Recording audio can be tricky especially with a small device such as the iPhone. In my past experiences, I’ve had good luck with a few apps and devices, and bad luck with a few apps. I’ll outline my experiences in hopes of giving you some advice. I’m an avid fan of trying out new apps. On my iPhone alone I have at least 5 recording apps. Some are free, and some were not. Later in this article, I’ll outline my favorite recording apps and why.
But first and foremost, lets talk about the input device. I’ve had good luck so far with my iRig recorder. It’s a simple 1/8″ plug-in that allows you to record through a 1/4″ plug. You certainly won’t get a true stereo recording from this, but its a great way to capture audio using the iPhone while in the field.
The iRig is a great capture device. It’s simple and effective. The only downside is that it only allows for a 1/4″ in, which may require another device in order to strengthen the signal. In that case, I recommend using a preamp to boost the signal. In this case, I make use of ART’s basic preamp. It allows me to use a high end condenser at live gigs to capture the audio. The most important part of recording digitally is always getting your levels right. ALWAYS take the time to do a test recording with the full band playing. I’ve found that the sound often increases by 3-5db once the full mix comes into play. Even with a single room mic. The iRig recorder does offer a free app. This app has both its pluses and minuses. Lets move on to the software section and detail my likes and dislikes.
The iRig app works very well for capturing audio. However, I’ve found that the app sometimes gets pops and clicks while recording. It’s a definite downside to the app. In fact, it’s the only downside I’ve found. It’s a pretty standard app, and it’s very easy to use. It also allows you to easily transfer audio directly off your phone. The best feature however is the mic level adjustment! It’s the only recording app I’ve found that lets you configure your levels right from within the app, rather than externally. This makes recording with the builtin mic actually usable, so even without the iRig device, you can still record with the built in mic without all the over distortion from clipping.
Multi Track is a free iPhone app that allows for multiple tracks to be recorded. I’ve yet to use the actual multitrack recording features strenuously, but it does work very well. Just keep in mind your monitor may cause feedback using the iRig. Make sure to get this right before multi-tracking or else your ears will be squealing all night. The great thing about this app is the ease of use. It records easily and saves a session much like Protools and Logic Pro desktop apps. It then allows you to save songs and recordings on the road with multiple tracks. A great feature for a free app. The other great feature of this app is the screenshot view options. You can view waveforms, or volume meters of the individual tracks which saves screen space. The last feature worth mentioning is a built in metronome, which is essential when multi-tracking by yourself. It does also allow you to transfer files from itunes store to your computers hard drive….free.
iMulti Track is an app that I purchased for $1.99 I believe. This app is a great field recorder as well. I really like the layout, however it can be a bit confusing to use at first, and doesn’t allow you to level your mics within the app. As well, it also connects to a server using a dedicated IP address, so transferring files can be done wirelessly, or through the itunes connection. This is handy if you forget your cable, or want to transfer files without connecting. It was a little slow connecting wirelessly, but I did get it to work. The various formats are also very nice to have. Audio: IPCM, IMA4, AAC – Sampling Rate: 22k, 32k, 44.1k, 48k – Bit Rate: 32k, 96k, 128k, 160k – Bit Depth: 8, 16, 24, 32. It also gives you a status screen to let you know how much room you have to record onto your phone. Overall its a simple app with some nice options. The scrubber is nice, and the graphics are much cleaner than Multi Track, and for $1.99 its a great tool since it connects to your files through a server IP.
There are certainly some more expensive multitrack apps, but I wanted to give a cost effective approach since most people use their phone for simply recording podcasts, field recordings, or room mic recordings.
The iRig is a great tool, and for only $29.99 I think it was worth the purchase. ESPECIALLY if your a guitar player. The amp simulations are really cool to play with. Anyways, let me know your thoughts and suggestions about other apps!!
Here is an example recorded live at The Ten Mile House by Cronus. This is a cover version of Bob Marley’s “No More Trouble.” It was recorded using iRig as the device with an ART preamp and an Audio Technica 4033 Condenser Microphone. It’s a LIVE room recording, but for one mic and an IPhone you can’t get much better!