Monday, 21 May 2012

iPad Music Accessories Review

Throughout this iPad project, I have been able to try out and experiment with various products that extend the use of the iPad from a mere tablet. There are some that are specific to music and audio and others that are useful for general teaching that I'll discuss in my next post..

Music and Audio accessories

 iRig is an adapter that plugs in to the headphone socket on an iPad, iPhone and new style MacBooks and allows you to plug in your electric guitar or Bass. It works primarily with the Amplitube free app but can also feed the guitar amp in GarageBand.
We found that using it through a PA produced a lot of feedback and we had to use a fair amount of the noise gate pedal that comes with Amplitube free. The sound was usable and as you get a delay pedal with it, you can create some interesting patterns.
The students in to Metal were less impressed with the free offerings, preferring the amps in GarageBand, however, every time you stop playing when using it with GarageBand it emitted a very short but noticeable squeak! Nothing we changed could stop that and it wasn't happening when using headphones.
We used Amplitube in the final performance of Jupiter and Saturn with an electro acoustic guitar and it worked fine. I think it would be worth investing in the other amps and FX if this is to be the primary function as the free version is pretty basic for seasoned pros!

The iRig Mic is a hand held condenser mic that like the iRig, plugs in to the headphone port of the iPad. It allows you to record anything that is picked up by the mic in to any app that records from the mic, effectively replacing the built in mic with a better quality one. There are 2 IK Multimedia apps that work well with it  VocaLive free and iRig Recorder Free.
The first thing my students noticed when showing them the mic, was the packaging. The guy pretending to scream in to the mic in a classic rock pose didn't appeal to any of the students who I wanted to try it out and put them off before we'd even plugged it in. The microphone itself is OK and apart from feeling a little bit light it doesn't feel too toy-like. Unfortunately the built-in lead does and it being the same width as a headphone lead gives it a home karaoke feel! The sound however, is quite good and the 3 position switch allows you to adjust the input level. when hand-held there is a lot of handling noise so we found it best mounted on a stand. i used it for recording a rehearsal in to GarageBand and although it was in mono it was a better recording than the built in affair.
The VocaLive  software is useful for adding some thickening and reverb to he voice but i didn't pay the extra to get the auto tune function and other more interesting FX which are quite expensive if you just want to try them out!
For me personally, i would prefer the new iRig PRE that allows you to plug in your own mics using a XLR lead.

 The CCK is an important Apple adaptor for music and audio that was originally for connecting you camera to put your photos on to an iPad. With the new iOS installed on the iPad you can now use it to connect a USB to MIDI lead (about £5 on Amazon) or  a USB MIDI controller keyboard (such as the M-Audio Oxygen 25). Both allow you to control various Apps that have included MIDI in their updates (there is a list of apps here). So instead of playing an app with it's own keyboard, you can play it with a proper keyboard. Not all keyboards work with the direct USB approach so check before if you only want to use USB, otherwise you can connect it with a USB to MIDI interface (if your keyboard has a MIDI OUT socket).
I have also used this to send MIDI from the iPad to a keyboard using the excellent (and free) Little MIDI Machine app as a sequencer controlling a MicroKorg. Please message me if you would like more info...

The i/o dock takes the whole iPad for music and audio to another level and introduces some pro features that are what a lot of musicians/ producers/engineering have been hoping for! It has 2 XLR inputs with phantom power  so you can either record two different sources at the same time or one source e.g. acoustic guitar, in stereo using your own good quality mics. These inputs can also be used with jack leads and one can be changed to a DI input for an electric guitar or Bass to plug directly in. It also has MIDI in and out for connecting with other MIDI equipment - i have used this to make the iPad in to a sound module in a studio set-up. The USB is only for connecting to a USB MIDI keyboard (not to connect to your computer).
I used the i/o to record the stereo output of the mixing desk during the performance in to GarageBand and I was impressed with the quality. Listen here to the results.
If you wanted the functionality of all of the above products in one then this is probably the thing you want!

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