REVIEW: Griffin StudioConnect Audio/Midi interface dock for iPad
Name: Griffin Studio Connect
Type: Audio / Midi interface
Specs: Click here for full specs
Looking to take your iPad recordings to the next level? Budding pop stars searching for a way to connect real world guitars and keys to their Apple tablets may want to take a look at Griffin’s StudioConnect Midi/Audio interface. With a few notably omitted features, does it do enough to become a desktop Abbey Road?
As all chart-chasing musicians should at least be superficially interested in style, they’ll be pleased to note that the Giffin StudioConnect looks really smart. A curved, low-sitting, weighty cradle for your iPad, its black frame will comfortably house your iPad in a rubber-covered recess, with rubber feet making it sturdy and secure on your desktop. A black built-in dock connector sits on a one-foot long grey cable, meaning there’s plenty of slack to protect your iPad connection should it fall foul to a sudden yank.
The StudioConnect requires a power supply, meaning it’s hardly the portable recording solution that the iPad is partially built to be (which may make those who have dedicated home recording studios question the StudioConnect’s purpose), but it looks cool when the chunky chrome volume knob glows blue with power. The necessary power supply also means that dock connector charges your iPad too, meaning you’ll never have to cut short a recording session due to falling battery levels.
Moving onto the ports, you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack on the front of the device, whose volume output can be controlled by the chrome dial independently of the iPad, and also allow you to switch between speaker and headphone output without fumbling around the edges of the tablet. Midi In and Midi Out ports sit either side of the AC jack on the rear, with 3.5mm inputs and 1/4″ mono inputs on the left hand side, and stereo RCA line-level out ports on the right. Midi ports mean that your Midi controller will also need to be AC powered; a USB connection wont cut it, which needs to be considered if your rig doesn’t have these functions.
Even with an unbranded Midi controller from a Chinese eBay merchant, the StudioConnect had no problem pulling in my melodies on apps like Garageband and Animoog. Audio quality was good, with no clipping or loss of connection at any time. The same went for hooking up my axe over the audio input; there was no hiss or hum to mar recordings whatsoever. As you’d imagine, the resulting recordings were far superior to any that would be captured with the iPad’s built in mic, while playing with a real physical keyboard was far more comfortable than the software touchscreen ones built into apps. In that regards, the StudioConnect is a strong product.
However, Griffin’s interface is missing a few key features, particularly if you’re interested in recording vocals or acoustic instruments with a mic. There’s no mic preamp at all in fact. A lack of an XLR jack with phantom power, or even a boxed-in adapter for dynamic mics, means you’re going to struggle to record acoustic instruments or vocals any better than you could have with the iPad’s built-in mic.You could feasibly figure out a work-around for this (perhaps running mics through a stereo mixer hooked up to the 3.5mm input on the rear) but it’s not what you want to have to do with a £120-odd accessory. Add to this the need for a constant power connection, and it’s not quite the mini, portable studio that iPad musicians would hope it could be.
Griffin’s StudioConnect is a tidy solution for musicians looking to increase the quality of their iPad recordings, but it’s not a complete one. Midi and audio connections are great, as are its charging chops, but it’s hindered by a lack of a support for vocal recordings. It comes recommended, but we can’t help but feel a revised, more-thorough version will eventually make this StudioConnect obsolete.