If you are a musician and want to record your voice and instruments, you need a way to get that sound into your computer. If you are making the roughest of demos, you could use a phone/computer microphone but this will sound rough and low budget (£139).
So this is where an audio interface comes in handy. When I bought the Akai EIE, I knew little about audio interfaces so I would like to explain all the features and why they are worth having on the device.
Let's start with the Main Inputs. We have four. They are all XLR/quarter inch jack combos. These are sockets that accept both XLR (microphone cables) and 1/4 inch jacks (guitar leads), though each cable is used for more than voice and guitar. You will see each input has a gain knob and a dedicated mic/line level selector (useful as they are different levels of volume). There are also two phantom power switches, one for the first two inputs and one for the second, these supply power to condenser microphones.
The Analogue VU Meters probably are one of the defining features of this piece of kit. They, for a long time, were just pretty meters beating to the outputting music, a fine thing to watch for the duration of your attention span. These are more useful than that however, as they can be set to both inputs and outputs and are a very good way of gauging the gain settings. A bonus feature is that their backlighting changes from white to red when the inputs/outputs clip so you can adjust accordingly, this is a useful feature where you are not paying attention as the red flash is eye catching even when looking elsewhere and will prompt you to change the gain down.
The Headphone Output is really good too. Before I had TRS cables, I just had my speakers plugged into there. It has lots of different options for what you hear including channels and input/output mix.
The Akai EIE doubles up as a powered USB Hub with three inputs. This is really useful since many computers are limited in USB ports, especially if you use Pro Tools and have to use an ilok USB key. I tend to plug my midi keyboard in here as well as my phone charger and other stuff, saving the USB 3.0 ports on my laptop for the SSD.
There are MIDI in and out that allow MIDI instruments to control the software externally although I imagine a lot of that will be doable through the USB ports.
There are four 1/4 inch TRS Outputs for multiple monitors as well as four 1/4 inch audio inserts.
This piece of equipment has been extremely valuable to me, I have not yet used all four inputs at once and to be honest may only do that a few times. The defining features for me are the VU meters that allow for great gain setting and, the USB ports that expand the usability of the work computer. Depending on what sort of sound quality you expect, you have two options: the EIE offers 16 bit recording while the EIE Pro offers 24 bit. Either way you have a extremely good budget audio interface with lots of options, most likely beyond what a beginner will need yet allowing the freedom to advance without buying a new one. This is a unit that takes minutes to learn to use and after a few good uses it will be a very familiar addition to your equipment. I have used this a number of times outside bedroom recording, for example recording the rec out on a mixer for live gigs/talks.
I struggle to think of a way to fault this item as the limitations are the beginner users who don't use it to it's full potential. I guess providing TRS cables to connect it to monitors would have saved me time but even then it is hardly a fault of Akai's and more that I didn't have the necessary equipment.
5/5 Stars from me!!!