The Tascam iU2 is an audio interface that will work with your iOS device and your Mac. It's a versatile unit that offers two channels of input and output, MIDI In and OUT, digital output, and phantom power.
The iU2 comes with a range of useful cables - two mini-jack to MIDI, one mini-USB cable for connecting to a Mac, and two balanced TRS to XLR female cables for connecting microphones. Great that these are supplied, but you will be stuck if you forget them on a gig! The iU2 also has an integrated dock connector cable, which folds neatly into the underside of the device.
On one side of the box you will find the two mic/line inputs and guitar input. The switching for these inputs is found underneath the box, alongside the phantom power and mono switch, and a final switch to choose between iOS and computer host. On the left hand side are found the MIDI In and Out and headphone sockets, while round the back are the analog line outs and digital out - all RCA sockets, and the mini USB socket. So with everything connected that's a lot of cables, and with the device weighing in at only 220g you may need to think about something to secure it, or your cables, especially in a live situation.
On the top panel are five rotary controls, three smaller controls for monitor mix level, line output level and headphone level, and two larger controls, set almost flush with the device, for setting input levels. In operation these felt somewhat flimsy and of varying stiffness, and being of a smooth metal-like finish could be difficult to adjust in certain conditions.
When attached to a Mac the iU2 appears to the OS and apps as you would expect any Core Audio device, as long as the Host switch is set to '˜Computer'. Interestingly, the manual doesn't even mention what happens when you connect to to an iOS device, but even without power it is recognised automatically by iOS. Phantom power is only available when using the mini-USB socket to connect to a power supply, and this must be a standard 10W iPad charger - the 5W iPhone charger does not supply enough power, and my cheap-but-fake charger from Amazon actually died as a result of the power demand from the iU2! With the correct charger however all is well, and this will also charge the iPad at the same time.
The iU2 supports 44.1 and 48 kHz recording at 16-bit and sound quality is good but not in the top division. It is however noticeably better than the line in and out on both the Mac and the iPad, with plenty of gain available. Of course the option to use powered microphones will also increase the potential quality of your recordings.
Some may quibble over build-quality, and it could be possible that the integrated dock connector cable might fail. But the advantages - sound quality, light in weight so easy to carry, a cable you won't forget, controls that can't easily be adjusted by mistake - easily balance these out. Tascam's offering packs a lot of features for a very keen price, and if you need a device that offers both MIDI and both analog and digital audio, then you can't go far wrong with the iU2.
Learn more about the Tascam iU2 by visiting the Tascam website here.