The market is clear: guitarists (and other instrumentalists) want to plug in a piece of hardware, fire up their Mac, and start playing with GarageBand right away. The announcement of Apple’s new Logic Studio 9 last week coincided with the release of new hardware from Apogee, the audio vendor that has gone Mac-only and Apple-centric. Today during a meeting with Apple, I got my first in-person look at the GiO (pronounced “Geo,” like the compact car, not G.I.O. as would rhyme with G.I. Joe).

A number of impressions that I didn’t get from the press announcement:

The hardware looks great. It’s tough to describe until you see in person, but while it seems to look almost cheap or toy-like in photos, the hardware is quite substantial, solid, and attractive. It’s also nice to see a pedalboard that’s fairly simple, with ample clearance between controls – essential for playing with your feet.

It has awesome colored lights. No, really. Not only do the lights change color, but they’re actually color coded. So you can see, for instance, which stompboxes you’re using based on the color.

It uses MIDI. Let’s get this out of the way. Apogee made such a big deal of saying this was compatible with GarageBand and Logic that I began to wonder if they’d somehow found a way to make something as simple as a pedalboard incompatible with everything else! Not so – the GiO just sends standard MIDI over USB. I’ll have to ask Apogee how this maps, and you may still be Mac-only assuming they wrote their own drivers. But I would imagine at the very least, if you want to swap between Logic and AmpliTube or Logic, you should be okay.

GiO [Apogee Digital]

If you’re in love with Logic and GarageBand, GiO looks quite nice. $399 would be steep for a few buttons for your feet, but in a nice housing with an audio interface, if you get heavy use out of it, you may feel differently. You get integrated control, low-latency audio (instrument in + line out), 5 stompbox buttons + 5 transport controls + next/previous controls, and expression control. Of course, this is not news if you’re happy with similar solutions from IK Multimedia, Line6, Native Instruments, and WAVES – all of which also have impressive software and integrated hardware. And there’s nothing stopping you from using that hardware, or other MIDI pedalboards, even with Logic. And I’ll just keep dreaming of a thin-but-large magical pedalboard that I can toss in a bag with a laptop. My feet need more to do.