NAMM 2014: With the concept of iOS music making now well-established, we're starting to see a second wave of gear that takes it to another level.
There are new and updated music making apps that do more than their predecessors, and interfaces that up the quality level and add compatibility with the latest iOS hardware.
Fittingly, several of these next-gen iOS products were on display at last week's Winter NAMM Show. Here's a round-up of the software and hardware that caught our eye.
Having already released several acclaimed iPad synths, Korg has now taken the next step and released its own self-contained music making app.
This includes 15 virtual instruments and drum machines - or Gadgets, as Korg calls them - that appear to be inspired by a host of classic hardware instruments. The app can run multiple Gadgets at once, and also includes a built-in sequencer and mixer.
Available now from the Apple App Store, Gadget is Core MIDI, Audiobus and Audiocopy compatible, too. We've got high hopes for it.
Focusrite iTrack Dock
iPad recording docks are nothing new, but Focusrite believes that, with the iTrack Dock, it's come up with a “studio-quality” model.
Featuring plenty of audio I/O – including a pair of preamps and independently controllable monitor and headphone outputs – there's also a USB MIDI connection that can power a class-compliant MIDI controller.
The iTrack Dock has an 'open-edged' design, meaning that you can easily plug in any Lightning-equipped iPad or iPad mini. Look out for it later this year.
IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD
An evolution of the original iRig Mic, the HD models offers improved recording quality and metal body construction.
Connecting to your device's 30-pin or Lightning dock, the iRig Mic HD can record at 24-bit resolution and 44.1/96kHz sample rates. It has a built-in preamp, a gain control and a multi-colour LED level indicator. Look out for it from the second quarter of 2014.
MixerFace is a new iOS-friendly recording interface from CEntrance that promises to put the emphasis on quality.
Designed to sit under an iPhone but also compatible with other smartphones, tablets and Mac/PC, the device sports two Neutrik combo jack inputs with boutique low-noise microphone preamps, independent gain controls with LED level monitoring, switchable 48V phantom power, various monitoring options, a headphone amp and 24-bit/192kHz converters. It comes with a rechargeable battery built in.
MixerFace is set to ship in April.
Cakewalk Z3TA+ iOS
It's been available on desktop platforms for more than a decade, and now Cakewalk's Z3TA+ synth is coming to the iPad.
Available for the iPad from February, Z3TA+ iOS borrows from Z3TA+ 2, delivering the same sound but sporting an iOS-specific interface that's optimised for touch control.
Z3TA+ features Synth, Modulation Matrix/Arpeggiator and Effects pages and comes with more than 500 presets. There's support for Inter App Audio, AudioBus and MIDI control.
iConnectivity iConnectMIDI interfaces
iConnectivity is something of a specialist in iOS MIDI interfaces, with its products proving popular with those who want to do more than just plug a controller keyboard into their device.
The new range comprises three models, from the simple 1-in/1-out iConnectMIDI1 ($79.99) to the more comprehensive iConnectMIDI2 ($89.99) and iConnectMIDI4 ($249.99).
Alesis iO Dock II
Some of you will recall the original iO Dock, Alesis's first attempt at an iPad docking station and audio/MIDI interface for music makers.
The revised version looks similar, giving you a pair of combo XLR-1/4-inch inputs for hooking up guitars, instruments and mics, plus MIDI I/O on 5-pin jacks. The high-impedance guitar input is said to have been improved, but the bigger news is that, thanks to the interchangeable 30-pin and Lightning connectors, the iO Dock II is compatible with all the standard iPads up to and including the fourth generation model. The downside is that there's still no support for the iPad Air.
The C.24 isn't just another MIDI controller. For a start, it also serves as a dock/case for your tablet, and the key mechanism is based on anti-polarity magnets rather than springs.
What's more, every key press is tracked by an infrared emitter detector pair, providing "real-time analogue position data". Optical key tracking technology promises control of MIDI velocity and monophonic aftertouch, and is also said to enable detailed performance capabilities.
Other features include a ribbon controller above the keyboard that's divided into two assignable regions, and the option to expand the C.24 with knobs, faders and XY pads in the future via hardware expansion modules.
The device communicates with your iPad over Bluetooth, with Miselu's Key app enabling you to assign the keyboard to any CoreMIDI-compatible iOS app.