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You’re probably aware that Apple’s iPad, iPod touch and iPhone have zillions of uses. Were you also aware that there are oodles of accessories for these things that enable you to harness their power for your recording studio? In this article we’ll take a look at the available options and show you how they can make your studio an even more magical place.
There are scores of really interesting and innovative audio apps readily available for the iPad, but the severely limited inputs and outputs on the device itself make it difficult to take full advantage of the software. The iO Dock from Alesis effectively neutralizes this issue by empowering the iPad and iPad 2 with dual XLR combo connections that accept both microphone and line level inputs with switchable phantom power, a footswitch input, a hi-Z guitar input, MIDI input and output and even a video output. For a more in-depth look at the Alesis iO Dock, be sure to check out this B&H InDepth article.
Guitar players have been spoiled by all of the wild new iOS apps and products that have been appearing as technology develops. One of the latest additions is the DigiTech iPB-10, an unusual multi-effects pedal that uses an iPad as its command center. The iPB-10 resembles a traditional multi-effects pedal (with the exception of its large protective iPad docking frame), yet it enables you to control your signal processing like never before. Users can download the free iPB-Nexus app and start arranging and tweaking their dream pedal boards with a choice of 87 virtual pedals, 54 amp and 26 cabinet simulations.
What really makes the iPB-10 cool is that you can switch your pedal-board configurations seamlessly from gig to gig, song to song, or even during a song for ultimate creative freedom. The pedals can be arranged on the fly with the swipe of a finger, but what’s interesting is that an iPad doesn’t need to be present to operate the iPB-10. It will still run without the tablet docked—you just need to be familiar enough with its setup to play blind. This means that the iPad that’s used to program and arrange the iPB-10 can be borrowed, and in the event that the iPad is lost or stolen, the show can go on.
If you play guitar and you’re a fan of Apple’s Garageband (no matter if it’s the free version that comes on Mac computers or the paid iOS app on iTunes), then you should check out Jam by Apogee. Jam is a small device that enables you to plug a guitar or bass directly into an iPad, iPod touch, iPhone or a full-blown Mac computer. Jam isn’t the first product of its kind, but what makes it special is its esteemed Apogee namesake.
Apogee is a manufacturer whose reputation for sound quality is the stuff of legend among recording engineers. If you wanted Apogee’s sound quality in the past, it required spending thousands of dollars. This is not the case with Jam. It’s an ultra-affordable way to record guitar or electric bass easily into an iPad, iPhone, iPod touch or even a Mac running Logic, MainStage or any Core Audio compatible application.
IK Multimedia has a similar product for guitarists called the iRig, which employs a different approach. Instead of using the iRig solely as an interface for other software, IK Multimedia has a custom app called AmpliTube that makes playing, recording and experimenting with the guitar a lot more interesting. There’s a free and a paid version of the AmpliTube app (the paid version features many more pedals and amp simulators to choose from—and the recording feature). The nice thing about the iRig is how simple it is. You just plug in your guitar and a pair of headphones and connect the iDevice of your choice. Check out this B&H InDepth hands-on review of the iRig for a better understanding of this fun little gizmo.
If you like the idea behind the iRig, but you wish there was something geared for singers, multi-instrumentalists, and even for people conducting interviews for multi-media projects, fear not! The IK Multimedia iRig Mic has you covered. It’s a battery-free, handheld microphone that captures sound well and connects to all iDevices with an included cable. Singers can take advantage of the included VocalLive app that has effects to sweeten your crooning voice, and the AmpliTube app is also included (with the option to upgrade to the paid version) for processing other sounds such as acoustic instruments, singing birds, etc.
Another cool new way to record high-quality sound into an iPad is with the new Samson Meteor Mic. Its sleek-looking retro/future design will look right at home next to your space-age tablet, and it offers a resolution of 16-bit, 44.1/48 kHz. The Meteor Mic requires Apple’s Camera Connection Kit in order to plug into an iPad but it’s compatible with any Mac or Windows computer, right out of the box, as a regular USB microphone. Once you’re connected you’ll enjoy recording rich tones with the Meteor Mic’s large diaphragm and its 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response. It has integrated tripod legs for easy table standing and an included USB cable.
If you’re in the market for a new mixer or a multi-channel computer audio interface (or both), the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2, 16.4.2 and the 24.4.2 all offer an incredibly flexible workflow with super-nifty iPad remote control functionality. The StudioLive series of digital mixers is cleverly designed to help audio engineers quickly achieve sculpted sounds while remaining in complete control of the mix. The StudioLive digital mixers are praised for their XMAX preamps and their full-featured Fat Channel signal processing system, which is found on every channel, aux send, subgroup and the master output.
When a Mac or Windows computer is connected to any of the StudioLive models via FireWire, you have the option to control the mixer remotely with an iPad. This enables you to easily adjust every parameter—wirelessly, an incredibly useful feature for live sound. An engineer will be free to move around a venue or a theater and fine-tune their system from the audience’s as well as the performer’s perspectives. In the studio you’ll be able to kick back on the couch with the talent and control the mix, without having to stay hunched over the console.
Touch interfaces are great for checking email and looking at pictures, but they severely lack functionality for playing certain kinds of instruments, namely keyboards. The good news is that there are hardware solutions. One great way to tickle the keys of your favorite music apps is with the Korg nanoKEY2 (available in black or white), or for even better keyboard action grab the Korg microKEY. They both require the Apple Camera Connection Kit (and the microKEY requires a powered USB hub), but once you start playing with these velocity-sensitive keys, you’ll never want to go back to tapping a flat sheet of glass. Beat makers will also appreciate the Korg nanoPAD2 (which is also available in black or white) that’s equipped with 16 velocity sensitive drum pads, and the Korg nanoKONTROL2 (you guessed it… available in black or white) which gives you eight faders, knobs and a bounty of buttons and switches to assign. You can pick up all three nano controllers and tote them around with the nanoBAG (available exclusively in black).
If you have an even harder time playing keyboards on the smaller iPod touch and iPhone formats, be sure to check out the Akai SynthStation25. It’s a 25-key MIDI keyboard with an integrated dock for your phone or your touch. You can purchase the optional Akai SynthStation app from the app store, or use the SynthStation25 with any other MIDI-friendly music apps. It’s got dual RCA outs to connect to a speaker system, and a headphone output for private playing. Also, while not slated for arrival until early in 2012, iPad owners should keep an eye out for the Akai SynthStation49. Here you get 49 full-sized velocity sensitive keys, 9 classic MPC style drum pads, transport and wheel controllers and an out-of-this-world peek at where things are headed.
If you’re looking to outfit an iPad, iPod or iPhone into an industrial-grade dock for a professional recording studio or sound installation, consider using the Middle Atlantic RSH4A4-MS (featuring a black, textured powder coat finish) or the RSH4S4-MS (the same product with a black brushed anodized finish). These are durable iDevice docks that mount into a standard 19-inch rack and feature rubber clamps to hold the gadget in place. The world is littered with inferior plastic docks that are made as cheaply as possible. When the time comes to do a professional-quality installation, look no further than these Middle Atlantic offerings.
Lastly, if you’re a musician (or you work with musicians) who use iPads while making music, you should consider picking one of the many iPad stand mounts that are currently available. They enable you to mount the ubiquitous tablet to microphone stands and other objects. Check out the IK Multimedia iKlip, the Primacoustic Showpad iPad Holder, and the K&M iPad Holder (in a Clamp-On Mount version, a Wall Mount version and a Mic Stand version).
Thanks for digging into this B&H InDepth article. If you have any unanswered questions about recording accessories for iPads, iPods and iPhones, or if you’d like to write about your experiences using these devices, we encourage you to submit a Comment below.