What Is Audiobus & How Will It Change Mobile Music Making?

Audiobus: The User’s View

In addition to getting Dittmann’s perspective as one of the creators of AudioBbus, we thought it would be useful to get the perspective of an early user.

Reader Tim Webb has been working with with Audiobus during its development. Webb is familiar to many Synthtopia readers for his review and tutorial videos on YouTube, and the posts at his site, discchord.

We asked Tim about his experiences using Audiobus, and his thoughts on how it will impact mobile music making.

Synthtopia: Tim, what kind of things you can do with Audiobus that you couldn’t otherwise do?

Tim Webb: iOS has seen so much growth in the music app space that the average musician with an iPad will have pages upon pages of apps. This is great, we’ve seen some amazing innovation in apps, but the second we want to put it all together, we have to go running to our computer’s audio interface.

Developers have been getting clever, coming up with new ways for us to actually make use of all of these apps. Last year, developers worked together to make use of the Virtual MIDI API, so we can have a lot of apps playing together nicely and keeping the same clock, exchanging notes, CC, etc…

That’s been great! We’ve also had Sonoma’s AudioCopy/Paste technology, for transferring loops and samples between apps.

However, you can’t really combine these two technologies effectively. You can’t just hit the play button in your MIDI sequencer app, and have everything recording to separate tracks in a DAW app, for instance. Some apps don’t even have an internal recorder that can be triggered by MIDI, so even if you wanted to try to hack a work around; it just wouldn’t be possible to use some apps in this context.

Audiobus is the missing link between having a MIDI source tell your apps to sing, and having a multi-track app record them all. Now, the apps that are being driven by your MIDI source can all be directed, through Audiobus, to send their audio to the recorder’s inputs.

I’d like to point out that, despite some comments here on Synthtopia, Audiobus will not be limited to any specific recording app. The only question of support is up to developers, who choose to implement it in their apps.

The SDK is totally free, so apps of every price/budget can get in on this.

Synthtopia: What about app support?

Tim Webb: Although I cannot mention specific apps, I can say I’ve seen developers’ reactions to Audiobus. Your favorite recorder app will support Audiobus. It doesn’t matter which! They will all support it.

Even fucking fart apps are going to want to support Audiobus.

This sort of technology gets every developer excited. This is a new frontier and they want to be a part of it. More importantly, you’re going to demand it! Just like MIDI and AudioCopy/Paste have become standard, Audiobus will be an expectation of all professional music apps.

Synthtopia: What do you think Audiobus is going to mean for iOS music making?

Tim Webb: Since we already have a lot of apps that fill roles like sequencer, synth, and recorder, there are a lot of people looking for ways to innovate in crowded iOS market. We’re already seeing that in some wildly original synths like Animoog, PPG WaveGenerator and TC-11.

One of Audiobus’ features that is particularly interesting to me is the effects slot, where I think we’ll see a whole new class of apps emerge. This is an app Audiobus can send audio to, before the ultimate destination.

Previously, an app was either a sound source or a destination. Very few apps are designed to be specifically used as just an effect in between your source and destination. To succeed with an app like that, you essentially have to rely on the user having access to an audio interface. There have been a handful of guitar apps that do effects and amp modeling in this way, relying on an interface to bring the guitar in and then output the audio. Now we can have apps that are designed exclusively for use with other apps, for dedicated effects engines.

And this is already happening! A little prototype app has been used, during Audiobus’ development, to add a filter in between the source and recorder app. When Audiobus gets into the hands of more developers, we’ll see a whole new world of apps.

 Audiobus Facts:

  • Audiobus is an app and a software development kit for iOS, designed to allow live, app-to-app streaming.
  • As of September 15, more than 450 developers have registered with the Audiobus developer registration system.
  • You can follow Audiobus development via the Audiobus site or Tumblr blog.
  • Audiobus is a joint venture between Sebastian Dittmann of Audanika and Michael Tyson of A Tasty Pixel.
  • Audiobus will initially be released under A Tasty Pixel’s App Store account.
  • Dittmann has been been working in IT and digital media creation/marketing since 2001. He comes from a very-music oriented family –- both parents opera singers — and has a degree in media economics. After working at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technologies he co-founded a spin-off company called Audanika in 2010 which makes the iOS music application SoundPrism and SoundPrism Pro. Sebastian is located in Erfurt, Germany.
  • Tyson is the developer of the looper app Loopy, and founder of indie software development company A Tasty Pixel, founded in 2008 while he was working on a PhD in environmental awareness for mobile networking (which is totally nearly finished, he promises). He has experience designing and implementing network protocols, skills developed during a Computer Science Honours degree, and he consults for iOS audio developers when he’s not busy with his own projects. Michael, an Australian, is currently located in the London area, and is spending a number of years working and travelling in a motorhome as a digital nomad together with his partner, Katherine.

36 thoughts on “What Is Audiobus & How Will It Change Mobile Music Making?

  1. Sounds great. Really glad to hear Apple gave approval. This really opens up some creative possibilities. If there’s one downer I see, it’s that the current generation of iPads can only support a handful of open & running apps simultaneously. But, processing power will continue to improve, and that’ll be less of an issue.

    One other thought… does anyone think this is something Apple may decide to scoop up and make a native system component?

    1. I’m glad I skipped the last iPad update and stuck with my iPad 2. The new one will undoubtedly feature the new connector and hopefully the new CPU. See you in June.

  2. i still dont fully understand if the app hast to support audiobus on its own. in particular ims-20. (which is notorious for lack of updates) seems not.
    that would indeed be a bummer because i have a nagging feeling detune wont be updating it any more.

    1. Yes unfortunately the app needs to have Audiobus support added to it, like AudioCopy/Paste. Unfortunately I think you’re right and Korg won’t bother updating iMS-20.

    1. Sebastian

      The big question I have is why developers would want to be dependent on you or any other third party developer.

      If Audiobus doesn’t have a big audience and you lose interest, won’t developers that support Audiobus be screwed?

  3. thanks alot sebastian.

    now you dont have any hints as whether korg is on the developer list supporting the audiobus?
    i am asking for alot i know…

    cheers for an excellent app and looking forward to supporting it.

  4. Korg would be really silly to stay out of the audiobus thing not updating their apps…I’m pretty sure these will be updated

    1. i hope you are right but korg is the master of dumb moves. the whole microkorg regurgitation when peple are screaming for analog is plain obtuse.

      1. Sounds like you may not be a businessman.

        If Korg or Yamaha saw Dave Smith and Moog eating their lunch, they’d do something different. Remember the Andromeda that nobody bought?

        There are a lot more ‘players’ than ‘synthesists’ and companies gotta make what people will buy!

        1. “There are a lot more ‘players’ than ‘synthesists’ and companies gotta make what people will buy!”

          that is a point. on the other hand – even a small vocal community indicates a far bigger market opportunity.(which in this case is not small at all)

          point: arturia – which apparently cant even meet the demand for minibrute.
          point: people were literaly dying for electribes update. elektron filled the gap but i still prefer sx to my octatrack in many ways.
          point:pulse 2
          not to mention dsi stuff, boomstars, and many other.

          these companies have felt the demand and reacted. korg on the other hand is creating the hype with great success (monotribe, monotrons) but not capitalising on it. instead we get slimmed down kronos and minikorg reskin.

          hence dumb moves. and korg, the king of.

  5. Sub $10 price? Reasonable 🙂
    I just hope the supporting Apps don’t start to offer Audiobus through IAPs…

    Anyway, best of luck 🙂 This will probably revolutionize iOS music making.

  6. So this is basically what Linux has with JACK since ages. It’s funny how everytime iOS finally catches up with desktop OSes in some area, people talk about “revolutionary” and “whole new” this and that.

    1. Actually – you’re the only one that brought up the ‘revolutionary’ and ‘whole new’ angle.

      AudioBus promises to be a useful tool with a great UI and developer support. This is not something that really exists on Linux (Win 95 UI lives!) or on other mobile devices.

      Lets see you do any of what’s demonstrated in the video on a Linux tablet! lol

      1. LOL you’ve never heard of JACK.. Get a copy of Ubuntu Studio, it comes installed with JACK and about 150 LADSPA filters, and Ardour (multitrack recorder), LMMS, ZynAddSubFx, etc..

  7. Chris, that’s exactly what I think when I read these posts. Anyway… this will be really useful for iOS musicians, but they could mention Jack as inspiration or anything, because it’s basically the same.

  8. actually, JACK has existed on OS X for almost as long as it has on Linux. What JACK is missing is not technology, per se, but a small core group of developers who have the time and motivation to focus like a laser on (a) iOS and (b) the right GUI (the audiobus guys seem to have done a fairly nice job in this area). JACK on OS X has received a large amount of brilliant and difficult work from Stephane Letz, and I believe that he has even experimented with an iOS port, but that doesn’t close the gap that separates JACK from The Shiny That Is AudioBus. It would certainly be nice if the AudioBus guys could have mentioned its existence.

    ps. I’m the original author of JACK.

  9. I have to question all the people making negative comments toward Audiobus – have you used it? Do you have use for it? Are you even a musician? I use AURIA on my iPad 3 with a Focusrite 18i6, and the only thing killing Aurias’ creative ability was its lack of VST instrument support – now there is no need for that support as Audiobus is doing EXACTLY WHAT I WANT! (Maybe with the lack of midi sequencer on AURIAs’ end, but I can live with that).

    I grew up plugging anything into everything to make sounds, syncing multiple tape recorders to get multitrack, splicing cables, hacking circuit boards and spending EVERY LAST RED RAZOO on my true passion – MUSIC – so it never ceases to amaze me when a tool comes along that makes life sooooo simple and is soooooo cheap, that every “tech head” as to rip it to pieces for what it won’t do, or criticise it because it has been done before in some other format. Have you ever purchases a brand new hardware sub mixer for $15? I think not, and in iOS terms, that’s exactly what you are getting.

    Now that that has been said, lets see all the wowsers jump away from their forums for five minutes and see you all actually go and MAKE SOME MUSIC with this wonderfull tool and take it for what it is.


  10. ^ ……no disrespect to Paul Davis with my comments, but JACK does not exist for iOS, and as the headline is “What is Audiobus & how will it change MOBILE music making?” that’s what we are talking about, right?

  11. Well not only did Apple approve it, they used the API in their very own Garageband, which makes it an amazing audio recording DAW.

  12. You guys just dissed Paul Davis, I can’t believe you did that..BY THE WAY , it does exist for iOS, now.. And , it works, checkout my videos on youtube, “http://www.youtube.com/kiernanholland”.

    I’ve got about 400 subscribers, many I picked up from when I used to post linux/wine tips..

    Open Source may not dominate the world, but it will make the impossible possible..

  13. BY THE WAY , I own about 900+ licenses to use (know the distinction) iOS apps (that apple can choose to revoke at any day in the future). I have experienced this with Alias/Wavefront, its why I keep one foot in the open source world. About 20 of the apps I have are already supported by AudioBus. I choose to use the iPad because I was made aware that OSX is in open source, though only in theory but not in a generally accessible and compilable way. And that open source has a way of salvaging what gets left behind, and Linux does. Now I’m for the iOS concept of software sales because it forces developers to compete, and to listen to the users needs, and I like that the app store is pushing the idea of vendor accountability, that comes with the package manager concept that Linux already has, and is why I think Linux and iOS are virus free, you can only get your apps from one place, unless you work hard to do otherwise. Such as getting a Apple Developer $100/yr license (and free git enabled IDE with your macintosh called Xcode) and compiling sources quickly and easily and installed on your iPad, which is how I can do with Jack on my iPad. Now I could use Xcode to install viruses on my iPad but nobody else can get them, and its the only way to get viruses on an iPad without a path of accountability, but I’m only hurting myself if I do that. The purpose of Linux is to enable users, not to overcome existing software in the commercial sector, although people could do better with open source, its limited to what open source exists, and the idea is if open source enables you to do something great, you will be compelled to give back in some way, as is human nature, unless you are a sociopath or believe that your karma says you deserve to have free software, which is a attitude that kills open source projects. Open source is developer (disgruntled user) driven, just as commercial software is.. I think Apple has the perfect platform to encourage new developers to make it and get it distributed without being a huge software house. Another example would be Valve’s Steam marketplace. The fallout of all this , in the future developers who can’t get their software sold but can encourage its adoption in future designs can release theirs into the open source. Like it is that you can go to a public library (in America) and pull a book off a shelf and read it without buying. But there are jealous minds, that would want this never to be an option, like the song “taxman” from the beatles, they would want you to be paying $1 for a copy on every new device you buy, and limit those whom you can share it with, because software permits it to occur..

  14. Due to Paul Davis’ free will, and support from users of his software, he is able to maintain ardour in open source, the main advantage being he doesn’t have to deal with the business of software sales such as CEO’s that might kick him off his project. I believe that the product designers should be the developers of the software, and the developers should use their own software. open source is driven by use, it isn’t driven by the idea that “if you build it they will come” or the idea of designing an application to pander to a market like schools that purchase copies of Maya in hopes that their students will find jobs in the commercial sector utilizing that knowledge.. Open source helps to get it through the thick skull of those Ignorant bizheads in suits “what is important” and why you don’t go pandering to the hearts (don’t go breaking my heart?) of those who expect one thing but you can’t provide (knowingly).. open source exists because commercial software fails when he commercial (conflict of interest) overtakes the business plan, and only a few consumers ever really get what they need.. If there is a hand there to hold, you can bet someone is going to find a way to make money on it.. But the informed user will find the solutions, and thank god for truth.. The truth is here, and it is called open source. Closed source is not unlike the devil, who hides his ways from those who are deceived into thinking they can rely on that tool to be there for them.. But who can say what will happen when a companies business plan is amended or compromised by human failure. Open source will be there as long as there are peer2peer services keeping pirated copies of software and media in the ether.. As long as people have interest, but pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it won’t, you are only deceiving yourself.. Love lives on.. Lies die.

  15. By the way loopy hd has a sucky interface, too many gestures between the user and what thy want to do, modal gesture driven software makes sense if you got adequate feedback, and I have yet to understand Loopy.. Ipad permits you freedom to experiment with new interface ideas, but don’t confuse that with success, I’m sure many iPad developers will find failures, like joystick driven games suck on the iPad but car based and board game style and some such as the dragons lair swiping of “infinite blade”, do well. BY THE WAY if you get the poison ring the green one with a spike, infinite blade becomes too easy for four days of play. While Audiobus is easy to use, I think its developers are pretending JACK doesn’t exist because they fear it will overtake Audiobus.. The solution is to incorporate JACK into the design somehow, but I doubt they will learn.. I’ve suggested a feature to the jack developer that will steamroll Audiobus if they don’t get their act together. But I doubt the Audiobus guys listen to voices in the desert. We’ll see if the JACK guys assimilate. BY THE WAY , I was the guy who old Ton blender would be the Atomic bomb in 1998, and motivated the users to understand blender’s inner workings and how it was revolutionary..

    I’m also the guy who placed over 350 videos on youtube demonstrating how to install linux, install games on wine, showed that all the games that I installed on wine could be completed in wine, such as the entire Valve orange box with the exception of HL2 Death match which won’t work, but most mods do. The reason most software fails to run on wine is due to copy protection or just poorly written software. Open source favors “commonly used” hardware and open standards, new hardware hardly ever works unless its compliant with an open standard.. Have you ever noticed how happy people are with the iPad’s? Its because it is a specific design that is compliant with itself, and it isn’t extensible really, so the software can be used to exploit the hardware fully.. That’s partly why I have one.. Android will have no such luck.. But if you are talking about a hardware extensible platform, I go with linux on a PC over a mac. The only reason I have a mac is to program iPad’s.. And it is no wonder that Xcode is apple’s most downloaded program on their app store. IT’S THE NeXT OS coding environment, are you kidding? My professors raved about that computers ease of software development! But, you won’t find a NVidia GTX 570 on a mac any day soon, for $150. Note, in blender’s “cycles” engine you can render (utilizing CUDA) on a GTX 570 10 times faster than a AMD Phenom2x6 (6 core processor, an i7 has 4 cores). Know your tech and why you get it.. JACK is unstable, but I’m hoping the iPad platform will change that..

  16. BY THE WAY to the loopy guy, if you want to improve the interface..
    Add some lights to each track that permit the user to know what mode it is in, offer an alternative to a gesture driven interface, like a linear wave interface with buttons. They can use your gesture driven interface if they want to look mystical onstage.. Musicians want cool interfaces because it makes things exciting, but some of us who buy these apps get them experiment with ideas..if it takes more than one tutorial or you to exploit the characteristics of your software, its either too complex, or you need to change the interface design.

    One thing jack has that Audiobus doesn’t is a complete understanding of how he audio and midi is being routed, since every Audiobus app has its own way of offering these features, there is no clear way how things interact or how things are controlled, there is no standard other than the Audiobus screen and its sidebar widget..it’s like JACK with training wheels. But have you ever had a discussion with a guitarist why a midi cable can’t be used to transfer audio to his computer, I have.. Musicians are great people, but many are artists first , technologists last.. One thing you risk losing when you become a programmer is what you hated about software in the first place, that drove you to want to program.

  17. Note technically you can transfer audio to a computer with midi , but your 56Kbaud modem would be faster, at least on the download, uproute 56k baud modems are limited by the phone company to about 33kb/s. But the discussion I had with him in a radio shack in front of people, and was not laughed at BY THE WAY , was that MIDI cables were only for data and not analog sound. Consider this was not laughed at, and this was in Los Alamos, NM home of the atpmic bomb, at one time highest number of PHD’s per capita.. Physicists hate (most do) computers..

  18. KEEP IN MIND ROBERT MOOG WANTED TO BE A PHYSICIST, NOT A ANLOG SYNTH DESIGNER. just sayin.. I’d side with audiobus on its ease of use, but its authors seem worried the iOS users will realize there is something more off the matrix.

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