I have to admit to feeling a flutter of excitement when Digitech announced its programmable iPad pedalboard. Now it's the turn of vocalists, musicians of all kinds, producers and writers to access the wealth of digital music apps available for the iPad with the release of the iO Dock, from professional audio and studio equipment manufacturer Alesis.

The iO Dock gives your real-world equipment a means of interfacing with the multitude of top notch music creation, recording and production apps available for the iPad and iPad 2. Guitarists - even acoustic players - have already been treated to such luxuries courtesy of devices like Apogee's JAM interface. The iO Dock brings an impressive selection of connectivity to and from all sorts of varied musical-making equipment to the digital party.

Each of the two balanced combination XLR/0.25-inch jack microphone/instrument inputs benefits from its own gain control and switchable phantom power (for condenser microphones). The second input is also given a direct guitar/bass switch that allows players direct connection with the apps on the iPad without resorting to bridging interface devices. Synthesizers, drum machines, samplers and the like can be plugged in via the onboard MIDI (DIN) port.

There's also an assignable footswitch input, a USB port, balanced 0.25-inch outputs for onward connection to a PA system or studio monitors, and an RCA composite video out (to hook up projectors, TVs or monitors). A direct monitor switch lets recording musicians toggle between the incoming and playback signals routed through the headphones.

The iPad or iPad 2 slides into the bay from the right side of the iO Dock, after which three edges of the tablet are hidden behind a protective bezel and the underside is completely enclosed within the iO Dock's casing. Users can then plug in their instrument of choice and enter the exciting world of digital music apps.

Musicians will of course have to buy their own recording, production or sound manipulation apps from the App Store. Alesis says that the iO Dock has been built with all current app development standards in mind - including Core MIDI and Akai Pro's AkaiConnect SDK - which will no doubt help towards the creation of future iO Dock-specific apps for users.

The iO Dock is available now for a recommended retail price of US$399, which Alesis claims should translate to a street price of around US$200.

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