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There are a lot of mind-bending music apps for Apple’s iPad, utilizing the large touch-screen interface and built in accelerometer to create unique virtual instruments, multitrack recorders, and drum machines (So far, this one is my favorite). However, despite the ever-increasing number of music production apps, there are much fewer ways to actually connect your own gear to the popular tablet, leaving a wide range of creative possibilities unexplored.

Enter the iO Dock ($199 street) from Alesis, a universal iPad and iPad 2 docking station designed to integrate virtually any instrument or piece of pro audio gear with your iPad. Slip your iPad into the side of the dock, and you’ve got a portable and functional workstation, with all of the connections you need to plug in professional microphones, instruments, and monitors. With the entire App Store at your disposal (the iO Dock is CoreMIDI compliant), you can fully utilize multitrack recorders like GarageBand, play the iPad like an instrument, or use it to control instruments through MIDI.

For inputs, the dock has two combination XLR-1/4” jacks, with individual gain knobs and switchable phantom power for the pair. The second input also has a high-impedance switch, allowing you to plug your guitar directly into amp-modeling software such as AmpKit. Another handy feature is the direct switch, which lets you monitor either the incoming (latency-free) or playback signal on your headphones. Ins and outs for MIDI are also present, so you can trigger an MPC or keyboard using Apple’s slick touch-screen, or use the iPad as a sound module and control synths and virtual instruments from your favorite MIDI device. MIDI though USB connectivity also allows you to integrate the iPad into your existing Mac or PC-based studio. Finally, a 1/4” foot pedal input lets you choose a parameter in the app to control remotely, using it as a damper pedal, stop/start control, or for tap tempo functions.
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The iO Dock has separate outputs for headphones and speakers, each with distinct level controls. Balanced 1/4” connectors allow you to send your audio to a PA system or professional studio monitors. There’s also a composite video output, for hooking up to a projector or television (providing the app you use has this functionality).

With such a wide range of music-making apps for the iPad, and more people using it as a creative tool, it seemed inevitable that someone would make a product to increase the tablet’s functionality and bring it closer to the pro audio world. Check out this article from EQ Mag, “Producing with the iPad,” where DJ Spooky laments that the iPad won’t talk to other devices. The iO Dock is available in stores now, so don’t be surprised if you start hearing “I recorded it with my iPad” a lot more often. –Mike Bauer

Link to EQ Magazine article.