There are hundreds of apps to help you make music, but what about the gadgets you need to help you get the best from them? Here are the finest keyboards, controllers, interfaces, mics and speakers…
Keith McMillen Instruments K-Board
Keith McMillen Instruments makes some of the coolest gadgets for music making on the planet and the K-Board is consequently not the only piece of the company’s tech to appear in this feature. If you are prone to getting inspiration for music on the move, or simply don’t have a lot of space for music production then look no further than this.
It has touch-sensitive keys and is a plug-and-play USB MIDI keyboard that is affordable, durable and even available in different colours. It slots very nicely at the front of your laptop and the lead is long enough to play it (slightly more) remotely. We tested it with a laptop running Logic and the iPad and it rose to the occasion each time. “Once in a while, a product comes along where you think, why hasn’t anyone else executed this in such a successful way before?
And the K-Board is one of them. It’s a must-have for any mobile musician and anyone wanting to get ideas down fast. Flashing lights and playing keys have never been so much fun.”
Contact MSL Pro: 0207 118 0133
Alesis I/O Dock/Novation iTrack Dock
We love the iPad but, to be honest, Apple didn’t really design it completely with music production in mind, so producers need a clever way to expand their iPad into a more rounded audio and MIDI recording environment. Enter the Alesis I/O Dock and Novation iTrack Dock. Both allow you to plug iPads in to expand on their connectivity, and both therefore turn them into more usable interfaces.
The Alesis is a good-all-in-one solution with great-sounding recordings and the ability to charge your iPad as you work with it. It’s also the most competitively priced. The Novation is similar but fits around the iPad a little more awkwardly, but can certainly integrate easily into your setup – however you wish to use it.
Both are genuinely good solutions to taking your iPad noodlings into your studio environment and getting audio or instruments from the outside world into your iOS device.
Alesis I/O Dock
Contact InMusic or Alesis via website
Novation iTrack Dock
Contact +44 1494 462246
Fender Focal Passport – Studio Monitors
How many portable monitors can you get with the quality monitor name that is ‘Focal’ written on them, not to mention the quality, er, guitar name that is Fender. OK, these aren’t quite battery-mobile, nor as ‘take anywhere’ as the Bluetooth offerings we have here, but the Passports are portable in the sense that if you do a lot of mixing in a lot of places – if you are a flash Harry with lots of studio spaces or work on lots of other people’s music, that is – then these offer the same listening experience wherever you are (bar, naturally, studio acoustics that is).
Reviewer Huw Price noted: “Judged purely as studio monitors, the level of detail and solidity of the imaging is certainly commensurate with the price point. But the defining feature is that the Passport Studio system can be locked together and transported without the need to preserve the packaging or buy a flightcase.
Then you simply split them, set them up and they’re good to go. This is a cleverly designed, carefully thought out and affordable product that fills a niche in the market. An interesting concept that’s well executed and priced – and they sound pretty good too.”
Price £490 (pair)
Contact Fender GBI 01342 331700
While the Focal speakers give you the studio quality you need, they’re not quite as convenient as a good set of Bluetooth speakers, that are all the rage at the moment. We’re including two sets – both good in their own right.
The iLoud is the Bluetooth speaker of choice for the MusicTech office and has been providing sterling service for listening and the odd small office test for a year now.
It’s easy to set up, sounds great and is certainly good enough to mix on while you’re away from your studio with the view to returning to your proper setup to do the main mix/master. Creative Muvo Mini, on the other hand, is smaller, cooler and redder. We review it next month, concluding: “It’s portable, sounds louder than it should, and lasts for 10 hours in the rain. What more do you bloody want?”
Contact IK Multimedia via website
Creative Muvo Mini
Contact Creative on 020 8208 9930
IKM iRig Pads
With grid-based controllers more popular than ever, there’s a lot of choice for the musician: from large-scale control and instrumentation with Ableton’s Push 2 and Novation’s LaunchPad Pro, to these iRig Pads, one of the most portable units out there. It is brilliant for beat creation on an Apple device, and likewise with the bundled SampleTank 3SE for your Mac or PC, which offers 6.5GB (for an additional €80) to take your creativity beyond the beats.
With everything programmable, it’ll work with APCs, Live, Native Instruments’ Maschine, GarageBand and so on, and will save up to 16 scenes to work with such software (it ships with six presets). It is hugely flexible and highly portable (its depth is particularly thin).
The emphasis is definitely on grooves and dance, but if you want extra ‘i-Control’ and are perhaps tiring of touch, this is a worthy option. A compact, sturdy and portable unit that makes a useful, tactile addition to your i-based studio.
Contact IK Multimedia via website
Apogee One for iPad
Apogee describes One as ‘the first studio quality microphone and USB audio interface for iPad and Mac’. That’s a little bold, but this is certainly one of the first proper interfaces that you can get for your iOS device, tailored for the discerning studio recordist looking for pristine audio quality. Apogee One will charge your device, connects to Mac and iPad, and has instrument and mic inputs.
The Maestro software works with Mac and iOS and as we noted in our review: “the sound quality of the mic is surprisingly high and the software makes the interface very versatile. Overall, One is a very useful high-quality mobile tool.
It excels at being a great travelling companion, especially with its high-quality onboard condenser microphone.”
Contact Sonic Distribution on 0845 500 2 500
Whatever Happened To Yamaha Tenori-on?
The story of the Tenori-on follows a similar path to Jazzmutant’s. Both were released to critical acclaim, both tried to do something a bit different and both were adopted by cool musicians.
Both have also ended up as iOS apps with the original hardware only available second-hand. But the original Tenori-on is worth tracking down for its light show sequencing and the fact that you could quite easily put together a multi-track tune – albeit a very FM sounding one – in no time at all. It’ll probably be worth a few quid too…