ESI have impressed the production community with their German-designed, Taiwanese-built quality for some time now, and their latest offering is a rather sneaky audio solution for laptop DJs and performers. Enter Gigaport HD+, a tiny eight-output USB audio interface. But why would somebody need eight outputs?
Once upon a time, two decks and a mixer were all DJs needed. Then people like Coldcut and Carl Cox convinced punters and DJs alike that they needed three or four decks (and sometimes more) to do a decent job — which was as expensive to try as it was technically difficult to perform. These days, it's easier to compete, as laptop mixing and auto-syncing have reduced the cost and difficulty whilst expanding the possibilities. But it's still nice to be able to plug four stereo channels into a club's mixer and get your hands on some real faders and EQs. Suddenly those eight channels of output seem quite handy! Some people say good things come in small packages. Leaving aside the obvious self-interest of people who make those sorts of claims, we'd have to say it's a good initial assessment of Gigaport HD+. This great interface comes in a tiny box that's as small and light as your average smartphone. It's USB bus-powered too, so there's almost nothing else to carry. In fact, the audio cables will take up more room in a bag than the interface. Connections are simple — eight individual phono outputs and two 1/4” headphone jack outputs — one of which duplicates the left and right output, while the other offers simultaneous monitoring of all eight outputs.
Setting up Gigaport HD+ couldn't be easier, and the first time DJs fire it up, they'll hear that clear punchy sound we've come to expect from ESI. Unlike a lot of studio recording interfaces, ESI's jacks are designed to deliver the kind of loud signal expected from quality DJ gear. The bass is particularly punchy and sharply focused, while tops are clear and present, exactly like a top-end CDJ. In terms of visual feedback, ESI keep things simple. There is a very bright power LED that DJs wouldn't fail to see at an outdoor festival, so users always know when the unit's connected and operational. Then there are simple signal LEDs for each channel which, while not really useful for monitoring signal levels, are nonetheless handy for checking that outputs are active at the output stage, helping to troubleshoot any dead mixer channels.
Almost as interesting as the included features are the things that have been left out. The most obvious is any kind of input. It's quite rare to find a one-way interface and even rarer to find an audio device with so many connectors and no inputs. But quite obviously, they are not important to most users. Few people record every single set back into their laptop, and on those occasions DJs want to, they can use an additional interface or separate recorder. It would just add size, weight and cost to a perfectly slick machine. Likewise, a headphone volume dial might be desired by some, but the whole point of this device is to connect multiple outputs to a hardware mixer — which will probably have its own headphone monitoring. In fact, most people probably won't even use the headphone sockets.
In short, yes there are some common interface features missing, but this isn't an oversight — it’s the kind of streamlining and cost-cutting we can live with. One minor concern is that the review model requires a fair amount of USB bus power. At least one of our powered hubs didn't seem to be up to scratch. Users might need to allow for a dedicated USB slot on their laptop, or budget a little extra for a USB hub upgrade.
On balance, the Gigaport HD+ is as simple as it is effective and provides a great-sounding, sturdy, convenient and very affordable route to the joys of multiple outputs. It even comes with an LE version of the Deckadance DJing application, so DJs can get mixing without any additional software.
|Ease of use||8.0|
|Value for money||8.0|
No inputs, simply a breakout box.
An affordable package that's hard to fault, simple in design and use.