The mighty Associated Press is reporting M-Audio’s knob-filled USB interface for GarageBand, iControl, is now shipping. Or, in the words of the article, M-Audio is “expected to launch” early next week at Apple Stores in the US. Price: US$179.95 MSRP; a pretty decent, low price. Only bad news: you’ll need a separate audio interface for a high-quality input for your guitar, etc.

Which brings us to the next question: what the heck happened to Asteroid, the rumored Apple audio interface that caused a heated legal battle over rumor sites? Various bloggers are pointing out that the AP story says M-Audio developed iControl “at Apple’s request.” But Apple was supposedly planning an audio interface, not a control surface. If anything, Apple may have simply killed Asteroid to keep M-Audio and Digidesign happy — or, we could see an M-Audio iAudio interface next month at NAMM. Really, I have no idea.

The only sure thing in life, really, is that the mainstream press has a really hard time describing what an audio interface is: AP says “An audio interface, known in the industry as a “breakout box,” is needed to transfer the sound from a guitar, keyboard or vibraphone into a computer.” Of course, it’s not known as that in the “industry,” but hey, I guess it’s useful to have hardware that . . . transfers sound . . . from your vibraphone . . . Boy, that’s a weird image. Do they really think the concept of a microphone would be so hard for their readers? (On the other hand, this is a lot better than USA Today.)

  • entasmiquity

    More information at Engadget:

  • entasmiquity

    Apparently, I'm the most avid iController among CDM readers.

    I picked up an iControl a couple weeks ago; in case you're interested, here are my thoughts:

    First, it might be helpful to hear about me and the music I record, so that you can gauge your needs against mine.

    I am an amateur with no ambition to become a professional, and frankly no real talent to do so either. I've been writing and recording basic rock and pop songs for about 15 years using several cassette 4-tracks and digital 8-tracks over the years.

    A few years ago, I tried moving my recording work over to my computer w/ Pro Tools LE and Logic Express, but both proved too complicated; I would rather spend my scarce free time writing than learning how to use the computer.

    Garageband convinced me to give computer recording another try. It's fun and easy, but lacks the tactical control I enjoyed w/ the 4- and 8-tracks (such as the Boss BR-864) I've used over the years.

    For me, iControl fits the bill nearly perfectly.

    Here are some general comments:

    1. There has never been an easier-to-use piece of gear. Plug it in to the USB port, and Garageband instantly recognizes it–it just works.

    2. The iControl is very well made. The buttons and knobs have a good, solid feel. The iControl does not completely faithfully re-create the feel of a 4- or 8-track or a larger controller like the Digi 002. But it is still satisfying, and a huge leap over mouse-based tweaking. It also has subtle lights that add an appealing glow to active controls.

    3. The included "MIDI In" port makes it very easy to connect a keyboard or other controller. Of course, Garageband recognizes it instantly.

    4. The iControl lets you control volume/pan of 8 tracks at a time with endless rotary encoders. While a part of me would prefer faders, like on most controllers, the endless knobs have their purpose. For example, when you adjust the volume for tracks 1-8, faders would remain in those positions even when you are using them to adjust tracks 9-16. That makes fine adjustments difficult. (If track 1 was set at a high volume, the fader is still on a high volume when you use that fader for track 9. Assuming that track 9 had been set on a low volume, you cannot make a fine adjustment to this track without moving the fader from high to low volume, which would throw track 9's volume far out of whack.) This is not a problem with endless knobs, which unlike faders, have only relative values.

    5. The jog wheel is great and can be used to scroll directly to the point in your song that you're looking for. This and the big "record" button make "punching in" a lot easier and more precise.

    6. The knobs can be used to adjust EQ settings as well as instrument attributes. This makes iControl a lot more powerful than is apparent at first blush. While not quite as intuitive as the transport controls and the track volume/pan controls, these features are easy to learn and fairly robust.

    Hard-core Logic Pro or Reason users will likely prefer to move along. This product is Absolutely NOT for you virtual professionals. But for those (like me) who want to make the most out of Garageband and get some of the tactile experience of using a 4- or 8-track, the iControl is a good investment. It's also a lot of fun.

  • les

    I purchased the icontrol and use it with garageband 7 . One problem I have with it at times is that it jumps into cycle mode on its own.As soon as play or record is pressed the cycle light and yellow bar will appear. Pulling out the USB cord will reset it but it happens often and is somewhat of a nuisance. The second effects button is also problematic. Pressing it causes the effect to display on the screen and it flashes and then causes the mute/solo/sel lights to flash. Any fixes? Thx