If you plan to use your iPad as a recording studio, you need to figure out a way of getting signals in and out … Oh, and a way of holding your iPad steady while working. Or, you can just get the Griffin StudioConnect and take care of it all at once! Let’s take a look!
Digital music-making has never been easier. Owning an iPad makes it easier still, taking it to a whole new level of versatility and portability. StudioConnect gives your iPad: audio in/out, MIDI in/out, and a stereo headphone jack with its own volume control so you can monitor what’s going in (or out).
Whether you’re a serious musician, a confirmed hobbyist, or a budding composer, you know about MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface). Unlike audio recording, MIDI lets you capture the digital instructions for a musical performance, and then play them back later on a MIDI instrument. In one compact device for your iPad, StudioConnect combines both the audio and the MIDI hemispheres of the audio world.
I already expressed my love for the Griffin MIDIConnect: robust construction, great functionality, and attention to details that matter for a studio user. But what I liked most about the MIDIConnect is what I DIDN’T do – think about it. Once I set it on top of my gear and started using it, I simply didn’t have to concern myself; and as I said in the review, not thinking about an interface … is about the highest compliment you can pay!
Keeping in the grand tradition of non-glamorous music studio accessories, the StudioConnect has a few basic functions: get audio into and out of your iPad, get MIDI into and out of your iPad, and hold your iPad. So let’s break down those functions!
The first thing you will notice about the StudioConnect is how wonderfully it cradles your iPad. With a soft and padded slot on non-slip material, any version of iPad fits perfectly in either portrait or landscape mode and won’t move around when you attach cables to both sides. Interestingly, the 30-pin connection from the base to the iPad provides additional stability for the unit as a whole. StudioConnect isn’t adjustable like iKlip Studio, but on the other hand you never have to worry about the stand slipping out of the groove or falling apart; each design has a different use case. For me, the StudioConnect is single-minded – you are using this in a studio, looking right at it from a sitting position and need to have a stable platform for all of your connections and interactions.
As with the MIDIConnect, StudioConnect is heavy enough that you don’t worry about it being pulled around when you hook up a number of cables. This is actually even more important given the design of the StudioConnect. Whereas the iRig MIDI from IK Multimedia uses an adapter for MIDI that allows you to tether the connections elsewhere, Griffin has full standard MIDI connections, which means thicker and heavier cables coming into the device.
As for the MIDI handling, there isn’t much to say; similar to MIDIConnect everything just works. There are IN and OUT (but not THRU) connections, and once you hook them up … you are done. I am so happy that at this point it is like plugging in a basic mouse to a PC – it just works. No worries, no settings hassles, nothing but getting right to the music. Aside from the few folks who might want MIDI THRU, there is absolutely nothing to change about the MIDI implementation.
One note on MIDI – because these are standard 5-pin mini-DIN connectors, there is no power on any of the lines. For veterans of MIDI such as myself this is a non-issue – these cables have NEVER carried power, and devices using them have always offered AC inputs of one sort of other. But for younger musicians used to USB-everything, they might be surprised to discover that they need to supply a powered keyboard, as MIDI is about communications, not power. This is true of any MIDI interface you will find that works with the iPad. One option would have been to supply a powered USB interface for USB-MIDI connections.
Which brings us to audio. There are three basic means of audio input – iRig and other devices that hijack the Mic input, straight 30-pin audio connections (or 1/4″ inputs), and an external XLR microphone. In what some consider a very serious omission, Griffin has decided not to support XLR microphones by leaving out the XLR connection and Phantom power. Whether or not this is important depends on whether or not you use an XLR mic and whether or not you have a pre-amp.
Getting audio into the StudioConnect with 1/4″ or 3.5mm jacks is trivially easy. I tested out using my guitar as shown on the video, and also using the output from my kids’ mic preamp, and finally using the 3.5mm output from a mini-mixer. In all cases it was simple to adjust the input gain to normalize the level, and … Well, that is about it.
Overall I am thrilled with the StudioConnect – I hook my iPad into it on a regular basis to control my studio, and it makes me more productive by allowing my setup to remain in place and puts my iPad at the center of the music universe. Newer musicians might need to think about the connections and how they will work with their equipment, but for many people this is a fantastic way to integrate your existing equipment into your new iPad-centric music studio.
Here is a video of Unboxing and taking a first look:
Of course, the Hands-on review is more important:
Review: Griffin StudioConnect
Where to Buy: Griffin Technology or Amazon.com
What I Like: Rock-solid construction and balance; excellent features; everything works perfectly
What Needs Improvement: Could have included powered USB-MIDI and a XLR mic input with Phantom power
Source: Publisher provided review sample