THIS IS A BOXED NEW PRODUCT WITH A 12 MONTH WARRANTY THEY RETAIL ON LINE NEW AT £99.99 THIS ONE IS SELLING NOW AT £69.99 INFORMATION BELOW .
Tascam's iU2 is a portable audio interface for iOS, as well as PCs or Macs via its USB connection. It's incredibly compact, but squeezes two phantom‑powered balanced inputs (mic or line level), a high‑impedance instrument input, MIDI I/O, a 3.5mm headphone socket, stereo RCA outputs and an S/PDIF output into its tiny chassis.
The left‑hand input can be also be switched to a dedicated 'guitar' mode, so singer‑guitarists and those using the iU2 for creating guitar-based demos will be equally happy. Also handy for demo creation is the inclusion of direct monitoring, the level of which is controlled using a knob on the front of the unit. App WorksThe build quality of the iU2 is good, and all of the knobs on the face of the unit are sturdy enough at the price point.
The input‑level knobs are particularly nicely designed, being almost flush with the surface. The iOS dock cable itself stashes away neatly inside the body of the iU2, which goes some way towards making up for the need to carry TRS to XLR adaptor cables to connect mics to the balanced inputs and 3.5mm to DIN cables for MIDI devices. These are necessary because the body of the unit is too slim to fit in on‑board XLR connectivity.
Happily, a pair of each type of adaptor cable is supplied in the box. The inputs themselves sound decent enough, and I was able to make a nice recording using the Multitrack DAW app, as well as practicing my guitar playing using Sonoma Wireworks' GuitarTone app. Plugging mics into the front of the iU2 using the TRS adaptors works well, although phantom power is only available if you connect the iU2 via USB to your computer, as an iOS device alone cannot provide enough power for this feature.
The digital‑to‑analogue conversion in the iU2 itself is noticeably better than that of iOS devices, with a much fuller and more extended bass and a little less upper‑mid rasp than the iPhone and iPad DACs. The high‑frequency detail is also a little more relaxed, but still very much there, while the overall detail emphasis is on the mid-range. In all, the claimed sonic improvements over the iOS devices' own DACs are upheld. I tested the S/PDIF output in my studio, playing the same lossless files through an iPad 3 and iU2, as well as an M‑Audio FW2626 connected to a PC for comparison. All were monitored through a Benchmark DAC1 and PMC-designed Digidesign RM2s.
The dock output appears to provide a bit‑perfect audio stream, identical to the ASIO stream from the PC. Those looking for a bit‑perfect solution for turning an iOS dock output into an S/PDIF output, look no further! The iU2 is one of the most reasonably priced dock‑to‑DAC devices that you'll find. The iOS operating system itself seems to display similar quirks with every dock‑connector based interface I've used so far: occasional issues with using Wi‑Fi and multitasking while working with an audio device, which means that using a lot of apps at once can produce pops and drop-outs.
A quirk of the iU2 in particular relates to USB power. If you're intending to connect USB power, you'll need to do this after you've connected the dock cable to the iOS device, otherwise it won't recognise the device properly, and is likely to think the iU2 is just a charger. As iOS interfaces go, the iU2 is the most simple and complete I've yet used.
There are a few quirks, mostly relating to iOS in general, but other than that, it's a solid device. As far as additions go, it'd be nice to see an S/PDIF input for the connection of external A-D converters and digital sources. I also feel that, if this is practical in design terms, it would be sensible to make the device a centimetre deeper, to accommodate full‑size XLR and MIDI I/O. Although it would be larger, it would also be more convenient to use than it is with the current arrangement using adaptor cables. Although the market for iOS audio interfaces is fast becoming competitive, the Tascam iU2 stands out as simple, feature‑filled and affordable. JG Harding
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