iPhone Apps | The New "Assistant Engineer"

Feb 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Sarah Benzuly



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Microphones? Check. Console set up? Check. Outboard gear patched and ready? Check. iPhone set to Record? Huh? For professional engineers, Apple's iPhone and iPod touch might not spring to mind when getting their gear set up for an upcoming recording session. Many engineers probably have some fun gaming apps to breeze away the time between takes, but the technology that makes the iPhone a real music-making/recording tool has improved since Apple debuted the phone a few years ago. No, no one's going to be creating final masters or multitracking on the iPhone, but new apps allow you to run pink noise, check instrument tuning, determine SPL levels, record a gig on-the-fly and more as this smart phone becomes even smarter.

Here, we focus on the pro apps (arranged alphabetically), bypassing those strictly made for music creation, which is another category for another time (or you can check out our sister magazine EM's Website, emusician.com/ms/iPhone_Apps, for a bevy of music apps). Now, stop texting and surfing the Web and get back to recording on your phone.

Audiofile Engineering FiRe Version 1.1

This upgrade to the professional field recording app features iPhone OS 3 compatibility, varispeed playback, multiple VU meter styles (including K-System scales) and adjustable input gain. Workflow enhancements include public or private uploads to SoundCloud, Web server authentication, and the ability to add a picture reference to the recording, and name and rename marker points. FiRe ($5.99) features a real-time waveform display, audio markers, support for Broadcast WAV metadata and instant downloading of audio files in multiple formats. Users can scroll the live waveform display with the touch of a finger or navigate it with a system of configurable double-taps. Also included are input and output VU meters, a movable playback head, configurable time units, the ability to tag recordings with location data and an Overdub mode for layering tracks. Supported microphones include Alesis ProTrack (requires iPhone 3G or second-generation iPod Touch) and Blue Mikey (requires iPhone 3G).

BIAS iProRecorder

Not only does it support stereo recording (when used with compatible hardware), but the iProRecorder (V. 1.3, $4.99) also offers location stamping, a scroll wheel and the ability to append to an existing recording. It also lets you attach photos to recordings, organize your files into categories, e-mail files up to 100 MB, sync using Wi-Fi and send files directly to BIAS' Peak audio editor (Mac). All files (44.1, 22 or 11 kHz) are uncompressed WAV. It also has a record timer, accurate stereo meters, variable playback speed and more. You're only limited by your phone: The iPhone can hold up to 13 hours per GB and up to approximately 200 hours for a 16GB iPhone.

Cleartune Chromatic Tuner

This chromatic instrument tuner and pitch pipe allows you to quickly “tune up” your instruments using the iPhone's built-in mic. Chromatic Tuner ($3.99) supports custom temperaments, transposition, notations such as solfège, adjustable calibration and more. It's useful for acoustic or electric guitar, bass, bowed strings, woodwinds — really, any instrument that can sustain a tone. Simply tap the Pitch Pipe button, select your note from the Note Wheel, tap the on/off button in the center to start sounding the tone, and use the buttons on the side to adjust the volume. An Options panel lets you select from several different waveforms.

Far Out Labs ProRemote, Pro Transport

The ProRemote ($99, Mac; pictured right) control surface offers 32 channels of remote control with real-time color metering and 40mm touch-sensitive virtual faders; up to eight faders can be controlled simultaneously. It uses your existing wireless network to control such products as Pro Tools, Apple Logic and Soundtrack Pro, Mackie Control Protocol and Ableton Live; support for other DAWs is in the works. The full version includes a dedicated Transport view that lets you scrub/shuttle, set markers (memory locations) and control many advanced aspects of the transport, as well as basic play, record and return to zero. Also included are the company's ProPads and Pro XY MIDI controllers, so you can program MIDI sequences without having to switch out of ProRemote. You must download ProRemoteServer to use ProRemote.

ProTransport ($7.99, Mac) handles a variety of transport functions for Live, Pro Tools, and Logic and Soundtrack Pro. To make it work, you must first download and install the free ProRemote Control application. In Pro Tools, you can control transport features, including scrub and shuttle, and you can also zoom the timeline and jump to and add markers.

ioMetrics GigBaby!

A low-priced newcomer to the multitrack space is GigBaby! (V. 1.3, $0.99), which has a surprisingly robust feature set considering its price. You get four tracks of recording (no punch-in, though) and a metronome that can be used with the recorder or stand-alone. It also has some nice graphical indicators. A small library of drum loops is provided, and a setlist manager for gigs is included. We can see it on the horizon: Instead of using ftp to pass files back and forth, use the app's track-sharing option to share and swap your recordings.

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