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Audient seems to always nail Musikmesse. Every year I’m excited to go to their booth because they’re almost always showing something really interesting. The last few years it has been consoles, such as the Zen and the 2802, but this year it was a small format USB interface. Can the iD22 be a worthy contender in an already saturated market? Let’s find out.

What it is

From the Audient website:

* 2-in, 6-out high performance 24-bit/96kHz AD/DA converters
* 2 superb class-A mic preamplifiers & 1 discrete JFET instrument input
* Fully balanced insert points for integrating outboard gear
* High current headphone amplifier fed by an independent DAC
* Low latency DSP mixer for artist mixes
* Main and alternative stereo outputs
* User defined monitoring functionality with hardware control
* USB2.0 class compliant connectivity – Mac OS10.6.8 or later

And yes, the preamps are the same ones that Audient use in their other products. And yes, they are good!

iD22 has console style monitor control functions: mono, polarity, dim, cut, speaker switching, talkback & cue mix monitoring. Something very rare in smaller interfaces. In fact, I can’t think of another one that has it. It also has three hardware function keys that can be assigned to several things.

Build and feel

After having worked with the iD22 for weeks, both in terms of recording and mixing, as well as just using it as an ordinary sound card when listening to music, watching movies or Youtubing, I can confidently say that it’s a very pleasant experience. I’ve yet to experience any cock-ups or crashes, the software behaves like it should and the hardware is well built. Software stability is crucial. If I felt the iD22 wasn’t stable I would’ve given it two thumbs down right away.

Before moving on to the sound of the unit, let’s discuss the hardware a bit because it is actually half the appeal of the unit. Longtime readers will know that I hate plastic junk, whether it comes in the form of MIDI keyboards (seriously, are there any well built ones out there?), controllers or synthesizers. If I’m going to touch something, and touch it often, I want it to be sturdy. When I spoke to Audient at last years Musikmessethey said that they went the extra mile with the design, and not least the volume knob because it is something that you will touch a lot.

When I first unpacked the unit I thought “well, it’s OK, but not really that well built”. After having used it a lot I’ll be the first one to tell you that, considering the price point, it’s exceptionally well built and it actually does matter! Sure, going to the far high-end it will be a different story but again, at this price point…

Steve, managing director at Audient, was also right when it came to the volume knob. It might seem like a small thing but it does feel nice to have a big, sturdy knob that feels good in your hand. Insert any dirty jokes here.

Summing up the sound

I know you’re eager to hear about the sound so I’ll not keep you from it any longer. I’ve compared it to a few interfaces, including my trusted travel interface the RME Babyface, an Avid/Digidesign 003 and an Avid Omni. I like the RME products and the Babyface is incredible value for the money but the iD22 hands down sound better. I feel the sound is more full with a bit of fatter bottom. I haven’t tried the Duet 2 and don’t have an Mbox here but I picked the Babyface over both the original Duet and the Mboxes because of sound quality so it’s fair to assume I would pick the iD22 over them as well.

There’s no need to go into with comparisons with the 003 at this point as I feel the Babyface is an apparent step up from it, hence the iD22 would be too. The Omni might feel like an unfair comparison as it’s a lot more expensive but I had one sitting around so why not? Omni is an excellent sounding unit with an edge over the iD22 but again, at a different price point.

I also switched between the Traktor S4 outputs and the iD22 outputs, purely when listening to music, no recording so don’t consider it a detailed comparison, and felt the iD22 was better.

Complaints and comparisons

A review without complaints is called an ad and this is not an ad so here are the few bad things I could find, as well as a situation where the iD22 might not be so favorable. The first complaint that springs to mind immediately as I’m plugging in the unit – the power cable is too short! You can of course buy another one but I really think Audient should’ve provided a longer cable.

The iD22 is quite feature-filled with it’s send and returns and ADAT possibilities. Still, the main competition must be the likes of Apogee Duet 2, Avid Mboxes and RME Babyface. The Mbox will be considered the cheapest of them but it lacks ADAT, and so does Duet 2, which might be of interest if you’re looking to expand in the future. At first I thought the price was a wee bit high for the iD22 but considering the build- and sound quality as well as features, I think it’s priced pretty much where it should be.

One area where it loses to the competition is portability. This is not to say it isn’t portable because it clearly is, but it’s a fair chunk bigger than the Babyface or the Duet. This might seem picky but if you’re traveling a lot and you want to carry recording equipment with you things tend to add up. It’s not just the interface and two microphones as you first imagined, it’s also cables, headphones/monitors, stands, and maybe even a pair of compressors or a controller. That extra chunk will take its place in the bag.

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The iD22 software is basic. This picture is pretty much it.

Another thing is the software, it’s simple, which might be a good thing but it might also be bad. Personally, I never use the advanced features that I find in all these software mixers that comes with interfaces. In fact, I would rather not see them at all and handle that stuff entirely within the DAW. But not everyone is like me and some prefer more advanced features. I can tell you one thing, the iD22 mixing software, while covering the basics without any menu diving at all, is very basic compared to something like RME Totalmix.

Conclusion

The iD22 is feature-filled, built sturdy and perhaps most importantly sounds really good for the price. Of all the units I’ve tried in this price range I would pick the iD22 over the others when it comes to sound quality. It’s a little bit less portable which might or might not be an issue to you. In my experience, the software is stable. It’s also simple, which is both a good and a bad thing. If you’re looking for an interface in this price range, I would definitely check out the iD22.

The good:

    + Great sound for the price.
    + Well built.
    + Easy to use, simple software.

The bad:

    – Simple software could be a negative to some.
    – Ridiculously short power cable.

The ugly:

    * Nothing, it’s a clean classic design.

Price: You can find it for $795.

Audient iD22