Audient jumped headfirst into the premium class interface market with their release of the iD22 [Tape Op #104]. The premium classification gives more attention to component and design quality than what may be found in standard prosumer interfaces. Less noise, crosstalk, and superior preamps are the results here. With its iD44, Audient has continued to refine and expand on their original iD22 – especially with regard to I/O. The iD44 is their latest and greatest with a total of 20 inputs and 24 outputs in a 4x4 analog configuration. The iD44's four Class A Audient console preamps (designed by David Dearden of DDA fame) offer 60 dB of gain. On the digital side, high-quality Burr-Brown AD/DA conversion chips are implemented for superb conversion quality (up to 24-bit/96 kHz). The four analog channels provide for easy routing to outboard gear, unlike mere stereo units – and guess what? The iD44 also has balanced inserts on channels 1 and 2, allowing for tracking and mixing with your favorite analog outboard gear. I love options. The iD44 synced perfectly to my tricky-to-configure larger interface, giving me more channels while taking advantage of the Audient's superior conversion quality. And, with its BNC connection, I can set the iD44 as my master clock.

The Audient's preamps delivered an even, un-hyped sound with just a little color – but not a transformer-thickened, tube-enhanced larger than life tone. Nothing spikey, either – even when driven. It is all very analog and natural sounding, and I felt that I could do professional-level work with the iD44's preamps – a rare thing to say of an interface's built-in pres. In addition to the balanced mic/line combo input jacks located on the rear panel of the interface, the first two channels also offer discrete JFET instrument inputs on the front panel. Again, these provide a nice and firm, yet naturally smooth sound. Guitars work well naked or, if you need air or hair, re-amped later. I usually task transformer-coupled outboard gear for such capture, but the Audient provided enough meat for a solid sound. If you'd prefer to skip the preamp circuit entirely (a big hygienic plus for many engineers), you can send a line level source directly into the AD via the first two channel's line inserts. On the other hand, running your sound through lots of high-quality, analog circuitry more or less defines that elusive-to-get console sound – without a console, anyway. The point is; if you want more options that way, it's there for you on the first two channels. If not, use channels 3 and 4 (no insert points). Each of the four channels offer independent phantom power, -10 dB pads, and 100 Hz high-pass filters.

As noted earlier, the iD44's excellent conversion quality is on par with its preamps. Like with the pres, you may prefer a different sound and more color (or less), but that is a matter of taste at this level of quality. Audient's conversion style feels more relaxed than those in other desktop interfaces I've owned. For instance, I have another interface I use regularly that offers a clean, sharp sounding conversion – and if something in the mix isn't fitting, it will stick out like a shark fin! The Audient's conversion has a smoother, more pleasing sound to my ear, providing an elegant detail for fine brushwork. In short, the iD44 provides a pleasing, analog-ish tone from the preamp circuit through digital conversion. It's easy to work with, and everything I've mixed through the iD44 has translated well to other systems.

The iD44 supports USB 2.0 or above and comes packaged with both standard USB and a USB-C cables – nice touch. Latency performance is good on my older but capable Windows 7 tower (4-5 ms roundtrip) and was about the same for my smaller Windows 10 computer. For zero-latency monitoring you can use Audient's iD mixer (low latency DSP software application) that feeds the independently controlled headphone outputs on the iD44's front panel. The software mixer features controls for the iD44's four mic inputs on the left side of the GUI, while the master section resides on the right. Software input channels can be opened and closed in sections – the four mic inputs, digital inputs (from the iD44's optical inputs), and the eight DAW returns (signal playing back from your computer), keeping the expandable panel as small as possible with its large faders and meters. The master section is thorough. Using the three different channel types (mic inputs, digital inputs, and DAW returns), one can assemble the main monitor mix, up to four different cue mixes, plus any live mic/line or external digital ins. You can set the gain for each cue mix, name it (for those of us with short-term memory issues), and solo each cue. At the bottom of this section are buttons for engaging monitor controls like a talkback mic, mono playback, alt speakers configuration, dim, cut, and polarity flip. Incidentally, the large monitor control knob on the iD44's face doubles as an encoder (when engaging the iD button) that can be used for scrolling or be assigned to control virtually any DAW parameter.

In the iD mixer app, a second pop-up utility panel can be accessed for routing, with the matrix in the center to assign outputs for the main monitor mix or cue mixes to physical outputs 1-4, or either of the independently controlled headphone outputs. Here you can also configure a second pair of monitors, dim volumes, and master clock. The talkback mic source is here, too. The iD44 doesn't include a built-in TB mic, but here is where you chose a talkback source, like tapping into the computer's internal mic for instance – handy for the less endowed home or project studio. Lastly, this is where the iD44's three assignable function buttons (located on the face of the iD44) unit can be configured. The iD44's four balanced, line level TRS outputs provide connection for a main and alt set of monitors, outboard gear, or any combination of both. If you already have your own monitor controller, you can skip the iD mixer entirely for line level signals directly to external hardware. Bonus to iD44 owners: a free pass to Audient's software download site (ARC), where you can download Cubase LE, loops, LANDR, and Waldorf's collection of softsynths (including their PPG emulation).

Audient has hit a real sweet spot with the iD44 by offering a high level of sound quality, while providing easy options to integrate your favorite outboard. The iD mixer application is easy to grasp, yet eminently flexible, while providing the deep functions of a professional monitor controller. The whole package is nicely integrated into a small, tabletop interface that's very affordable, considering the options and quality of sound. As Goldilocks reportedly said, "It's just right."

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More