Alesis iO Dock - Gearjunkies Review

Since the very first day the Apple iPad (1) was released we have had one at the office where we try out and play with a lot of music apps released for this tablet. Since its initial release there wasn't any really decent integration for the studio. To be honest ... after a while I got a bit bored with the iPad because of the lack of good usage in the studio.

But... then we went to the MusikMesse earlier this year and we came across the Alesis iO Dock. This docking station looked very promising. Immediately my interest was drawn! Now, almost a month before its release, Alesis kindly provided us with a review unit. Holding this baby in my hands I can only say... 'I am in love!'

The Alesis iO Dock is made out of plastic (synthetic materials) which makes it pretty light weight. One thing that immediately caught my eye is the amount of connections. Taking a look at the specifications however made me think, 'I hope it can deliver'.

Lets start at the back. Here we have two jack OUTs, two combined Jack/XLR OUTs, an RCA video OUT en a foot switch IN. I wasn't able to find out if the INs and OUTs are balanced. Not in the manual or the specifications. Lets hope they are! Both INs are pre-amplified with a phantom power. So you don't need a special microphone for the iPad, any dynamic or condensed microphone will do. You can also plugin your guitar for example.

I have tested the IN connections with a guitar and a mic and both work perfect with all the guitar apps and recording apps I had installed. Good to mention is that all INs have a gain. As I was working with the AmpKit+,  I had to open up the gain quite a bit to get some decent volume/sound. This resulted in some noise however. But when I plugged in my headphones and turned the gain full open I didn't hear any noise at all. So, my guess is that the source of this 'issue' was the app and not the iO Dock. Recording and playing works perfect. My recordings with a microphone sounded clear and without any noise.

Also the video OUT worked perfectly, together with video stored on your iPad or Youtube videoclips. I would have preferred an HDMI or any other digital OUT instead of the RCA OUT however. The quality is good but don't expect full HD.

At the right side there's a volume button and a stereo headphone OUT with gain. As it should be it's a 6.3 MM jack connection.

At the left side you will find a DIN MIDI IN and OUT connection. Yes, that's right, you can use any (keyboard) controller or synth to play your music apps, if the app is supported with iOS Midi of course. And this is one example why I love the iO Dock. No more WIFI hassle to play your apps any more. The USB port can work as a MIDI port as well. One minor issue was that I couldn't connect with iTunes through USB. It would have been nice to synchronise through the iO Dock but for this you still have to get the iPad out and connect with Apple cable.

The integration with your studio setup, but also on stage or just plain at home is seriously great. So the iO Dock is much more then 'just' a gadget, which does show! It's compact, light weight and easy to carry.

Are there no drawbacks? Well, often with Gearjunkies reviews we do look at the 'cool' factor but we don't lose the 'functionality' factor out of sight. But ... yes it is very cool!

However, I did find some points of concern. The manual is just a quick manual. Even though it is really a 'plug and play' device, I would have liked to have some more specifications/information. For example, how much gain can you add and are the IN/OUTs balanced? I assume they are not and that will become an issue when you use the iO Dock for recording or if you want to connect any monitors. Then balanced IN/OUTs are a must!

The iO Dock works with the iPad and the iPad 2. As the iPad 2 is thinner you'll need a special adaptor from Alesis. This is not (yet) included*). I didn't have one. I noticed that the iPad 2 didn't get recharged when placed in the docking station. Even when I tried to line it up for the connector.

As I mentioned before you can't synchronise your iPad with iTunes through USB, which is a shame. This would make it a great desk docking station, because the iPad is good to read and typing text with a bluetooth keyboard (from Apple) works great. How great? Well this review has been written with the iPad in the iO Dock. Unnecessary information? Yeah I know, probably, but then again this does shows its great coolness factor!

So in conclusion, the iO Dock is a great device for home, office, studio and stage, especially with its price of 179 Euro.

I want to thank Alesis for the opportunity to test this baby.

Marc van den Hurk

*) Update: Alesis got back to us with the iPad 2 issue. They let us know that the iPad 2 adapter is now included with all iO Docks.




Anonymous Coward09/07/2011 04:11
I am wondering how you got the dock to work with Amplitube. From what I can tell, it does not support input from the 30 pin connector. I have seen a few customer ratings on Apple's store that mention it does not work with the dock.

bambamstudio@Gearjunkies09/07/2011 08:40
I tested the IO Dock with the IK app and ik works good

Anonymous Coward10/07/2011 01:31
I am interested in using this to route audio in and through IK Multimedia's Amplitube (as well as other apps like Moog's Filtatron) as an effect filter to an external recorder. I tried using a class compliant audio interface in conjunction with the camera connection kit and was unable to record or "hear" live audio in Amplitube. As far as recording goes, the io dock routes audio through the dock connector. Is the io dock somehow different in that I can route audio through Amplitube?

Anonymous Coward15/07/2011 20:27
It does NOT work with Amplitube.
Above the input gain slider in set up it reads \"Input unsupported\"

Great with GB. Go to system settings / Garageband and turn \"Guitar Amp Crosstalk Protection\" to OFF.

Anonymous Coward18/07/2011 00:53
This review is misleading. the io dock does NOT work with amplitube, makes me wonder if you actually had the io dock. Hmmmm

bambamstudio@Gearjunkies18/07/2011 15:59
You are right, I wrote Amplitube, but I meant AmpKit+. Sorry for my mistake, sorry you don't believe us...

Anonymous Coward22/07/2011 13:28
Alesis FAQ:
Are the iO Dock's XLR and ¼” inputs and outputs balanced?
Yes, the XLR and ¼” inputs and outputs are balanced.

Anonymous Coward23/07/2011 14:49
I want to use a MIDI keyboard but none of my cables have the right connector! Why is Alesis using this type of USB port. Where in the heck do you fine cables to go between keyboards and this device? Cables that come with keyboards have standard USB like the standard ports on a Macintosh or PC!

Anonymous Coward23/07/2011 15:35
Could you show a movie through a projector and at the same time, during this movie, trigger sounds with the footswitch without interfering with the movie?

auxillary@Gearjunkies24/07/2011 11:10
Guys at NovaMusik have uploaded a closer look video:

Anonymous Coward27/07/2011 17:50
Hi everyone. Alesis here. The 1/4\" output connectors are indeed balanced TRS.

Anonymous Coward04/08/2011 16:48
Mines arrived today, with no apps running....Hiss central.
with Phantom power on Hiss central times 8.
hopefully a firmware update will fix this but I have not seen any mention of the hiss in any reviews, mind you I never saw anything about the hiss on Amplitude.
but the hiss from this dock makes amplitude sound silent, I cant seriously record anything from this dock so mines is going back tomorrow unless I can pursuade it to function without hissing like a large basket full of snakes

Anonymous Coward05/08/2011 00:41
USB controllers have midi in and out via USB, pro MIDI keyboards have separate midi in and out jacks on din sockets some even have midi thru. Some keyboards have midi din sockets and USB. The IO dock uses midi din sockets to interface with external controller keyboards and USB to interface with a computer. The IO dock can also function as a midi interface for a computer.

Anonymous Coward05/08/2011 16:35
Regrading the MIDI ports, it looks like the intention is that the IO Dock should be plugged into your computer via the USB port, so that you can use your iPad software as a MIDI output device. For plugging in a keyboard you can use a real MIDI port.

To use the Oxygen 8 keyboard with the IO Dock you would power it with a 12V adapter and connect it via MIDI. You could I suppose try and connect the Oxygen's USB port to the IODock's (with a USB "B to B" cable). It would be interesting if it worked. Even if it didn't work, it could possibly power the Oxygen 8 from the IO Dock, instead of needing to plug in the Oxygen's 12V adapter.

Anonymous Coward18/08/2011 23:42
It works with AmpKit which is better than Amplitube anyway - check it out.

Anonymous Coward20/08/2011 00:16
Hi, I read with a lot of interest the reviews on the Alesis IO Dock. I just bought one yesterday and, after trying it for 1 hour and experimenting with different settings both in the unit and on some iPad apps, I **WAS** going to return it to the store.
Why ? Well.... the MIDI implementation worked great (garageband controlled via 5-pin Midi from a 88-note electronic piano), recording in stereo from a synth workstation worked great, the headphones output was great (very high volume, you really need to turn it down to not dammage your earphones and your ears !).
When I got to the \"hissing\" part, after having connected an MXL Fox cardioid mic (very similar to the Shure SM58) to each input, I was so frustrated on the ridiculous amount of hissing noise. I had to turn the inut gain to 100% and, if you pressed on REC and said nothing, only white noise (hiss) was recorded. I tried at least 4 audio apps and the same thing happened pver and over.

BUT I was SO stupid !!! My mic came with an XLR to male Jack 1/4\" cable and that is what I used.
But then..... you know... there is ALSO the balanced XLR to XLR way.
After plugging the same mic to the same inputs and pressing rec, the signal was very clear indeed.
No hissing, no background noise.

I have to admit that I misjudged this unit. I even sent an email to Alesis.
But, besides RTFM, It is also good to try all possibilities before saying \"this is crap\" or \"what a poorly made product\".
I have not even tried the unit with an expensive condenser, but I am planning to in the future.

I hope this testimony will help readers in the future, because I could not find anything about this hissing on the b and It got to my nerves pretty quickly.
Regards and happy IO Docking !

Anonymous Coward24/08/2011 11:07
I am following the discussion. In the future I will try to connect my Tascam US 1641 interface to my iPad2. I don't have seen a connector already. If someone have seen it I would like to know. I think Alesis is on the good way.

Anonymous Coward01/09/2011 14:27
how about battery live? does anyone know how long you can record without charging?

Anonymous Coward01/09/2011 17:17
I cant make it work with ampkit either - anything special I should be doing ?

Anonymous Coward09/10/2011 21:38
I bought the iO dock a week ago. I have an acoustic amp, acoustic electric guitar, and a Yamaha 88 key piano. I connected the keys through the midi port and it works great recording right into GB. I am having problems finding a way to do the same with my guitar.

Any help is much appreciated, thanks.

Anonymous Coward18/10/2011 18:12

Anonymous Coward19/10/2011 20:12
I just got the dock trying to use iPad 2 and was surprised when it didn't work at all... Then found that I needed some insert to be mailed out, which I am now waiting for. It kind of bugs me I need some cheap insert which may or may not securely hold the unit connected after paying $200

My biggest worry is that I have a midi guitar, which uses USB out via computer connections to do powered midi control. The usb connector on the Alesis is this big square USB end... And I have no idea if I can use my midi guitar now, which has a USB with a typival small end, as does my micro keyboard. Why would they use this non standard plug??? I have no idea if I can find some cable which uses the large end going to typical pc USB connections...

The video out is good for compatibility, but that is all. In the now standard world of HD, it is stupid there is no digital out for video playback.

Anonymous Coward27/10/2011 01:25
If you are experiencing hissing when using the audio inputs of the IO Dock, please check out the discussion on ("Io dock hiss?") It's apparently caused by an incompatibility between the dock and iOS that didn't surface until the iOS 5 upgrade. Not surprisingly, Apple views it as Alesis' problem. Alesis started out by doing the usual fingerpointing bob-and-weave, but now seems to be acknowledging that it's their problem to fix. There is a firmware release promised. (The Alesis firmware update app is really kluncky and non-intuitive, but it works.) You can help get this problem fixed sooner by navigating to and posting your experience. Please include the keywords "Alesis" "IO Dock" "Hiss" and a listing of the apps you are using. That should increase the google footprint, at least.

Anonymous Coward30/10/2011 02:17
Just upgraded firmware on IO Dock to 1.07 and it really helped. Garaga Band and Ampkit work fine again.

Anonymous Coward15/11/2011 02:21
Upgraded firmware, and recording or output from IO DOCK is still useless. Piece of crap, don't buy!!!!

Anonymous Coward05/12/2011 22:57
Do NOT BUY this product if you have upgraded to iOS 5 or intend to in the future. The firmware upgrade does not fix any of the problems. A phone call with Alesis technical support informed me that they have no fix in mind and that \"the ball is in Apple\'s court\"

Anonymous Coward06/12/2011 16:54
Firmware 1.07 and GB update have helped the issue but by no means is the issue resolved as can still be seen at the forum:

Anonymous Coward19/12/2011 21:53
I just unpacked my iO Dock. Slided in my iPad 2 of 3days old. Plugged(XLR) my Rode NT1-A mic in, switched on phantom power and recorded with garage band no problem. Do turn the headphones down before playing anything. Its freaggen loud.

Yet to test my guitar on it and will post about that to. I see many happy recording days ahead with this kit.

Oh Yeah!

Will keep you posted of any problems if any. Remember the most common problem is normally between the keyboard and the chair :)

Anonymous Coward24/12/2011 11:00
I hope that Alesis will fix the problem that the I/O Dock can't handle Midi Sysex!
I wanted to use the Midi Toolbox app for Sysex, but it does not work....

Anonymous Coward31/12/2011 01:52
No it's still does not work right after 1.07!

Anonymous Coward31/12/2011 10:14
1.07 doesn't help at all, believe me don't buy this product(his on channels, failure of channels etc,etc. the only thing that was fixt is the midi hang). What a shame. Monday I send it back. Jeroen.

Anonymous Coward19/01/2012 09:42
Sorry, i just have to ask this... Io dock plays audio from itunes right? And videos from the pad... The only thing that doesnt do is Sync to itunes while it is Inside the io dock?

Anonymous Coward07/02/2012 14:32
Don't buy it please. Do yourself a favor and throw your money in a wishing well....

Anonymous Coward08/02/2012 20:42
Complete Junk!Is Alesis seriously just waiting on another company to fix its product? I have the IO Dock and it has handicapped me to not update my operating system since I bought your device. Get off your ass and instead of dumping money into a lame stomp box that uses the ipad for the sound (worst idea ever for live playing) fix your existing products malfunctions. Think about this poor business alienate your IPAD users and then you release another product for them before even fixing your mess...worst business model I have ever seen. Please if you just want a stomp box get the griffin one off the site. At least they will back up their products and it does what it says it will do.

Anonymous Coward17/02/2012 02:09
I downloaded the app "pocket organ" to my iPad2 and it is great on it.....Can I get a download for my Roland Juno Di???

Anonymous Coward22/02/2012 11:38
The iO Dock is nearly a great product.
Unfortunately I got MIDI note hangs while playing the iPad with my MIDI keyboard.
Some times very often.
I downloaded the firmware-upgrade from Alesis and I hope it will get better ...
The iPad is a revolution for electronic music and music electronics.
Unfortunately you have to try out many Apps to separate the toys/crap from the really usable instruments or those half-usable crap Apps from IK-Multimedia.

Anonymous Coward17/03/2012 17:19
I bought an Io dock to use alive with Garageband, but the foot switch doesn\'nt works... do you know a way to resolve it??

Anonymous Coward22/03/2012 17:16
Apple fixed his/distortion symptoms with iOS 5.1. Alesis also put together a video (see below) covering performance tips and gain settings that can resolve the other (more normal) possible causes of hiss that apply to all digital recording setups:

? Improper input gain settings (too high or too low).
? Improper output (Main and/or Headphone) volume settings (too high or too low).
? Hiss or distortion intentionally introduced by the virtual amplifiers inside recording apps (i.e. GarageBand).
? Audio skips or distortion caused by processor-intensive activity happening in the background on the iPad (resolved by quitting all other apps and turning ON Airplane Mode)

For me, and for many other users on Alesis' forum, the iO Dock working great with the iPad 2 and iOS 5.1. Check out their tips video here:

Anonymous Coward28/03/2012 21:14
The dock itself is ok but I\'ve had a few issues with the inputs & outputs delivering no signal, by disconnecting & reconnecting the iPad the signal comes back on. The principal of this unit is great & when it works it does it\'s job brilliantly but when it doesn\'t work it\'s a pain. I do like the unit, thats why I\'ve put up with having to return & replace it twice. Apart from the input/output signal problems it does do its job very well, I did some basic recording just a backing track & some vocals & the results were very good. The one thing the dock lacks is a mic preamp, this would just give vocals a lift. The phantom power works well with a studio mic & the guitar/line switch gives a clean signal for instruments. I\'d recommend this dock as a home recording studio but I don\'t thing I\'d use it in a live situation. I\'ve been unlucky & had a couple of faulty units but that hasn\'t put me off, I\'ve persevered & achieved some good results. It does what it was designed to do & does it well. All round a good little dock that\'s worth the money

Anonymous Coward11/04/2012 23:44
well I guess you didn't try midi sysex because it is not supported.
The I/O is good but NOT MIDI. Works as a control surface but don't try to use
an app that uses sysex.

Anonymous Coward22/05/2012 11:24
Is it possible to use the IO DOCK with Ipad2 Camera? I want to record a guitar lesson (audio and video) with the IO DOCK anyone suggestions?

Anonymous Coward11/06/2012 22:11
I have been very pleased in the short time Ive owned this dock. Clear recording and compatability with great apps (Korg,GB,Nanostudio,MicPro) make this io dock a must for serious artists. With a preamp, quality mic and proper mic placement great live recordings can be captured and replayed on the spot; no need to disconnect iPad, mic or preamp. This is great for rehearsals and home recording, but I'm hesitant to use this device for live performances for the following reason: I get kicked out to the home screen of the iPad too often and lose my work. I realize this is most likely caused by the iPad itself, and not the Alesis dock, but still inconvenient for performing artists. Otherwise, perfect for studio production apps and use in conjunction with other devices and instruments when recording.

Anonymous Coward28/10/2012 05:19
I got mine on craigslist for a lot less than 200.00 and have to say that so far, I am happy with the results. Haven\'t used a lot of it\'s features yet, but I am pleased with what I have done with it. It sounds great and I have no hiss issues. This is a great little unit for what it can do. You just have to know what you are doing to get good results. Happy iO docking.

Anonymous Coward28/12/2012 22:26
Hi, will this device allow me to record my actual keyboard sounds on Garageband? I have a Roland Juno Di and want to be able to record it's sounds, anyone know please? Is there another way to do this, like with a camera kit?

Anonymous Coward14/06/2013 06:09

Anonymous Coward01/07/2013 05:06
I want to use this with jam up and krk monitors.....anyone else try this?

Anonymous Coward18/01/2014 22:39
This I/o dock works guys that are whining about ampkits and hissing and everything just don\'t no how to run the damn thing. KEEP playing with it and youll figure it out. I use all the apps with it just using an mxl 3000 mic and a couple of alesis mk2 monitors and it sounds great. I run the amp kits , stompboxes. & even thumb jam on my iphone.and of coarse my hd28 martin.

Anonymous Coward13/08/2014 16:17
I'm using it with an extensive studio setup including hard and soft synths. Alesis really did a great job. The iPad hosts a number of synths that I can now control with any of my surfaces and the audio output is excellent.

As others have pointed out, if you have issues, you need to look at all the components of your system - not just the dock.