Tascam iXR Audio Interface for iPad, MacOS, and Windows
Better Audio for Mobile and Computers
by Chris Loeffler
The Tascam iXR is an audio interface for iPad, MacOS, and Windows intended to combine the small form factor needed for true mobile recording with the I/Os and technology of a professional interface. The package includes the physical audio interface, Cubase for iPad, and is alternately available as an expanded field kit for those wanting a microphone, cables, stand, and cover. The iXR requires OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.4, OS X Mavericks (10.9.1), OS X Yosemite (10.10), or OS X El Capitan (10.11) or higher in MacOS, Window 8 (32 bit) or higher for PC, and iOS 8+.
What You Need to Know
The iXR is diminutive in size, and so slim I don’t believe it’d be physically possible to get smaller without removing the XLR inputs. The rugged aluminum construction boasts two combination inputs (line and mic), two balances line outputs, the obligatory headphone output, and MIDI I/O. The iXR is powered by USB (please note some USB sources don’t provide sufficient power) and has phantom power for microphones requiring extra juice.
Recording happens at 44.1k/48k/88.2k/96kHz and at 16/24bit. The unbalanced instrument inputs have a 1M ohm input impedance with a maximum input level of 10dBV, while the balanced line ins features a 10k Ohm impedance with a maximum input level of 20dBu. I found the preamp to be as transparent and open as one would expect from an entry level piece… certainly better than running straight into a soundcard or mobile phone.
Testing the iXR in a live performance downtown with a borrowed Rode NT4, I was able to capture a surprisingly full and deeply imaged recording once I found the right spot in the crowd. I tried running a second mic in sequence with it (Audio Technica Pro24), but candidly speaking, I found myself better off sticking with either of the two inputs rather than trying to blend them. Gear and experience can obviously mitigate this, but I believe most users will be happy with the simplicity of a good capture in a single channel.
The benefit (and quality) of the two preamps became apparent when I tested the iXR in a spaced pair mic setup for recording an acoustic guitar perforamnce in my studio. With a matched pair of M-Audio Pulsar IIs pointed at the 8th fret and 12th fret, I caught beautifully articulate acoustic tones that were ripe for mixing, with the 8th fret mic capturing fretboard intricacies while the 12th fret mic captured the body and core tone of the guitar. Mixing the two channels down, I didn’t find myself at any time wishing I had more channels to work with… a solid performance, good mics, decent placement, and I was set.
The Tascam iXR can of course be used with a standard desktop and recording software (Logic, ProTools), so those without a home recording setup can get extra bang for their buck for solo recording and demos, but the iXR isn’t going to kick the UA Apollo off anyone’s desk. That said, I ran my MIDI keyboard controller through it into my MacBook Pro and confirmed it did everything my current interface does as far as performing in Native Instruments Kontact, the UVI player, and Logic Pro X’s native suite.
With only two inputs, it is importance to get the initial mix right with field recording with two mics, as remixing two channels only yields so much gain. That’s not a limitation of the hardware, but inherent to the concept of mobile recording.
The Tascam iXR seamlessly integrates mobile devices with professional audio production and is the epitome of the Tascam ethos; rugged, functional design, and affordable. Whether the application is recording concerts, capturing band practices to work through parts, home recording, or running a karaoke party (yes, you can and yes, there’s an app for that) through a PA system, I found the Tascam iXR to be up to the challenge. Anyone looking to tiptoe into the world of live-sound or computer recording would find the Tascam iXR an intuitive, easy point of entry.