I've been using this interface as my primary method for recording music for over a year now and it's been an indispensable tool. It's a simple, robust and easy to use piece of equipment and, despite lacking some of the features of the more expensive options available, it's a bargain for the budding DIY musician or audio recording hobbyists.
This usb audio device has a whole host of features that have made it ideal for my uses over the past year. Firstly, the CI1 is powered from the USB port. This means that if you are recording in the field, away from a power supply, the Steinberg CI1 can be run just off your laptop battery. This also makes it quick and easy to set up in a pinch, if an idea for a song catches you unprepared.
Secondly the CI1 has two inputs, which while not outstanding, is a whole lot better than one. It's especially helpful if you are recording guitars or vocals (for example) where you might want a close dynamic microphone and a far condenser microphone running at the same time. This allows you to capture both a “dry” and a “wet” signal at the same time. So despite not having enough inputs to professionally record drums, you can certainly get plenty of good, usable sounds from this machine.
For fairly obvious reasons, the inclusion of phantom power for both inputs and a Hi-Z option for input 1. This allows you to use the Steinberg CI1 in conjunction with up to two high-end condenser microphones at once, as condenser microphones usually require phantom power. Similarly, the Hi-Z option allows you to record electric guitars – or similar – straight into your computer without having to use a seperate amp or preamp.
Speaking of which, the preamps are neutral and clean sounding. Previously I had used the ART MP Tube Preamp, which I still own and do use occasionally, but it colours the tone of the recordings far more and produces much more noise.
On the downside, I have noticed other reviews mention the high-latency of the device. This is true, but not something I've ever had a particular issue with. It's not at all noticeable when you are overdubbing recordings, but I can appreciate how it might be irritating for people who want to use it in a performance setting.
The second major negative for the Steinberg CI1 is that it only records at 48KHz, whereas most studio quality recordings are made at a much higher rate (at least double). For the serious audiophile this is no doubt a serious issue. For those who would use this primarily for demoing songs, or those who aren't averse to the lo-fi aesthetic, not so much.
Use it with:
Overall, the Steinberg CI1 USB interface has been a staple of my recording environment over the past year. Even though I would like to upgrade at some point in the future, I would likely keep hold of the CI1, largely because of it's ease of use and portability, and its always good to have a backup.