Innovative USB-recording interfaces at NAMM

USB-recording interfaces, which let you plug instruments into your computer for recording, aren't new. But at the NAMM show, IK Multimedia and Roland bring advances to this well-furrowed field.

Tech Culture

I didn't imagine there was much room for innovation in USB-recording interfaces, but at the 2009 NAMM show--the annual convention for buyers and sellers of professional music gear (read: music gearhead paradise)--a couple of companies introduced some new takes on this very prosaic, but necessary, piece of gear.

The StealthPedal from IK Multimedia is a USB interface and MIDI controller that looks like a wah-wah pedal. IK Multimedia

For the uninitiated: A recording interface is the bridge between your musical output and your computer. You attach it to the computer, then plug your instrument (or multiple instruments, or output of a mixing board) into it, and voila. There are countless types of interfaces at all levels of price and complexity, but for home musicians who just want a quick way to get their musical ideas down on their hard drives, an inexpensive USB interface is the way to go. M-Audio is probably the best-known brand at this level, although Tascam and Edirol (part of Roland) are somewhat common as well.

IK's new StealthPedal is the weirder of the two new USB interfaces introduced at NAMM. It's sort of a Frankenstein's monster combination of guitar pedal and USB interface. The idea: You use the pedal to control a particular parameter (volume, wah, whatever) on the included AmpliTube2 software, which mimics the sonic characteristics of various amplifiers. (Although it's not limited to AmpliTube, but works with any software that's MIDI-controllable--effects modelers, digital-audio workstations, whatever.) It seems a bit like a solution in search of a problem--sort of like the keytar, but it could be useful in a live-recording situation. It'll run $270 in the U.S.

The UA-1G from Cakewalk offers a solid set of features for less than $100. Cakewalk

The new UA-1G from Cakewalk (owned by Roland) is probably more useful for most home musicians, especially those who want a quick and dirty way to record ideas to a laptop. It offers a surprising array of features for under $100: high-resolution (96kHz and 24-bit) recording, a bundled copy of Sonar LE (the low-end version of Cakewalk's digital audio workstation), a Hi-Z .25-inch input for recording electric guitar or bass, and a big volume knob. It's only one-input/one-output, which means you won't be recording your whole band, but it's perfect for those late-night inspirations or simple multitrack demos. Available in March.

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