There aren’t many top-flight analogue music console manufacturers – and even less who also make gear you can afford when starting out on your audio adventure. And when it comes to getting the quality of the former for the price of the latter – you might well be down to only one name, Audient. Audient supply high quality analogue mixing desks to studios who want high quality analogue mixing desks and then Audient take that same mic amp design and implement it in more affordable products.
The iD44 sits at the top of Audient’s already well-established line and its raison d’être is more and better. So you get four mic amps, you get two DI’s, inputs one and two have fully balanced inserts, there are 16 ADAT inputs and outputs, you get monitor control functions, two separate outputs for speakers and two independent headphone outputs.
Under the hood Audient have upped the ante in regards to the converters matching an AKM ADC on the input to a Cirrus Logic DAC for the outputs. Workflow hasn’t been forgotten either with the new iD44 offering a parameter scroll function on the main encoder and some programmable function keys.
The case is all business with a meaty metal construction, there’s a quality feel to the knobs and switchgear and a funky retro look about the silver toggle switches on the analogue inputs. You could certainly take this out to play and not worry about the odd bump and grind.
Backing up a bit then to the mic preamps – these offer 60dB of gain, switchable phantom, high pass filter and 10dB pad all in hardware and phase reverse in the software application. I fished out the dynamics to see how useable the 60dB of gain is – the usual suspects SM58, Beyer TG88 and M201 and I’m happy to report it’s good to the last dB, in an ideal world I’d like five dB more but hey! These are quality preamps – sweet sounding and very quiet. Not what you always find in your average USB audio interface.
I used the balanced insert return on one of the first two channels to plug in my MindPrint DTC channel strip – also jolly handy if you want to add some external processing or boutique mic amps – bypassing the line input of the iD44. I also fired up my Marenius DAC to do some serious comparative listening. And the good news is the iD44 acquitted itself very well, I felt the iD44 offered a bit more at the top end of the mic input but then the valves in my MindPrint are probably due for replacement!
On the DAC front the time and care Audient have spent on the new digital side of the interface has obviously paid off, it sounds really good. The iD44 maxes out at 96KHz and your 16 digital inputs and outputs will be reduced to eight at the higher sample rates. And those ADAT inputs offer a huge amount of expandability – maybe not surprising as Audient sell eight channels of their mic amps in convenient 1U rack mount format.
The digital hardware makeover is accompanied by new and improved drivers and there have been real improvements to the latency performance of the iD44 check out the website for figures.
On top of that the software has had a rewrite and is very easy to navigate and having the ability to hide inputs – the analogue ins, the digital ins or the DAW returns – means you can have very clean visuals. On the system panel you have four cue mixes A to D plus the main stereo out plus an Alt. speaker output with level matching trim to a second pair of speakers. Each mix has a scrolling Chronometer, which is very entertaining, and any mix can be routed to any output.
It looks like Audient has brought their monitor expertise from mixing desks over to the iD44. Take one little detail the mono function, assigned to F1 out of the box (there are three function buttons) in software you can then choose to mono to left speaker, the right speaker or both. As an ageing broadcaster I have missed Mono A for many a long year, thanks Audient and having phase reverse on monitoring is also a boon.
The iD44 covers a lot of ground – good build, great mic amps, high performance digital hardware and easy to use and flexible software. It feels like what it is, a mature product from a company who has added digital expertise to their analogue heritage.
At the price point you are getting a lot for your money, and the option to expand via the ADAT inputs makes this interface with a bit of future proofing. The monitoring and mixing both offer really attractive workflows there’s even a bit of customisation thrown in.
This is the first Audient interface I have tried and it certainly feels like a winner.
- 20-in, 24-out desktop interface
- 4 x Class-A Audient console mic preamplifiers
- Low Latency DSP Mixer
Alistair McGhee began audio life in Hi-Fi before joining the BBC as an audio engineer. After 10 years in radio and TV, he moved to production. When BBC Choice started, he pioneered personal digital production in television.