Review: Audient iD44 Desktop Interface

Newest Entry in iD Line Adds Analog Channels, Updates Converters
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Over the past several years, Audient has regularly expanded its impressive iD series of desktop interfaces. These units are appealing for many reasons, including simplicity, expandability, excellent mixer software, and the inclusion of Audient console-grade preamps.

The newest version, the iD44, is its most formidable yet, offering more analog channels, new converters and lots of monitor section features. Audient also redesigned the accompanying iD software application, making it even more powerful.

Front and Center

The iD44 is billed as a 20-in, 24-out interface, but that number includes its optical expansion ports, which require additional preamp units or interfaces. Actual onboard analog I/O comprises four inputs and four outputs.

All four input channels sport rear-panel Neutrik combo jacks that will accept mic or line signals. Channels 1 and 2 can also be accessed through conveniently placed front-panel DI inputs with JFET circuitry.

The iD44 combines audio interface and monitor section features.

The iD44 combines audio interface and monitor section features.

Moving back to the rear panel, you'll find 1/4-inch balanced insert sends and returns for channels 1 and 2. These allow you to patch another processor into the signal path before it hits the converters. The Insert jacks are half-normaled, so there's no need to connect them to let the signal pass through when you're not using them.

Signals connected to the Insert Return jacks go through an electronically balanced input stage and straight into the converters. Audient recommends connecting a source directly to the insert returns if you want to bypass the preamplifiers or the DI circuitry. For example, if you have a mic pre that you really want to use, you can avoid the coloration of sending it through a second preamp stage by connecting it directly to the Insert Return jack.

Two back-panel 1/4-inch line outputs allow for the connection of two pairs of monitors. Also included are two sets of optical I/O. These can handle eight channels of ADAT I/O per pair in, and also support S/PDIF.

You connect the iD44 to your computer's USB port with an included USB Type C to Type A cable. Despite the USB-C connector, the iD44 only supports USB 2.0 functionality. That's all that's needed, however, because it uses its onboard DSP to create no-latency monitoring through its accompanying ID software.

Rounding out the back of the unit are a BNC Word Clock output jack and the port for the included 12V DC power adapter. There is no MIDI I/O.

You can control the input functions from the top panel. For each channel, you get an input level knob. Below each knob are Signal (present) and Peak indicator LEDs.

Under the LEDs for each channel is a vertical row of three toggle switches. The top one turns on and off the 48V phantom power, and below it are a –10 dB pad and a 100 Hz high-pass filter. To the right of the four columns of channel controls are the main meters, which are eight-step LED ladders with a power status LED underneath.

Listening In

The controls on the right side of the unit let you manipulate the substantial monitor section and headphone features, some of which must be configured in the iD software application.

Dominating this cluster of controls is a large knob called the Encoder. By default, it governs the level of the analog line outputs. It's also a switch when you press it, but, oddly, that switch appears to have no function, nor is there anything in the (otherwise very informative) manual about it. Perhaps the switch will be assigned a function in a firmware upgrade.

Below the Encoder is a horizontal row of three buttons labeled Cut, DIM and iD. Cut mutes the signal to the outputs, DIM lowers it and iD turns on ScrollControl, which is a unique feature of the iD Series interfaces.

If you press the iD button, Audient's unique ScrollControl mode is activated. When it is, the Encoder controls anything scrollable in whatever software is active on your computer. Use it with a fader or panner in your DAW's mixer or to control any onscreen knob.

ScrollControl is not specific to music software, so you can even use it to scroll up and down in a Word document if you like. Although it's not a feature crucial to the primary function of the iD44, it's handy.

Two knobs, considerably smaller than the Encoder, control the two independent headphone outputs. By default, they're linked to the main output mix, but you can also assign specific cue mixes to them in the accompanying iD software.

Rounding out the hardware controls is a vertical row of four buttons: three are Assignable Function buttons and the fourth is Talkback. All of these are configured from the iD software as well.

The Talkback feature doesn't have a built-in mic, so you have two choices: use up one of the input channels, or use your computer's built-in mic or a USB mic. I would certainly recommend one of the latter choices, rather than using up a valuable mic input for talkback.

The iD software application offers straightforward mixing and configuration features.

The iD software application offers straightforward mixing and configuration features.

Show Some iD

The iD application is a free addition to the iD44 and is crucial for getting the most from the interface. It's mixer software for your computer that works with the unit's built-in DSP, but also lets you handle the setup for the three assignable buttons, routing of the various outputs and adjusting levels of the DIM and Alt functions.

You can easily configure the software mixer to show channels for the analog inputs, digital inputs and returns from your DAW. Each input channel offers a volume slider, pan pot, solo button, mute button and a phase reversal switch, as well as an input meter. Stereo channels have two pan pots, two phase switches and left and right meters.

At the right of the iD software is the Master Section, which contains global controls and displays. In addition to a stereo master meter, it also features a Chronometer display, which is a level readout that goes from right to left and shows the current audio and 30 seconds prior in a continuous scroll. What's really helpful is that you can clearly see when clipping is occurring, as the green and yellow lines turn red at the spot it happens.

The right half of the Master Section lets you choose which groups of channels are visible, the analog inputs, digital inputs and the DAW return. It also contains Talkback, Phase Flip, Mono, Alt Speaker, DIM and Cut buttons.

You can select a Cue Mix in the Master Section for editing. Click on Cue A, B, C or D to make that mix available for editing, and then adjust the input faders as desired. Each Cue Mix has its own master fader. It also has its own Solo button, which temporarily routes the selected Cue Mix through the main speakers. Nice.

One weakness of the iD44's design is that there is no way to add reverb to a cue mix for monitoring. Although the mixer is DSP-based, the iD44 doesn't include any built-in effects.

Panel Discussion

Another crucial window in the iD software, which you can open when needed, is called the System Panel. From it, you can route any of the four Cue Mixes to one of the two headphone outputs or to the Main or Alt output pairs. Doing so is simple, thanks to an easy-to-use Routing Matrix.

You can also switch the digital outputs between ADAT and S/PDIF format, and have one digital I/O pair dedicated to each. You can set the Clock Source between Internal and Digital port 1 and 2. You can even choose where the signal goes when you press the Mono button: to the left speaker, right speaker or both. The System Panel is also where you go to set the Talkback source.

Mixer setups can be saved and recalled in the software. You can also save one to the internal memory of the unit itself. If you were to use the unit standalone, running its mic pres into a different interface, that setting would be active.

Sounding Off

I used the iD44 as my primary interface for several weeks and was extremely satisfied with it. I was quite happy with the sound of the mic preamps, which were clean and full. I recorded both vocals and miked acoustic instruments and got excellent-sounding results.

I also liked the sound of the JFET DI inputs. Audient claims that they add a little extra color, and I concur. I recorded several DI electric guitar and electric bass tracks, and the sound was a tad warmer and had a little more life than a typical DI.

There's a lot to like about the iD44. It offers Audient sound quality and enough analog I/O to handle most home studio sessions. With two sets of ADAT optical ports, you can expand your channel count by connecting external devices to the system.

The revamped iD Software application is even better than before, gives you four Cue Mixes and is super easy to use. The monitor section features such as DIM and Talkback are handy. I love that you can use a USB mic or your computer's built-in mic for talkback, so you don't have to allocate a preamp for that.

I'm also impressed with the flexible options you get from the insert jacks, including the ability to send signal straight to the converters—essentially using the iD44 as an ADC. My only complaint is the lack of built-in reverb to monitor with. I'd love to see that in a future version. But overall, this is a well-designed, flexible and professional-quality unit that is an excellent value, too.

Product Summary

Company: Audient

Product: iD44

Website: audient.com

Price: $699

Pros: Excellent sound from preamps; JFET DI circuitry provides above-average quality; iD software powerful and straightforward; per-channel phantom power switches; per-channel pad switches and high-pass filters; Return jacks for direct ADC access; handy monitor control features; assignable function buttons; Mix Solo feature sends a cue mix through main speakers; USB mic or built-in mic can be used for talkback

Cons: No built-in reverb for monitoring; no MIDI I/O