Capturing Audio And MIDI On The Cheap

iOS Audio: Can You Hear Me Now?

There are a number of simple devices that use the headphone jack to input line-level audio to an iOS device with a mike input. I have the iRig from IK Multimedia. In addition to the mono 1/4" analog input, it has a stereo headphone output that allows audio monitoring using headphones or speakers. Although marketed for guitars, it will also accept any line-level audio, making it great for electronic drums and percussion. Also, if you have the iRig, you can download the free AmpliTube app that lets you easily record audio through the line input. (Fig. 2)

Fig. 2. iRig and the free AmpliTube app

If you happen to have a self-powered lav or camcorder mike, I found a great little cable from kV Connection that allows you to attach these mikes, if they have an 1/8" connector, to any iOS device. This adapter incorporates passive components that provide DC blocking and isolation, as well as impedance matching. If you already have a suitable mike, this is a great option to capture high-quality sound. Search the web for “KM-iPhone-2trs” if you want to get one.

If you want an upgrade in sound quality, move from analog to digital. (Audio interfaces that use the headphone input are analog. Those that use the 30-pin dock connector are digital.) The Line 6 Mobile In is one such digital audio interface. It works with iOS devices that accept digital input on the 30-pin dock connector, like the iPhone 4 and iPad. Because it uses CoreAudio, it’s compatible with apps like GarageBand. Another advantage is that, along with the mono guitar input, it also has a stereo input, allowing you to capture a stereo output from your electronic drums. Stereo is better.

Whereas older iPhone models allowed for analog sound to be input using the 30-pin connector, the iPhone 4/4S and iPad require a digital-audio interface. The Tascam iM2 is a popular mike for the iPhone 4/4S and the iPad. It attaches using the 30-pin connector.

If you have an iPad, Apple’s camera-connection kit allows many USB devices, including USB mikes, to be connected to the 30-pin dock. Although, as with MIDI interfaces, not all mikes will be compatible. I have a Samson C03U USB condenser mike that I’ve used in the past for mobile podcasting, and it works perfectly. Samson also makes the less-expensive C01U that doesn’t have switchable mike patterns.

Enter The Alesis iO Dock For iPad

Fig. 3. Alesis iO Dock

Okay, here’s the deal, if you have an iPad get the Alesis iO Dock. It single-handedly does away with the majority of the audio and MIDI interface confusion of the iOS world. Also, once you start adding up the costs of MIDI and digital audio interfaces, you’ve pretty much paid for the iO Dock. It works with both the iPad and iPad 2 (there’s a clever adapter that slides in to make the iPad 2 fit the dock perfectly). For under $200 you get MIDI in and out, USB MIDI (to connect to a computer), and selectable mike/line Neutrik-style XLR/1/4" inputs (stereo) with phantom power. These inputs allow you to capture the output from any microphone or line-level output. There is also a headphone out, as well as separate stereo outputs for monitoring via speakers. The iO Dock turns the iPad into a little digital audio workstation.

The iO Dock even charges the iPad while it’s docked. Hey, Alesis, with all this, where’s the “make me a latte” option, huh? The only negative with the iO Dock is that you’ll need to have power where you’re working, because it doesn’t run on batteries. For real, if you’re a musician and own an iPad or iPad 2, you need to get the iO Dock. It rocks! (Fig. 3)

Software: The Coolness Begins

Most of the software I’m going to write about is compatible with all iOS devices that accept audio input and MIDI input, and are running at least iOS 4.3 or newer. That said, make sure you check out the iOS device requirements for specific software.

Except for GarageBand, I have only picked DAW software that is able to both receive MIDI and/or audio input and easily allow for the exporting of this data, so that it can be used in other applications. The most common three ways to export data are: email, iTunes sharing, and FTP over Wi-Fi. There isn’t a great deal of consistency between apps, but all discussed will export data in some useful manner.

Email Sharing
This is a very straightforward way to share. You select the file, enter a valid email address, and press send.

iTunes Sync
This is, for me, a bit of a cumbersome method of sharing. You must connect the iOS device to you computer, select the app in iTunes, then retrieve the file from a folder associated with the app.

Wi-Fi Sharing
This method uses a computer with a compatible Web browser to share the file in an FTP-style manner. With both computer and iOS device logged onto the same Wi-Fi source, you open the Web browser, enter the supplied IP address, and the folders with the app’s data appear in the browser window. From here you can copy the needed file to your computer (PC or Mac) and, in some instances, copy a file to the iOS device.

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