This year at NAMM, what we expected has come to pass: companies are taking the iPad seriously, and are making real apps and hardware for it that are potentially worthy of pro use. And why not? Although the iPad does not sport the processor of today's desktop computers, it is certainly powerful enough to be used in numerous serious situations, and not just as a controller for something else, but as a processor in its own right. And, as the iPad's processor gets more powerful with every successive generation, this will only continue to be more true. So, it was nice to see major developments in this product category.
In general, we've left mobile products for guitar players out of this report since they are covered in our guitar feature. To learn more, please read: Awkward Ideas In the Name of Guitar Technology?
IK Multimedia is one of the frontrunners in the mobile app space, having started to lead the field with the previously released iRig guitar interface, designed to be used along with their iOS version of Amplitube. This year the product line was expanded to include the iRig Stomp, which enhances Amplitube iRig (or any other guitar apps) by giving players a physical stomp box (aluminum) to turn effects On/Off. Read about this in our guitar feature.
The iRig Cast shrinks the previously released iRig Mic into an ultra-compact portable voice recording microphone designed specifically for recording podcasts, interviews, lectures, voice memos, speeches and more. It has the ability to filter out, for example, sound behind the mic while you are recording something in front of it — very cool. No, it’s not very rock and roll, but we need it anyway.
The iRig Pre is a microphone preamp designed for iOS devices that allows you to use your favorite stage or studio mic with your iOS device. Your microphone plugs directly into the standard XLR connector on iRig Pre, with no need for special adapters. And yes, it provides +48V phantom power!
Another impressive piece of engineering was Mackie's DL1608, which takes the quality of the Onyx preamps and couples them with the flexibility of iPad control. Why is this cool? Well, it shines especially in live situations where you'll be able to mix from anywhere in the room. We saw something similar in action on one of the smaller stages at the Bonnaroo music festival, where the mix engineer was using an iPad to control his mixing board from the crowd (probably running a PreSonus digital mixer). It was very impressive, and allowed him to double-up as a monitor and FOH engineer. Coming from Mackie, we don't really see any reason why this won't be as equally impressive. With 4-band EQ, compression and gate offered on every channel, reverb and delay send effects, and a 31-band graphic EQ and compressor/limiter on the master out, plus snapshot recall, this looks like it's a great solution for smaller clubs on a tight budget. Hopefully now a single engineer will be able to get a big sound that works in all the nooks and crannies within the room.
Wave Machine Labs
By far, the most impressive iOS software we saw this year was Auria, a full featured DAW for iPad. If it works as they say, it will easily be the best iPad DAW available, and will bring the world of professional mobile recording into the iPad. The version we checked out felt great, and the UI is pretty much ready to go. Key features: 48 track mixing (hard to believe that this will work flawlessly, but we'll see), plug-ins available thru in-app purchase (apps being shown by PSPaudioware and Drumagog), comfortable knob control (vertical drag), and intuitive editing of regions and automation. They are developing a 16-in hardware USB interface to work with the app, with the goal being to create a truly portable recording rig. Auria will let you open and save AAF files, which means compatibility with Pro Tools sessions. Basically, this will allow you to do field recording with Auria, and then mix in Pro Tools in your studio. Frankly it all seems too good to be true, but we'll keep our eyes on it because if it really works as hoped, it will be great for iPad-owning recording engineers. Price: $49. Slam dunk on that one.
Yamaha is entering the iOs app arena with Notestar, an interesting sheet music application designed to help you learn cover tunes. If you play in a cover/corporate/wedding band, Notestar makes it easy to learn songs because not only do you get scrolling playback of the sheet music, but you get to play along with mute-able backing tracks of the other instrumentation in a song. Printed sheet music can’t touch that!