8 iPhone/iPad music making hardware add-ons
21st Sep 2010 | 10:33
Link your iOS device to the outside world
The beauty of the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad is that, with the right music making apps installed, they become totally self-contained and portable music making platforms. However, a growing number of companies are now producing hardware add-ons that, should you decide you need it, give you a little extra functionality.
Specifically, there are now interfaces that enable you to get audio and MIDI in and out of your Apple handset; mics that facilitate higher quality recording; and even a keyboard on which you can play your music making apps ‘for real’.
We’re rounded-up the most notable iOS music making hardware add-ons here - if you think we’ve missed something important, let us know.
Our one word of warning is that, before you buy one of these products, you should check its compatibility list carefully, as it may not work with the device you own. Also bear in mind that it may not be future proof, so if you upgrade your iPhone (for example), you might be left with a redundant peripheral.
With that caveat covered, let’s get started.
NEXT: Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer
Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer
The first and so far only MIDI interface for iOS devices has a dock connector on one end and a pair of 2.5mm mini-jack connectors on the other. A pair of 2.5mm-jack-to-MIDI-jack cables plug into these, providing MIDI I/O.
When it was launched, the MIDI Mobilizer suffered from a lack of software support (it was only compatible with Line 6’s MIDI Memo Recorder, in fact), but now that its SDK has been opened up, other app developers are starting to support it.
FULL REVIEW: Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer
Buy Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer:Thomann
Many developers have incorporated onscreen keyboards into their iPhone apps, but if you want something a bit more playable, SynthStation25 is the thing to have. It’s basically a 25-note MIDI keyboard with a slot for your iPhone/iPod touch in the middle and RCA/headphone outputs on the back so that you can hear what you’re playing.
The keyboard is compatible with Akai’s SynthStation app, and the opening up of the SDK means that other developers can now create compatible software, too. The only downside - and it’s quite a big one - is that, despite being announced months ago, the SynthStation25 still doesn’t seem to be available.
FIND OUT MORE: Akai SynthStation25
IK Multimedia AmpliTube iRig
The hardware companion to IK’s AmpliTube for iPhone software, iRig is as simple an audio interface as you could wish to see. The cylindrical body features a 1/4-inch input (for your guitar) and a 3.5mm headphones output, plus a short cable that connects to the headphone jack of your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.
The iRig is designed to be used not only with guitars and basses, but also synths and other line-level signal sources.
FIND OUT MORE: IK Multimedia AmpliTube iRig
Peavey AmpKit LiNK
Peavey’s iDevice interface does a very similar job to IK’s iRig: a cable runs out of it and attaches to your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad’s headphones output, while on the other side there are 1/4-inch jack and headphones sockets.
The AmpKit was launched to run alongside Agile Partners’ AmpKit app, though it’ll work with any app that takes an audio input and accepts all line level sources.
FIND OUT MORE: Peavey AmpKit LiNK
Sonoma Wire Works GuitarJack
This is the priciest audio interface for Apple’s mobile devices we’ve seen thus far, and connects to the dock connector rather than headphones socket. It has a 1/4-inch instrument input with configurable pad, Lo-Z and Hi-Z modes, and an 1/8-inch stereo mic/line input with pad, normal and boost modes. Each input has 60dB of continuous level control, and there’s an output for headphones.
GuitarJack is particularly suited for use with Sonoma’s FourTrack, which now has a special control panel for it and supports recording from both inputs simultaneously.
Be aware that version 1 of the hardware doesn’t support the iPhone 4, iPod touch (4th generation) or iPad - these will be catered for by GuitarJack 2, which is scheduled to ship in the first quarter of 2011.
FIND OUT MORE: Sonoma Wire Works GuitarJack
Blue Microphones Mikey
This isn’t the only iPod microphone on the market, but it’s probably the best. It offers a pair of custom-tuned Blue capsules, a line input and 230 degree rotation, while the three gain settings means that it’s suitable for capturing a wide range of material.
All of which is great, though there is a fly in the ointment. The spec list states that there’s no compatibility with the iPhone, 4th generation iPod touch or iPad, so here’s hoping for an updated version soon.
FIND OUT MORE: Blue Microphones Mikey
At first glance, you might not even realise that this is an interface, as it’s basically just a cable that features a mini-jack plug to go into your iPhone, a 1/4-inch jack to plug into your guitar and a headphones socket.
As such, it gives you an easy way of getting your guitar signal into any app that accepts an audio input: no other cables are required.
FIND OUT MORE: PRS Guitarbud
Buy PRS Guitarbud:Thomann
Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit
What’s this got to do with music making, you might wonder? Quite a lot, as it happens, for the iPad’s Camera Connection Kit adds a USB port to your Apple tablet. And if you plug a USB 1 audio interface into this, you may very well find that it works with your music making apps.
The stipulations are that the interface has to be class-compliant (work without its own drivers under OS X) and require less than 200ma of power (otherwise you'll need an external supply). Also, only software that uses Apple’s CoreAudio API will work with it.
There could be more good news to come now we know what Apple iOS 4.2 will feature CoreMIDI. This may mean that you’ll soon be able to connect a MIDI keyboard via the camera kit - watch this space for more details.
FIND OUT MORE: Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit
Liked this? Now read: The best iPhone music making apps and The best iPad music making apps
Get MusicRadar straight to your inbox: Sign up for the free weekly newsletter