Review: IK Multimedia AXE I/O

IK Multimedia has the recording guitarist in mind with its new 2-in/5-out audio interface with advanced guitar tone-shaping. Is it the interface guitarists have been waiting for?

IK Multimedia AXE I/O studio angled shot

IK Multimedia is best known among guitarists for its AmpliTube modelling software. Its latest hardware interface has been designed with the needs of the guitar player in mind and is also small and powerful enough to create a studio, no matter what your location.

This portable audio interface is making a big noise (of the desirable kind) in a market already saturated with great alternatives. Do we really need another USB interface? Probably not. Has IK Multimedia found a way to create an interface which stands out from the pack? Absolutely.

With its analogue style topology, seamless AmpliTube integration, built-in tuner and bundled recording software and plugins, this could be a worthy investment to get your recording career off to a flying start.

Most interfaces offer a standard quarter-inch jack input, but the AXE I/O takes that one step further with IK’s patented Z-Tone circuit, which allows you to dial in an impedance to match your guitar’s pickups, from high-output active units to vintage-style single-coils. 1 megaohm gives you a sharper and brighter tone, while it’s adjustable down to 2.2K-ohms, which IK describes as bold and thick sounding. The unit also allows you to switch between J-Fet and Pure input gain stages, taking you from super clean to a tube-like response at the flick of a switch.

IK Multimedia AXE I/O stock front shot

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The front panel also features an Amp Out jack socket – this dedicated, isolated, low-noise output is designed to send a recorded clean DI of your guitar tone back out to an amp for reamping, meaning you can send a signal from your DAW to the amp of your choice and re-record it back in using the unit’s XLR inputs.

The AXE I/O’s spec sheet is very impressive indeed. Offering a sample rate of up to 192kHz and a 3Hz-32kHz frequency response, this unit can capture every nuance of your instrument, both in and out of the human-audible sound spectrum.

IK Multimedia AXE I/O top angled shot

Alongside the interface, you get access to IK’s amp modelling software, AmpliTube 4. This contains 25 amps, 33 stompboxes, 29 cabinets and more. You can also obtain add on packs from AmpliTube’s Custom Shop application.

You also get a copy of Ableton’s Live 10 Lite DAW, 10 plugins from IK’s T-Racks 5 Plugin Collection, giving you some vintage compressor and limiter emulations, channel strips, reverbs and mastering plugins and a free sample library from its Sampletank application. This contains a range of samples to use in your own productions including drum, piano, strings and percussion.

In use

IK Multimedia AXE I/O stock angled front shot

It quickly becomes apparent that the AXE I/O is a one-stop shop for anyone starting to record in their bedroom or for the professional guitarist on the road looking to take a studio with them. With two quarter-inch inputs on the front and two phantom-powered XLR inputs at the rear, it’s extremely versatile.

The unit is easy to set up, and even if you’ve never used this sort of product before, you can get stuck into some serious recording time in no time. Within 30 minutes of unpacking the unit, we were recording our first guitar loops and setting up amp presets in AmpliTube.

IK Multimedia AXE I/O studio front shot

Indeed, one of our favourite features is the easy integration with AmpliTube. The unit has a preset knob on the front, which allows you to scroll through presets you’ve created, meaning you can control your virtual rig without having to click between presets with the mouse. You can also assign this to any other parameter of any other software freely.

For those that wish to get more in-depth, the AXE I/O also contains MIDI input and output to connect to floor controllers or IK’s very own iRig Stomp I/O to add even more real-time control to your amp-modelling software. You can also use this with MIDI keyboards and controllers as you would on any other interface.

IK Multimedia AXE I/O stock top angled shot

Overall the AXE I/O is absolutely no-nonsense, straight to the point and game-changing for guitar players looking to record direct into an interface. And the sounds are wonderful.

Key Features

  • PRICE £369.99
  • DESCRIPTION 2-in/5-out USB Interface designed for guitar. Made in China
  • CONTROLS Channel 1 gain, Z-Tone, switchable passive/active Pickup Mode, JFet or Pure Clipping, channel 2 bain, AmpliTube preset dial (Also MIDI assignable), tuner switch , Direct/DAW Monitoring, headphone volume, master volume
  • FEATURES 2x guitar inputs (one with Z-Tone circuit), AmpliTube integration and preset selection from front panel, built in tuner, Amp Out for reamping, 2x XLR ins with 48v phantom power, up to 192kHz Sample Rate, 2x balanced monitor outputs, 2x line outputs, MIDI in/out
  • DIMENSIONS 240 x 256 x 54mm
  • CONTACT ikmultimedia.com

Like This? Try These…

  • Audient Sono £379
  • Line 6 POD HD Pro X £449
  • IK Multimedia iRig Pro DUO £169
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