Audiomux updated – first look at multi-channel support in AppBC’s audio over USB app for iOS and OSX

Download from iTunes App StoreAudiomix logoI 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.

Audiomux - now with multichannel audio support from iOS to OSX.

Audiomux – now with multichannel audio support from iOS to OSX.

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.

Audiomux now provides multiple audio channels from an iOS device to your desktop.

Audiomux now provides multiple audio channels from an iOS device to your desktop.

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.

There is a certain amount of configuration required within your DAW in terms of setting up the audio channels but, once done, there are then plenty of options that can be explored in terms of system integration.

There is a certain amount of configuration required within your DAW (as shown here for Cubase)  in terms of setting up the audio channels but, once done, there are then plenty of options that can be explored in terms of system integration.

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).

I was easily able to send MIDI data out to my two iOS test apps from Cubase and record the audio returned from them to two separate tracks within Cubase.

I was easily able to send MIDI data out to my two iOS test apps from Cubase and record the audio returned from them to two separate tracks within Cubase.

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.

Even if you want to use seperate audio channels to transfer audio data from your different iOS app, you still place them into the same Audiobus signal chain.

Even if you want to use seperate audio channels to transfer audio data from your different iOS app, you still place them into the same Audiobus signal chain.

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.

Effect me…

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.

Audiomux can also let you use your iOS device as an effects processor for your desktop system.

Audiomux can also let you use your iOS device as an effects processor for your desktop system.

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?).

AS described in the main text, the routing was a bit clunky in Cubase but it worked fine.

AS described in the main text, the routing was a bit clunky in Cubase but it worked fine.

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.

DFX provided some fun multi-effects processing that could be applied to audio recorded within Cubase on my iMac.

DFX provided some fun multi-effects processing that could be applied to audio recorded within Cubase on my iMac.

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…

Audiomux


Midimux



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    Comments

    1. Very interesting post! I’m looking forward to testing it myself. But it sounds promising indeed. Not sure about the part that you have to set up everything every time though. Maybe laziness will win.. ;)

      • Hi Peter…. At the Mac end, all the audio driver settings and the in/out ports within your DAW should, when organised once, restore themselves providing you have your iOS device and Audiomux/Midimux running when you start your desktop DAW/sequencer…. and, of course, and project settings within the desktop DAW will restore themselves (instruments, tracks, effects, etc.) as normal… What will be a separate job is making sure that all your iOS apps are configured as you left them the last time you worked on a project as these will obviously not get stored within the desktop DAW…. That aside, this is a very efficient means of linking iPad (or iPhone) to desktop…. and if you connectivity needs don’t stretch to lots of other MIDI/audio devices (so you don’t, for example, have to turn to a hardware solution such as the various iConnect devices), then it is a very cost-effective way to glue iOS and OSX music making together…. Best wishes, John

        • Oh, and I suspect there will be other options/configuration that you could find useful aside from the two examples I’ve tried here…. Anyway, I’ll add some further thoughts as I explore further…. J

    2. I’ve personally tested using separate Audiobus chains and found that also works. Being able to use only one chain and still having multiple stereo pairs is definitely nice, but you’ll need the flexibility of multiple chains if you want to use different FX combos.

      • Hi Empolo, thanks for this… I used multiple Audiobus chains with the first release and it worked fine… I’ll give this another spin with the latest release… but I’m not sure quite how it ties in with the way the app handles the ‘order’ in which your apps are loaded that it then uses to assign them to the output pairs from the iPad…. Cheers, John

    3. Hey John, Empolo:

      You are exactly right, multiple chains do work – but the order in which the apps populate the transferred channels is first comes first serve – regardless of which chain you add them to. Apart from that it will work the same as with a single chain though! :)

      Cheers,
      Chris

    4. Psysword says:

      Having trouble in ableton 9 live, routing audiomux back into the Mac, once having sent it out once from the Mac to the iPad. It has to be kept in mind that I’m not so good with the computer. Any particular settings option that so far has avoided me that would route the audio back into the Mac, John? Very tiresome so far. Thanks a lot.

    5. Hi John, I followed the exact steps and created an aggregated device with my iPad and Scarlet 8i6. But in Ableton only one of them seems to receive a signal. The ports are available and active but there is no signal from the apps on any channel.
      I have been using audiomux iPad inputs independently and they work like a charm in ableton. But i need a mic inpupt through Scarlett and i am stuck. Where am I going wrong?

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