We first told you about Griffin’s StudioConnect audio interface when it was announced at CES earlier this year. There are more than a few products on the market that make it easy to hook up your guitar, mic, or MIDI controller to the iPad for use with the many iOS apps that include built-in DAWs with CoreMIDI support (such as Apple’s own GarageBand). While it might not be the prettiest iPad dock we’ve seen, there’s a few reasons why it beats out the competition.
With StudioConnect, in terms of inputs and outputs, what you get is pretty basic: standard 5-pin MIDI in and out, one 1/4-inch mono input, and left and right RCA output. The large knob out front controls the 3.5mm headphone jack below it, and a separate volume wheel on the side is for your main output. It’s more than enough to plug in supported mics, a guitar, or a MIDI controller, but It’s clear right away that Griffin did not build the StudioConnect with pros in mind. The fact is most pros won’t be doing anything too heavy duty inside of an iOS app at this point, and the inputs above will likely be sufficient for most musicians using the iPad as a mobile or writing setup.
While it doesn’t offer some of the standard inputs and outputs that pros might be used to, Griffin used its experience making iOS accessories to nail the design where the competition is getting it wrong….
The majority of audio gear manufacturers producing interfaces with iPad support (such as this one from Tascam), don’t provide anywhere to dock the iPad while recording/performing. While the box or rectangle design of traditional audio interfaces work fine on your desk or in a rack-mount, with an iPad setup, you would also need a stand or something to prop it up for a functional workstation. As you can see from the images above, Griffin’s interface is designed like a traditional iPad dock, allowing it to double as a decent stand (and 10-watt charging station), even when not taking advantage of its inputs.
The dock design alone makes StudioConnect a clear winner for casual players, but it does have some competition for the pro market, especially as more and more pro audio apps begin to hit the App Store…
Studio gear manufacturer Alesis makes an interface for iPad called the iO Dock. A few benefits of the iO Dock that you won’t find in StudioConnect: Two combination 1/4-inch-XLR inputs, video output, USB MIDI, a pair of 1/4-inch outputs and a 1/4-inch headphone jack. Granted, the iO Dock sells for around $50 more than StudioConnect, and depending on the app/gear you’re using, only a few of the outputs will be useful at any given time. Compared to iO Dock, which holds the iPad in snuggly at a 25 degree angle (ideal for performing), StudioConnect’s dock design is likely a more comfortable position for the majority of players at home. The dock design is also better suited to those who want to be able to easily drop in the iPad and start playing, in comparison to the iO Dock that is designed more like a case (which we know can often be frustrating to get the iPad in and out of quickly and easily).
As for build quality, it’s all plastic, except for rubber to protect and hold the iPad. It also has rubber on the bottom for traction, and is heavy enough that it doesn’t slide around when plugging in heavier gear or performing.