Spire Stu­dio £349

A stand­alone dig­i­tal mul­ti­track recorder for the post-mil­len­nial mu­si­cian, de­signed by one of the big­gest names in au­dio soft­ware

Computer Music - - Reviews / Izotope Spire Studio - Web www.izotope.com

“This bat­tery-powered box of tricks is ca­pa­ble of truly stand­alone mul­ti­track record­ing”

A curve­ball re­lease by top-tier soft­ware de­vel­op­ers iZotope, Spire Stu­dio is an au­dio in­ter­face and eight-track recorder with a built-in mi­cro­phone, aimed at singer-song­writ­ers and bands look­ing to cap­ture ideas and even fi­nal takes on the go. The wire­lessly con­nected Spire Mu­sic Recorder iOS app (free on the App Store; the An­droid ver­sion is in the works) opens it up with the ad­di­tion of crude edit­ing, ef­fects pro­cess­ing and mix­ing; but cru­cially, this bat­tery-powered box of tricks is ca­pa­ble of truly stand­alone mul­ti­track record­ing, for up to four hours on a full charge.

In Spire

9cm tall, weigh­ing 0.72Kg, and with just five but­tons to ne­go­ti­ate, Spire Stu­dio is a hand­some, re­as­sur­ingly solid piece of elec­tron­ics. The touch-sen­si­tive RGB LED ring on top gives vis­ual feed­back (level me­ter­ing and track counts), and serves as a head­phone out­put level con­trol. The mic is a small om­ni­di­rec­tional con­denser that sounds sur­pris­ingly good, but two combi XLR/jack in­puts with Grace De­sign preamps and phantom power are round the back for plug­ging in more se­ri­ous al­ter­na­tives, and/or your guitars and other in­stru­ments. Two mini­jack head­phone out­puts pro­vide zero-la­tency di­rect mon­i­tor­ing.

Spire Stu­dio packs enough stor­age for six hours of 24-bit/48kHz au­dio, and the mul­ti­track record­ing process is ridicu­lously quick and sim­ple. First, press the Sound­check but­ton and play or sing at the loud­est level you’re likely to reach to have Spire Stu­dio set the op­ti­mal in­put gain (oddly, you can only ad­just this man­u­ally via the app), then press Record and do your thing. With Track 1 down, hit Record again to play it back from the start while record­ing your next part onto Track 2; then again for play­back of Tracks 1 and 2 while record­ing to Track 3, etc, up to eight tracks. When two in­puts are ac­tive (us­ing In 1 dis­ables the in­ter­nal mic), two tracks are recorded at a time.

The use of the LEDs to show track ac­tiv­ity is quite in­ge­nious, too. Recorded tracks are rep­re­sented by blocks of colour, stacked up in the LED ring from right to left, puls­ing with their vol­ume lev­els when played back.

Ev­ery­thing is stored au­to­mat­i­cally as it’s recorded, but you need to be very sure you’re fin­ished when you hit the New Song but­ton or turn Spire Stu­dio off, as do­ing ei­ther ar­chives the cur­rent eight-track Song, mak­ing it in­ac­ces­si­ble un­til the unit is synced to Spire Mu­sic Recorder.

App dance

Link­ing Spire Stu­dio to the Spire Mu­sic Recorder app is a cinch. Spire Stu­dio hosts its own 2.4GHz Wi-Fi net­work, to which the de­vice run­ning the app has to con­nect. The use of Wi-Fi en­sures a fast, re­li­able link, but also pre­vents your iPhone or iPad from join­ing any other net­work while you’re us­ing it. A fair trade-off, we’d say.

As soon as Spire Mu­sic Recorder is con­nected to Spire Stu­dio, the first thing it does is au­to­mat­i­cally sync with it, pulling all un­synced projects over to the iOS de­vice and adding them to the app’s Song list. It then taps into and ex­tends Spire Stu­dio with a graph­i­cal in­ter­face and trans­port con­trol for the mul­ti­track recorder, rudi­men­tary track edit­ing and mix­ing, a metronome, the abil­ity to ap­ply ef­fects, and file ex­port/im­port (see Ex­port duty).

Tracks are ar­ranged in the app as a ver­ti­cal stack of crudely drawn wave­forms. New tracks are added at a touch, in­put lev­els and mon­i­tor­ing sta­tus be­come ad­justable, and the play­head can be freely po­si­tioned for punch­ing in (but not out). Record­ings made via the app are still cap­tured to Spire Stu­dio, but synced to the iOS de­vice in the back­ground at the same time. Track edit­ing func­tions are limited to just trim­ming ev­ery­thing to the left or right of the play­head – there’s no way of mov­ing or copy­ing/ past­ing re­gions.

The Metronome lives on a ded­i­cated page, and fea­tures a use­ful an­i­mated vis­ual along with its click. It sup­ports 4/4, 3/4, 6/8 and 1/4 time sig­na­tures, and the tempo is set man­u­ally or by pok­ing at the Tap but­ton. It’s a real shame you can’t use it with Spire Stu­dio stand­alone.

De­spite be­ing con­fig­ured in the app, the on­board ef­fects (amp sims, re­verbs, de­lays, etc) run within Spire Stu­dio’s DSP, so you can mon­i­tor through them with no la­tency. Be­ing in­put-only, how­ever, you have to com­mit to your cho­sen ef­fect mod­ule ( just one per track) at the record­ing stage: you can’t mon­i­tor through it with­out also record­ing it, and the ef­fects aren’t avail­able at all af­ter record­ing.

In the Mix page, tracks are rep­re­sented by a dot in a rec­tan­gu­lar XY pad. Move a dot up or down to ad­just track vol­ume and left/right for pan. Apart from switch­ing tracks between mono and stereo, and mut­ing them, that’s it for mix­ing: no com­pres­sion, EQ, gat­ing or ef­fects. Say­ing that, iZotope have rather less­ened the need for cor­rec­tive pro­cess­ing by ap­ply­ing sub­tle but ef­fec­tive noise re­duc­tion and com­pres­sion to record­ings made with the built-in mic. This works well, but there’s no by­pass­ing it.

Spire Mu­sic Recorder can also be used on its own, record­ing via the host de­vice’s mic or an au­dio in­ter­face, but mi­nus the ef­fects.

Tower of power

A bril­liant idea bril­liantly re­alised, Spire Stu­dio of­fers enough func­tion­al­ity to fa­cil­i­tate mul­ti­track record­ing at the re­peated touch of a sin­gle but­ton, while the app gives deeper con­trol and en­ables ba­sic prep for ex­port. It sucks that the ef­fects can’t be used postrecord­ing, and more track edit­ing would be wel­come, but those are our only ma­jor com­plaints – we love the sound qual­ity, I/O, ease of use and lib­er­at­ing wire­less­ness of this mo­bile record­ing so­lu­tion.

“We love Spire Stu­dio’s sound qual­ity, I/O, ease of use and lib­er­at­ing wire­less­ness”

Spi Rec you Stu plu mix mo Spire Mu­sic Recorder shows your Spire Stu­dio projects, plus ef­fects, mix­ing and more con­trol

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