Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tascam iXJ2 Multipin Audio I/O for iPhone and iPad



TASCAM iXJ2 Audio Adapter for iPhone and iPad
seen here with a Sennheiser G2 receiver.
It just showed up this morning. For $79 at places like B&H, there's another way to push 16-bit/44.1 kHz audio into your iPad and iPhone.

There are two mono input jacks, one on the top and one on the side. The Sennheiser G2 receiver shown to the left plugged right in.

I'm a little concerned about the hardiness of the multipin connectors. The body of the iXJ2 is lightweight plastic,  which could be good, but what happens to the connector after a few accidentally hard cable yanks? If the iPad jack is damaged, I'm guessing that might be an expensive repair. The iXJ2 has variable input control knobs, but they are placed somewhat awkwardly to twiddle. Maybe they're just stiff and need a few turns.

The Back Story of the iXJ2
The back of the iXJ2 sports a few neat switches to help route the audio from the two 1/8" input jacks as well as a built in limiter and separate plugin power for each input.

Figuring out how to route the signal properly, while not brain surgery, took a little switch flipping. I had no problem getting into TASCAM's free PCM Recorder software after I downloaded it from the App Store.



PCM Recorder Record Window
PCM Recorder is a recording app that's uncomplicated and runs easily on my iPad 3.  It includes gain change, high and low EQ and exporting capabilities to SoundCloud. The format is 16-bit, 44.1 KHz WAV files only.

When I tried to record, at first I saw little lights on the iXJ2 indicating level, but not on the PCM Recorder GUI until I hit the RECORD button. Hitting the RECORD button once puts the system into record standby and at that point levels are shown. Then hitting PLAY begins the record process. A slider above the time and level display allows you to make additional level adjustments.

After recording, SHARING takes you to a page where you can choose files to send to your SoundCloud account. After you sign in the first time, it knows who you are. Tapping Files lets you peruse, delete and rename your files and choose one for continuous replay. PCM Recorder has no editing capabilities.

The iXJ2 also works with the Rode recording app, but you have to pay attention to the iXJ2 record lights and the Rode Rec HD software and adjust levels in both places so the signal doesn't clip. I used a Rode Reporter dynamic omni and the TASCAM software and hardware had no problem with the lower sensitivity of the dynamic mic, but there was some hiss.

The PCM Recorder software has a few nice extras, like easy access to raise or lower EQ while recording or during playback and a lockout feature that keeps stray fingers from changing anything on the iPad. What I don't like is not being able to hear the audio as it's being recorded. If something's going wrong, I want to know about it so I can fix it. To hear any audio I had to unplug the iXJ2.

I was able to use the iXJ2 and a Rode Reporter dynamic mic to input to Makayama's Movie Mount software. This allowed me to shoot video while recording the audio, but I still could not monitor the audio while shooting. I have other rigs that do allow me to hear while I'm shooting. I'm a sound guy. I need that.

It's a little early to say how well the iXJ2 will fare and exactly where it will be used. An iPad is a little unwieldy to carry around as a news recorder. An iPhone is easier to handle, but I can see where the iPad could be used to shoot interviews and other medium and longer form pieces. More later!

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