Belkin TuneStudio

If you’ve ever wanted to be a DJ or spin a few records, there might now be a way to let you try without spending all the cash.

If you’ve ever wanted to be a DJ or had that urge to spin a few records but didn’t want to plonk down the cash, there might be a new way to get your groove on without needing to buy anything new.

Belkin have released the TuneStudio, a new mixer that aims to make it easy to mix music from an iPod and send the mixed output back to your iPod in a recorded state. Basically, this means that you’ll be able to push out mixed music easily and have a recorded version to listen to it again on your own mp3 player.

And while this sounds like a great idea for someone who might just be getting started in the audio mixing business, the reality seems to be a bit further from where it should be.

Design wise, the Belkin TuneStudio is pleasing and eye-catching, sporting an army green look to it and built in a plastic that feels like it could survive a fair amount of beating. The icons indicating where to plug your headphones in or tie up using the Kensington lock are actually quite cute though may dissuade more serious users. Likewise, the knobs and sliders aren’t of the highest quality like that of say an audio mixer made by someone else, but it’s not the cheapest feeling piece of audio equipment you’re ever likely to see. Rather, the TuneStudio is made to reflect that of a beginner’s first piece of DJ-ing technology. If Fisher Price or Playskool made a red, yellow and blue mixer, this would be it.

Think of the Belkin TuneStudio as “My First Mixer” by Fisher Price. If you already see yourself as a professional (and actually are to some extent), you might want to consider similar models made by Alesis.

Idea-wise, the Belkin TuneStudio is actually quite intelligent, as you should be able to mix music using the iPod as a source, plug in microphones, and even record directly to it. You’ll need a computer on the side as the TuneStudio acts as a sound card and gives reasonable performance complete with phantom power for those good microphones you might find yourself needing to use from time to time. With support for both the XLR microphone ports, balanced and unbalanced sound inputs, and an iPod, it’s fair to say that you’ll be able to pull out some decent early disc jockeying applications from this.

But people grabbing the TuneStudio for its ability to record directly to the iPod might be misled.

I know that was my initial reason for trying to get it in for review and I was surprised shortly after when I saw just what it could and couldn’t do.

Officially, the TuneStudio supports only specific iPod models and this seems to be because of the snap-in pieces that allow the different iPod versions to sit comfortably in the dock. But from our testing, the TuneStudio happily lets you play music through it through many of the iPod devices even the soon-to-be-released Apple iPhone.

What it doesn’t do, however, is let you record. And this seems to be an issue more that of Apple rather than Belkin because from our testing, we found that Apple seem to have had some sort of firmware upgrade that disables the ability to use your iPod in this way. Belkin didn’t really help much in this way as their manual indicates one specific type of iPod that lets you use the recording functionality which is something the box probably needs too. Even if you’ve got that iPod model, you still won’t get the recording working through the dock because of an issue that seems to go down to Apple itself.

And that’s the clincher because while the Belkin TuneStudio is, in essence, a great introduction for people who want to get into audio mixing and recording, it’s main drawcard feature of the iPod dock just feels like a letdown because you can’t actually use it other than to play music.

Product: Belkin TuneStudio

Vendor: Belkin

Website: Belkin TuneStudio

RRP: $399

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark