Akai EIE Review – Two New Audio Interfaces Examined
The two new Akai Interfaces look great – we find out if they are in our Akai EIE review
The Akai EIE and Akai EIE Pro are the first two audio interfaces to bear the famous Akai name. The brand is no stranger to digital audio, however, having built its reputation upon a range of samplers that became the first choice of professional and home studios throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The hardware sampler is something of a rarity in the modern studio, replaced, largely, by software plug-ins running on host computers, with audio interfaces providing the means of getting audio in and out. It is perhaps only surprising, then, that these are Akai ‘s first interfaces. The two provide a set of features rarely seen on interfaces at this price, designed with Akai’s trademark flair.
The Akai EIE
The Akai EIE is a compact unit, with a retro appearance that belies its status as ‘music technology’. To the upper right of the unit’s front fascia are two VU meters, with metal toggle switches and chunky black knobs contributing greatly to the ‘vintage’ aesthetic. The EIE is equipped with four microphone preamps with phantom power, via XLR combo sockets.
These can each be switched between Microphone/ line and guitar level, and each has independent input level controls. To the rear, four jack outputs are equipped, along with four jack inserts, and MIDI in and out sockets. More unusually, beside the standard USB socket are three USB hub sockets, meaning that connection actually expands the number of available USB sockets.
The Akai EIE is a two channel audio interface, capable of 16-bit, CD quality recordings.
The Akai EIE is a solidly built, and great looking device, with plenty of appeal for those with an eye for vintage outboard (but perhaps not the budget…) Installation was painless, and in no time at all, audio was running through the unit.
For a unit at this price, reproduction is very good. Pre-amps are excellent, though perhaps not quite as detailed as some units on the market. the fact that there are four, however, means that gear can be left permanently plugged in- very convenient indeed. The very cool VU meters work surprisingly well, too. Though recordings are limited to two tracks at a time, for many, the EIE is more than adequate.
The USB sockets are a very nice touch, as are the additional pair of outputs (and front panel switch). To find an interface configured so conveniently for use with multiple monitor pairs is unheard of.
This is an excellent value interface, ideal for those with a number of audio sources to connect.
Rating – *****
The Akai EIE Pro
The Akai EIE Pro appears, at first glance, to be a silver version of the EIE. However, the EIE Pro is a USB 2.0 interface. This means that the unit is capable of 24-bit recordings, at rates of up to 96kHz. The unit is equipped with the same four XLR combo inputs, switchable between microphone/ line and guitar, and the same configuration of four outputs and inserts, MIDI in and out, and three USB sockets also feature. The main difference between the EIE Pro and the EIE is that the EIE Pro is capable of sending or receiving four audio channels via its USB 2.0 socket. This means that, for example, four audio tracks can be recorded simultaneously.
Though, externally, it may seem that there’s very little difference between the EIE and the EIE Pro, other than the colour, beneath the surface the differences are more dramatic. The switch in recording capabilities means that, when running at 24-bit, headroom is drastically increased. For those who will only record at the highest rates, the 96kHz option will provide plenty of superb recordings with super smooth upper frequency detail.
Of course, the biggest difference is the switch to USB 2.0, and the extra two channels of input that result. The ability to record four independent tracks massively expands the number of potential uses for this interface. Four separate artists could be recorded to different tracks, whilst performing at the same time. Alternatively, you could record a live performance of a guitarist-singer, and use a pair of mics to capture some of the room ambience and crowd noise. I even managed to get an impressive drum kit recording using four mics- the potential is huge.
The Akai EIE Pro is also superb value, currently priced at just £169.99.
Rating – *****