Once forced to limit their systems’ musical abilities after “The Beatles” (or Apple Corps) famously sued after the introduction of the Apple IIgs and its 15 stereo voice Wavetable-based Ensoniq soundchip, Apple’s iOS devices kicked off a renaissance of accessible music production ten years ago. Now the market’s saturated and vibrant, with affordable synths battling exceptionally powerful software you can carry anywhere.
With near pro-quality apps like Nanostudio delivering composition and production in your pocket within months of the iPad’s launch, hardware is the next step.
Some of the first gadgets were refreshingly simple. Line 6’s MIDI Mobilizer, provided a compact direct MIDI interface with full MIDI I/O over 16 channels, and audio interfaces for guitars sprang into the headphone socket; something yet to be stripped from iPads.
I started with the AmpliTube and IK Multimedia iRig, which comes with an amp modelling app (free and paid versions) – here’s the review, and a roundup of a few apps. As always, this will be updated with new apps and info.
IK Multimedia iRig
(with a nod to competitor AmpKit)
IK Multimedia iRig: Around £15 to £50…
UK offers on Amazon
First on the hardware front is the iRig – from IK Multimedia, this little gadget is compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and connects via the headphone socket. It’s light, and contains a 1/4″ jack socket for guitars and a 3.5mm line/headphone output jack; whilst I’d expect the levels to be appropriate for guitar it can also be used to connect synthesizers and other line sources. This interface costs £29 and competes with Peavey’s AmpKit Link – a bulkier interface which features powered, sophisticated anti-feedback circuitry. Unlike the AmpKit solution, the iRig requires no batteries.
iRig’s raison d’être is Amplitube – an amp modelling solution for iOS. With several versions (annoyingly, rather than a single app there are different versions for iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch) from free to £11.99, you can install additional packages in all versions but can either start out testing the app with in-app purchases to add to the 3 included stomp boxes, or just blow that whole £11.99 right away – gaining 11 stomp boxes, 5 amps, 5 cabinets and 2 microphones for rather less than the cost of in-app upgrades to the free or LE versions. There are 16 stomp boxes (effects) available in total, leaving 5 to be purchased when the full app is used.
Peavey’s AmpKit app is a “Universal” iOS app – supporting iPad and iPhone with one purchase and one app – and includes 18 effects, models of classic Peavey amps and the ability to record “wet” and “dry” versions of your playing – essentially allowing the performance to have different effects and amplification added either in the app, or in professional desktop recording systems later.
Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer
No longer available
As of version 4.2, iOS has CoreMIDI support just like OS X, albeit with fewer apps, legacy things (remember OMS, and how Audio/MIDI Control appears to almost, but not quite, do what OMS could do to detect and lay out your MIDI studio?). Anyone with an iPad camera connection kit has MIDI easily accessible right now – just grab a USB MIDI device (one of those cheap ones on eBay will probably do) and plug it in. Korg’s iMS20 supports MIDI via this route, as do various other apps, primarily to allow direct connection to USB MIDI controllers.
However, there’s a whole slew of applications that turn the iPad and iPhone into MIDI controllers themselves. From classic and inexpensive step sequencers and SMF/MIDI players to sophisticated Kaos-style pads, drum triggers and who knows what else (there are DAW controllers with virtual faders and transport controls), and these have been around far longer than iOS 4.2.
Line 6’s solution, the MIDI Mobilizer, is NOT a class-compliant MIDI device and requires separate support – whilst also offering timing circuitry and other features that make it a useful choice for the apps that support it. At the time of writing, without Camera Connection Kit support on the iPhone/iPod Touch this was the ONLY option for non-iPad users.