There are literally hundreds of music applications currently available for the Apple iPhone. These apps vary in scope from virtual instruments to music streaming players to networking apps specific to popular recording artists.
Although the majority of these music apps cater towards music enthusiasts and hobbyist musicians, there are some very practical iPhone apps available for the professional audio community. Gigging musicians, sound engineers and music producers can now enjoy an increasing number of pro audio iPhone apps outside of the typical guitar chord libraries, metronomes, and ear training apps.
There are three main types of pro audio iPhone apps: field recorders, remote controls and portable digital audio workstations.
Pro Audio Field Recorder App for iPhone
Many iPhone apps offer the basic ability to record an audio source but lack the professional options found in traditional field recorders. However, with the release of the FiRe app by Audiofile Engineering, professional field recording is now a possibility on the iPhone.
This program alone will make the iPhone an irresistible purchase for those looking for the convenience of capturing pro-quality field recordings without having to carry (let alone buy) a separate device.
Remote Control iPhone Apps for DAWs and MIDI
The second type of pro audio iPhone app focuses on remote controlling digital audio workstations (DAWs) or other hardware devices via the iPhone. Some examples are ProRemote (for Pro Tools, Logic and Live users) and Cubase iC (for users of Steinberg’s Cubase 5).
These apps allow the user to control the various virtual knobs, buttons and faders in each DAW. Prices of these apps vary substantially. The Cubase app is available for free but those wanting ProRemote will have fork out $99.99 for the full app or $35.99 for the “Lite” version.
Another remote control app worthy of mention is TouchOSC by Hexler. This app provides a stunning interface from which to control parameters on any software or hardware devices that implements the Open Sound Control protocol.
Portable DAWs on the iPhone
FourTrack, GigBaby and BeatMaker are all examples of another type of pro audio iPhone app. This category is a little more difficult to define but is nonetheless exciting for music producers and gigging musicians.
In a sense, these apps are very simple digital audio workstations that use the iPhone’s built-in audio interface. They are software emulations of hardware devices such as 4-track recorders, drum machines, samplers and sequencers. Depending on the app, users may record or program multi-track song ideas and export them to a computer for deeper editing.
Disadvantages to Using the iPhone for Pro Audio
With the flashy GUIs and real potential of these new apps, it is quite easy to overlook some of the inherent flaws of treating the iPhone as a professional audio device. Although relatively minor, there are two in particular that are worth mentioning.
With most other MIDI controllers, the user can fumble around for a particular button or knob without having to look at the device. However, the iPhone’s slick touchscreen provides no tactile feedback.
Secondly, operating an iPhone app more often than not requires the use of both hands – one to cradle the iPhone and the other to physically use the touchscreen. This is simply not ideal for the type of multitasking that commonly occurs in studio sessions.
Some audiophiles will also contest the quality of the iPhone’s analog-to-digital converters. Notwithstanding these points, the iPhone is quickly becoming a handy tool for the professional musician, engineer and producer.