The recent introduction of Apple’s new iPad line surprised many industry pundits. With technical specs rivaling the iPad Air 2, but a pricepoint of $329 (32GB) and $429 (128GB), the new iPads appear to be an attempt by Cupertino to prop up its declining tablet computer market. For musicians using the iOS platform – this writer included – it offers a lifeline to re-embrace a still pretty vibrant community of app developers.
Around two to three years ago, TabMuse turned its focus away from tablet music apps and more towards hardware synths and effects. It’s been a year and a half since the last iOS article. This somewhat parallels my own shift as well. My last Church of Hed album, Brandenburg Heights, features all hardware synths. The only software involved in the recording was ProTools and a few of its effects plug-ins for EQ.
The Enforced Obsolescence of the iPad 2
Using my iPad 2 over the past two years has been a frustrating experience. I’ve kept it on iOS 7 because of incompatibility issues with the older music apps I still occasionally use, as well as the reported poor performance of new iOS versions on older hardware. iOS 8 adversely affected the iOS music scene, but by that point I was embracing a growing collection of analog hardware in my studio.
Not being able to upgrade Safari caused Apple’s mobile web browser to crash a few times each day. Some of my most-used music apps, like Korg Gadget and Audiobus, struggled on the underpowered tablet. Soon, nearly all new iOS music app updates only supported iOS 8 and newer.
Whine. Whine. Whine. I planned on getting a new iPad at some point – the Air 2 intrigued – but other studio priorities took precedence. I even started using a second laptop in the studio dedicated to software synths, while an ancient version of ProTools – that still works like a breeze – holds fort on an ancient laptop, also running fine – knock on wood.
Enforced obsolescence and backwards incompatibility sucks, but it remains an important part of the Cupertino business model. Nevertheless, I persisted.
The Joy of the New iPad
So I recently picked up the new 128GB iPad and proceeded to re-download the best 95 percent of my music apps; this tablet is staying free of games. I am happy to report the joy of running multi-routes in Audiobus 2 with no discernible hiccups. Being able to use more than four gadgets simultaneously in a Korg Gadget project is another plus.
Since I have ProTools, I don’t really need to use iOS DAW programs like Cubasis. iOS music apps for me are all about unique synth sounds and composing beats. Stroke Machine and Elastic Drums also run great, by the way. A Lightning to 30-pin cable keeps the Griffin StudioConnect in the game.
Another compatibility issue lurks soon when Apple begins requiring 64-bit apps with the release of iOS 11. Thankfully, most of those older 32-bit apps with devs who can’t support them any longer still run fine on Ye Olde iPad 2.
New app purchases are coming down the pike, with Moog’s Model 15 and the Korg iOdyssey topping my wish list. Hardware synths remain the focus, however. A minor effect pedal addiction is also doing a nice job of keeping me from entering the Eurorack world and its subsequent cash outlay.
So expect more coverage of iOS music apps in the future here at TabMuse. It won’t be like the first year of this site when it dominated the content, but we’ll mix a review or tips article in occasionally. Music app devs interested in coverage, feel free to schlep me a download code!