The level of quality and number of features available with even the smallest of USB audio interfaces is ever more impressive, and Audient's iD14 interface certainly packs an awful lot into its compact frame.
The iD14 is a small but robust desktop interface with an uncluttered upper surface. This provides phantom power rocker switches and gain controls for the unit's twin preamps while, to the right, a silver dial provides control over multiple sources. Press the speaker button to adjust main output volume, or press the headphone button to control the volume sent to the port on the front of the unit.
There's also a programmable iD button - via the iD software app, downloaded and installed as part of the driver package, you can assign this to parameters including mono summing or as a Talkback control. Or, it can act as a 'virtual scroll wheel', as you navigate through a mix project.
It's a neat and novel addition and, in practice, you quickly get used to relying on it as an extension of your recording set-up. The main meters on the upper panel provide 'ladder LED' feedback of output levels, though metering for the inputs is non-existent on the unit itself, making you rely again on the iD software.
Most physical connections are made at the rear, though an instrument DI port features at the front. At the back, you'll find microphone/line inputs for the twin preamps, while the main outputs are covered by 1/4-inch jacks.
However, the I/O capability is more considerable than first meets the eye, thanks to a digital optical input port which allows for operation either using stereo optical S/PDIF connections or ADAT (up to eight channels over SMUX), both of which will allow for operation at up to 96kHz. The iD14 can handle a lot of high-quality conversion and playback for such a compact unit.
Alongside the hardware, the iD 'software brain' is ready to help you further configure the unit for optimum use. You can easily add pad offsets to recording channels, invert phase and balance pan controls for the hardware, as well as setting up headphone cue mixes for performers.
Equally, you can monitor output and return levels, with Output 1-2 and Output 3-4 selectable and re-routable back into the hardware for balance and further Cue possibilities.
As each 'stage' of iD14 can be added or de-coupled via the View menu, you can either see every aspect of this virtual mix set-up, or focus on just one uncluttered section at a time. It's extremely neatly designed.
The sound of the pres is crystal clear, with low noise and a warm, open sound at all times. This translates to the digital audio conversion capabilities onboard too, leaving you with rich recordings. Good pres and DAC aren't enough these days, however, with manufacturers finding interesting ways of adding bang for your buck.
Audient's choices are particularly good, with the monitor control and digital input connections worthwhile additions. Is this the best USB interface I've heard at this price point? It might just be.