Quick Review of The Alesis IO2 Express: Palm Sized Studio in a Box

When Alesis came out with its first IO2 USB audio interface a couple of years ago, it did indeed find favor with recording musicians everywhere. But there was one area of complaint that they had.

It was to do with how the drivers that the unit came with seemed buggy and difficult to work with. Alesis certainly seems to have addressed all those driver concerns now with the latest iteration of the device – the Alesis IO2Express.

So what exactly is the Alesis IO2 Express? It’s a compact palm-sized studio in a box that runs entirely on bus power. You’ll never need to find room on your power strip to plug this one in. The all-plastic construction could conceivably disappoint users who really hope for high build quality. You’ll find no metal on the IO2 Express at all, save for the jacks when you plug stuff into.

Everything else is really flimsy plastic. But this is something that’s going to sit in your studio or perhaps in your gig bag, and be well protected. Whatever it’s supposed to do – which is to act as a hub for your computer music studio – it does really well. Plug it into a Windows or a Mac computer, and you’ll find that it’s recognized right away.

There are a few caveats to using the AlesisIO2 Express successfully under Linux though, seeing that Alesis has chosen to design this device using the 24-bit audio format. But there are always workarounds. Linux users might find more success with the Alesis IO2 instead.

For a unit as tiny as this one, most people would be surprised to find that it includes MIDI I/O as well – in standard DIN format. As for the audio, this is a two-channel device with great high-quality mic preamps and 48 V phantom power. You can plug-in microphones, line level sources and even a guitar. For sound levels, you’ll find that the three-segment monitoring lights serve you really well.

Most people considering the I/O2 Express wonder for a while about why it only costs $99 to buy. Could it be a really low-quality device, they wonder. That’s not really fair. Alesis really has done its homework on this. Even more expensive units such as the M-Audio Fast Track aren’t as quiet as this little baby.

You’ll notice and appreciate how precise the gain pots are for the microphones, and you’ll find that the audio acceleration is spectacular – in most major DAWs,, you’ll find that the latency is sub-10ms. Guitarists will appreciate the ability they now have with this device to plug in two guitars at the same time.

Route the guitar through Native Instruments GuitarRig, and you find you can play great effects right there in your computer – you don’t need an amplifier or anything. Certainly, you would appreciate it if the unit appeared to be constructed with better quality plastic or metal. But they certainly apply your money where it counts.