A buying guide to choosing the right iOS-compatible audio/MIDI interfaces, keyboard controllers, microphones, DJ gear, docks and speakers, plus iOS accessories
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 all the creative possibilities it offers. 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.
Singer-songwriters are the targeted users of the Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface. It has an excellent mic preamp and instrument input at a sweet price. The latest edition improves on the sweet sound of the original with more even gain that makes mix balancing easier. Reduced latency means you’ll perform and monitor more confidently while also being able to run plug-ins in real time without a DAW.
Need to record a duo, keyboards, or drums? Take a look at the Apogee Duet. With its connectivity to Lightning or 30-pin iOS devices plus USB MIDI interface, it’ll work with your Mac laptop, desktop, iPad or iPhone. Using the 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. An included breakout cable has two combination mic/instrument connectors (XLR and 1/4") and two balanced 1/4" connectors for speakers. 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 Apogee Maestro 2 software lets you configure the touch pads 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 super-portable.
The enormous Line 6 library of guitar effects models and patches have forever changed the face of modern guitar playing. The Line 6 Sonic Port is an iOS-ready guitar interface that works in conjunction with the Mobile POD app for access to thousands of artist-created presets as well as 32 classic amp models, 16 FX, and 16 speaker cabinets with which to create your own tones. Use the Jammit app with Sonic Port to practice, playing along with world-class bands. It’s also packed with live sound and recording capabilities and works with any CoreAudio app. With up to 24-bit/48kHz audio quality and 110dB of dynamic range on the 1/4” guitar input, you can count on top-shelf sound.
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.
The iRIG Keys Lightning iOS keyboard controller from IK Multimedia works with iPhones, iPads, Macs, and PCs and directly connects to any device with a Lightning port. Since it is both USB and MIDI compliant, the keyboard works as a plug ’n’ play controller—no apps are needed to start playing right out of the box. But of course, there are dozens of apps to choose from when you’re looking for new sounds or functions. These include SampleTank for iPhone/iPad—a sound module packed with electric and acoustic instruments and patterns, ready to feed your creativity.
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.
The Apogee MiC 96k Lightning delivers astounding sonic performance with any Mac iOS device having Lightning connectivity. Its cardioid condenser capsule is designed for maximum versatility, capturing sources including vocals, keyboards, guitars or drums with breathtaking results. The preamp and A/D converter are built right into the mic’s housing for the ultimate in portability. With 40dB of gain, the preamp offers pro-studio performance in a package that’s ready for action without any configuration hassles. A multicolor LED keeps you posted on input levels and the mic’s status.
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 iRig MIX includes all the essential control for DJing and small ensemble mixing in a concise, intuitive design. Both input channels include Gain, Treble, Bass, Volume and Cue controls and the master controls include Master Volume,and a channel cross-fader. The iRig MIX allows you to connect two stereo input signals plus an instrument/microphone input, stereo and headphone output with independent volumes, and is powered by a USB power supply connector. The X-Sync function automatically syncs beats between the two input channels when run in conjunction with the DJ Rig app. This automation helps eliminate awkward transitions and gaps when crossfading and creates smooth transitions by matching beats per minute between two songs from your playlist. Bundled iOS apps include DJ Rig Free, AmpliTube Free, VocaLive Free, and Groove Maker Free.
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.
The Focusrite iTrack Dock Studio Pack gives your iPad instant, studio-quality recording capabilities thanks to a pair of the company’s acclaimed mic preamps and a 105dB dynamic range. With its 24-bit, 96kHz sampling rate, your recordings will come to life with exceptional detail and depth. The simple control surface allows you to easily dial in your recorded sound and monitor mix. This is an ideal rig for the singer-songwriter or home music producer looking for sweet sound on a small budget. Oh, and it charges and powers your iPad too.
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 AirTurn DUO BT-10 Wireless Pedal Control is a slick, handsfree Bluetooth transceiver that features a pair of dead-silent foot pedals that move pages on your tablet back and forth. Compatible with nearly 100 apps, you can use it to control teleprompters, scores, backing tracks, and so on. And it's built ruggedly to handle even the most lead-footed musicians. As a bonus, the transceiver lifts out of the pedalboard so you can use it to wirelessly control picture taking, slide shows, or anything else your device and compatible apps can do.
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 (877) 880-5907.