iZotope Spire Studio Review

With automatic level setting, an omnidirectional condenser, and a pair of phantom-powered XLR inputs, iZotope's latest puts a lot of recording power into your iOS device.

It just ... works. Very good mic. Easy to setup.

App is iOS only.

$299

iZotope Spire Studio (2nd generation)
izotope.com

4
4
5
4

Since COVID upended the world, nearly every serious musician I know has become at least slightly better at recording. And that uptick in engineering interest may make iZotope's second iteration of the Spire Studio portable multitrack recorder worth checking out for those looking to strike fast when they're inspired. I was up and tracking less than three minutes after unboxing the unit.


Simply plug in your headphones, hit the soundcheck button, strum a few chords, and Spire automatically sets your recording level. The onboard omnidirectional condenser mic sounded impressively clear with my acoustic guitar, but you can also go direct or use your own mics via two XLR/1/4" combo jacks—which even feature 48V phantom power.

Tracking multiple parts was a breeze, as was editing, overdubbing, and mixing them right from the app.

But the real magic is in the free mobile app, which lets you control the unit from an iOS device. Tracking multiple parts was a breeze, as was editing, overdubbing, and mixing them right from the app. The visual mixer is an extremely nice touch. It allows you to control panning and volume by simply sliding around icons that represent each track. What's more, you can seamlessly export either a mix or stems that work in just about any DAW imaginable. All in all, while Spire might not be your go-to method for creating a final mix for the masses, it's a fast, intuitive, convenient way to capture and shape fairly sophisticated musical ideas before they fade from memory.

Test Gear: Cordobá DC-9, Neural DSP Quad Cortex


Almost six decades after forming the short-lived Rising Sons, the two legends reconvene to pay tribute to the classic blues duo of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee on the warm and rootsy Get on Board.

Deep into Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder’s Get on Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, percussionist Joachim Cooder lays out, letting the two elder musicians can take a pass through “Pawn Shop Blues.” To start, they loosely play around with the song’s intro on their acoustic guitars. “Yeah, nice,” remarks Mahal off-handedly in his distinctive rasp—present since he was a young man but, at 79, he’s aged into it—and Cooder lightly chuckles. They hit the turnaround and settle into a slow, loping tempo. It’s a casual and informal affair—some notes buzz, and it sounds like one of them is stomping his foot intermittently. Except for Cooder’s slide choruses, neither guitar plays a rhythm or lead role. They simply converse.

Read More Show less

The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

Read More Show less

Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.

We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.

Read More Show less
x