There are many ways to get awesome tone out of your guitar and into your iOS device. I’ve written about many of those ways on this very site. But what if your guitar playing skills are better than mine and you want to not only experience amazing tone, you want to share it with the entire world using the power of the Interweb? If that sounds like you, chances are you’re going to need a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). But which one? How many are there to choose from? Which one is the right one for me? These could be questions you ask yourself as you investigate your DAW options. I know they were the questions I asked myself that lead me to putting this very list together.
By the way, this list features eleven applications. All good guitarists know eleven is simply better than ten.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on any of these DAWs—I’m still determining my own favourites—but I will try and point out the features of each one so you hopefully have enough information to make your own educated decision. If you’re anything like me—with greater guitar playing skills—you’ll end up using more than one of the applications from the list below as there will be specific needs each one fills that will suit you differently each time you put a track together.
Let’s get into that list!
Made by Steinberg, Cubasis is an extensive looking program that aims to make CD quality recording from your iOS device a breeze. The interface is very professional in appearance, colourful and familiar (for people who have used a DAW before). Beside providing the ability to record multiple tracks, Cubasis has built in instruments and effects. This is a feature packed application.
At the time of writing the app is $49.99 and there is a promise to make the app AudioBus compatible when the next free update is released. More on Audiobus in a future article. You can get Cubasis from the US iTunes store.
- Unlimited audio and MIDI tracks (depends on the device used)
- Over 70 virtual instrument sounds based on HALion Sonic
- MixConsole with over 10 effect processors
- Over 300 MIDI and audio loops
- Virtual keyboard and virtual drum pads
- Sample Editor and Key Editor
- Export projects to Cubase, Dropbox, SoundCloud, AudioCopy and email
- Core Audio and Core MIDI compatible hardware supported
- Sequence other CoreMIDI apps (MIDI recording only) and run Cubasis simultaneously via background audio
- Audio import from iTunes music library, AudioPaste, Wi-Fi server and iTunes file sharing
- Audio mixdown and MIDI export.
Made by Intua, BeatMaker 2 claims to be the most advanced mobile music workstation. Just like Cubasis, BeatMaker 2 provides instruments through its keyboard sampler and drum machine as well as the ability to record multiple tracks. BeatMaker 2 is another beautifully designed application that offers a familiar layout for DAW users. This is another application that at the time of writing is apparently one update away from providing AudioBus support.
At the time of writing the app is $19.99 in the US iTunes store.
- Create multiple instruments with Drum Machine, Keyboard Sampler, Audio Tracks
- 11 effects: Reverb, Compressor, Filter, Delay, EQ, Flanger, Chorus, AutoPan, BitCrusher, Overdrive, 6-Band Parametric EQ
- 3 effect slots for each instrument
- CoreMIDI support: connect your MIDI accessories to control instruments, effects and mixer
- Multi-track sequencer
- Wave editor
- Mixer console
- Large sound bank included.
FL Studio Mobile
Made by Image-Line, FL Studio Mobile is another app that allows you to create complete mulit-track recordings through the use of its in-built instruments and drum machine. The interface is beautifully designed and should be easily understood by most DAW users. FL Studio Mobile uses the AudioPaste system developed by Sonoma Wire Works. Currently I do not believe there is Audiobus support.
At the time of writing the app is $14.99 in the US iTunes store.
- 133 high quality instruments, drum kits & sliced-loop beats
- Step sequencer for fast percussion programming and sliced-loop reworking
- Configurable virtual piano-keyboard
- Drum pads
- Wave editor: cut, trim, normalize, reverse, insert silence, fade in/out (3 curves)
- Background audio playback and recording
- Browser with preview button and logical sorting into Instruments, Synths, Drum kits & Loops
- Sampling: custom kits and instruments can be created from wav/mp3 files, AudioPaste, .zip and .instr files (created with FL Studio desktop)
- Pan, volume, release and attack time configurable per instrument
- Pitch bend via accelerometer
- Low-latency, iOS-optimized, high quality, battery-friendly audio engine
- Effects include Limiter, Reverb, Delay, EQ, Amp simulator & Filter to enhance your mix
- 99 track sequencer and intuitive editing options
- Edit at the level of tracks, bars or down to individual notes
- Unlimited undo and redo for all editable screens
- Metronome with tempo & time-signature settings
- Save and load your songs, export to wave and AAC
- MIDI file import/export
- SoundCloud and Dropbox upload
- Compatible with: CoreMIDI (MIDI in and out), Virtual MIDI, Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer I & II, Akai SynthStation 25, iRig, iRig Mic, iRig MIDI, Apogee Jam, Blue Mikey, Alesis IO Dock, iConnectMIDI, Yamaha i-MX1, Line 6 Mobile Keys, Line 6 Mobile In, Tascam iU2 and many more.
Made by BlipInteractive, NanoStudio is an all-inclusive recording studio for all iOS devices (as well as the Windows and OS X platforms). This app also incorporates instruments through its synth, drum pads and ability to use the AudioPaste feature (enabling you to import recordings from your guitar amplifier emulator software). Currently there is no support for Audiobus.
At the time of writing this app is $14.99 in the US iTunes store.
- 6 simultaneous instruments, up to 16 with in-app purchase
- MIDI input with the Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer, Akai SynthStation 25 and Core MIDI
- Audio copy/paste for sharing audio with other compatible apps (Sonoma and Intua standards supported)
- Upload your mix directly to SoundCloud
- Eden synth (also plays samples) – single or dual keyboards, XY controllers, pitch bend and accelerometer control
- TRG-16 sample trigger pads
- Sequencer with up to 64 tracks and a piano roll editor for note, velocity and controller events, all with undo/redo
- Mixer with 4 inserts per channel, 2 global send busses and volume/pan automation on every channel
- Sampling and resampling, sample editor and effects processor with undo/redo
- Transfer samples, final mixes and individual track mixdowns to your Mac/PC using NanoSync
- Send projects, samples and MIDI files as email attachments
- Built in help.
Made by Apple, GarageBand is an app that incorporates a DAW into an otherwise feature packed music application. There are multiple ways to create music including the ability to use the built-in amplifier emulation settings. Within this one app you can record drums, bass, wind instruments and various string instruments. On top of that you can record your own guitar playing. The DAW component is perhaps not as advanced as some of the other options in this list, but the price of this app along with the quality of the interface more than make up for that. This app is not currently supporting Audiobus.
At the time of writing this app is $4.99 in the US iTunes store.
- Play your iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch like a musical instrument
- Sound like a virtuoso with Smart Instruments
- Start a Jam Session with your friends
- Create a song anywhere you go
- Share your songs
Made by Retronyms, Tabletop has an advantage over the other DAWs in this list so far. That advantage? It’s free. The interface is just as beautiful as any other app in this field, but the price makes it clearly an application you can’t not afford to try. The app allows you to import your own recordings via the AudioPaste technology. There currently is no support for Audiobus. Tabletop does have its own sharing system callec Tabletop Ready. If a third-party app makes itself Tabletop Ready you will be able to use that app within Tabletop.
Tabletop does have an extensive list of gear that you can purchase from within the app itself. So although the app itself is free, you could spend quite a bit if you get addicted to all of the options available inside.
At the time of writing this app is free in the US iTunes store.
- 29 unique devices
- Over 500 sounds (multisample instruments, loops, phrases)
- Record sequences, arrange into songs
- Adjustable quantization (pre- and post-record)
- Recordable parameter automation
- Overdub and replace record modes
- Trigger sequences and patterns live
- Multitouch instruments and devices
- Sampling (internal mic, line in)
- Adjustable tempo with optional swing
- Import your own sound library, save presets
- Support for imported .mid phrases
- Insert and send/return (master) effects
- Undo history
- 44Khz, studio-quality audio
- Share recordings directly to SoundCloud
- Sync 2 iPads running Tabletop or other apps with WIST
- Move sounds between apps with AudioCopy and AudioPaste
- … and much more!
Made by Wavemachine Labs, Auria is one of the most complete and professional DAWs I’ve seen (on any operating system). Using this app you can play back up to 48 mono or stereo tracks. You can even record 24 tracks simultaneously if you so choose. The mixing and editing tools are second to none in this app. If you’ve ever used a DAW on a PC or Mac, then this interface is going to be incredibly comfortable. The options and settings may make you take another look at exactly what is possible while recording onto an iOS device. The disadvantage to many will be the cost. This app is not currently supporting Audiobus.
- 48 tracks of simultaneous playback of stereo or mono files. (24 tracks on iPad 1)
- Up to 24 tracks of simultaneous recording when used with compatible USB audio interfaces (Camera Connection Kit required)
- Supports sample rates of 44.1KHz, 48KHz and 96KHz (iPad 1 supports only 44.1KHz and 48KHz)
- Vintage-inspired ChannelStrip on every channel by PSPAudioware includes Expander, Multiband EQ and Compressor
- MasterStrip on all subgroup and master channels featuring PSPAudioware BussPressor, EQ and Mastering Limiter
- 64 bit double-precision floating point mixing engine
- Third party VST effect plugin support available via in-app purchase (only iOS-version plugins are supported. All plugins must be purchased through the in-app store)
- AAF import and export allows transferring complete sessions between popular DAWs like Logic, Pro Tools, Nuendo, Samplitude and more
- Convolution reverb plugin with included IR library
- ClassicVerb reverb plugin included
- StereoDelay and StereoChorus plugins included
- ReTune plugin included for auto pitch correction of vocals
- 8 Assignable subgroups and 2 aux sends
- Powerful touch-based waveform editor with features such as cut/copy/paste, crossfade, duplicate, separate, gain, normalize, dc offset, reverse, and more
- Flexible snapping tools allow snapping to events, cursor, bars, beats and SMPTE frames
- DropBox, SoundCloud and Audio Copy/Paste support
- Track freeze for minimizing CPU usage
- Full automation support on all controls with graphical editing
- True 100mm faders when used in Portrait Mode
- Optional video import feature allows sample accurate sync of video to an Auria project. Adjustable offset times and video export capability
- Timeline ruler options include minutes:seconds, bars:beats, samples and SMPTE time
- Auto-punch mode
- WIST support for wireless syncing of other compatible music apps
- AuriaLink allows two iPads running Auria to play and record in sync, allowing for 96 tracks of playback and 48 tracks of recording
- Full delay compensation on all tracks, subgroups, and aux sends
- Adjustable metering modes, including pre or post fader, RMS and peak
- Adjustable pan laws
- Sample accurate loop function
- Automatic sample rate conversion
- Built-in metronome
Made by Sound Trends, studio.HD is an attractively designed DAW for the iPad. There is also a similar version for the iPhone and iPod (with slightly fewer features) that is free. The layout should look familiar to many DAW users and as many other apps in this category do, this app uses the AudioPaste technology to allow you to import your own recordings. The included loops that come with this app make it a very handy practice or song writing tool. This app is not currently supporting Audiobus.
At the time of writing this app is $9.99 in the US iTunes store.
- 24 tracks of stereo, CD quality audio playback
- Optimized for iPad 2 and iPad 3 HD
- Loop recording helps you get your best take
- Works with Peavey AmpKit LINK, iRig and iRig Mic, Blue Yeti, Line 6 Mobile In, Behringer 202 (w/Camera Kit) and others
- Automated mixing with volume, panning and 14 effects
- Global master effects
- Export to SoundCloud, Facebook or email
- Over 900 free loops
- Use your own loops
- File management features and My Loops library
- Supports AudioCopy and AudioPaste
Meteor Multi Track Recorder
Made by 4 Pockets Audio, Meteor Multi Track Recorder is a very impressive DAW with many features seen in the OS X or PC DAW world. The interface is perhaps not as impressive as some of the other apps in this category, but the flexibility of settings more than makes up for the simple graphic stylings. This app allows you to record up to 12 tracks and includes built in effects, virtual effects and a mixer. This app utilises the AudioPaste system and recognises stereo tracks being pasted in (offering you the ability to split those tracks into two stereo tracks). This app is not currently supporting Audiobus.
At the time of writing this app is $19.99 in the US iTunes store.
- Record up to12 tracks of CD quality audio
- Multi-Effects Processor
- Integrated 12 channel Mixer
- Integrated Sample Editor
- 3 Global Send Effect Busses
- Insert Effects with freeze facility to reduce CPU load
- Record Effects & Record Monitor
- Mixer and Effect Automation
- PasteBoard Support
- Mixdown / Bounce Facility
- Import samples and iPod songs
- Export to compressed CAF and WAV formats
- Automatic Delay Compensation
- In-App Purchases available through the Online Shop
- Stereo Recording and Stereo Tracks complete with Pure Stereo
- Stereo Effects
- Side chaining is now available on Stereo audio tracks using the Compressor
- MIDI Thru support has been added to the MIDI Setup page
- Virtual Intruments In-App including Piano, Synthesizer and Drums
- Export each track individually during a mixdown
- A ‘Downloadable Sound Libraries’ option has been added to the ‘Help’ menu
- A MIDI import option
- HOLD pedal support for Virtual Instruments
- SoundCloud support
- MIDI Export
- Sonoma PasteBoard Support
- Split incoming stereo tracks into two mono tracks
- MIDI Clock Sync and SSP
- Send Song Via Email
- Record and Play Midi Tracks and Sync with External Hardware using the MIDI Clock
- Quantize of both MIDI and Audio data
- Revert to saved function
- Course, Medium and Fine Controllers for both MIDI and Audio Tracks
- Assign Custom Colours to parts of a song i.e. make the chorus easy to identify by assigning the colour blue
- Multi Tasking
Made by Harmonicdog, MultiTrack DAW is perhaps one of the easiest DAWs to use on iOS. Why? Because of its well thought out use of Audiobus. You can easily and seamlessly go from another supported Audiobus app to MultiTrack DAW and record. Using an app like JamUp Pro XT you can play guitar directly into MultiTrack DAW. The fact that MultiTrack DAW is so easy to use and feature packed makes the app that much more impressive.
The interface is simple, yet familiar in its layout of elements. The menu system can take some getting used to, but once mastered it becomes second nature. The built in effects and per-track editing are also worth mentioning. Mainly because they’re impressive.
At the time of writing this app is $9.99 in the US iTunes store.
- 8 stereo audio tracks, upgradable to 24
- Up to 24 bit / 96kHz, better than CD quality sound for each track
- Non-linear, non-destructive editing using Regions and Bins
- Per track Compressor and EQ (2 bands parametric, 2 bands shelving)
- Sweet Reverb and Configurable stereo Delay available as bus effects
- Multiple levels of Undo and Redo
- Grid View with Snap to easily align regions
- Metronome adjustable from 40 to 240 BPM
- Time Signatures (2/2, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 7/4, 6/8, 7/8, 9/8, and 12/8)
- Ruler showing bars/beats/divisions/ticks or timecode
- Individual controls for volume, pan, mute and solo
- Volume fader has +12db of gain boost
- Fade in and out per region (editable fade points)
- Input selection allows splitting stereo input onto 2 mono tracks
- Ability to monitor the input signal with effects
- Opens email attachments or audio on web pages (mp3, m4a, AAC, wav, aif, ogg)
- Bounce Regions using multi-region copy and paste
- Looping with the Loop Markers
- Hotbox popup control with context sensitive buttons
- Hotbox Buttons: Edit, Name, Slice, Move, Copy, Paste, Erase, and open the Bin Browser
- Bin Browser allows preview of audio files in the song
Made by Xewton, Music Studio has an interface that is incredibly familiar once you’ve been through the rest of this list. Especially if you had a look at the FL Studio Mobile app. The main reason for that similarity is the developer—Xewton. Xewton’s interface for Music Studio is the same one used in FL Studio Mobile. There are some minor differences between the two apps (drum sounds being one of them), but the apps are otherwise very similar. An advantage Music Studio has is the Lite version which is currently free. This allows you to try out the interface before commiting to buy.
Music Studio has built-in effects and instruments as well as the ability to work with imported tracks. Like many other apps in this category, there is no current support for audiobus.
At the time of writing this app is $14.99 in the US iTunes store.
- 85-key piano keyboard
- Instant resize and positioning
- 2 rows with different instruments
- Drum pads and chord pads
- Virtual pitch and filter wheel
- Chord programming
- 65 instruments
- 60 more in add-on packages: Band, Electronic, Classic and World
- Real-Time effects: Reverb, Delay, Equalizer, Amplifier, Filter and Pitch
- 127 track sequencer
- Microphone recording
- AudioCopy & AudioPaste
- iPod/wav/mp3/AAC/ogg import
- Waveform and audio region editing
- Piano roll editor
- 100 beats (drum loops)
- MIDI import and export
- External hardware support:
- Line6 MIDI Mobilizer I and II
- Akai Synthstation25
- iRig, iRig Mic, Ampkit Link, Apogee Jam, Alesis IO Dock …
- Export to Wave, AAC or MIDI
- Share files via email, SoundCloud,
- WiFi or iTunes file sharing
- iPhone 4 Retina Display support
- Full iPad support (universal binary)
As you can see, there are plenty of options out there for your iOS multi-track recording desires. There are plenty of similarities, but most options have their own unique feature/s that hopefully make your decision easier when you’re ready to get into iOS audio recording. Personally I’ll be trialling the free options and continuing to use the apps I’ve already purchased. Time permitting I’ll review those apps in greater detail.
If there’s another app that you feel should be in this list, feel free to leave a comment below.