Making an iPad Music Studio

How to build a home recording studio using an iPad

In the not so distant past, owning a music studio was mostly off limits to the home studio musician. Instead, if you wanted to record multiple tracks you’d need at least a four-track tape recorder. And if you’ve ever had the joy of operating one of those, you’ll know that it’s not so straightforward. Aspects such as bouncing down were absolute, meaning once you’ve bounced your existing tracks down onto a stereo channel, there’s not much room for editing.

In addition to owning a recording device, you’d need additional tools such as keyboards for specific sounds, amps, microphones and the ideal room to capture your music in all its glory.

Then sometime later came the Apple iPad.

The iPad has revolutionised home studios, making it affordable to write, produce and mix your music in the box. Here we look at some of the most valuable tools a home musician can use to craft musical masterpieces on their own iPad music studio, at home or on the road.

IK Multimedia iRig 2

IK Multimedia iRig 2
Probably the most recognisable product on the market for the iPad pocket studio, IK Multimedia’s iRig 2 is used by professional and home studio musicians around the world. It’s ultra-compact, yet comes with a plethora of option making it extremely versatile. Take for instance the ¼” jack output that allows you to use it as part of your live performance, and the interface includes a ‘thru’ option, so you can just select 100% clean tone.

The options on tone come thanks to the highly rated Amplitube FREE and powerful IK application software too. Literally, this tiny box offers you a world of options that musicians only dreamed of a few years back. It’s not just for guitarists with iPads either, it works great on the bass guitar and it is also Android compatible too.

IK Multimedia iRig Pre

IK Multimedia iRig Pre
While there have been quite a few companies focusing on building guitar tone generators similar to the iRig, there hasn’t been many low-cost options for vocalists. But the IK Multimedia iRig Pre does just that, providing an accessible way to plug in your favourite microphone directly into your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad or Android device, and offers a stereo output for monitoring. It is super simple to use and comes with two pieces of software, iRig Recorder (for recording & editing) and VocaLive (for effects processing).

Where this device gets really smart is in the design; not only does it strap straight onto the microphone stand but it’s designed to work with all types of microphones. In many cases, you can capture great tone with dynamic microphones, such as the Shure SM58 Beta A. The ace in the hole for this device is an onboard 9V battery which provides up to 15 hours of continuous use with a condenser microphone. That makes it perfect for all kinds of singers, rock screamers or ballad ticklers.

Behringer C-1 Condenser Microphone

Behringer C1
If you didn’t know, Behringer is synonymous with making low-cost audio devices that punch way above their belt. So in keeping with the theme of this article so far, the Behringer C-1 condenser microphone would make a perfect match for the iRig Pre.

The C-1s large-diaphragm with cardioid pickup pattern makes it easy to capture professional recordings without the issues of sound separation. What makes it even more suitable for portability is the shock-mounted capsule, transformer-less FET capsule and rugged body. Those features mean that unwanted rumble and electrical interference are rejected, making it a suitable for capturing your ideas on the road.

Focusrite iTrack Dock Studio Pack

Focusrite iTrack Dock
So far we’ve focused on a range of different methods of capturing audio into your iPad studio, but the Focusrite iTrack Dock Studio Pack takes functionality to the next level.

Imagine you’ve got an idea. It’s not just a guitar part or a vocal line you want to record, but a whole song. This piece of kit gives you everything you need to capture anything you throw at it, be it vocals, guitar, bass, MIDI, or any other line source. Apple users will rejoice at the audio docking interface that is compliant with any Lightning iPad; that additionally means it will keep your iPad charged too. It also works with all the CoreAudio apps like Garage Band, Auria and Cubase; it’s virtually plug-and-play.

Besides the saving loads of time by making compatibility a thing of the past, this device has some serious tech behind it. Two 24-bit high-quality preamps from Focusrite, a company who built their reputation on capturing crystal clear audio; so you’re in good hands.

Yamaha Reface CP Electric Piano

Yamaha Reface CP
While there are lots of MIDI keyboards out on the market, there’s a wonderful new world of user-generated sound sharing, such as the Yamaha Reface CP Electric Piano. In the iPad or iPhone studio, this gives you loads more tonal options to explore without having to create all the sounds yourself. That means more time for banging out great ideas. Even if making sounds is what you enjoy most, it’s great fun discovering the noises other people make on the Yamaha S

But let’s get serious for a minute. This isn’t a sound making toy. The CP Electric Piano is an exceptionally powerful interface which runs a series of vintage keyboard sounds on a 37-key keyboard, boasting 128-note polyphony. It’s light-weight and portable, perfect for composing or performing on the road.

Behringer X Air XR 18

Behringer X Air XR18
Behold. The behemoth of the iPad studio.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks here. This is a totally different beast altogether from the other devices we’ve mentioned. That’s because the Behringer X Air XR 18 is actually a live recording desk that boasts 16 tracks of iPad mixing functionality. So I guess you’re asking, why is this device in this list? That’s a good question.

As the X Air XR18 runs through a digital mixer on a tablet, such as an iPad or Android device. That means with a little bit of simple routing and running alongside the Auria app, you can turn your iPad into a 16 channel audio recorder.

That seems pretty outstanding, don’t you think?

So in conclusion, here are some products to help you build a home recording studio using an iPad;

  1. IK Multimedia iRig 2
  2. IK Multimedia iRig Pre
  3. Behringer C-1 Condenser Microphone
  4. Focusrite iTrack Dock Studio Pack
  5. Yamaha Reface CP Electric Piano
  6. Behringer X Air XR 18