Review of The Novation NIO 2/4 Computer Interface by Tony Pasko

This month I’m reviewing a different type of product for us musicians: The NIO 2/4 computer interface by Novation.

Recording music on your computer has been around for a while now and it’s getting easier and more affordable, but there are still a few of us that haven’t quite made the total crossover. The purpose of this review is to ease your mind and help you decide to take that blue pill and see how far the rabbit hole goes…

Purchasing the right computer interface is as important as the recording software itself, but how do you pick the right one? And what are your needs? How do they compare? What features are important? All important questions; questions I wish I asked myself before I purchased two interfaces before I came across the NIO 2/4.

Up until a year ago I didn’t bother with recording on my computer because I was still using my hard disk recorders and I was comfortable with them and they got me from point “A” to “B”. I have used Pro Tools for years in studios, but never in my home until my buddy gave me his demo CD and it blew me away. The production was great and he did it all on his computer, no external amps effects etc…

That’s when I decided to join the 21st. Century and start recording on my computer. Like I said I made a few bad purchases when it came to the audio interface but the best thing I ever did was try this NIO 2/4.

The NIO 2/4 is an audio interface that provides ultra-low latency effects and also provides you real time jamming and recording.

  • Direct Mix Monitoring
  • 'Overloud' Guitar amp and distortion pedal effects 
  • Effects from Novation and Focusrite 
  • Microphone, Instrument or line-level sources 
  • 2 Headphone Inputs & Outputs 
  • 4 RCA Phono Outputs
It combines two streams of stereo digital audio via the USB cable. It is a great practicing tool, because you can mix your guitar signal in with recorded music. I had a great time dialing in a pretty impressive Jeff beck tone and playing along to Led Boots.

That is just one of the perks the NIO offers, the dual headphones allows monitoring of the artist and the engineer in real time, a very useful feature for any project studio.

The stereo inputs will allow you to record an external keyboard/ synth, or DJ equipment. There is a microphone input to allow for vocals, or micing amps, etc… The RCA inputs can be used for CD or MP3 players.

You have line level bars to let you know how hot of a signal your running and you can adjust from the input levels to the output levels. This is a great feature to help you record your tracks clean and without any unwanted distortion. Monitor and mix controls help you find the right balance of audio for practicing or recording.

The manual is very easy to read, and explains things fast. Installing the software was easy and I was up and running with in a few minutes.

The NIO 2/4 comes with the NIO FX Rack software. It’s in a familiar format that most of us are used to seeing, when it comes to guitar software. Upon firing up the FX rack I viewed the menu to test out the sounds. There are plenty of cool sounds to choose from: acoustic, country clean, high gain, metal, and everything in between. The effects are also very good and very easy to tweak.

As most of you would guess I’m not a pre-set kind of guy so I got right in there and started making my own tones. Creating your own tones is easy and like any digital effects unit the parameters are extreme. Know what tone you’re looking for and have an idea how to get it because you can make the tones real ugly because you have so many choices.

Other than that it was fun to dial in a cool Satriani tone, Jeff Beck, etc… The only complaint I have is most of the pre-sets are to over the top with effects. They sound digital. I like it when I don’t know I’m listening to digital effects. I guess I’m into more natural sounds. The up-side is that if you spend some time tweaking the tones you can achieve natural tones.

If you would like to see and hear what I came up with go to the Novation website and download the Low-Fi guitar tones I created.


Below is a list of all the models and effects you receive with the FX Rack:

Distortion pedals:
Green Overdrive - Model based on the Ibanez Tube Screamer
Fat Pie - Model based on the Electro Harmonix Bug Muff
Distorter - Model based on the Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal
70s Fuzz - Model based on the Dunlop Fuzz Face

V-AC - Model based on the Vox AC30 (with orig cab)
Tweed Twin - Model based on a Fender Twin (with orig cab)
Brit Rock - Model based on Marshall JCM900 (with orig cab)
US Valve modern - Based on a MESA Boogie (with orig cab)
Tweed Bass - Model based on a Fender Bassman (with orig cab)

Novation plug-ins includes:
Filter - Chorus - Phaser - Delay - Tremelo - EQ - Compression - Gating - Reverb

Unique effects:
Hot Tuna (Guitar Tuner)
Smart Hum Killer

As you can see all the necessary bells and whistles are there, and they track very well. Like I said in the beginning if you are new to recording at home this is a must have piece because it will open a whole new world to you. If you have an interface and find it limiting, then again the NIO is a must have. If you want to become a better guitar player, keyboard player, singer etc… the NIO is a great practice tool, and one hell of a bargin.

I’m a pretty low tech guy and I’m still not sold on digital recording being the only medium we record music on, but you can’t deny the fact that it is here to stay and companies like Novation are making great digital products that provide you with a user experience that is fun and affordable.

For more information or where to find a dealer in your area check out Novation at: http://www.novationmusic.com/products/nio_2_4?option=2

Street Price: $224.99

You all know that I am always for any kind of technology that will inspire creativity or tools that will help us all become better musicians. This is one of those products, so go out and create music and share it with the world. As always I look forward to your feedback and hope this sparks some discussion.


Tony J. Pasko

NIO 2/4 Specifications

1 XLR (with phantom power)
1 TS Jack
2 RCA Phono
Two inputs simultaneously only - either stereo RCA phono or the XLR and Jack

4 RCA Phono
2 stereo 1/4" Headphones Jacks
Digital Audio:
44.1/48 kHz sample rate
24-bit resolution
Other interfacing
Data ports: 1 x USB 1.1

System requirements:

Operating system: Mac OSX 10.3.9 or greater (Leopard also supported) or Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or greater (Vista 32/64 also supported)

Minimum Computer spec: Mac - G3/600MHz or G4/667MHz, both with 256MB RAM or PC - Pentium 3/500MHz/256MB RAM (machines running Vista will require a higher spec) Interfacing: USB 1.1 compatible USB connector (also compatible with USB 2.0), 28/24 awg USB cable recommended

©2009 Tony Pasko & Fred Russell Publishing, All Rights Reserved. This article can not be used without permission from the Author. To Contact the Author email curt@RockHouseMethod.com

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