Take out those earbuds and start recording mixes. Or, okay, just keep dancing around with your fellow, sexy silhouettes.

It was easy to go into iPod accessory overload at this year’s Macworld Expo, which ballooned back into two halls of the Moscone Center more because of iPod products than Mac products. (Some wondered if the show should be called “Appleworld.”) But while it’s been bashed by Gizmodo, Belkin’s new TuneStudio shows a lot of promise as an iPod accessory that just might change how you use your music player.

I got a chance to talk to Belkin at the show, and learned some additional details about the device. If sound quality is up to par, it could be a really handy gadget.

The TuneStudio is what it looks like: it’s a mixer with a port for your iPod. Since the iPod can’t record multitrack audio, you get instead a 16-bit, 44.1 kHz WAV file recorded to the iPod. (It lives in your voice memos folder, for easy syncing to your Mac or PC.) The mixer itself is a full mixer, with 3-band EQ, pan and level, and routing to headphones or a monitor mix.

Most interesting to me is that the USB connection on the TuneStudio will stream audio bi-directionally to your computer. That means you can use the TuneStudio as an audio input device for your computer, and/or stream sound back from your computer to the mixer and record the resulting mix on the iPod. With one device, in other words, you could plug in an instrument, mic, and sound from your computer software of choice, route the results to a house mix for a gig, but capture your performance onto your iPod for your band’s podcast.

Belkin is bundling Ableton Live Lite with the package, and they were demoing the package with a live duo, so it’s clear they think you might do something of the sort.

Of course, there are two real questions here. The first is, what’s the audio fidelity like, and naturally I couldn’t tell on the Macworld show floor. The second and more important question is whether people will want to carry this or just buy a mixer and audio recorder for more flexibility. Also, don’t be too sure about the US$180 price widely quoted on the tech blogs — rumors on the floor said the shipping product might price out higher. We’ll watch this one closer to release.

See also: Music thing, which liked the design. (Note that they were looking an artist rendering; these photos are actual working prototypes.)

Expected this summer.

  • http://fcots.com muller

    I was talking with the demo guy for a while about this product. I think it's what i've been looking for to replace my other digital 4track since Data MD disks are impossible to find for under 15$ a piece.

    It has a couple of features that aren't being reported. The peak limiter doesn't sound half bad (must not be a brick wall), and it does have phantom power for the two Mic inputs, although the phantom power is either on both or off on both, so no luck using condensers and dynamics unless you have a dynamic that doesn't trip out on phantom.

    At the demo, one guy was playing a nylon string acoustic and going DI from his pickup to the mixer and another guy had an electric semi-hollow going to a Line6 Pod and then to the mixer. The songs they were recording on the spot sounded really clear and good. This is obviously not the best A to D in the world, but for what it does and what the pricetag is, i'd buy one for sure. It eliminates the need for media (i.e. cassette tapes, mini discs, reels) and that's enough for me.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Ah, yes, I neglected to mention the phantom power and limiter. I really do think this thing has some potential. Note that it's also compatible with Apple's iPod flash models — at 8 GB or even 4 GB, if you don't tote a whole lot of other music at once, could work nicely even with these.

  • http://www.livepa.blogspot.com M.A.S.

    this does seem to be a fairly interesting piece of equipment. While it probably won't have any snuff for studio recodings, if implemented effectively this little device could be great for live recording or perhaps rehearsals.

    Anyone even considering this has already invested the money in an iPod, so throwing this in the mix at the right price offers a lot of recording space. Up to 80GB?? You don't see many other recording packages that can offer 80Gb (perhaps more with a new iPod) for space. You could litterally probably hit record and leave this thing running while recording an entire concert or music festival.

    Very interesting for the indie promoter or musician.

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis Loveday

    I've played so many great gigs which weren't recorded for posterity because everyone had too much on their plate to setup an MD and hit record at the right time.

    More artists are recording their shows to be made available on CDR after the show or on their websites, so something like this is a no-brainer, as long as the quality is reasonable.

  • Richard L

    Any idea if this thing runs on batteries, wall wart or what?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Specs actually indicate a stereo compressor, not a brick wall limiter — good idea. :)

    I think they had it plugged in when they were demoing it; no specs yet on power source, though. I didn't notice any big wall wart.

    http://www.belkin.com/pressroom/releases/uploads/

  • Andrew

    Any idea what the formatting will be? Recording fliesize? Awesome possibilities, if the sound quality is decent… the stereo channel should make the addition of a sub-mixer simple.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    16-bit, 44.1kHz stereo WAV or 320kbs MP3 I think are your options. I don't think it does 24/96 but … most of us don't use that that often, let alone would we want to do it with an iPod.

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  • Matthew

    What I am curious to know is whether you can karoke with the thing… prerecorded partial or full accompanyment. Play tracks *from* the ipod with the other inputs.

    Recording with it is one thing (and a great thing), but I could use it for live performance.

  • Vitalie

    Can this TuneStudio PLAY 4 track ?

  • Lee

    Can you multi-track or is it just a basic 4 track? can you put a guitar track down then lay down 6 tracks ontop for instance?

    Please help!!!