Sound & Music | sound-music.com | Expect To Pay: $739
Traditionally, guitarists are known for their penchant towards excess. Whether you own more effects pedals than you do pairs of socks or you simply find it difficult playing a guitar solo that lasts shorter than seven minutes, it’s hard to deny that we often tend to overindulge – which is why so many guitarists are in disbelief when hardware like the AXE I/O from IK Multimedia is released. Surely, a humble audio interface couldn’t be the end game on the never-ending gambit for purity of tone, right?
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As a rampant gearhead, it’d be easy to be doubtful of all the features listed on the box of the AXE I/O. The two in/five out audio interface offers users the potential to limitlessly shape their guitar tone through discrete pure Class A preamps, extensive control over impedance level, two discrete audio inputs and more.
Straight out of the box, however, you’d be amazed at the quality of build and immediate sound of the AXE I/O. The 24 bit/192 k interface delivers an incredibly transparent and high-quality sound, as well as the ability to choose from Pure and JFET input stages to alter your signal further.
IK Multimedia’s own patent-pending Z-tone impedance adapting circuit technology also interacts directly with your pickups to offer an insane range of tonal flexibility. I spent a solid amount of time simply experimenting between the variety of tones these features offered alone, achieving everything from tight and articulate alternate picked tones to chunky, bold chords with a Stratocaster.
The AXE I/O’s ability to adjust impedance via the Z-tone feature is certainly one that demands a decent amount of clout when used in a studio context, offering a versatile range of track-ready tones on tap. When coupled with the option to flick between input stages as well as tailored settings for active and passive pickups, the AXE I/O sells itself as a studio essential for the recording guitarist, and that’s even before deep diving into all the software included with it. There’s even an incredibly useful guitar tuner built into the interface next to the preset knob – optimised for your convenience.
As well as providing users with all the standard line ins and outs, the IK Multimedia Axe I/O also boasts a dedicated amplifier output, allowing you process your home recordings with your real guitar amp and pedalboard set up, without the need of any other accessory or connection.
Having experienced sonic difficulties with reamping other audio interface units in the past, I was pleasantly surprised to find the AXE I/O didn’t hum too much when I was using this feature, with the reamped signal from my AC30 extremely clear and noise free. The addition of the dedicated amplifier output certainly angles the AXE I/O towards more guitar-heavy genres, however, the versatility that can be achieved through this unit would suit guitarists of any style – it also sounds killer with bass.
It’s when you activate the software that comes with the AXE I/O that the unit really starts to reveal its full potential. The interface integrates seamlessly with IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube 4 software, providing you with banks upon banks of studio quality amplifier, cabinet, microphone and effects modelling software presets at the click of a mouse.
These Amplitude effects can easily be selected and modified via the preset knob on the interface itself, and for ultimate control over your effects plugins, you can even insert an expression pedal and footswitch into the AXE I/O for total handsfree control. When you throw MIDI capability into the mix, it really is quite difficult to pinpoint much fault in the AXE I/O.
Even if you’re an avid analogue enthusiast o the staunchest of studio rats with access to every effect and outboard unit under the sun, IK Multimedia’s AXE I/O is bound to please. Expect premium audio quality, limitless tonal versatility and an extremely tailored user experience with this unit.