Call me a tech nerd; I am fascinated with the potential of mobile audio recording to a smart phone. I can envision a future where we speak to our phones, telling them what frequencies to cut on the guitar track we just laid down. Your phone will have the ability to analyze recordings and match EQs to tracks we love. Even now, moments after recording a demo track to your mobile device your song can be available on every popular streaming site. A device like the Izotope Spire is hoping to push the field forward.
Since my first iPhone I’ve bought quite a few audio interfaces. Most of the time I feel unfulfilled. So far, the best audio interface for an iOS device I’ve used is the Apogee Quartet, but thats more of a professional tool than a simple portable recording device. It has to be powered, its big, no mics built in to the body etc. Thats something I use with my computer, and if I’m going to bring out the quartet, might as well just bring out the laptop.
I’ve had my ideas for a perfect portable interface for a few years. It has to be small, more than one audio input, battery powered, and some sort of mic built in that sounds good. It would seem that Izotope Spire fits all of these requirements, wouldn’t it? I believed it would fit my needs perfectly.
The biggest issue I have with the Spire is that somehow every positive attribute gets dragged down by its limitations. This seems to be an issue I have across the board with this interface. Lets start with the design. It’s wireless, which seems great in theory. Because its wireless, you’re forced to use the Spire software. The software is functional and relatively painless to use, but completely limited in the face of some of the other mobile DAW options available. I would love to be able to use the Spire with Korg Gadget, or even Garage Band, but I can’t. In all the promo photos, you see a guy in the park playing the bass on a bench using his Spire, with an instrument cable connected to it. So if you have to use an instrument cable, does it really make that much of a difference to only use it as a wireless interface? At least giving the option of a USB connection would add so much diversity to the Spire and open it up to a lot more programs.
Then there is the built in mic. It does sound good, and is a high quality microphone. But theres no way to attach the body of the spire to a mic stand or tripod to close mic anything. Its an omni directional microphone, the idea is to put the Spire on a coffee table or whatever and just play and its gonna sound good. But even omnidirectional microphones benefit from placement, and if it is a couple feet away from the source you just get a ton of the room sound, which you don’t want if you’re trying to make a decent sounding demo. So why not add a screw in point on the bottom for a mic stand or a tripod, or at least some kind of peripheral claw attachment to mount this to a stand? The best technique I’ve found so far is a mic tray. It works ok, but you still can’t angle and place the microphone like you want.
The Spire App is free, and made to work effortlessly with the Spire. And it does. Unfortunately, it isn’t very good software. If you use an iPhone, you get so much more flexibility with Apple’s free Garage Band App. There are also several paid DAWs that offer much more. Since you’re locked to the namesakes software, the other programs aren’t an option.
It would seem that the Spire is made specifically for people that don’t really want to be bothered with recording. Sure, its easy, but that’s all it is. At a price of 349 dollars, there are so many different Mobile Interface options that will give you close to the same results for less cash. I want to love the Spire, but I want it to be so much more than it is.