MIXDOWN MAGAZINE'S REVIEW: IK's Axe I/O One

MIXDOWN MAGAZINE'S REVIEW: IK's Axe I/O One

WORDS BY LEWIS NOKE EDWARDS

IK Multimedia AXE I/O One | Sound And Music | RRP $279.99

The AXE I/O One from IK Multimedia is, simply put, one of the best tools available for a guitarist or bassist. Interfaces are a dime a dozen, all featuring reasonably similar specs, as are re-amp boxes required to send signal out of your interface into an amp to adjust and build on later.

Both of them in one box though? That’s not as common, and it’s why we’re here to discuss the AXE I/O One. The AXE I/O One is a 1-in/3-out audio interface, the third output (in addition to the standard stereo left and right outputs) is a dedicated Amp Out. The single input is a PURE Class-A mic preamp, with phantom power available and accessible via a combo XLR-1/4” input, as well as some tone shaping options on the way in.

The PURE Class-A mic preamp is suitable for either mic or instrument level, handy lighting indicators letting you know what kind of signal the AXE I/O One is ready to receive. Once you’ve got signal, you can toggle between either PURE or JFET input stages, the JFET adding midrange focus, warmth and harmonic clarity for a well-rounded guitar tone, while the PURE option is more transparent. For guitar players and bass players alike, the AXE I/O One also has an active/passive switch that serves to ensure you’ve got a healthy signal no matter what you play. EMG devotees rejoice!

A welcome addition is the AXE I/O One’s Z-Tone control, which sharpens or emboldens your tone by adjusting ohmage between 1 MOhm (“sharp”) down to 2.2 kOhms (“bold”) of resistance. This tech is patent pending for IK Multimedia, so you won’t find it anywhere else! This can subtly begin to shape your tone so it sounds its best when it hits your amp via the Amp Out.

The Amp Out has a ground-isolated design and zero-latency routing, so you can record direct signals and refine later if need be. This is particularly useful for guitarists, meaning you can record a great sounding, direct take, and then route that signal out of the AXE I/O One into an amplifier. From here, you can focus on mic placement and tone, and record your guitar back into your computer. This allows you to edit and comp the perfect take, then record it with an amplifier’s tone! Once you’ve got that great take, bolster it by re-amping through multiple amps and sounds for the ultimate, finished sound. This kind of work usually requires an interface, as well as a re-amp box to convert the line level signal out of the interface into instrument level that the amp would be expecting to receive. The AXE I/O One having this functionality on board is a game changer!

Now we’ve clarified the input stage, the AXE I/O One also has a stereo headphone output and two line outputs, most likely to be used with stereo monitors. The ‘Master’ control adjusts the line out volume, while the dedicated ‘Headphones’ control adjusts your headphone level. Finally, the AXE I/O One includes a DAW/Direct toggle to allow you to monitor the incoming signal latency free, or hear what your DAW is playing back.

Besides all of these features, the AXE I/O One can record at up to 24-bit/192kHz audio, and also features MIDI I/O for connection to an external controller. Not content with one, IK Multimedia have packed two controller inputs for switches, either expression pedals or single/double switches for controlling AmpliTube and other software. The interface comes included with AmpliTube 5 SE tone package, TONEX SE, that serves as either a Standalone application or plug-in in your DAW, and Ableton Live Lite to record into an arrangement from. All of this is controllable via the standalone AXE I/O control software, assigning controllers, volume and send levels.

While well-priced for beginners to digital recording, the AXE I/O could be equally handy for the working professional who needs an interface solution on the go. The AXE I/O being small enough to fit into a case along with your pedals or guitars! The well-built chassis ensures there’s no knobs or controls protruding, while the solid plastic sides ensure it can take the inevitable bumps that occur with travel.

The AXE I/O One packs a lot of handy features into a tidy, robust package. It’s a product aimed at guitar and bass players, the active/passive switch, PURE/JFET toggle and IK’s Z-Tone control allowing you to begin to shape and refine your input as overtly or subtly as you like, and has a handy Amp Out directly on the unit so you can re-amp without the need for additional equipment or complex routing. What’s more, your signal will sound great once it is re-amped due to the AXE I/O One’s PURE Class-A mic preamp.

Whether you’re recording the direct signal or micing an amp up later, it’ll sound great. The AXE I/O One is robust, road-ready and well-sized to be easy to travel with, making it a great solution for a more permanent setup at home or having it on the road with you. It offers great, high quality conversion, high-quality headphones outputs and low-latency monitoring if you need it. The AXE I/O One joins a long line of robust, practical products from the masters of the space: IK Multimedia.