With all the gear, apps, and software now available for musicians on the go, the cliché “you can’t take it with you” has never been less true. Using your smartphone or tablet, there’s a new world of portable music recording, performance, and creation possibilities at your fingertips.
The enormous popularity of the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch and their Android counterparts has spawned an inspiring array of gear with which you can create anything from your own guitar effects lab to sophisticated, great-sounding recordings. If you’re a DJ or play live, iOS and Android apps in conjunction with compatible interfaces and controllers can help you put on amazing, seamless shows.
With this guide, you’ll get up to speed on the latest and greatest iOS-compatible music hardware and software and all the creative possibilities they offer. Whether you want to create a demo for your band, produce a polished recording, share setlists, or read music scores easily onstage, we’ll show you the tools to get it done.
Table of Contents
iOS Audio/MIDI Interfaces
iOS Keyboard Controllers
iOS DJ Gear
iOS Docks and Speaker Systems
iOS Audio/MIDI Interfaces
If you’ve browsed the app stores, you already know there are hundreds of cool ways you can integrate your iOS or Android tablet or smartphone into your music. For simpler uses like tuning your guitar, all you need is an app loaded into your mobile device. But to do more sophisticated things like high-quality recording, mixing, creating guitar effects, or DJing, you’re going to need gear to get your creations in and out of your smartphone or tablet. That’s where iOS-enabled interfaces and controllers that handle audio and MIDI come in.
Mac users already know that GarageBand is a great tool for creating songs and demos on the fly. Its gentle learning curve, ready-to-use instruments and beats, and integration with iOS make it a good place to start. But if you are a singer, guitarist, or play other instruments, how do you capture your music with fidelity and expand your recording and mixing options? With the new generation of iOS-ready interfaces, its simply a matter of finding the model that best matches up with your needs and budget.
Take the Focusrite iTrack Solo Audio Interface for iPad, Mac and PC for instance. For a very modest price you get a high-quality mic preamp and direct input to connect your electric guitar. Instead of trying to grapple with virtual software controls, the iTrack has real, tactile gain and volume knobs plus connectors for your headphones and monitor speakers. The mic preamp has switchable phantom power for use with condenser mics. Included Ableton Live Lite and Scarlett Plug-In Suite software integrates with your PC or Mac, giving you a powerful collection of recording and effects processing tools. For the solo singer-songwriter this is one very tidy package to breathe life into your musical inspirations.
Need to record a duo, keyboards, or drums? Take a look at the Apogee Duet iOS. With its USB interface, two analog inputs, plus two mic inputs and four analog outputs, you can simultaneously capture up to four instruments or voices then output the results to headphones and/or a low-latency mixer. This output flexibility means a DJ can monitor a headphone mix while sending a house mix to the dance floor. Or in live performance, you could send a click track to your in-ear monitors while sending a backing track to the PA. The full-color OLED display gives you at-a-glance signal metering, I/O levels, and much more. The Duet iOS is compatible with every Mac Core Audio music-creation application including Pro Tools, Ableton Live, and Studio One. Bundled Maestro 2 software lets you configure the touchpads on either side of the encoder knob to control output functions such as muting and dimming. High-quality AD/DA converters and smooth mic preamps means that everything you record sounds sensational, and the unit’s tiny footprint makes the Duet iOS super-portable.
Guitarists and bassists who have fallen in love with iOS signal-processing apps can now integrate them into their physical pedalboard using the IK Multimedia’s iRig STOMP. Connecting it to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, you can tweak and shape effects to your heart’s content using a simple and intuitive interface. It’s equipped with a standard ¼” guitar input and a mono/stereo output jack and is housed in a rugged cast-aluminum stompbox-like enclosure that looks right at home on your pedalboard. You can use it inline with other effects or connect it directly to your amp or PA. The big input gain knob makes it easy to dial in signal levels, and the battery powered output circuit delivers plenty of headroom for clean recordings without crosstalk or feedback. The STOMP comes with the AmpliTube app, but will work with any other app that’s compatible with the iOS mini-jack. A switch allows you to engage or bypass the AmpliTube effects chain.
Learn more about the ins and outs of choosing the right computer interfaces with our expert Audio Interface Buying Guide.
iOS Keyboard Controllers
With the explosive popularity of the iPad, manufacturers have begun building iOS-enabled keyboard controllers. The combination of a physical, MIDI-enabled keyboard teamed up with any CoreMIDI music app makes for a lot of fun and creativity when running computer-based DAWs like Reason and Logic.
Mobile Keys from Line 6 is a great example of this new breed of controller. Featuring 49 full-sized, velocity-sensitive keys, essential controls, and easy USB bus-powered operation, the Mobile Keys controller perfectly complements CoreMIDI music apps and virtual digital audio workstations such as Reason, Logic, and GarageBand. It’s an ideal way to compose and perform with all your music-making devices. Since it has plug ‘n’ play compatibility with Macs, PCs, iPads, and iPhones, issues with drivers are non-existent.
As a performance instrument it gives you a lot to play with. The Pitch and Mod wheels, Volume and Pan knobs with full MIDI controller range, and Octave Up and Down buttons allow expressive control and instant access to different registers. You can also use the Shift button to access advanced functions including Transpose, MIDI Channel, Program Change, Velocity Curve, and Controller Assign (knobs, pedals and Mod wheel). The Volume and Pan knobs, and Sustain and Expression pedal jacks can be reassigned to any MIDI controller number.
Recognizing that iOS-based recording offers great creative potential combined with portability, a number of microphone makers have jumped into the fray by offering mics tailored to the needs of portable studios.
One of the cooler iOS-friendly microphones models to hit the market is the Apogee MiC. The compact, all-metal design is knapsack-worthy and about the size of an iPhone. It integrates perfectly with GarageBand or any advanced DAW that supports USB devices. The MiC houses a PureDIGITAL 44.1/48kHz, 24-bit analog-to-digital converter to capture your sound with excellent fidelity. A multifunction LED indicates when the MiC is ready to record, and then serves as an input level indicator once you’re recording. If it turns red, that’s your signal to back off your input level using the built-in gain knob. The on-board preamp delivers up to 40dB of gain for great signal capture of vocals or acoustic instruments.
iOS DJ Gear
Mixer manufacturers have begun building USB ports into their gear to accommodate the many DJs who are turning to tablet and smartphone apps to run their shows. A few are going way beyond that simple measure, designing their mixers around the advantages mobile apps offer the DJ. The appeal is obvious: You can leave the turntables, CD players, and record crates at home, replacing all that gear with a smartphone or tablet.
Some iOS DJ gear simply allows easy physical integration of the DJ’s smartphone or tablet with convenient docks. Other designs take the concept a step further by building a controller that harnesses the advanced features of the best cutting-edge iPad DJ apps.
The Pioneer DDJ-WeGO2 performance controller has a super-compact design that's easy to transport while its hand grip serves double duty by holding your iPod or iPhone at a highly legible angle. Twin jog dials let you combine and apply multiple effects simultaneously. Intuitive light displays with customizable colors keep you informed of all your settings and audio levels.
You can use Algoriddim's Djay 2 app to control all its features as well as browsing your iTunes library with its DJ-friendly waveform view. The built-in sampler lets you create your own rhythms. Powered by your iOS device's USB port, just add a battery pack for outdoor shows or anyplace wall power isn't available. You can also control the WeGO2 with your Mac or PC laptop using the included Virtual DJ LE software.
The WeGO2 lets you mix both audio and video on up to four decks while adding in loops, samples and effects. Four hot cues, a sampler, and the effects library are all accessible via the buttons that surround each jog wheel. Pulse control gives you visual feedback of your performance settings. The auto sync feature makes beat-matching a non-brainer.
Take a tour of the WeGO2's dance floor-filling capabilities.
iOS Docks and Speaker Systems
From ergonomic placement to seamless integration with your live music, recording, or practice setup, a well-designed iOS device dock can help make your use of a tablet, smartphone, or music player a lot more convenient.
For example, check out the JamDock from Alesis. Designed to dock most iPod models, it’s a slick way to integrate your music library into practice or performance sessions. Using the JamDock you can mix the output from your iPod with your instrument using headphones, an amp, or PA. Its two ¼” inputs work with line level sources like keyboards as well as high-impedance instruments like electric guitars and basses. The inputs sum to mono, so if you only plug into one input you’ll hear the output on both sides of your headphones or stereo speakers. A pair of 1/4" outputs feed your amplifier or PA system, and a 1/4" stereo output feeds your headphones. Alesis includes a free subscription you can use to download play-along tracks.
iOS accessories run the gamut from music stand adapters for holding your iPad during live shows to specialty cables for routing signals in and out of your iOS and Android mobile devices.
With many musician’s turning to their tablets as a great way to display sheet music during practice and performance, some innovative gear has been developed to make the process hands-free. Just as with paper scores, flipping pages on a tablet has required taking your hands off your instrument…until now. New foot-controlled devices have changed all that by making page flipping as simple as tapping your foot.
The BOSS AirTurn Bluetooth BT-105 is one of the most advanced takes on this page-flipping technology. But it does much more than simply flip pages backwards and forwards. It also works with most document and presentation programs for PCs as well an ever-expanding list of apps for iPads and Android tablets. You can also use it to configure audio playback, change sound samples on virtual instruments, or control play, pause, and scrolling speed on a teleprompter app.
The AirTurn BT-105 features a power switch, status indicator light, two 3.5mm (1/8") jacks, and an internal rechargeable battery with a mini USB recharging port. The internal rechargeable battery provides roughly 100 hours of continuous use per charge. The BT-105 also features automatic Bluetooth pairing with the iPad for easy connections and fast page turns, as well as a built-in debounce filter to prevent multiple page turns for each footswitch press.
We want you to be pleased with your iOS gear purchase, and offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee and generous return policy so you can order with confidence.
After reading this guide, if you’re still not sure which gear is right for you, we invite you call to one of our friendly and knowledgeable Gear Heads at (800) 449-9128.