"...And Make It Real Creative!": A New Toolbox

and-make-it-real-creative-logo-3By Trent Rentsch

I’m often accused by certain members of my family (ok, and by some friends too) of being a bit of a Gearhead. Perhaps they have a point. As I write this, I seem to be surrounded by a, uhm, small bit of audio equipment. While it’s true that, yes, much of it hasn’t been powered up in some months (yet not nearly enough months to use the word “years”), I know I will use it at some point… perhaps. For instance, those power amps each have one good channel… I might use them both to create a stereo feed for my monitors… you know, as a backup? Oh, and that box of MIDI cables (there must be, I don’t know, 12? 47?) will REALLY come in handy if I… ah… ever use a keyboard again that doesn’t have a USB port (yeah, that’s it)!

Fine, I hoard audio stuff, ok? In my defense, I like to think that I’ve learned the difference between toys and tools, and even if I haven’t tweaked audio with that outboard parametric EQ since Clinton was in office, I know it’s a quality piece of gear that could do the job… if my 89 software EQ plug-ins weren’t available.

Well of course my disease has over-flowed onto my computer. If you jokingly suggested that I had a DAW for every day of the week, I would have to hang my head in shame. And I really wasn’t kidding about the 89 EQ plugins, although I’m not sure if that number is accurate (I’m afraid to count). Reverbs, compressors, limiters, delays, harmonizers, choruses… yep, I’ve got ‘em, in about every flavor, PC or Mac. Add to it all the noise-makers (soft synths, samplers and such), and it’s… well, maybe a little much, even for me.

“So,” you might suggest, “You’ve finally satisfied this obsession of yours, eh?” Yes, that would be true… if there weren’t a bunch of companies looking to turn the iPad from an interesting aural toy, into a legitimate audio production tool. Damn them!

We’re talking major players too. Alesis was an early runner in the interface race with their iO Dock, but many others are nipping at their heels to provide pro (or at least pro-sumer) quality ins and outs for the iPad. I admit I jumped on the Alesis interface quickly, and I’m impressed with the sound quality going in and out. Just the fact that I can use my regular microphone to record directly into the iPad (as opposed to settling for a cheaper USB Mic) makes it an attractive advantage… especially for voice-over on the road.

Of course, it takes more than a quality interface to make an iPad a viable audio tool. If that audio ends up in a badly designed app, you’re left with a very expensive, low-rez audio memo recorder. Honestly, I was afraid that no one would step up and remind us all what a joke Garageband is as an audio recorder (sorry, Apple), but the people who brought the world better drum sounds through a plug-in called Drumagog have introduced an app that’s basically, well, a studio in an iPad.

Auria is a Gearhead’s dream (trust me). 48 tracks of audio. Sample rates up to 96Khz. A ton of processing plug-ins (with more available). Full mixer automation. AAF import and export for transferring sessions to and from Pro Tools and other DAWs. Dropbox and Sound Cloud support to get those tracks out to the real world. It looks cool, it sounds great (with the right interface), and it finally looks like my iPad can be a real, honest to goodness audio tool. Granted, it’s a lot of studio on a tiny screen, but for field recording, mixing audio at McDonalds, or just those nights when you wake up with the need to track some harmonies over your partner’s snoring, Auria will handle the job… and then some! (Check it out at: http://www.auriaapp.com/Products/auria)

As much as I need a drool bib while describing Auria, it does have one flaw for a noise-maker such as myself… no virtual instruments. Luckily, I’ve already gotten my fix with several apps that take the art of “ZIPPPP-BOOM” to a whole new level.

I have a real world beatbox from Korg in my studio at work… and now I have an app of the exact same beatbox on my iPad. The iElectribe is a faithful software version of the original box… all the same tweaking potential to create amazing, compelling beats. I also have a powerful Moog synthesizer app called Animoog that is a monster of a noisemaker… a real, useable noisemaker (that I’ll probably have to take some classes at MIT to completely understand). Last but certainly not least, my old friend FL Studio has a mobile app, and while it’s not as robust as its big brother on my computer, it certainly has plenty of tools to compose wherever I and my iPad happen to be.

Yes, it seems that the iPad has graduated to a real, powerful audio tool. One might think that it’s yet another nail in the coffin of all that bulky, noisy real world audio gear that’s taking up space in every corner of my, er, some studios. Yes, one might think that… or they might consider the antique value of those treasures…

 

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