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The iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch are no longer toys when it comes to serious music production. No more will your ‘crippled’ iOS devices be restricted to GarageBand when it comes to laying down a rough mix, and GarageBand itself is no longer the fluffy, family-friendly workstation it once was after a recent update which added support for AudioBus.
AudioBus is serious music production technology that acts like an unending set of cables, allowing you to connect a series of apps together. It’s just like MIDI, working behind the scenes to process and record beats, grooves and melodies from other running apps. There is so much potential in iOS to be the new home producer’s go-to platform for production, and AudioBus for iOS is the missing puzzle piece that’s paving the way.
What Is AudioBus?
AudioBus is an app, which you can download like any other from the App Store for the usual price of $9.99, though as I write this the price has been halved to celebrate a big update to GarageBand. AudioBus is also an interface built into many of the best iOS music making apps, with more apps being added all the time. Once an app is AudioBus compatible it is either an input, an effects processor or a digital audio workstation (DAW).
This is a three-stage system that you should get used to, because it’s likely you’ll be using it a lot. Some apps can function in all three roles, particularly the higher-end advanced synthesizers which support sampling and processing, as well as samplers like Loopy.
As well as being a standalone app, AudioBus must be built-in to any apps that wish to make use of it. The developers would have a lot more supported apps right now if they hadn’t spent so long getting the SDK right, weary of releasing a version that thwarts developers and the iOS producer population with problems. As it stands the SDK is now ready to go, so expect to see a lot more AudioBus compatible apps being released over the coming years.
When you purchase AudioBus you’re not just purchasing an app, you’re also unlocking the potential for your other apps to far surpass what you thought they were capable of. The ability to route audio from one app, into another, manipulate the sound before looping it back into a DAW or sampler essentially means you have a ready-to-use studio and performance hardware in your back pocket.
How Do I Use It?
First thing’s first – AudioBus is only able to operate within the limits of your device’s hardware capabilities. This means older devices like the iPad 2 may struggle compared to the iPhone 5. You will need at least an iPhone 4S, iPod Touch 5G or iPad 2 to play, though the newer your hardware the more you’ll be able to do before you encounter the dreaded crackle. AudioBus is very CPU intensive, and it should go without saying that using it along with 5 or 6 other apps will destroy your battery life.
If you find you’re experiencing popping or crackling then you can increase the buffer size two-fold to 512 frame using the AudioBus settings, located at the top of the screen within the app. This might increase latency (and definitely increase CPU usage) but if you’re depending on a lot of apps interacting you might have no other choice. Remember, performance can only get better from here as Apple supplies faster hardware with each new generation of iOS hardware.
To begin routing apps through AudioBus you must first have some compatible apps. A full list of compatible software can be found on the Apps tab within AudioBus, or by visiting the website. You can also check out our recent post featuring some of the best sub-$10 music making apps for iOS if you’re on a budget. The only tab you really need to worry about is the Connections tab, on which you can add apps using the plus ‘+’ icon next to the Input, Effects and Output sections.
Tap the plus and a list of installed, compatible apps will be displayed – pick one and AudioBus will briefly launch that app before returning to the main interface. You can now add more apps until you are ready to play.
The main AudioBus interface will allow you to quickly switch between and control apps. A new bar should appear on the right-hand side of the screen which lists all currently connected apps, along with the option to switch to them, pause or begin recording depending on the app.
If you’re using an effects processor in stage 2, you might need to enable the speaker output in under the Output section in order to hear anything. That’s pretty much all there is to setting up AudioBus, now you’ve just got to experiment!
Use the bar that appears on the right hand-side of each connected app to control your connections. This bar can be hidden and revealed in much the same way as the iOS notification centre, by swiping from the edge inwards, useful if it gets in the way of your playing. In order to disconnect an app hit the eject button in AudioBus.
But It Crashed?
One thing that AudioBus doesn’t do, and quite possibly won’t do any time soon, is quit in a tidy manner. This is because it’s a background service that stays awake in case you’re still using it, and needs to be told when to quit. You can manually quit AudioBus using the iOS app switcher: double-tap the home button, press and hold the AudioBus icon and then close the app using the cross that appears.
You will have to do this after every time you use the app, which is a small price to pay for the interoperability offered by the service. Similarly, I find GarageBand and JamUp tend to hang in a similar manner after being plugged in to AudioBus, so you might need to force-close them too.
That’s pretty much everything you’ll need to know about AudioBus to make music, a must-have app for hobbyists and professionals alike. Take sources, route them through processors and record them in a DAW. Expect to see the refinement and further expansion of this system as our devices become increasingly powerful over the next few generations, and expect your bank balance to suffer as a result of the ever-increasing number of quality audio apps out there.
Download: AudioBus for iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch ($9.99)
Roland today released this video celebrating the 30th Anniversary of MIDI, which has become a massively important industry standard, due to the vision of Sequential Circuit’s Dave Smith, Roland’s Ikutaro Kakehashi and others.
For a 30 year-old standard, MIDI is going strong. In just the last few weeks, we’ve seen the standard show up in MIDI Tesla Coils, an iPad MIDI sequencer, new MIDI instruments and your Web browser.
In addition to noting the wide range of vendor support for MIDI, it highlights some of the standard’s more unusual applications, like musical fountains. And then there’s the MIDI-controlled skull.
Pretty amazing for something that started with connecting a couple of synths together, back in 1983……
Here’s an overview and demo of the new iPB-10 Programmable Pedalboard – the first iPad pedal board.
- Users can drag and drop up to 10 different pedals, in any order, to each pedalboard, and can add an amp and cabinet to complete each setup.
- It offers 87 different pedals, 54 amps, and 26 cabinets to choose from.
- The iPB-10 uses multiple Audio DNA2 processors to provide no-latency signal processing with 24-bit A/D/A converters.
- The iPB-10 will work without an iPad plugged in to it. The 2 digit LED display on the unit that indicates the current preset bank, though there is also a master volume knob on the back panel of the unit. (At this time users will not be able to edit, adjust, or save presets without an iPad.)
- For those worrying about your iPad being damaged on the floor – You can connect the iPad to the DigiTech iPB-10 via an extension cable and mount the iPad on a mic stand.
The DigiTech iPB-10 is compatible with all models of iPad 2 & iPad. It’s available now for about $500.
If it’s an iconic piece of hardware or software, there’s at least a decent chance you could be seeing it in virtual iPad form soon.
Tascam’s Portastudio, released today, is a particularly striking example. The famed, budget cassette multitrack recorder, the box on which countless demos and quick songwriter creations was forged, appears on Apple’s tablet. There’s even a fake cassette tape, which I have to say is a little bit unnerving.
This is all nostalgia, right? Well, no, actually: those big, simplified plastic controls and memorable layout work because they’re so easy to use. The problem with a lot of software design of the past couple of decades is that it’s somewhat inhumane. Given endless space and often-increasing, ever-cheaper system resources, music software has been, charitably, less-than-friendly. Resembling a 70s jumbo jet cockpit, UI controls multiply and shrink to the point that they challenge all but an 18-year-old pair of eyes. Add in clunky default OS widgets, collapsible tabs and dockable windows that add still more complexity, and you wind up with a trainwreck. What these hardware emulations prove is that you could learn something from hardware – even when the need for blank space, big knobs and faders and buttons, limited controls, and standard hardware inputs and readouts is gone.
So, back to the original product, what does $10 get your iPad? If you know how a Portastudio works, you probably already know most of the answer, but here’s a quick rundown:
- Cassette tape-style transport. (Linear transport, I might add. Seriously. You have to rewind and fast forward to get around.)
- Routing to four inputs.
- Mixdown to stereo (via a dialog box, so that’s the point where you break the illusion).
- Simple EQ.
- File sharing, via iTunes or Soundcloud. (This last item is what makes this a useful tool and not just a novelty.)
- Support for ‘a few’ class-compliant audio interfaces, though your mileage may vary.
The development work was done by a well-loved developer, Chris Randall / Audio Damage. (Chris I think does learn hardware’s design lessons in his UIs.) See his blog post:
Hey, Look What I Made…
The bad news: no bounce, which seems a major oversight. Ironically, Tascam also has to admit that they don’t have any class-compliant audio interfaces. (Doh!) In case you’re wondering, they also say flat out in the FAQ, don’t expect versions for other operating systems soon — too bad, as this would seem fairly ideal in a reduced form on iPhone and iPod touch.
But the radical simplicity of this app could be its appeal. I may actually fire this up to use as a recording sketchpad, especially with hardware synths, Game Boys, and so on.
And forget the app itself: this ought to be a perfect time to look back and remember what made the original PortaStudio great – and wonder why so often those same design principles are lost.
One of the famed Tascam models, the sort that may well bring up fond memories of mobile recording. (Not quite the right model, but you get the idea.) Photo (CC-BY-SA) Lucius Kwok (the developer), via Wikimedia Commons
(Via Create Digital Music.)
There are a lot of guitar simulation plug-ins available for digital musicians these days. Included with Logic 9 is Amp Designer and Pedal Board – a welcome departure from the older Guitar Amp Pro plug-in. They stack up very well against the competition and are versatile in tone, emulation and layout. In my opinion, the clean amps achieve impressive results when compared to their hardware cousins.
Beyond the presets, there’s a lot more you can do with Amp Designer that is apparent. Toby Pitman goes much deeper in his excellent tutorial, ‘Logic 402 – Logic’s Guitar Recording Toolbox’. Packed with tips and tricks and practical step-by-step approaches to using both Amp Designer and Pedal Board.
In this Quick Tip I’m going to highlight 3 useful tips for guitar tone sculpting glory built-in to Amp Designer.
01 – Move the Mic
When recording a traditional guitar amp there are a two important considerations: what type of mic to use and where to position the mic. The resulting tone can be vastly different if the mic is placed dead-center or to the side of the speaker cone.
In Amp Designer you can choose between using a Condenser, Ribbon or Dynamic microphone emulation from the Mic pop-up menu.
Hover your mouse over the cabinet on the right of the interface (above the Mic pop-up menu) and the Speaker Adjustment graphic is displayed. Drag the white dot to adjust the placement of the mic. Generally, for Rock and brighter guitar tones place it to the side as shown below.
02 – More Equalizers
There are plenty of Amp types and presets. If you still can’t create quite the guitar sound you’re looking for you can mix and match the Model, Amp and Cabinet to build your own custom amp! This incredible… but one lesser known tip is you can choose different EQ types per amp.
Mouse over the word ‘EQ’ and click to display the EQ pop-up menu. From here you can choose between Bright British, Vintage, U.S. Classic, Modern and Boutique.
I find myself tending towards the Vintage and U.S. Classic more often than not.
03 – More Reverb
Rather than insert an instance of Space Designer (or other reverb plug-in) on your guitar channel strip to add space to your sound, you can set the reverb levels directly on the Amp Designer interface. Like the EQ, Amp Designer comes with more than one Reverb type.
You can choose between Vintage Spring, Simple Spring, Mellow Spring, Bright Spring, Dark Spring, Resonant Spring, Boutique Spring, Sweet Reverb, Rich Reverb and Warm Reverb.
It’s well worth checking these types out on your guitar sounds. The change to your sound can be dramatic and save you from using a separate reverb plug-in!
Check out Toby Pitman’s Logic 402 – Logic’s Guitar Recording Toolbox to learn much, much more about how to get the best out of Amp Designer, Pedal Board and Logic’s other built-in tools for guitarists.