of tonal options with included software.

CONS:

None.

STREET PRICE

$349

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