Is The iPhone The New Studio?

Is the iPhone the new studio?

We’re not ready to throw out our mixer and hardware yet – but this video makes a case for garage bands skipping the studio and recording on an iPhone. The video captures Stephen Poff of One Like Son recording Start The Show for their upcoming release.

It’s easy to come up with a dozen reasons why mobile devices, like the iPhone, can’t replace studios or even home studios. But they’re capable enough to meet the needs of some musicians already.

Any readers recording electronic music on iPhones or other mobile devices? If so, let us know about it in the comments!

49 thoughts on “Is The iPhone The New Studio?

  1. no.

    it's for hobbyist and kids who like toys and gadgets.

    real musicians use real tools, unless you're making nintendo quality tunes, that anyone can make.

  2. I was about to give up and sell my iPad and IO Dock but then I came across Meteor a sequencer. Now it is possible that the iPad 'could' replace the mpc as a stage sequencer but in the studio I rarely use it unless I am sampling the iElectibe. But iphone is only really any use as a toy because it is to small and impractical for live work

  3. I love my iPod touch and the music apps I have are fun to play around with, but the screen is simply way to small to do anything easily.

  4. Not for me. Depends on what type of instrument/quality you are after.

    It won't replace great mics, pres, converters, sophisticated DAW software, multi-gigabyte sampled instruments, hardware analog synths, or analog summing.

    The display is too small to edit multiple lanes of automation / different audio takes.

    there is no way to do surround work for video scoring.

    there is no means of recording a drum kit correctly.

    There are currently no iphone/ipad apps that approach the sound quality or articulation of the major AU manufacturers (NI, spectrasonics, etc…)

    For some people who are minimalists or want that tinny lo-fi sound, im sure it's great. Not for me.

  5. Does this question really need answering? It already becomes obvious when looking for 15 seconds at the movie: "pocket organ, ampkit, multi track DAW". On 3 different iPhones. Dunno about you but I'd need the pocket organ, powered by the amp and both accessible in my DAW.

    All in the same studio too if possible.

    It will never be "The New studio". But I am very convinced that its going to be an invaluable expansion for many studios out there.

  6. pro? i said musician. you don't have to be pro to be musician. but you do have to make music to be a musician. now the quality of music is usually dependent upon the talent and the tools.

  7. "real musicians" like you who waste all their time leaving useless negative comments on every single iOS post on Synthtopia. At this point, I'm seriously wondering what kind of mental illness you have that compels you to keep doing this.


  8. My iPad is fun and a great compliment to my music but the multitasking would have to get a lot more elegant before it replaced my PC.

  9. Agreed. I'm going to start taking bets on how fast someone throws out the word "toy" when these types of articles come out.

    I didn't know toys cost $600 nowadays.

  10. NO! An iPhone is an iPhone is a cell phone. If you are looking for a award-worthy stupid way to mix your music, you can use it.

  11. It's a real shame when musicians dismiss anything they don't understand with pejorative attitudes, but every human does, with every new innovation they lack the insight to appreciate. People need to stop defining themselves through the technology they use to create music. Remember that old adage "One man's garbage is another man's treasure", or something like that. Diversity in approach is paramount to creating an exciting musical landscape that doesn't reek of conformity.

    So you can and will only EVER make music ONE way, that's fine with me, SO DO IT YOU'RE WAY. Don't try new things, stay in your comfort zone, unless you want to evolve and experience new ways of creating and thinking about music.

    Technology will always have limitations, at least for the foreseeable future, and most, if not all, the music that naysayers appreciate sounds the way it sounds because of certain amounts of limitation the artists were put under. Limitations save us from the endless, disconnected streams of ideas that paralyze creativity; they challenge us to do as much as we can dream within specified boundaries. This is what art has always been about.

    Classical composers wrote birthday jingles, sonatas for King's and Prince's, and went homeless if they didn't get them finished on time. Life was really tough back then, not only did they have just a piano and/or pencil and paper to compose with, they also had to worry about catching a cold and possibly DYING. Imagine if people could blog back then, the scary shit they would complain about – " How I wish my fingers had not rotted and fallen off so that I could have played the fiddle at the town fair this Christmas".

    We're the luckiest god damn generation when it comes to creativity and comfort. I can compose music while I glaze my crepes with maple syrup for christ's sake! Think of all the great dance music has been made with just shitty a sequencer, a D.A.T and a cheap compressor. I'll wait…


    Music tech is ubiquitous and cheap these days, this should be a time of celebration dammit! Some have become so jaded that they try to create a climate that discourages innovation. But those who utilize these tools for there own unique and creative advantage will outshine the close minded gear chauvinists, and create a more interesting and expressive global music experience. Long live the developers!

  12. iPad is fantastic tool, but modern mobile tech is not yet there to be called anything other than mobile sketch book for mobile ideas to be made with better instruments at home. But Mobile tech grows at light speed, and in no time it will be irreplaceable tool for every musician. And even today the "new" interface alonemakes promising new applications possible in all kinds of purposes.

    iHope, that Apple watches this surprising explosion of musical applications very carefully, that also happens to be fantastic selling point over other tablets, and that it would concentrate into that field in hardware department too, to even further enforce the musical differentiation against other OS's. Put a decent DSP into it, and others may find it hard to offer software…even if they get their act up in the first place. It wouldn't have to raise iPads cost too much; Nokias upcoming Meego phone, the N9, has a DSP that is 6 times more powerful than what Korgs Radias has AND a general purpose processor too.

    What ever the case, iPad is coming, and nobody can stop it.

  13. We've had this talk before. An iPad is more powerful than anything I used to record on until sometime in the 90s. If you'd grown up on 4-track cassette, you wouldn't be so quick to discount stuff you're incapable of understanding as "a toy". Go troll or something.

  14. Its getting closer and closer. I’ve put out commercially released music before, and I think I know what the standard needs to sound like in order for people to buy it, am I’m pretty far from that mark with any if my iOS tunes. That said, things are moving fast, and I bet the technology on iOS will be there within the few years. Some of these comments…elitists who hate the idea that amateurs will soon have access to the commercial standard on cellies and tablets. It will happen so get used to it

  15. My first digital recording system was a ProTools 3 rig back in the early 90s. It was one of only three in the state, and a very big deal. Barring the 8 in/out unit, my iPad is vastly more powerful. The ProTools rig could only run 4 effects in real time, the iPad will run more than it's worth bothering to count, while also doing other tasks. And this is the iPad 1, btw, not the iPad 2, or anything more powerful that is sure to follow. Being as I'm not recording more than 1 voice/instrument at a time, the 8 in/out hardware is completely irrelevant now. Back then the ProTools 3 rig was something to be strived for, and seen as a tool that would liberate and allow for innovating creatively in ways not possible before. NOTHING has changed about making music since then, that a musician couldn't still be equally creative and expressive on that very same old ProTools 3 rig today, or an iPad, or anything else at hand.

    If you can't make music on an iPad/iPhone, you are just a tool. Get over yourself, or at least go away and let the rest of us have fun and be creative without you pissing in the pool. And if you are worried about having "the best", it only means you don't have enough talent and self confidence to stand on your own creatively.

  16. I'm actually pretty happy about this kind of stuff. It used to be that back in the early 90's we had a ROOM full of gear that did pretty much the same thing (by end result) as an ipod/phone/pad is capable of today. The sound quality could be better, but it's easily as good as it was around 93 or so. The only problem I see is in the workflow, being that it's really much easier to have true multi-tasking on a bigger screen in this day and age for comfortable recording. However, as above, Gorrillaz have used it, as well as many others… plus I remember very vividly how many people thought the ability to record top quality material on nothing but a laptop was laughable, and how many people still argue over analog/VA, or hardware vs softsynths. I'm a drummer, and I constantly have to defend V-drums from "REAL" drummers. I imagine it was the same when people first started using electric guitars, and then effects pedals (I'm sure our guitarists out there wouldn't be willing to give these up to be a "REAL" guitarist).
    Really, I have to say these are all silly, stupid arguments to have. The true beauty is that these are all innovations that open the realm of music to people w/ less time, less space (i sold tons of stuff when I moved to some apartments), less money (big one), but quite often more talent than others. We can now record in our cars, in hotel rooms (often while on tour)… These devices are digital scratch pads, yes, but we should welcome the addition of a new paradigm in recording. I grew up on multitrack tape and huge consoles, and I love fitting it all in one small bag. I use my ipod as a mixer w/ my DAW, and to run effects, and though I still record on a laptop, my studio in microscopic compared to what made the same quality sound even 10 years ago. Please, folks….

  17. Gorillaz is one guy. The Fall was alright, but nothing like Demon Days, then again it involved Danger Mouse..

    That aside, my iPhone I never, ever use for music, unless it's out of boredom or my girlfriend wants to play the Moog Filtatron app "to sound like an alien"

    The iPad is a different story, I still dont ever use it to record, but that's because I have protools and why waste that? It still has some pretty sweet music apps out there that are too big to run on the iPhone, for instance the iMS-20 is pretty awesome with the do-it-all sequencer on roids.

  18. @emp

    you know what is the difference between kids and adult? Its the price of their toys.

    My next toy will be a Moog Voyager, or an Eowave Persephone.

  19. Maybe the day Apple will allow plugins into IOS DAWs, maybe then the ipad will be able to replace computers in studio. Currently apps are not even able to "talk" to other apps. All the patches you made and the sounds you recorded in samplerX can't be seen by samplerY.

    Until then.. its just a tool, or a toy.. but its not a computer. Computers have no restrictions on how you can use them, and you don't need the computer maker's approval to publish software.

    The problem is that Apple has become like Nintendo and Sony, and they're not showing any signs that they want to change.

  20. this is the same dude, btw who recorded a demo by plugging in his iphone into guitars at guitar center. he's a pro tech camera guy based in alabama. his songs are super cheesy, but the filming is always super pro edited.

  21. The ipad is powerful, but the OS restrictions as powerful as well.

    If I could run software like Reason, Cubase or Live on a pentium 1ghz computer, why can't I use software as powerful on the 1ghz ipad?

    Simply because the restrictions in the OS forbids it, sadly.

  22. Not sure I understand that line of thought.

    There are already DAW apps on the iPad that are pretty powerful – but not nearly as powerful as desktop DAWs. And Tabletop is a lot like a multi-touch Reason.

    You can't just take apps and put them on tablets, though, because the performance would suck and the interfaces would be unusable.

  23. "If you can't make music on an iPad/iPhone, you are just a tool. Get over yourself, or at least go away and let the rest of us have fun and be creative without you pissing in the pool. "

    Ha! So true.

    I remember when everybody was saying that computers would never be fast enough to replaces multitrack recorders. And then people were saying they'd never sound as good as hardware synths.

    And now people are worried that the new thing won't be as powerful as the thing they dissed 10 years ago!

    Technology marches on.

  24. What is the difference!
    If you can't make music with a stick and a rock you arn't a true musician .
    Stop worrying about the tools and just create.
    There is more recording ability in an iPad then the Beatles had for most of ther albums.
    Just Let it be….work with what you can…The Cream will rise to the top!
    Remember Bo Diddly"…. a cigar box and some string…
    Scott Bailey
    Zip Productions

  25. Spoken like a true troll!

    Springsteen did 'Nebraska' on a Portastudio, which is a lot less powerful than an iPad, and a lot of people consider it his best album.

    The real question is why would a 'real musician' need more than a tablet computer and an audio interface to record great music on.

  26. Kind of surprised by the persistence of negativity regarding the subject. Back in '93 I was using a high end 4-track to get 400% less quality. There was no multitasking or built in effects.

    I currently own a much more sophisticated computer-based recording system and have recorded that way for years, but over the years cut/copy/paste editing has almost made recording to easy. We wanted to challenge ourselves to record it in a way that we hadn't before and it's given us a new spark that's excited us again.

    Just to clear things upI used two iPhones with the Pocket Organ because it unfortunately did not allow us to copy and paste between apps the way everything else did. Other than that it's all done from app to app using copy/paste.

    Either way, It's not an easy way to record by any stretch of the imagination… but it's the challenge I took on and I've been very pleased with the results.

  27. This is all a load of kitsch b*llocks!!!

    Recording a demo on an iPhone is as rock n roll as a goth in a health spa.

    Where will it all end? Recording the Royal Philharmonic on a Hello Kitty Key Ring?

  28. iPhone makes a great tool in the studio. Metronome, tuner, oscilloscope, SPL meter, even passable sequencer and, in a pinch, effects processor, amp modeller, synth or organ.
    And it makes phone calls and sends email!
    I've never had such a versatile tool. But I haven't gotten rid of any of my real equipment, either.

  29. Sorry if you were being sarcastic and I was too dumb to notice.

    If not… do you really call THAT an "argument"? While I agree with that statement in general (BANDS need more than *O*N*L*Y* an iPad to produce a quality recording–decent mics and real instruments, for starters, like in the video–), that sentence is just a statement not an argument.

    Anyway, an iPad surely is one of the most fun, creativity-enhancing, inexpensive and portable "toys" on the planet right now. What's wrong with that? I really see no need for trolling to defend either side of this debate. If a troll is troll enough to take the bait of a provocative question like "Is the iPhone the new studio?", he's just showing his trollness.

  30. Yes you can, but not on the ipad.

    Tablets are powerful enough, they are even more powerful than 10 years old computers, which at the time could handle DAWs like Cubase with multitracks and plugins.

    And WIMP interfaces, while not optimised for touch, still works very well with fingers.

    Steve Jobs tried to make people believe that WIMP and touch don't mix, but he lied. If you don't believe me try making a Remote Desktop from an ipad to an OSX or Windows computer.

  31. In case anyone's interested in hearing some more of our, as Shawn calls it "SUPER CHEESY" music, you can hear GLORY DAYS (which was also recorded on the iPhone) at

    We do realize that this is an electronic music forum and that music created on stringed instruments is not exactly respected here, so we'll try not to take any further criticisms too personal ;-).

    <img style="visibility:hidden;width:0px;height:0px;" border=0 width=0 height=0 src="*xJmx*PTEzMTMxNjg*Nzc1MjcmcHQ9MTMxMzE2ODQ4MjU3MCZwPTI3MDgxJmQ9YmFubmVyX2ZpcnN*X2dlbiZnPTEmbz1hOGJh/M2I2YTYxMzc*ZTE4OGI*NDk4ZWU*M2UzZmIzMyZvZj*w.gif&quot; /><img alt="One%20Like%20Son" border="0" src="; />

  32. I see the AC-7 Pro software being used in their video. This software is (to my knowledge) a control app made for PC and MAC DAW software…. It seems like they are NOT just using the iPhone to record. The tracks were most likely dumped to Protools and mixed on a computer.

    i05 music makers aren’t even close to the power or functionality found in a traditional DAW setup. There are still too many work-arounds, and there is still no way to achieve even close to the same quality created via outboard conversion. These apps are FUN. They are not “pro”. That doesn’t mean pros won’t use them as their sole platform. It just means that they either a. Can’t afford pro gear, b. are hipsters and cultural zombies, c. are ignorant to the tried and true methods of what makes a recording/synth sound good.

    I’m all for iOS music making apps… but let’s not polish a turd. There are no iOS apps that come close to replicating the CPU intensive plugins that run in a professional studio. There are no editing solutions that are as robust or efficient. There are no multi-track recorders that can compete with the summing algorithms in Major DAWs. There is no complex automation, no elegant way to interface external gear. No way to record multiple mics aimed at a drum it. No way to interface iOS to a vocal booth due to limited i/o. There are no synth apps that sound as awesome as Massive or Omnisphere. Not enough pro apps to compete with the diversity of traditional DAW plugin offerings. That’s the facts.

  33. Just wait for the next couple of generations of iPhones/iPads, if not the next generation, in which it is widely rumored that the iPad 3 will have a quadcore A6, which would conceivably have the capability to run OSX Lion. If so, it’s possible that one could run Logic, which would be brilliant. Either way, it’s coming people. It won’t be long until these devices have the processing power and storage capacity to rival or even trump what we are currently capable of on our desktop/laptops. Apple is clearly heading in this direction, with talks of a multitouch iMac in the works (early leaked pics seen right here on synthtopia indicating their use geared as a music production interface). The company realizes who it’s core users are; artists. Namely musicians and graphic designers/animators. And I applaud this development. The idea of being able to take a little iPad to the coffee shop or the park and be knocking out grade A tracks is revolutionary. The fact is that a touchscreen is very versatile as a music controller, and when you add in an acellerometer and a gyroscope, you have the capability to create rather expressive digital instruments. This is the future. It’s affordable, it’s fun to use, easy to learn and highly portable. And I will tell you right now that even in it’s current incarnation it is more than a toy. You can get some powerful music out of an iPad or even an iPhone. Nanostudio, NLog, Sunrizer, iMS 20 and Animoog are some surprisingly powerful synths. I will admit that I start songs on my iPhone when I’m out and about and then I export the stems into Logic and beef them up with my arsenal of plug-ins. But this in itself is amazing. I don’t see how you can possibly sit there and not be thinking how cool it is that you can have a whole production/recording studio environment in your pocket. If this doesn’t pique your sense of childlike wonderment, I really wonder why you’re making music, because clearly you imagination has disintegrated. Yes, the iPhone will always have the limitation of screen size, but a lot of developer have come up with great workarounds already. Just take a look at the surprisingly powerful sequencer in Nanostudio. And the iPad is just perfectly suited for this stuff. Don’t look for this trend to go away, especially with all these third party gear manufacturers coming out with cool peripherals that enhance the abilities of these devices almost daily as it seems. Get used to it, your kids are going to be rocking out on iPads, and they’re going to make some really cool music.

  34. Wow, this guy needs to stop singing, because…he can’t! What matters is the music in the end, not the tools, and iPhones/iPads are far from toys. They’re better than what the Beatles used in the beginning! Get with it, it’s 2012!

  35. I’m amazed at all the hardware snobs. Actually I’m not. If I shelled out $20 grand on a music studio I’d be a little pissed that people are doing some of the same stuff that gear can do for $10. Like others are saying – look what the Beach Boys/Beatles had to work with. But I guess since they didn’t have the gear YOU have, the stuff they recorded sucks. That’s why the world has heard of them and not you. U mad, son?

    Point is, they made do with what they had. Yes, some of the synth apps sound a little chintzy, but there are some that really sound good. I’ve got the hardware synths, and I’ve also got my iTouch with about a dozen synth/drum machine apps on it. They really do complement each other. You can buy super expensive gear, but it’s not going to make a hit on its own. In the end it’s your own creativity that matters, and that creativity applies to whatever you’re making music with. So if you need to drop your life savings on a studio to make good music, maybe you shouldn’t be making music. Just sayin’.

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