The AXE I/O ONE by IK Multimedia is a compact audio interface designed for guitarists to create high-quality recordings at a low cost.
I was able to test out the AXE I/O ONE for a few weeks before the official launch, so I’ve had plenty of time to get to know the interface. This review will explain the main features of AXE I/O ONE and whether it may suit you.
AXE I/O ONE Features
Here are the main features of the AXE I/O ONE Audio Interface:
- 1 input / 3 outputs (stereo, headphones, amp)
- 24-bit 192kHz audio processing
- PURE Class-A mic preamp with phantom power
- Z-Tone impedance input and active/passive toggle
- JFET/PURE instrument preamp
- Knob to monitor between direct and DAW signals
- MIDI in/out
- Compatible with two expression pedals or footswitches
- Dimensions: 160 x 52 x 130mm
- Weight: 370g
If you’re unfamiliar with some of the above features, I’ll go through and explain them in plain English throughout this review.
While the interface may seem confusing at first with all the knobs and options, it’s quite a simple interface to use. I’ll go through the main options and why you might like them as a guitarist.
There are a few interesting features built into the AXE I/O ONE that aren’t available in other audio interfaces. I’ll go through the basics of these features and why they’re worth considering.
Includes TONEX and AmpliTube 5
The AXE I/O ONE audio interface includes free downloads of TONEX SE and AmpliTube 5 SE.
TONEX is a fantastic plugin that allows you to not only capture and recreate the sound of your amps and gain pedals using AI, but it also allows you to access thousands of amp and gain pedal models that other guitarists have shared.
If you like the idea of jamming and recording using different amps and gain pedals, TONEX is worth checking out.
Update: A recent update to TONEX has added support for the AXE I/O One. This means you can use the AXE I/O One to capture models of your own hardware and save them to TONEX.
IK Multimedia also recently released a physical pedal of the TONEX software. The pedal can also double as an audio interface (though not as feature-filled as the AXE I/O ONE), so it’s worth checking out if you’re interested in TONEX.
AmpliTube 5 is a plugin that gives you a wide range of amp and pedal models you can use in your recordings.
You can record a dry tone using the AXE I/O ONE and easily switch between a large number of high-quality amp models, add in stompbox effects, swap out different cab and speaker models, or even access TONEX models within AmpliTube.
You can even connect external footswitches or expression pedals to the AXE I/O ONE and use them to control effects and parameters within AmpliTube.
For example, you can connect an expression pedal and use it to control a wah effect in AmpliTube. The integration works well and makes AmpliTube feel more like a full rig you can control. Setting up two footswitches would give you an easy way to change between effects or presets while jamming.
Getting these two powerful plugins at no extra cost makes the AXE I/O ONE a great option to consider.
On the front of the AXE I/O ONE, there is an output labeled ‘Amp Out’. This output is designed to take a signal and pass it back into your guitar amp.
There are two main ways you can use this feature.
The first way is for jamming. You can use software like TONEX, AmpliTube 5, or any other guitar amp modeling software as your main tone. Then instead of using cab sims and running the sound through your computer speakers, you can use the Amp Out on the interface to connect to your guitar amp.
Now you’re able to combine the use of the effects and amp models from software with physical amps and pedals you own.
I personally enjoy using the Amp Out to access effects that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to use in my rig. For example, I can access some ambient effects and reverbs from various plugins and combine them with my pedalboard and looper pedal.
The other way you can use the Amp Out feature is for recording and reamping.
The idea behind reamping is that you can record a dry version of your guitar tracks, then at any time in the future, you can send that recording back into an amp and capture the sound of that amp by connecting a microphone to the input on the AXE I/O ONE.
In other words, instead of having to re-record your guitar parts any time you want to try a different amp or pedal setting, you can simply use the Amp Out feature to capture any different amps or pedals you want with your original guitar recording.
This is easily my favorite feature of the AXE I/O range and I have been using it on my AXE I/O Solo often. It’s great to see this feature is also available on the AXE I/O ONE.
You can also use the Amp Out feature to capture the sound of your amp and pedals in TONEX as explained in my review here.
Most audio interfaces have a basic input jack for guitars or other instruments. The AXE I/O ONE offers a few extra settings you can tweak to suit different types of guitars.
The Z-Tone knob allows you to adjust the impedance between 1MOhm (labeled ‘Sharp’) and 2.2 kOhms (labeled ‘bold’). Depending on your guitar’s pickups, you may find that different guitars sound best with very different settings.
When I first tried this feature (the same feature is on the AXE I/O and AXE I/O Solo), it was instantly obvious how useful it was to dial in the perfect recording tone.
It’s hard to describe how the Z-Tone shapes your guitar tone, but within a few seconds of trying out different knob positions, it’s clear when you find the ideal setting.
A toggle switch between passive and active is also available to set the interface up to better match your pickups. I only have passive pickups in my guitars so I wasn’t able to properly test this feature, but if you have a mix of guitars with passive and active pickups, you’ll likely want an audio interface with this feature.
Another toggle switch between JFET and PURE gives you an optional way to color your tone. The PURE setting gives you a transparent input stage, while the JFET setting gives you a warmer input stage for a more tube-like tone.
Every guitarist will find different combinations of these settings that work best for them and their gear. Having these three ways to shape your tone is something most other audio interfaces don’t have.
AXE I/O vs SOLO vs ONE
The AXE I/O ONE is latest and smallest of the three audio interfaces in the AXE I/O range.
Here’s the size difference between the ONE (left) and the SOLO (right). I don’t own the original and largest AXE I/O, but it is quite bigger than the SOLO.
While the original AXE I/O is still the largest and offers the most inputs and outputs, the SOLO and ONE interfaces still include the features that make the AXE I/O such a popular option for guitarists.
When you consider that the ONE has almost the same number of connections and features as the SOLO, it’s quite compact compared to the SOLO.
As explained above, the AXE I/O ONE includes the Z-TONE knob, the JFET/PURE input options and the Passive/Active selection. So you can still dial in the perfect guitar tone on any of the AXE I/O models.
The big difference between the AXE I/O ONE and the AXE I/O SOLO is the number of inputs. The ONE only offers one input while the SOLO has two separate input channels.
If you only play electric guitar, you may find that the AXE I/O ONE’s single input is all you need. Simply plug your guitar in and you’re good to go.
If you play a combination of instruments or you also play acoustic guitar, you may want to consider buying the AXE I/O SOLO or the full AXE I/O to be able to use more inputs at once.
For example, you can use multiple inputs to record multiple microphones at once, or you can record a dry electric guitar signal as well as your amp’s mic’d up signal all at the same time.
Have a good think about how many inputs you want to have available as it’s the main feature to consider when comparing the AXE I/O models.
AXE I/O ONE Ease of Use
To use the AXE I/O, you need to install the control software using IK Multimedia’s product manager program.
The control software gives you a basic view and the ability to control the interface audio levels as well as a quick way to change the sample rate and buffer size.
If you switch to the ‘Controller’ view on the top, you can setup any external expression pedals or footswitches.
You can select the type of external control hardware you’ve connected and can assign the MIDI CC values to be used in your DAW or plugin.
The software is basic but once you set up your main settings you probably won’t use it again. I had no problems using the software to set up an external expression pedal to control different parameters in AmpliTube 5.
AXE I/O ONE is simple to use and the LED indicators on the unit give you a quick way to make sure signals are passing through and the audio input level is set up right.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use audio interface that still gives you some flexibility in dialing in a good guitar tone, I have no problem recommending the AXE I/O One.
While I’ve only been able to try it out for a few weeks before writing this review, I haven’t had any problems with it and it worked perfectly fine.
AXE I/O ONE Sound Quality
I’ve been testing the AXE I/O ONE for a few weeks and comparing it against my AXE I/O SOLO.
The sound quality sounds just as good as the quality I get from the more expensive SOLO model. Both audio interfaces feature the guitar-focused tone shaping options, so I was easily able to dial in great tones from both interfaces.
I didn’t experience any latency issues and the control software was a handy way to see and adjust the output levels.
AXE I/O ONE Overall Impression
The AXE I/O ONE gives guitarists and bassists an easy-to-use audio interface that gives you plenty of control over your tone.
The Z-Tone knob and preamp options allow you to dial in the right settings for each of your guitars.
The inclusion of TONEX SE and AmpliTube 5 SE instantly gives you a massive range of amp and pedal models to jam with. You can use the Amp Out feature to jam with the software models and combine them with your physical amps and pedals.
Overall, compared to typical audio interfaces, you can tell that the AXE I/O ONE was designed with guitarists and bassists in mind. I recommend it to any guitarist wanting a simple way to record and jam with their guitar.
AXE I/O ONE Pros and Cons
Here are the main pros of the AXE I/O ONE:
- Includes TONEX and AmpliTube 5
- Amp Out feature is handy for reamping
- Great options for tweaking guitar signals
- Expression pedal and footswitch compatible
Here are the main cons in my opinion of the AXE I/O ONE:
- Only one input channel
Who is the AXE I/O ONE for?
The AXE I/O ONE is best for guitarists who don’t need to record multiple input channels at once. If you only need to record one guitar or instrument at a time, the AXE I/O ONE will work well.
If you plan on using plugins such as TONEX or AmpliTube 5 to set up your guitar tone, then a simple direct input is all you need. Having the Amp Out feature is great if you want to incorporate your physical amps and pedals into recordings.
If you think you might want to record more than one microphone at once or more than one instrument at a time, I recommend the AXE I/O SOLO or the AXE I/O instead. The only time I recommend these models over the ONE is if you need more input channels.
How to Get the Most Out of the AXE I/O ONE
Here are some helpful guides and resources to help you get the most out of your recordings:
- TONEX Review and Tutorial
- AmpliTube 5 Review
- Best DAWs for Guitar
- Best Guitar Plugins
- Best Audio Interfaces
- How to Connect Guitar to Computer
- Guide to Recording Guitar at Home