One of the things that helped cement iOS as THE mobile platform for music making was the addition of Core MIDI, a framework that allows apps to be ‘played’ by keyboards or other external MIDI controllers via USB, using the Camera connection kit on the iPad or by an external device.
With the iRig MIDI, IK Multimedia, which has already provided iOS users with some great tools for singers and guitarists with its iRig and iRig Mic tools, is now throwing its hat in the ring – and with it a couple of apps that no iPhone or iPad wielding musicians should be without.
The iRig MIDI
The device itself is a compact and portable black box (complete with plug-in MIDI leads) that hooks up to your iPhone, iPod or iPad via its 30pin connector socket. IK Multimedia has also included a USB socket for charging and a ‘MIDI Thru’ option in addition to the standard ‘In’ and ‘Out’, the former being very useful if you need to charge whilst using it.
Since it makes use of Core MIDI, the iRig works with pretty much any respectable iOS music production app (full list here) using an external MIDI keyboard/controller or, if like me you’re interested in including your iOS devices in your studio setup, your PC or Mac.
I was very impressed with how quickly I was able to get going with the device and its general portability, it really is pretty neat. My only reservation would be that it would have been nice to have a way of using USB MIDI with this too – especially when you bear in mind that many portable MIDI controllers don’t use standard sockets these days, that aside though it’s pretty much an essential tool for iOS music makers.
The apps – Sampletank & MIDI recorder
Whilst there are some great synthesizers and sequencers available on iOS there hasn’t really been any app that you’d want to use as a sound module for live shows, rehearsals or just playing around with at home. Sampletank for iOS, the basic free version of which is included with iRig, finally resolves this by offering a fantastic range of playable instruments (over 900 MB I’m told) that have been brought across from the desktop based version.
Available within the app is a huge library consisting of just about every instrument a budding producer or keyboard player might need and each one includes a good range of parameters including volume, cutoff, resonance, attack and reverb, as well ones for built in FX. The sound quality of these instruments is also incredibly good for a mobile device, I especially found the strings and keys available to be great quality and would certainly use them both live and in the studio.
The MIDI recorder is a simple, free app that allows you to record MIDI performance data and export it from your iPhone/iPad wirelessly, via email or iTunes file sharing. I found the app worked well with Sampletank since it was able to run in the background whilst I was playing, pretty handy if you want to recreate a performance made using your iPhone or iPad in your desktop digital audio workstation for instance.
The iRig MIDI is available now at around $69.99/€54.99/£59.95 and will include MIDI recorder & a basic version of Sampletank for iOS. For more details visit the IK Multimedia website.