I posted a full review of AppBC’s Audiomux iOS music app a few weeks ago. Audiomux allows you to stream audio between your iOS device and OSX desktop computer using nothing more than the standard USB charging cable that is supplied with your iPad or iPhone. It also complements AppBC’s Midimux app that does the same sort of data transfer for MIDI data.
Both apps seems to work very well from the off and, used together, they make integrating your iOS music making technology and your desktop music making technology a much simpler affair; no unpredictable wireless connections, no other hardware required… just the apps, the associated ‘server’ apps for your Mac (free from the Audiomux website) and a cable Apple have already supplied for you.
In first release, Audiomux offered a single stereo channel of audio between iPad (or iPhone) and Mac. This was great to see (hear) and worked very well… but it did mean that if you had multiple iOS apps running, their output was mixed on the iPad and then transferred to your desktop system. This could easily be worked around… but, of course, a multi-channel audio transfer would be even better.
And, as of today, that’s exactly what AppBC have delivered in the v.1.0.2 update to Audiomux. Indeed, you can now stream up to 16 channels of audio at the same time. As I described in the original review of Audiomux, the app uses Audiobus as part of the audio routing process and, what’s more, Audiomux can now also be placed in both the Input and Output slot of an audio chain within Audiobus. As we will see in a minute, this opens up some further interesting possibilities.
I want more….
Having downloaded and installed the update from the App Store – and the most up-to-date version of the OSX Audiomux server from AppBC’s website – running both the iOS app on my iPad and the OSX server soon established a connection between my two devices (the iOS app’s main screen makes it clear that you have a connection).
On my iMac, when I opened the Audio+MIDI Preferences panel, the iPad appears as an audio device (as before) but now includes multiple output channels. As described in the original review, I then built an aggregate audio device combining my Scarlett audio/MIDI interface and the Audiomux iPad ‘interface’. Within my desktop DAW of choice – Cubase – I then selected this aggregate audio device as my audio system and was then able to configure the various iPad audio inputs within Cubase so that I could then use them as audio sources for my audio tracks, etc.
There is one technical detail worth noting here. At the iOS end, Audiomux still sends a ‘pre-mixed’ audio signal of all the iOS music apps you have running to the first two audio channels of your new multichannel audio system. However, for each of the apps you load (until you run out of channels), the first app loading is allocated to iPad out channels 3/4, the next one loaded to iPad out channels 5/6, and so on…
This is important to note as, back on the desktop, you need to make sure you pick the right input channels from the iPad to get each of the iOS apps onto a separate audio track within your project.
On the iPad (or iPhone), you simply set up a single Audiobus audio chain with Audiomux as the Output app and then load multiple apps into the Input slot (noting the order in which they are loaded so you get your various channels numbers organised as mentioned above).
As shown in the screenshots, I simply tried two apps during my testing to date – Cyclop and Z3TA+ – just to demonstrate I could make the system work. Back in Cubase, I was easily able to send MIDI data to both of these apps (via Midimux) and then also able to get audio back from both apps of separate audio channels and route these to different audio tracks within Cubase. What’s more, I was able to record the audio from both of these sources at the same time – no glitches, no obvious issues – and the results seemed very good indeed.
I haven’t had a chance to really push the technology hard yet but, initially at least, the performance seems to be solid and the audio results very good indeed.
As noted above, you can now also put Audiomux in both the Input and Ouptut slots of your Audiobus signal chain. In principle, this means that you can send audio from your desktop to your iOS device, do something with it on your iOS device (such as run it through an effect app that is sat in the Audiobus Effects slot) and then return it back to your desktop.
This is, in principle, a send-return effects loop…. and give just how many brilliant audio effects we currently have under iOS, there is the potential for some considerable fun to be had.
I gave this a try using Fingerlab’s excellent DFX multi-effects app. The iPad end of the setup was easy but it did take me a little while to work out the best way of handling the audio routing within Cubase to make this work as I wanted. I’m sure there are actually various ways this could be achieved – and probably different ways in different desktop DAWs – but I eventually opted to set up an FX Channel in Cubase that was ’empty’ (that is, I didn’t actually load a plugin effect within it).
I then routed the output of that FX Channel to the stereo audio input to my iPad provided by Audiomux. Within Cubase, I could then use any of the standard Send controls on an audio track to ‘send’ audio from that track to this FX Channel and the FX Channel’s output would then route that audio off to the iPad (with me so far?).
What was less straightforward was getting that audio back into Cubase and, in the end, I simply set up a new audio track within Cubase and configured its audio input to come from the appropriate iPad audio channels supplied by Audiomux. This worked absolutely fine as the ‘return’ of the processed signal from the iPad even if it was not quite as elegant at a true send-return setup just using the FX channel as you would with a standard plugin.
So, by varying the ‘send’ levels from any Cubase audio track that I wanted processed by my iOS effect app and by adjusting the level of the ‘return’ audio track, I had a send-return system working in real time and in which I could balance the wet/dry level of each track; my iPad was effectively acting as an external audio effects processor for my desktop system… all very impressive.
There is a limit
The combination of Midimux and Audiomux now allows you to (almost) seamlessly link your iOS music technology into your desktop music workflow, driving your iOS synths via MIDI in your desktop DAW/sequencer and bring the audio for multiple apps back from your iPad (for example) in to your DAW on separate audio inputs. Or you can set up an effects system to run audio from your desktop through some of your favourite iOS audio effects apps.
This is great to see and experience and, as someone who is happy to work on both platforms, being able to see them work together is such an efficient – and technically simple – fashion is great to see.
I say the setup is ‘almost’ seamless because, as when using external hardware as part of a DAW-based recording system, what you can’t do is have your DAW project recalls all the app configurations and presets on your iPad when you open the DAW project to return to work on it. As with Audiobus pre-State Saving, there is a certain amount of clunky note taking required if you need to recall which iOS app is being routed to which Audiomux iPad channels, etc.
This is, however, a pretty small (practical) price to pay for being able to bring some of my favourite iOS apps into my Cubase projects. The Audiomux/Midimux combination is an impressive one and, if you use both iOS and OSX, also very tempting. It will be interesting to see how any of the competing and/or related products (particularly Music IO and Audreio) move their various feature sets forward over the next month or two… and just how far this innovative technology can be pushed.
These are very interesting times for iOS music making… and, for those combining iOS and OSX, the process of bringing some of the wonderful iOS music making tools into your desktop workflow has become a whole lot easier. Let’s hope those using the Windows platform can also see the benefits of this audio/MIDI over USB approach sooner rather than later…