The ultimate guide for turning your iPod Touch or iPhone into a mobile pocket studio

On this page

  1. Summary
  2. Why this guide exists
  3. Exportability and singleness of purpose
  4. Microphone adaptors
  5. iPhone / iPod Touch microphones
  6. Bluetooth interfaces
  7. Studio shells
  8. Tripods and stabilizers
  9. MIDI inputs
  10. 1/8in guitar input (i.e. GuitarJack)
  11. Discussions about input devices
  12. Want a feature in an app? Ask for it!
  13. Multitrack recording apps
  14. Studio and sequencer apps
  15. Looping apps
  16. Learning apps
  17. Single instrument apps
  18. See also


There are some decent tools for music recording, editing and mastering on the iPhone or iPod Touch, but whether you'll really want to commit to learning the tools and using the specific hardware for the job depends on your ultimate goals. If you want to be able to get working almost instantaneously, the limitations of music tools and instruments inspire creativity in you almost as much as the features, and you value ultra-portability, it might be worth it to explore the iPhone as a real tool. If you want to push the boundaries of what a little touch screen can accomplish musically, you'll also probably have a satisfying experience.

Conversely, if you're looking for an experience and tool set like you'd get with Logic, Ableton Live, Nuendo or Reason, you will soon find yourself frustrated and out hours of research and ramp-up time. If the lack of fade in and out envelopes on tracks in a DAW is a deal breaker for you, then maybe I can save you a bit of heartache and suggest you invest the time in the tools you already like using.

That said, the future is bright. Already, Apple dropped restrictions for third-party support of hardware, meaning that hardware and software can have two different providers. Bluetooth keyboards are now compatible, meaning that DIY pedal banks for hands-free recording and looping can become a reality. There are already a couple of 25-key keyboards available. There are MIDI and direct-line guitar / bass inputs. There are some nice microphones, and ways to use other mics as well. It will take a bit of time for all the software to built support for these hardware tools - for example, I don't think any of the below mentioned apps support keyboard operations - but many of them are talking about it already.

The wide adoption of the iPad is helping drive development for richer iPad apps, and some of that work is getting pushed back to the iPhone and iPod Touch versions. Apps are being actively developed, and the narrowness of focus of some of these apps means that many of them are more polished than their desktop counterparts (if there even are desktop counterparts). Whenever I bumped into something I wanted from an app, a search through the developers forums revealed that other people wanted it to, and the developer had mentioned that it was something they were planning on including in the next version. Most of the popular apps support methods of copying and pasting audio between apps, making it possible to use one app for rhythm, one for guitar emulation and another for vocals, and mix them all together in yet another app.

If you're looking for a robust recording / editing / mastering environment from the iPhone or iPod Touch, you might be disappointed now, but you might very well find one in the next several months.

Why this guide exists

On my list of priorities, right under being a kick-ass father and husband and mastering the craft of my livelihood, is becoming a competent musician. But because the other priorities along with feeding myself, exercising and a maintaining a minimum of personal hygiene take up the vast majority of my waking hours, there's precious little left to spend on the lesser priorities, even if they're only fourth on the list.

Over the years, I've boiled down my music workstations to a fairly simple set of tools that facilitate relatively rapid set-up. Sometimes that workstation is my Martin acoustic guitar and a notebook, and other times it's a couple of MIDI keyboards and a laptop running Ableton Live and Reason. But, however humble these setups might be, they still require a particular environment (i.e. no one else is around) and in the case of my electronic setup, it takes a 5 to 15 minutes to boot everything up and figure out what I want to work on. It's enough that I can count how many times I've actually sat down and worked on something over the last three years on two hands. At that pace, I'm not going to hit the 10,000 hour mark required for mastery until well into my next life.

So, I began exploring my other options and discovered that with $50 or so of software, I could turn my iPod Touch (generation 4) into a respectable pocketable studio as well as leverage it as a rapid learning tool. And, since I made a permanent space in my pocket for an earbud case, all I need is one free hand to compose a melody, to learn how a tune I want to learn is put together, or lay down a sick beat, and I can do it anywhere. The other night I played with looping while on walk. One night I goofed around with a little electronic piece while laying in bed. Basically, I've found a way to take advantage of the small spaces between my other tackling my bigger priorities and leverage them to make some headway in musicianship.

It took a while to figure out what was out there in terms of hardware and software as well as what the current limitations are. So, I combined my personal experiences and research along with some great reviews and guides out there into a single document that should help other people seeking a pocketable mobile studio get started with a lot less time and effort than it took me.

If you find this guide helpful, I would be grateful if you'd post back about your experiences and anything that you learned along the way.

Exportability and singleness of purpose

One thing I had to get used to right off the bat is that most apps do one thing and do it well, and the trick to getting them all working together is support of audio copy and paste. So, where you might use Nano Studio to create a nice synth track, and Beatmaker for the beat, you will be copying the audio from those apps into a multitrack app like Multitrack DAW or Fourtrack to stitch everything together. Luckily, many of the best apps out there support this kind of copy and paste, and many of those that don't have it planned for the next version.

Because you'll be hopping from one app to another, using an iPod Touch or iPhone that supports multitasking adds some additional speed to the process.

Microphone adaptors

My first thought was that it would be perfect to have the right set of adaptors to use any mic with the iPod Touch. I have a cheapy lapel mic with a 3.5mm plug and a Shure 58 with an XLR plug, and would rather be able to use these than have to buy a dedicated iPhone mic. I bought a number of components off of Amazon, some of which worked, some of which didn't.

The first thing I needed was a microphone / headset splitter so that I could monitor the audio while recording. I bought one called the Headset Buddy ($14.65):

Headset Buddy

There's another, sexier-looking adapter with a right-angle plug here ($24.50), which I did not buy:

Headphone and microphone splitter

The Headset Buddy worked to connect my dinky Cyber Acoustics ACM-1 lapel mic ($1.48 + $5.99 shipping):

CA Microphone

As well as my Plantronics .Audio 645 headset ($27.96, which happens to have really good sound, better than about 5 other headsets I tried):

Plantronics headset

When I tried it with an Olympus ME52W ($15.89), which I bought to use to use my iPod Touch as a wireless mic when I give talks, it didn't work. There was no sound:

Olympus mic

When I talked to Olympus support, they suggested that maybe the problem was that the microphone was mono. You can tell it's mono because of the single stripe on the plug, and if you look at the other two mics above that did work, they have two stripes indicating they're stereo, so that might be the issue.

Next I bought a 3.5mm to XLR adapter ($8.50) to try to hook my Shure 58:

XLR to 3.5mm jack

Unfortunately, when I plugged this into the Headset Buddy this also produced no sound. The 3.5mm end is stereo, which maybe conflicts with the theory that the mic has to be stereo to work. However, it's also possible that the power the Shure 58 pulls is too much or too little and doesn't trigger the right response in the iPod Touch.

One suggestion I read about was to use a special iPhone to XLR / headphone adaptor ($23.50), so instead of using a separate mic / headphone splitter, you'd plug this guy directly in:

3.5mm to XLR and headphone jack

iPhone / iPod Touch microphones


I haven't gotten to try any specifically iPhone / iPod Touch mics besides the built-in mic for the iPod touch G4 (which so far really bites the big one, especially with the terrible interference when wifi is on) and the ones on both the Apple earphones with mic ($29.00) and Apple in-ear headphones with mic ($79.99), both of which appear to have the same quality mic:

Apple earbuds

In-ear Apple earbuds


However, after readying a dizzying number of reviews, there are a few that seem to rise above the fold. These mics plug into the connector jack, and some of them do so in a way that covers up the headphone jack, so if you use an iPod Touch rather than iPhone, you need a dock extender like the iExtend ($19.97) (now discontinued, but the Dock Extender product below is still available):


or Dock Extender ($28.95):

Dock Extender

Blue Mikey

The microphone that seems to get the most play is the [Blue Mikey] ($79.99), with the 2.0 version coming out in late October 2010:

Blue Mikey

I'm really excited to give this one a go, but can't quite justify the cost yet. Reviewers say it has great sound, and Blue is a brand that I've run into when researching respectable podcasting mics.

Belkin TuneTalk

The Belkin TuneTalk ($49.18) is a stereo microphone recorder that includes a 3.5mm microphone jack and a USB power plug (important for supplying power during longer sessions). The folks at Harmonicdog (makers of Multitrack DAW) thought the included mics had too small of a signal to be practical for studio recording. You would also need a dock extender to use headphones:

Belkin TuneTalk

Griffin iTalk Pro

The Griffin iTalk Pro ($79.95) also supplies a 3.5mm microphone jack, but has an on-board microphone and speakers (speakers could be fun for live performances using the Guitar app).

Griffin iTalk

Bluetooth interfaces

The iPhone OS 4 supports Bluetooth keyboards, but as far as I can tell, none of the apps below support keyboard controls. If I'm allowed to dream, I would imagine a keyboard with a rotating connector doc that allows you to work with the iPod Touch or iPhone in landscape or portrait mode. Also, one thing I'd really like is the ability to trigger loops hands-free with pedals, and a Bluetooth interface would be awesome for this. I built one faux-pedal bank from a wireless keyboard once (inspired by this DIY example), and it was workable, though a little clumsy. There's a nice tutorial on creating a real foot pedal bank that uses the keyboard schema here. So, as long as keyboard triggers are supported by an app, there would be some way to get foot pedals involved. So, we're waiting on apps to support Bluetooth.

To really keep this aspect of the gear pocketable, you could use a virtual laser keyboard ($149.99) or a flexible waterproof pocket keyboard ($14.95).

Bluetooth could also be used for external piano keyboards as well.

Studio shells

There are a couple of 'shells' out that add a number of microphones, controls and input jacks as a case around your iPhone / iPod touch. I also haven't gotten to try these out yet. They run a little on the spendy side, and also add some overhead to my goals of rapid execution and portability. They're small, but they won't fit in my pocket.

Belkin GoStudio

First off, the Belkin GoStudio ($98.96) adds two mics, 2 combo XLR / 1/4in jacks, a 3.5mm mic jack and controls for gain and volume. The reviews aren't so great and it apparently sucks a lot of power, but it sure looks cool:

Belkin GoStudio

Alesis ProTrack

The __Alesis ProTrack ($172) looks even cooler, and appears to add the same functionality as the GoStudio, along with phantom power for condenser mics:

Alesis ProTrack

Tripods and stabilizers

Gorilla Mobile tripod

I saw a few examples of ways to hold the iPod Touch when performing, though I haven't tried them myself. The first is the Gorilla Mobile tripod ($25.30), which sucks to the iPhone or iPod Touch with a suction cup. Alternately, you can use adhesive-backed adaptors to attach to a protective shell:

Gorilla Mobile

Car mount

You can also flip the suction cup idea and use a car mount ($12.29) to suction to a table top (for an example, see this video demoing the Everyday Looper app around 6:40:

iPhone car mount

Multi-iPhone stand

The photo below shows another neat setup, but I don't know what exactly is being used. You see three iPhones clipped onto a metal bar. The video for this, demoing Beatmaker and Guitar is pretty slick.

iPhone Stand

MIDI inputs

Right now, it looks like MIDI is on the verge of becoming real for the iPhone and iPod touch. There are a couple of devices, but since they're not supported by the apps mentioned below, they're not really useful yet for pocket studio.

MIDI Mobilizer

The MIDI Mobilizer ($69.99) allows you to capture and backup MIDI data with their MIDI Memo app, but it seems like this device wouldn't be practical for music creation until other app developers integrate with their SDK.

MIDI Mobile

Akai Synthstation25

The Akai SYNTHSTATION25 ($99) is, as far as I can tell, the first MIDI keyboard controller for the iPhone. Since it's new it looks like only the Akai SynthStation app is supported, but hopefully other apps will add support over time. I would prefer to use the MIDI Mobilizer so I could use any MIDI input, but this seems like a good second choice if apps chose to support it.

Akai SynthStation 25

iConnect MIDI

The iConnect MIDI is due to come out in January, 2011, and it looks like it might offer an interface similar to the MIDI mobilizer, with a way to route from a MIDI device through an iPhone app. The pic below shows an example of it being used with the iPad, but it will also interface with the iPhone and iPod Touch. See some clarification from the creators below.

iConnect MIDI

1/8in guitar input (i.e. GuitarJack)

The GuitarJack ($199) adapter, which comes from the folks at Sonoma, makers of FourTrack, adds a 1/4in input for a direct guitar in, 1/8in stereo mic input, and a 1/4 headphone jack. Pretty spendy, but slick:

Guitar Jack

Discussions about input devices

Much of what I learned about the above devices came from a few sources. I found that the forums for music recording apps usually have some good information, including:

Want a feature in an app? Ask for it!

Before I leap into the different apps I've tried out, I wanted to say that a lot of the developers of these apps are very responsive to support and feature requests, so I've included links to forums below each of the app descriptions. Also, you can search the forums for keywords around the features you'd like to see if they're already in the works.

Multitrack recording apps

There seem to be two leading multitrack recording apps, FourTrack ($9.99) and Multitrack DAW ($9.99). Both support audio copy / paste.

Multitrack DAW

So far, I like Multitrack DAW better for a few reasons:

  1. You can view the tracks as horizontal sound waves
  2. You can edit the tracks with precision using cut and paste
  3. You can have up to 24 tracks

Multitrack DAW

The interface is very simple, and there's not a lot to it.

Click here for the forums on Multitrack DAW


Fourtrack was one of the first apps I've bought, and I still have yet to use it for much. The interface is beautiful, polished and straightforward. It also has some nice effect controllers. But, the 4-track limitation, as well as the lack of a method of editing a wave once it's recorded, makes Multitrack DAW appear far superior.


Click here for the FourTrack forums

Studio and sequencer apps


One of my favorite music apps so far is NanoStudio ($14.99). It includes a real, flexible synthesizer with 80 or so presets and a drum kit for instruments. It then allows you to record and arrange parts in a sequencer. It includes advanced features like editing or automating the velocity, pan and various controls for each track in the sequencer. You only get 6 tracks (4 synth and 2 drum pad), but apparently you can switch presets partway through a track so you can get a lot more out than meets the eye. The presets are a lot of fun, and the number of controls to work with allow you to make unique sounds.

Nano studio

Click here for the NanoStudio forums


Beatmaker ($9.99) is basically a really nice, flexible drum pad and sequencer. I haven't gotten to play with it much, but the interface is nice, the sounds are solid, and some of the features seem like they could be a lot of fun in live performances, like the ability to reverse or mute pads. Beatmaker supports audio export so you can lay down a rhythm track and load it into one of the multitrack recording apps.


Click here for the Beatmaker forums.

Music Studio

I haven't gotten a chance to play with Music Studio ($14.99) much, but it looks promising. It has the same kind of feel as NanoStudio, but uses samples of real instruments and probably because of this is able to allow 128 simultaneous tracks. The keyboard controller is also really flexible (stretch and slide), and it just seems to have a nice interface all around.

Music Studio

Click here for the Music Studio forums.

Looping apps

I've found looping to be the key to really enjoying a few minutes of music making. You can use your voice or stuff around you to lay down some repeating tracks to riff off. For my laptop, I love Ableton Live, and would really like to see something similar for the iPod Touch / iPhone. There's a couple apps that come close.


One of my favorite finds ever is Loopy ($4.99), and I prefer this to the Everyday Looper only because it allows you to have variable-length tracks. So, one track can be 4 measures, and the next can be 1 or 16. Having this ability is really critical for me to not feel overly constrained (though I have still had fun within that constraint) by the tool. I think the interface is kind of genius, though it can be tricky to work with at times. It's also beautiful and has Imogeen Heap's approval.


Click here for the Loopy forums.

Everyday Looper

Everyday Looper ($5.99) has one of the starkest interfaces I've seen for the iPhone. It's also very easy to use, and has intuitive controls. Because all the loops have to be the same length, it's a little harder for me to use as a scratchpad, but it's still very cool, and has some great demos on Youtube.

Everyday Looper

Click here for the Everyday Looper forums

Learning apps


As I started exhuastively researching apps, I finally decided to download TabToolkit ($9.99), an app that really surprised me. What it does is take various versions of tabulature (like basic guitar tabs on speed) and displays the musical notation, the tabs (i.e. where you put your fingers), and then highlights the spots on a guitar fretboard. Then, you can play the thing, and it will play it for you. You can stop at any time and scroll back or forwards as you learn. Some of the formats also include other instruments like vocals, drums and piano, so you can pretty much take apart a complex song, piece by piece, and learn what goes into it.

It also allows you to download tabs from within the app and add them to your library. A few places that have good tabs:

Tab Toolkit

There are no forums for Tab Toolkit, but they do have a blog.


Another app that has been great so far for learning has been Guitar ($3.99). Guitar is a virtual guitar that you can strum, and it feels surprisingly natural. You can set two rows of buttons to any chord you'd like, as well as custom tune the guitar and build custom chords. You can also set a button to display a scale, or a plain fretboard. I've played with it for maybe 3 or 4 hours and have really been enjoying it. Particularly I like the idea of being able to practice or perform a tune with my iPod Touch. You can also record music and audio copy / paste it into a multitrack app.

The learning comes in when you can load other songs, view notes on the fretboard, and explore chords.


Click here for the Guitar forums.

Single instrument apps

There are a couple of single instrument apps (including Guitar mentioned above) that I think deserve note.

I Am T-Pain

Besides having a lot of fun attempting to sing songs I've never heard before about strippers and donk with friends, the __I Am T-Pain ($2.99) app gives you Autotune, a plugin that costs $199, for 3 bucks! Admittedly, it's a little tricker to use and more limited, but if you use one of the headphone / microphone splitters mentioned above, you can route your headphone as a line-in to your computer, and then sing into the microphone to get an auto-tuned recording, in almost any scale you'd like. Basically, you use your iPhone as an effects device.

I Am T-Pain

Click here for the I Am T-Pain forums.


I've always been a sucker for old school electronic instruments, and I never really thought I'd get a pocketable theremin, but Gyrosynth ($.99) is just that. So far, it's just kind of fun to play with, but once they add some audio copy / paste and backing audio, you could use it as a real instrument in a DAW.


Click here for the Gyrosynth forums.

See also

External resources


Wow Chris, you really went to town on this! Impressive and for all intents and purposes, apparently definitive!

Shame I don't have any of the devices you talk about though. Well, not really, quite happy with my droid ;)

Thanks, Mysty! Well, if you ever look into mobile pocket recording with the Android, post back here because I'd be really interested in what's available.

Nice. Work.

Thank you!

Very nice article. We of course appreciate mention of iConnectMIDI.

To clarify a bit - we selected to interface with iOS device through USB for performance. iConnectMIDI supports multiple MIDI ports and thus the serial communication capability of iOS devices was clearly insufficient. With USB we are able to handle tens of thousands of MIDI events per second between your iOS device and iConnectMIDI. Our design also keeps latency through our box negligible for real performance opportunities.

iConnectMIDI is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Ah, sweet, thanks for the details. Devices like yours makes me consider seriously getting an iPad. :)

Cheers, and great work!


I love that you took the time to write this, hopefully it allowed you to consolidate your own ideas (or something useful - I have two daughters and no time myself!) and I feel like I learned a bit. I was an early adopting sucker, and bought Studiotrack, the silly $40 App with audio paste, but no audio copy? Also, no waveform editing. Please point this out in your 2nd edition of this, it was a waste of money for the DAW experience I was hoping for.

Also, while it is not spectacular, yet anyway, Electrify for iPad is attempting something similar to Ableton Live, and is fun, but not great yet. A couple others, some of these are iPad only though, I use iPad and iPod Touch 2nd gen.:
::Reactable - fun, way cheaper at $9.99usd versus hardware at $2500usd, but not many samples to play with, and quirky import.
::Moog Filtatron - if you don't have this yet, get it! $5 Moog (modelled, but awesome!) filter, sampler, delay, copy/paste, fun and productive!
::reforge/audioview I can never get these correct, but one of them acts as a bridge, so you can copy/paste using any of the formats, and switch to a different format, i.e., clipboard copy to Intua copy/paste, etc. Handy, but quirky and temperamental.

Sorry for the verbage, but I really liked where you were going with this, and wanted to help you out with info about some apps you might not have had the time to test yet. Thanks!

Great comment, Trey, thank you!

I'll work through some of these and post back here..

Reactable looks neat and I thought about getting it but after watching some of the live demos of the hardware in a Bjork concert, but it seemed more like a proof of concept for a more physical interface for something that's usually un-sexy laptronica. But the music it produced seemed a bit abstract, not something that I'm terribly into at the moment.

I also looked at the Filtatron, and would you say that that would be useful to layer on effects to tracks coming out of other programs, or for adding effects to live instruments?

Reforge sounds interesting, what apps do you find you need it for?

Another app I should have mentioned was Rebirth, which looks like a pretty slick recreation of the original.

Thanks again!

Thanks for the comments on my comments! I will start at the bottom and work my way up..

I enjoy Rebirth for iOS, but without a audio copy/paste (hereafter just ACP), it is kind of limited fun.

Reforge is a handy tool for both simple audio edits, like trimming a sample, fades, pans, and the like, but is also useful as a tool to go between Intua and Sonoma's competing ACP standards, as it can convert both, incoming and outgoing.

Filtatron would be my number one sound enhancing purchase, Moog really put some effort behind it, and it is a steal at $5usd. You can paste audio from other apps into it's sampler, use it to colour line in, or just create weird sounds right from the app. You can record all of this, and supposedly coy it to paste into other apps, but I haven't either figured this out yet, or maybe I read it wrong. Worst case, you can record up to 2 minutes and transfer via wifi. The filter, amp, and delay are all the highest quality you can find outside of a real Moog, and having owned a real Moog in the past, I gotta say, Filtatron is much more portable and easier to use and maintain. One weird thing, when you record audio into the sampler, you have to name it, then call up the file, it isnt automatically loaded for some reason.

You are right on the money about Reactable, my 6 year old enjoys it, but it feels a little hokey as an actuall "instrument"....if you want to go even cheaper, sound table gives essentially the same tools at a cheaper price.

One omission we both overlooked is iElectribe,which is iPad only though...I had the hardware version of this at one point too. Sounds fantastic, but has a bit of a quircky interface, and again, no ACP, but that might be coming. If you can figure it out, the sounds are great

I have played around with Looptastic, which is actually pretty great, both Producer for iPhone and HD for iPad...Great effects, pretty simple to record your own loops, and also paste loops from other apps into it.

I mention Looptastic because I just picked up Studio.HD, a multitrack recorder which fits together well with Looptastic. Pretty good so far, but not great for recording multiple audio, so next up os Multitrack DAW, which I haven't tried yet, but I know lacks the effects capabilities.

So far, with the exception of Filtatron, and possibly Beatmaker, I haven't found that magic combination that I can totally immerse myself in, like I could with Logic or Ableton Live.

To all of you App creators out there, here is my wishlist:
An MPC-60/SP-1200 Emulator! Why don't we have this yet?
Korg - you give us iElectribe but no iKaoss, or KaossiPad? How about an iMS-20? My daughter has a DS-20, so come on already.
I dream of Apple porting Logic to iPad, but that is probably never going to happen.
What about A Fostex or Otari 8 track reel to reel simulator, with analog warmth, gain, and virtual tape flutter, and flange? Or any analog/tube emulation to warm up tracks?
Sorry if this is too much, these are just some ideas that have been nagging at me. We are finally at that point of time where the tools are more advanced than our ideas, I think if the people who wanted music apps could assign a couple of app developers to work together, something great could happen. But if we all tinker away at our own workbenches, we will continue to remain impoverished.

Hope this helps some of your readers, I am always interested in learning how to improve my workflow.

It's worth noting that on the iPad with the Camera Connection Kit, you can connect USB microphones and use those with Multitrack DAW. At least that is my understanding, I haven't done it yet myself since the iPad mic is really good enough I suppose.

iVoxel is SynthStation compatible, and easily the best vocoder I've played with on the system.

Jasuto Pro is a somewhat difficult to use but amazing modular synth - made by one of the coders behind Filtatron...

I'll take a look at these and update the post with them. iVoxel looks nice, and has copy / paste.

Jasuto Pro looks intriguing, looking forward to playing with that.


This is an AMAZING list. I have been following a lot of it. I did find 1 broken link:


iExtend ($19.97):

However, I found the DockExtender boost is a great alternative at

P.S. Everyday Looper Rocks!

Hey, thanks, looks like they discontinued the iExtend. And glad to hear you're enjoying Everyday Looper, that's a fun one!


Thnx a lot mate! I'm just getting into using my iphone for making music and this article you wrote was really helpfull in figuring out where to start and what to buy. I also found something that is called 'bebot' which is a pretty cool program although it doesn't allow for 'copy-pasting'/recording within the iphone but if your gonne finalize your stuff on a pc then it's definitly worth checking out! Thnx again!

Ooh, bebot looks neat! The video on with Jordan Rudess is sweet, it has a really nice sound. I'll have to play with it soon. Cheers!

No serious contribution (yet). Just wanted to say thanks for this guide. Super informative!!!

Again, thanks.



What do you think the easiest, cheapest way to record with a studio mic is? I recall reading somewhere about going Mic>Mixer>iPhone, but I haven't been able to make it work.

I am using Multitrack DAW. I already have a Mic, Mixer, and iPhone obviously, so I was thinking all I would need is some simple adapter.

My goal is to be able to record a live band setting as one track, to get rough ideas recorded. The internal iPhone mic obviously can get this done, but I do need a bit better quality than it is giving me.

Maybe you answered this in your post, and if I missed it, I apologize. :)

Some folks have mentioned that that AmpKit ( is one way. So if you can get a 1/4in out, or even a 3.5mm with an adapter, that should work. I can't speak from personal experience. I mentioned a few things I tried, but the XLR to 3.5mm adapter I got didn't work. Jorgren mentioned in comment after yours that he built his own version of the AmpKit, so that's another route.

One thing I'd like answered is whether you need a stereo mic to if you're plugging directly into the mic / headphone jack. From my experiments, it seems like you do, but I'd like a definitive on that.

Thanks for the comment, and post back here when you have something working!


Excellent writeup!

For guitar, I built a homebrew interface similar to the Amplitube or AmpKit. I think the Ampkit is the preferred hardware these days, thanks to its crosstalk reducer (which is simply a headphone booster, allowing you to send a lower-level signal out the iPxxx jack, reducing the amount of signal that will leak back into the mic pin on the earbud/mic connector).

It's a disgraceful that Apple dumped the line-level inputs after the 3rd-gen iPhone/iPod. At the same time, they apparently screwed with USB audio compatibility, causing serious damage to the iPxxx music production community. Shame on Apple.

My favorite apps:

Multitrack DAW - nothing else compares and the author is a great guy.

DrumTrack8 - very easy grid drum-machine interface, create multiple loops and sequence them into a song. Allows you to create your own custom-recorded drum kits. I sampled one in by banging on things around my office. Supports ACP.

ThumbJam - multitrack finger-drag loop interface. You can get started in seconds; it will absorb you for days and days. Easy, great-sounding, supports numerous (and customizable) samples, and hundreds of scales. Author is another great guy. Does an awesome blues guitar shred. Supports ACP.

Nlog - very good-sounding (and good-looking) analog-style polysynth with flexible arpeggiator/chord arp. Supports ACP, and the latest version supports MIDI input.

Argon - a good-sounding monosynth. This one has a 16-step sequencer instead of an arpeggiator. Sadly, its audio paste capacity is a meager 4-bar snippet, negating the beauty of its ability for lush slow filter sweeps. I ended up recording Argon by connecting the iPxxx headphone output to my computer's audio input, then transferring back to the iPxxx by WiFi.

Dude, thank you for just being you, and for this instantly-bookmarked guide, which I have emailed to all my fellow music-making lovers and practitioners.

Like you, I'm seriously busy doing all manner of other things to bring home the bacon, but boy, do we like the same things! I shamelessly confess to have bought just about every app and accessory you have mentioned, and it really makes me feel vindicated rather than just plain extravagant to read your reasons for preferring one over another.

I prefer MultiTrack DAW but have 4Track as well, and have just bought MusicStudio. BeatMaker and I bought ages ago, along with Star Guitar Pro and Star Piano. Don't get me started with the Guitar apps I own, which include Tab Toolkit among several others.

Accessories include only the Alesis ProTrack for the time being and 2 Behringer C4's that slot into its XLR slots, but I am grateful for your analysis of splitters and other bits and bobs that I will look to get. For years I've owned Line 6 gear galore including the acoustic Variax 700, POD XT, Spider Jam 75 amp and a footswitch. The great thing about the music apps is that they are all compatible with my oldest iPhone, the 3G, and so extend its life by giving it a role to play as MIDI sequence, guitar, synth and SysEx patch repository as well as an extra "instrument". I also own a 3GS and am holding out for the white iPhone 4.

I've simply accumulated this stuff at breakneck pace without firing a single musical "shot in anger" to date, but now, with the help of your guide, I am, like Quincy Jones will say, "waiting for an angel to walk across the studio"...

I saw this pasted over on the nanostudio forums. Fantastic guide Chris.

Thanks for this great article! I just want to confirm one thing, 100% before I go out and drop $400.... Belkin TuneTalk Stereo works with the 4th gen iPod Touch?



Thank you so much!
This clarifies so many things. I'm going to try using my zoom H2 as a mic/preamplifier and really start using Loopy more.
Currently using Beatmaker, Argon/Xenon, Bebot & Loopy. Will add Multitrack DAW and Filtatron to the mix.
Also holding down a 9-5 and being Dad so your article really hits the spot.
Thanks again!

IK Multimedia have a range of kit for the iPad/iPod/iPhone now, including guitar input (iRig), mic (iRig Mic) and MIDI (iRig MIDI):
(I'm not associated with IK at all).

I own the iRig Mic and am very happy with it. It features a slider for still, medium and loud surroundings which makes it possible to use the loopers in live settings.
Have fun!

Great work, and still relevant. I adore my 3GS-32 and am waiting for the 5 whatever that might be. I buy top of the line so that I may skip generations, and save money. So I always have a mix of primo and obsolete gear to hook together.

Just a note on the Olympus stereo/mono issue. Typically, you can troubleshoot this by monitoring performance while slowly prying the plug out of the socket. In my experience, there will be a point at which the signal will flow. This indicates TS/TRS mismatch, which is mono/stereo.

Another issue is the iPhone used TRRS, which is less common, so several mono plugs which work fine with stereo will mysteriously fail on the iPhone. The slow-pry trick has worked for me here. Finally, different manufacturers have different ideas of how strictly to implement physical standards, de facto or otherwise. There are few things as frustrating as troubleshooting the comlicated parts of something only to discover that the problem was way down in the simplicity.