Griffin is proving that the iPad can be a great tool in the studio with the StudioConnect. It’s an iPad accessory that props it up and allows users to record audio and midi data into their iPad through their app of choice. In our case, it was GarageBand for iPad. We chose GarageBand because of its low price and its direct integration to Apple’s Logic Pro software, which is a professional DAW (digital audio workstation) we use almost daily for composing, recording and editing music.
What Is it?
StudioConnect is essentially an audio and MIDI interface for your iOS device. It can work with any, but it’s truly designed to be used with an iPad as the stand is fitted for Apple’s tablet.
Your iOS device plugs into the stand via the 30-pin connector, and the StudioConnect becomes your I/O (in and out) for audio. Meaning, your iPad will not output sound directly, you must connect headphones or speakers to the StudioConnect. It will also control the volume output via the small dial on the right side of the interface.
You can plug in MIDI devices (it has a MIDI in and out) as well as audio devices through the audio in. Know, however, that it only has one audio in, so your keyboards won’t be recorded through two separate inputs. That’s okay since you will likely only be recording MIDI information into the software, and can always turn it into any instrument of your liking when you transfer the MIDI back out to your DAW or to Logic as we do.
We used headphones with our setup. They are just much more portable than a pair of studio monitors. I also used a cheap-o MIDI controller I’ve had for several years. All that matters is that it has a MIDI out so that you can plug it into the StudioConnect’s MIDI in.
From here, you can record keyboard parts and other bits using MIDI data with the app’s built-in synth sounds. In GarageBand, these range from grand pianos to classic synth and bass sounds.
Audio is recorded directly through the audio in. This will work with the app of your choice as well. Keep in mind that if you are going to record through a microphone and you’re using a condenser microphone, you will need an external pre-amp with phantom power. Otherwise, you are set with what you have in the box.
For Live Play
One overlooked feature of this accessory is that it can be well-suited for live play. Of course you may want to ensure that some drunk person at the venue doesn’t lob a beer at your iPad. The good news is also that it works as a charger. In other words, you won’t have to worry about your iPad running out of juice during the show, or ever so long as it’s plugged in.
All you have to do is plug your MIDI controller into the interface and send your audio out to the mixer. This can also work with guitars if you have effects you like to use within your app, but we’d most recommend it for synths since they are easy to switch between and the iPad has so many piano and synth apps made by major companies that there is something for everybody. Korg, for instance, has some great stuff. With the StudioConnect, a cheap MIDI controller and a $10 or $20 app, you can have a pretty nice live synth setup for the road. When you get back to the hotel, the same setup can become your portable studio.
StudioConnect is an awesome step in the right direction for those who want to compose solely on their iPad. It definitely has what you need, and it’s entirely possible to record material on your iPad with nothing else but GarageBand, a microphone and a guitar. Still, more seasoned musicians and audio people will likely want to integrate it to their main studio. That’s how we do it. StudioConnect works as the on-the-road idea center, then we can take it home and import it to our main studio setup for fine-tuned editing and processing.
At $149, it sounds like a doozy, but it’s also worth noting that just a few short years ago, the idea of recording with less than $1000 of software seemed impossible. Now, with a tablet, a $150 audio interface and a $5 app, you can do more than was possible 10 years ago on a desktop setup that cost five times as much.
If we have one thing to say about this, it’s that we kind of hope that if Griffin makes a StudioConnect 2, that they can integrate a USB port somehow. This is only because many of the MIDI controllers available these days have a USB port (and are USB-powered) and can therefore be connected to our system directly through USB. MIDI is always a great option, but we’d love to have the additional feature if they decide to make update it down the line.
You can check it out here.