iPad And iPhone Music App Tutorial: Getting Started With Audiobus

by chip on December 10, 2012

Audiobus takes the world of iOS music in a whole new direction.  As opposed to using time consuming tools like Audio Copy/Paste, you’ve now got the option to create a signal chain that run audio directly from one app to another.  Along the way, you can insert effects into your signal chain, creating a whole new world of sonic options.  In plain terms, this means that you’ll be able to open your favorite synth, run it through your best guitar app, and record it all into your chosen DAW . . . all in real time.  If you thought the world of iOS music was already pretty powerful, get ready – once you start using Audiobus, things are going to be kicked up to the next level.
 
In order to use Audiobus, you need a few things:
The Audiobus App
Audiobus is the magical piece of software engineering that allows you to run audio from one app to another.  It can be purchased from the App Store for $9.99; an amazing deal considering all the musical possibilities that will arise once you install it.  You can run Audiobus on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, as long as you’ve got iOS 5.0 or higher installed. 

Audiobus Compliant Apps
The Audiobus app can’t connect apps on its own – each app needs to provide support for Audiobus through an update.  The Audiobus team has provided a free API for app developers that allows them to build support into their app.  Upon release, there are eleven apps that offer Audiobus support – you can find a list of apps with Audiobus support HERE.  At first, the Audiobus team is rolling out the API slowly to ensure that compatibility is solid so that users won’t encounter a multitude of issues.  As things get rolling, there will be a growing list of apps that support Audiobus; in time, this should be a standard for music apps.  As that list grows, we’ll be keeping track of it on our resource page for Audiobus compatible apps.

These two pieces are intimately intertwined, and you can’t use one without the other.  Even if you’ve got an app that promises “Audiobus support,” you won’t be able to port audio between apps without the Audiobus app installed on your iOS device.  On the same token, if you’ve got the Audiobus app installed but you don’t own any apps that support Audiobus, you won’t be able to route audio between apps.  

Signal Chain Positions
Once you open up the Audiobus app, you’ll see three boxes with a “+” symbol in them, representing the three different pieces of your signal chain.  Each one of these boxes represents a different position in the signal chain, that you’ll be filling with Audiobus compatible apps.  The three different functions of the boxes are:

Input
The box on the far left hand side of the screen is the “Input” position, which can be filled by apps that create an audio signal.  Some examples of these types of apps would be synthesizer apps such as NLogSynth PRO or Sunrizer Synth and a drum machine app like Funkbox.  You can also use your iOS device’s internal microphone as an Input source.

Output
The box on the far right hand side of the screen is the “Output” position, which can be filled by apps that capture an audio signal.  Examples of this type of app would be a DAW such as MultiTrack DAW or a looping app like Loopy HD.  You can also you the iOS device’s internal speaker as an Output source.

Effects
The box in the middle of the screen is the “Effects” position, which can be filled by any app that contains significant effect processing.  This will take the audio from your “Input” apps and run them through the apps in the “Effects” position, altering the sound before it gets to the “Output” position.  Some examples of this type of app would be a guitar amp simulator like JamUp Pro XT or a a synth with effects like NLogSynth PRO.  

It’s important to remember that certain apps will only work in one part of the signal chain.  This makes sense – not all apps are designed to do all three specific tasks outlined in the different signal chain slots.  Using Audiobus as the connection point, apps can focus upon their strength and then come together to create a unified product.  There are some apps that provide support for multiple positions in the signal chain, such as Loopy HD or NLogSynth PRO.  It’s good to be aware of an app’s function so that you can create a signal chain that meets your musical needs.

Loading An App Into The Input Position
When you’re ready to get started making music with Audiobus, you’re going to want to load some apps into the Input position.  Simply press the “+” button on the Input slot and you’ll be presented with a list of Audiobus compatible apps that you have installed on your iPad.  Choose an app and you’ll return to the main screen, but this time, the “+” will be replaced with an darkened version of the app logo with “Zzz” on top.  This is letting you know that Audiobus connection is ready to be formed, but the Input app is not launched.  At the top of the box, you’ll see the phrase “Tap to launch” – do this and you’ll be moved to your chosen Input app. The app will launch and you’ll be bumped back to Audiobus; when you return, you’ll notice that your app logo is crystal clear.  At this point, you’ve got an Input app steadily connected to Audiobus.

There’s a couple more things worth noting as you set-up your Input app.  If your input app is already running in the background, you’ll encounter a different situation than described above – the app logo will be crystal clear, letting you know that Audiobus is ready to make the connection.  At this point, you’re ready to go and there’s no further work necessary.  After you set-up your Input app, you’ll also see another box with a “+” appear on top of your established connection.  You can have up to three input apps simultaneously; if you’d like to add another one, simply go through the same process.  After you’ve loaded each app, a small tab will appear next to the box with a standard “eject” icon; if you tap this icon, the app will be cleared from the Input slot, leaving it empty for a different app.  With these pieces in line, you can get the rest of your connections established.

Setting Up The Output Connection
The next thing that you’ll want to secure is an Output connection.  This process works exactly like setting up an Input app, simply press the box on the right and you’ll be presented with a list of compatible apps installed on your iOS device. Select an app and then launch it by pressing on the darkened app logo in the Output box.  You’ll switch to the chosen app, it will launch, and you’ll return to Audiobus.  Unlike the Input app, you won’t see another box appear over the Output connection – you can only have one Output connection.  If you’ve got both an Input and Output app connected, you’ll see flashing white arrows moving from left to right, letting you know that you’re ready to send audio from the Input app to the Output app.    

Using The Effects Position
After you’ve got both the Input and Output connections established, you’ve got the option of connecting an Effects app.  It’s important to remember that Effects are optional, not mandatory to create an Audiobus connection – once you see those white arrows flashing from left to right, you can send audio from the Input app to the Output app.  If you’d like to add an app to the Effect chain though, you just follow the same process outlined above.  Tap the button with the “+” in the middle of the screen, and choose your Effect app from the list in the pop-up menu.  Press the darkened icon in the box, the app will launch, and then you’ll be sent back to Audiobus.  You’ll notice that you won’t see additional boxes appear here either; you can only have one app in the Effect position.  At this point, you’re ready to send the Input app through the effect and to your Output app.

The Connection Panel
After your Audiobus connections have been established, tap on the Input app and you’ll switch to that app.  On the left hand side of the screen, you’ll see the connection panel, which consists of a button with several dots as well as the icons of the other apps involved in the signal chain.  Tapping on the button with several dots and swiping to the right will move the connection panel out of the way.  This can be convenient if you need a little more room on the right of the screen or there’s a button beneath the control panel that you need to access.  If you’d like to get the control panel back, simply swipe to the left from the far right hand side of the screen.  A small tab will appear; pressing on the tab will cause the control panel to reappear.  You’ll see logos for Audiobus and all the apps in your signal chain, with the exception of the app that you’re currently using.  The connection panel will be an important part of your workflow, helping you send audio around your apps.

Tapping on the app logos will expand the connection panel and give you access to a variety of Audiobus control options.  Each app will provide icons that represent specific actions.  These are the logos that you’ll find in the control panel:


App Fast-Switch
Tapping on this option will automatically switch you to the app represented by the logo above the icon.  You’ll find this option in all the different apps in the connection panel – the Audiobus logo, as well as the Input, Output, and Effect logos.


Record
You’ll only see this icon associated with your Output app.  Pressing this button will start the record process on your Output app.  When the button is darkened, its inactive.  If its green, its in standby mode, and when it turns red, you’re recording.  During the recording process, everything that you play on your Input app will be captured in your Output app.  If you designate a specific recording length in your Output app, the recording will stop when you reach the end of that cycle.  Otherwise, you can simply press the record button a second time.  After recording has ended, playback will automatically start.  


Play
Once again, you’ll only see this icon associated with your Output app.  When you press this icon, playback will begin of any information that you’ve captured in your Output app.  At this point, you’ll see the play button turn into a pause button; pressing this button will stop playback.  Once you press the play button, you can perform along with the playback using your Input app.  


Pause
This icon is only associated with your Output app.  Pressing this button stops playback of the music in the Output app.


Effect Power
This icon appears exclusively in the Effects app.  If turns the effect processing on or off in your chosen Effects app.  When the icon is dark, the effect is off; if it is light, then the effect is on.  You can’t actually switch between effects in the connection panel or change parameters on the effect; you’ll need to switch to the app to do that.

Make Some Music With Audiobus!
With this information in hand, you should be able to create a variety of fascinating signal chains using Audiobus.  The process will speed up your music making process, allowing you to focus on creativity much more than the technical specifics of getting your performances from one app to another app.  It’s honestly a completely new world of music making for iOS devices, so dig into the app and see what you can do.  Make sure that you leave your comments about Audiobus below – how has it worked for you?  What have you created with Audiobus?  Do you see this as the future of iOS music making?  Looking forward to seeing your thoughts!

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CHECK OUT THESE RELATED ARTICLES:
iPad Music App Tutorial: NanoStudio Mixer And Effect Quick Tips
iPad Music App Tutorial: NanoStudio TRG-16 Quick Tips (Part 1)
13 Quick Tips For Making Music With iMaschine On Your iPhone
iPad Music App Tutorial: The Making Of Combo Con Todo With Angel José

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

WeedPoet December 10, 2012 at 11:56 am

Animoog…we want Animoog on Audiobus!!!!!!!

And Auria.

Reply

chip December 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Animoog will make a truly awesome addition to the Audiobus list, as will Auria . . . no doubt about that. Fortunately, both those developers are getting on the bus soon. They’ve already begun implementation and we should see an update very soon. I am so excited about this next phase of music making!

Reply

Angel José December 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Chip,

Great tutorial! I like the way you write as it makes things go easier, just like your first articles. I’m waiting for Auria to update their app with Audiobus support so I can start getting the other apps routed thru.

Definitely a great day for iOS musicians and music maker everywhere. What a nice early Christmas present!

Reply

chip December 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Thanks Angel, I’m glad that you dug the tutorial! Audiobus is certainly a pretty amazing app that really pushes iOS music making towards its full potential. It was pretty fun to go through and break it down; I love thinking about apps in this way – it just helps me in my music making!

Auria with Audiobus support is on the way; I agree, that’s going to be awesome. I really think that in a few months, it’s going to be more rare to find an app that doesn’t have Audiobus support!

Certainly a great day, can’t wait to hear all the music that comes out of this step forward!

Chip

Reply

Gio December 12, 2012 at 9:55 am

Question: is it possible to place a couple of apps in Input — for example, Sunrizer and N-Log — and then run them simultaneously using MIDI with a sequencer app (like NordBeat or Phaedra) while recording in Output? I wonder because the sequencer would remain outside the Audiobus chain…

Reply

ZenLizard December 23, 2012 at 11:36 am

@ Gio Oops, I guess I should have replied directly to your post instead of the main topic. The answer is: Yes, you can.

Reply

ZenLizard December 23, 2012 at 11:29 am

So far, Audiobus has been fantastic… Works like a charm. I am disappointed with the only current options for recording with it, however. MultiTrack DAW is, at best, an incomplete multi-tracker with it’s most obvious flaw being the lack of clock sync . Loopy is fine for what it is, but it functions under a particular paradigm that is great for – you guessed it – loop based music. Linear, organic composition… not so much. Still, Audiobus is worth every penny and more. IMHO, it brings a functionality to iOs music that should have occurred to Apple from the very beginning (you mean, musicians actually want to be able to use their music apps together? Duh!)

Reply

ZenLizard December 23, 2012 at 11:33 am

@Gio

Yes. Only the apps that are producing the audio need to have Audiobus integration. Audiobus As long as the apps that are producing the audio are in the input slot, it doesn’t matter how those apps are being controlled.

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