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The second-gen iZotope Spire Studio is a big improvement at a great cost

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We liked it a bit in the original Spire Studio from iZotope. The portable recording device connected to the phone was certainly a unique proposition with the unusual concept. As a refresher, the Spire is a “studio” for musicians on the go, offering two combi-XLR ports for microphones and instruments with a companion app for editing and mixing. There is also an integrated microphone and storage to keep your on-the-fly recordings safe until you return to the home studio.

Overall it is a curious but strangely convincing proposition. It also took a while an update which increased on-board storage from four to eight hours of recording (iZotope doesn’t mention gigabytes, just “time”). The pre-amplifiers have also been reviewed with the company saying that the new ones offer improved interference rejection and a higher gain (volume). Unfortunately, one update I was hoping to see that isn’t here is the option to connect it to a computer via USB. U Second generation coils it has WiFi and Bluetooth but those are for connecting to your phone. It seems like the company really wants to keep this as a purely “mobile” experience.

James Trew / Engadget

However, after spending some time with the revised model, it’s easy to see why the Spire could be popular among amateurs and professionals alike. It’s simple to use, but it gives you the feeling that it’s much more capable than the modest premise suggests.

In use, it couldn’t be simpler. Insert a microphone or instrument, tap the “soundcheck” button and the Spire will listen as you play or sing into it and automatically adjust the gain for you to an optimal level. Tap record and, well, go. Once that’s done, you can put in a new part of a track one by one. If you’re a multi-instrumentalist or even just a singer / guitarist, this means you can focus on each “track” one at a time and always build a complete song.

I have to say that the integrated microphone is not my favorite, even just because it is quite sensitive. Generally, this would be a good thing, but if you’re in a place that’s less acoustically optimal (which you might be fine with if you’re not at home) it can take up a lot of what’s around you. Not entirely involuntary on the part of iZotope given that it is an omnidirectional capacitor, so thought about it. But when you’re not confused with other musicians and it’s just you, something to keep in mind.

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Fortunately, iZoptope’s companion software is pretty (no, very) good. This should come as no surprise given that the company is best known for its mixed and master software which is particularly favored by professionals. To that end, the noise reduction did a good job of eliminating some of the external traffic noise and the general “room” sound in the hard-walled office that I tested.

iZotope Spire Studio second generation.

James Trew / Engadget

The app itself is one of the most user-friendly I’ve tried when it comes to the complexity of editing and mixing audio on a phone. Three tabs keep things simple: Register, Edit, Mix. Each has a clear workspace with easy access to any options – such as mute effects or controls. From here, saving and exporting to share with the world (or your desktop) is just as simple. If your music is instrumental and of the “four track” variety you don’t need any more. If you’re looking to make a complex EDM banger with fillers and modifications and such, you’ll want to use this one more to get some ideas and pick them up later on a PC.

What about those new preamps? It is more difficult to determine without having the original to compare. What is clear is that they certainly seem to have improved performance even when driving vocals at high volume without distortion. I didn’t take any noticeable whims at the signal even when I checked in near several other electronics including a phone that received calls during that time.

Overall, iZotope has done an already good thing in some important ways. It’s a shame that society didn’t go all out and made a Spire 2 with maybe a few more inputs, desktop compatibility with USB or any other deal, but the Spire is now better where it counts and that’s never a bad thing. What could be a bit of a hassle is the premium you will have to pay for these modest upgrades. The original sold for $ 350, but the revised version will bring you back $ 499. It’s quite a jump for some general upgrades.

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