A neat musical device: the TuneStudio

TuneStudioBelkin TuneStudio combines a bunch of neat devices into one: it's a hard-drive audio recorder (using your iPod as the drive), it's a line mixer, microphone pre-amp,  a USB audio interface, and a condenser thrown in for good measure. It looks good and although it retails for $250 you can pick it up at Costco for a mere $180.

I skimmed the user manual and discovered a few shortcomings, though. It doesn't run on batteries and requires a 12v 1.25A power adapter - this thing sucks a surprising amount of juice! While it records 16 bit 44KHz stereo audio, it does not maintain a distinction between it's 4 channels - basically this is a 4 channel line mixer attached to a 2 channel (left and right) USB audio interface. (The audio gets recorded to the ipod as "Voice Memos" - which then sync to the PC via iTunes). You can't avoid doing the mixdown.

Some might say that using an iPod as the hard drive here is gimmicky - Belkin could have released the exact same device with a built-in hard drive. But I think there's a legit reason to do it this way - this is a semi-casual device, and it's pretty neat to be able to use all that storage on your iPod as musical tape. How cool would it be to record a local band and then listen to the jam on your iPod on the way home? And as for making podcasts, it makes a lot of sense to preview your podcast on the target device. And also, it makes a lot of sense to get the audio onto the PC with iPod sync rather than connect a new device to the PC - it fits people's existing workflow better. Finally, it may be possible to couple the TuneStudio with some custom iPod software, providing an extensible and very powerful mixer platform based on, say, the iPod Touch. (When will Ableton port Live to the iPod Touch anyway?)

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