iPhone Apps | The New "Assistant Engineer"

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



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—Giles Orford

I have been a touring and recording musician for more than 30 years. I perform with two of the premiere mandolinists in the world, David Grisman in the U.S. and John Reischman in Canada, among a host of other exceptional musicians. I have worked on Grammy Award–winning and Juno-nominated CDs. I have toured the U.S. as a sound engineer and I have owned and operated a recording studio since 1990.

In November 2009, I bought a 16GB iPod Touch second-generation. I started loading it with free apps, then came across an interesting audio app called SPL Meter by Studio Six Digital. I purchased a mono microphone sold through Radio Shack called Gigaware 12-635, then I bought the SPL Meter app and took it to my studio to see what dB level I find comfortable monitoring. This was worth the price of the app just for that purpose alone. I soon discovered that Studio Six Digital was offering AudioTools. This app package includes what they call "Acoustics, Acoustic Analysis Tools." In that portion of the bundle is a tool called RTA Real-Time Analyzer. RTA is worth every cent it costs to get the bundle—and then some. I wish I would have had this little package 30 years ago. It would have saved countless hours trying to help live sound engineers find the correct feedback frequencies. I have, over the years, learned to identify many frequencies by ear. It was great to get this app and confirm what I had been hearing. Not only that, but now I take it to every venue and either the engineers are using it or, after seeing me use it with the iPod touch, they want to go buy it. This is an exceptionally helpful tool at an very reasonable price for such a good piece of gear.

It is worth noting that you don't have to buy SPL Meter if you plan on getting AudioTools because SPL Meter is bundled with it. I didn't know that when I bought SPL Meter. I say get Studio Six Digital AudioTools.
—Jim Nunally, jimnunally.com

iProRecorder: As a user of BIAS, it comes in very handy for spur-of-the-moment ideas, projects, etc. Shazam for identifying tunes on the go!
—Robert Reents

FiRe, unquestionably, with Retro Recorder a close second.
—Justin Rice

My favorite iPhone app is Remote. A Mac Mini with an external hard drive is my favorite source in our whole house audio system. Our big-screen TV is the monitor for the Mini, and it takes a couple of minutes to warm up. With Remote, I can bypass the TV and instantly access all 15,000 songs on the Mini—and it’s free!
—Grady Crumpler

For me, the hands-down winner is Hoofien's Snatch. It lets you create custom remotes for any app by programming keys that emulate your Mac's keyboard. It also functions as a remote trackpad and application switcher. I've created remotes for Logic and Pro Tools for remote "one-man overdubs" and also for live shows (controlling a show computer running support tracks). Beyond functionality, it can also be aesthetically cool: You can upload your own graphics files for your controls, turning your iPhone into a very cool custom remote.
With a little imagination, the possibilities are endless.
Jim Daneker, Whine Cellar Studio, whinecellarstudio.com

This is a two-fold question: For an app to truly make a big splash, I feel it has to be simple—that way, the general public can enjoy it and not feel intimidated by it. Look at the successful (in terms of popularity) app: They are usually very basic! In a roomful of 1,000 people, I promise you only 50 might know what a sequencer is. With that said, the simplest, most enjoyable app I’ve installed on my iPhone is Sonifi (which BT was involved in) because it uses the iPhone’s many features to enhance the experience and it delivers sonically, as well. Now, in terms of music production, hands-down Intua’s Beatmaker is the champ. To be able to do so much on an iPhone—without the app crashing each time it's opened—is phenomenal. Sound quality, features, graphic design and layout—top notch. It’s the one app that I use that takes me out of the iPhone mentally and puts me into a full-blown DAW.

The awe factor is that even some of the extremely cheap (Argon synth, for example) are surprisingly useful to the point where it's like having VST/RTAS instruments and plug-ins on your phone.
Kevin Pinnix

I recently released an app called FreqTrain, and while it may not be high end, I hope you find it worth mentioning. FreqTrain, by dpTools, is a training app designed to help live sound engineers with feedback detection/elimination. FreqTrain plays simulated feedback at a user-specified frequency or at a random frequency.  Users then have to guess which tone is being played. With all the RTA iPhone apps on the market, I know a lot of monitor engineers taking the "easy" way out, but there is still no substitute for trained ears. 
FreqTrain can be downloaded.

Here are two promo codes for your writers: 79WKJTNN9YKP and 77HJMLK6FTW9.
Dave Paul, support@dptools.net

My favorite iPhone audio app is GrooveMaker by IK Multimedia.
—Peter Toriello

I love the whole GrooveMaker Series. I especially love the GrooveMaker D'n'B. I know the app has surpassed 500,000 downloads since it came out, so I'm not the only one who loves it.
—Brian Sapp

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