I like to do six impossible things before breakfast. You?

This is either the first death knell for the traditional desktop DAW, or an ill-fated attempt to squeeze a desktop DAW onto a tablet. Or, more likely, it’s somewhere in between.

Auria isn’t the first multitrack production studio for a mobile platform, but without question, it’s the first to look and function in the way you’d expect only a computer Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to work. The track count is the first banner feature, but perhaps what will turn heads most is actually the support for conventional plug-ins.

Updated: You know, I’m writing about this thing based on their description, but it’s worth adding that the track counts (with these kinds of plug-ins), multi-track recording, and even plug-ins were previously believed to be impossible by many developers. That makes this an … interesting announcement. Happily, we’ve just gotten updates from the developer explaining those questions — see below.

Just a few of the bullets that might cause more than a little surprise:

  • 48 mono/stereo, 24-bit/44.1kHz tracks, with recording for up to 24 tracks (you’ll obviously need a USB audio interface that can do that – see notes below)
  • 64-bit, double precision mix architecture (something even Pro Tools only just acquired)
  • Full delay compensation
  • “Vintage-inspired” channel strips, with a desktop-like UI and VU/RMS switching
  • Plug-in support (Out of the gate, PSPaudioware, Overloud, Fab Filter and Drumagog all work. You need to do custom wrapping of plug-ins for this host; standard plug-ins won’t work. The format is based on VST, but it’s not VST in the traditional sense in that they have to be custom-wrapped for sale through the app. See developer notes below.)
  • Dropbox, SoundCloud, AAF, MP3 export
  • Advanced channel strips, EQ, expansion/compression and dynamic controls ready to go
  • Convolution reverb. (Really.)
  • AAF import/export, making one definite application using this as a satellite for your desktop DAW (more on that notion below)

Update: I should say, and this is vitally important, the software isn’t shipping yet. No one has seen it in action. And that means all of this is hypothetical until we see whether this works at all. But see some notes from the developers that answers some skepticism. (This wasn’t just skepticism coming from me or end users – I heard from a number of puzzled developers who work on iOS apps!)

As impressive as all of this is technically, I’m not sure there’s a strong case for why you’d need such a thing on an iPad, other than “because you can.” But that raises the question of how you might actually use it. One obvious application for me is having a portable multitrack recording rig on which you can instantly add effects. It’s easy to imagine taking this to a concert gig, recording multiple tracks, then mastering a live show on the back of a tour bus. Then again, there’s nothing really stopping you from doing the same with a computer.

The main thing for me is to get hands on with this and see how this desktop-style UI adapts to an iPad – whether it feels newly mobile and touchable and usable on the go, or whether it feels like someone crammed your desktop DAW onto a different device. It’ll also be intriguing to see how plug-in counts work in practice on mobile hardware. And you do have to consider, cool as the plug-in support it, that you may miss some desktop plug-ins.

I’m eager to see someone review it, but that for me comes back to the question – how will you use it? And what is the real advantage of doing what you’ve done on a computer with an iPad?

My bet remains this: I still think the whole beauty of mobile devices is, for most, as a satellite, a complement to your desktop setup. And you have to consider how affordable something like a MacBook Air is – complete with Thunderbolt, something I don’t expect (as Intel tech) on an iPad any time soon. But that makes a touchable tablet as an inexpensive tool to orbit your studio really appealing, and I see some features here that could make this work in just this way.

(In fairness, I’d ask the same question of any new DAW entry – even on desktop.)

http://auriaapp.com/Products/auria

I believe Synthtopia gets the nod for this:
Auria Brings 48-Track Recording & VST Support To iPad – Are You Ready For The iPad To Replace Your Studio?

Wait, your whole studio? I think you still want monitors and mics and things, right? (Sorry, had to point that out…)

Not due until this spring, so we have some time to work out how to review it.

And yes, the most important question here is, is this actually possible or impossible?

Developer Responds

Rim from Wavemachine Labs answers questions I – and many developers – had about the app. I’m going to promote these from comments, as they’re important, and will add more as we hear it. (And yes, it’s actually quite good news to hear that they do have this working.)

CDM: How do you get 24-track audio recording on an iPad?
Rim: iOS5 supports USB Class 2 devices. We’ve got Auria recording with 18 input interfaces (the largest available right now). We’ve tested over 20 audio interfaces from various manufacturers and will be posting a list of compatible devices on or site when we released the app.

Although there are no 24-input USB interfaces out there, I’m ready for them in the code, and there’s enough resources to handle them.

Q.: How can you have “plug-ins” in an app on iOS, given Apple’s rules?
Apple won’t allow users to add anything to an app, like a plug-in for example. All add-ons to an iOS app must be statically linked into the app when it’s released. Auria supports real VST plug-ins which have been linked into the app. Users can then purchase these through the in-app store. If you’re a developer and would like info on how to port your plug-ins to iOS, drop me a line (rim at drumagog). Auria supports the official VST SDK (2.4), and we also have a custom JUCE library available for developers.

Q.: How much can you really do with an iPad versus a computer? Many of us would have imagined that doing this much was impossible.

I’ve spent the better part of a year of making 48 tracks and plug-ins happen ;) It does work, even on the current hardware. If you’re going to be at NAMM. please stop by and see it work… You can have a 48-track project (with perhaps half of these tracks stereo), and have 24 tracks of channelstrips open, an instance of Drumagog on one track, and use about 70% of the CPU/ 50% of the disk resources. There’s also a track freeze function. We used assembler for lost of the heavy lifting and a lot of experience ;) (I designed a very early touch screen based DAW in the late 80s).

  • http://plogue.com plgDavid

    You CANT have plugins on iOS. its against apples rules to allow any sort of dynamically loaded code.
    The only way this can "work" is that if the "vst"s are already statically linked into the app and unlocked by in app purchase. I cant help but feel there is some form of odd marketing forces at work here.

    • peterkirn

      Right. But that doesn't mean you couldn't take a VST plug-in and then do in-app purchases.

      Honestly, that's the least impossible of the details here. I'm more confused by how any hardware – even the hardware expected for upcoming iPads – could handle this kind of track count and processing. 

      And are they assuming we'll see USB2 class support in a future iPad? 

    • http://www.drumagog.com Rim Buntinas

      Hi guys,

      @plgDavid

      Yes, you're absolutely right, Apple won't allow users to add anything to an app, like a plug-in for example.  All add-ons to an iOS app must be statically linked into the app when it's released.  Auria supports real VST plug-ins which have been linked into the app.  Users can then purchase these through the in-app store.  If you're a developer and would like info on how to port your plug-ins to iOS, drop me a line (rim at drumagog).  Auria supports the official VST SDK (2.4), and we also have a custom JUCE library available for developers.

  • http://plogue.com plgDavid

    My problem with it is the use of the term 'VST' when clearly this means developers need to port to iOS, redo the UI in Cocoa and/or Juce, and statically link to the main app. New plugins would only be able to appear in App Store updates. So you dont need VST for that, in fact having the VST plugin<->host layer STILL present when its not needed just adds unnecessary overhead, when they could have used a custom light SDK instead. but "VST" turns more heads i guess.

    plugin developpers could just use their internal DSP code statically with a light interface and that would be the same thing. VST hosting this is not.

  • http://www.drumagog.com Rim Buntinas

    @peterkirn,

    iOS5 supports USB Class 2 devices.  We've got Auria recording with 18 input interfaces (the largest available right now).  We've tested over 20 audio interfaces from various manufacturers and will be posting a list of compatible devices on or site when we released the app.

  • http://plogue.com plgDavid

    Rim, i dont mean no disrespect. there seems to be quite of work involved in there, and i wish you success. I've done quite a bit of iOS coding to know the difficulty involved. I just have problems with the use of the term.

  • loydb

    Should call it iVST (which could stand for "integrated VST")…

    • Leslie

      +1 for iVST term, VST is bit misleading as it gives impression that I can load any of my desktop plugins…
      Also, what about VSTi? Will it be possible to use VST instruments as well?

  • http://janolakorte.de ola

    "As impressive as all of this is technically, I’m not sure there’s a strong case for why you’d need such a thing on an iPad, other than 'because you can'.”

    that`s why i read cdm.

  • chocky

    This makes me want to leave Earth

    • peterkirn

      Not sure what you mean, but that sounds fun. ;)

  • han solo

    I have a ship bound for places where they dont serve coffee to people with hats and overly use beardbook.com

    join me.

  • Nonz

    this brings Reaktor that much closer to iPad functionality. halleluiah!

  • http://www.analogindustries.com Chris Randall

    @Nonz: How do you figure? 

    @Rim: I maintain that you should not be saying it hosts VST plugins. It does not. While I'm open to being wrong about the USB thing, I strongly maintain that calling it a VST host is completely ridiculous. 

  • freesoul

    The more we can get an iPad to "act" like our computers then wouldn't that make the iPad "more like our computers"? Regardless of the question "Why?" the question to me is "how long will this take?". The more my iPad can be substituted for my "real computer" the more opportunity I get to record and or produce music. To develop a powerful integrated vst/studio track software to the iPad and simply ask "Why?" is the same to me as talking to a painter and home wondering why there needs to be the most VERY BEST app developed for "painting on the iPad". The easiest answer could be,progess. The next obvious answer could be,evolution. The "why?" in this equation to me isn't even a point to argue. The more and more desktop styled interfaces/software we can port over to the iPad (successfully) the better. To me this is called progress. With the iPad 3 on the horizon with a rumored quad core processor brings many opportunities to bring these desktop style programs to the 1/4 inch thick,touch screen,10 hour battery lifed,personal computing device that doesn't fold into a clam. I guess I am also a little biased on this topic as I found a whole new musical producing experience when I started to use my iPad for 90% music production. The quality of the instruments and recording apps we have on the iPad now are very powerful and of vst quality. If we could breakdown the stigma of music "apps" as not just games and utilities on the iPad and look at them in the same respect as we look at vst software,then all the better. It should be plain as day to see where the iPad is heading. The power and prospering of the future iPads will rival that of last generation PC's. To develop this type of software for the iPad is the first step to get to where we are ultimately heading in the long run. This is a great sign of things to come for mobile and studio musicians. If you are able to have equal quality software weather you are in the dark studio or waiting in the parking lot while picking up your kids from school,then to me the real question should be "why not?" I'd like to think of myself in this generation of "why not's". To me this signals progress,imagination,and determination to drive the future,actually create it and not just sit by the wayside asking why? If we asked why would you want to do that to many of the developments we've seen over the past 20 years in music I think this would make for a very dull world.  (this is just my POV,you might have a different view,I respect that,respect mine)

  • Rim Buntinas

    @Nonz

    I'm with you, but we're not sure exactly what to call it ;)  For one, we're not calling Auria a VST host.  I guess it's a fine line, but Auria does load actual VST plug-ins (the plug-ins are unmodified VST 2.4, not some custom spec).  The real sticking point I suppose is the fact that users cant load their own plugins.  Plugins need to be purchased through the in-app store.  We're trying our best to convey that.   But it is loading genuine VST plugins.  They're just wrapped in iOS flavor and bundled with the app.

  • OutlandSound

    Well if this thing works with at least half the features promised I would call it a bit of a milestone.  The new quad core iPad is right around the corner and I'm sure this software is meant to hit with that upward curve in power.  I'm currently using my iPad2 as a mixing control surface/life organization device taking it with me in and out of work.  Even as that, its a great little device but the being able to do remote recording with this thing would be totally amazing (i.e. with an Apogee Symphony in USB standalone mode).  This must be some tight and lean code.  If they can pull this off what does it say about a lot of the more established DAWs and their upgrades coming slow and after much pain and tacked on with an $1000 fee *cough* Avid.  Now, I don't see myself leaving Pro Tools anytime soon but there is something to be said about what's on offer here and how the old guard is probably trapped under their old code while newer companies can hit the ground running.  This had better work, it looks amazing but I guess we'll really know in the next couple days at NAMM. 

  • http://www.analogindustries.com Chris Randall

    @Rim: Whether they're "genuine VST plugins" deep down inside or not is beside the point. VST means interoperability. These are an add-on purchase for your app, created specifically for your app, built in to your app previously, accessed via in-app purchase, that will work in nothing else but your app. They're not VSTs. Maybe they were at one time, but they aren't in this context. Calling them that puts the onus on the plug-in developer, when in fact it is entirely on you. 

    I understand what you've done from a technical standpoint, and it is crafty. From a business standpoint you're taking advantage of the VST developer community to imply your app loads our value-added content. I'm not a fan of this tactic. 

  • http://stackinpaper.com Keebs

    I think the answer to why this is a good thing is the same thing that has mostly caused the success of the iPhone and iPad:
    An integrated control surface.

    Yes, a laptop with an audio interface could do the same thing, but a tablet adds a physicality much more similar to an actual mixing desk. I find that many things don't make as much sense to use an iPad for… but this seems perfect. Additionally, the fact that all iPads (assuming the same version) have the same system specifications and only one application runs at a time will mean improved reliability/dependability.

    Dropping $500 on an iPad that can be used for a number of other purposes during downtime and $400 on an audio interface seems like a pretty worthwhile dedicated multi-track recorder

  • http://atlastop.com Atlastop

    Is it James McCartney who programmed this? The guy who wrote SuperCollider and works for Apple?
    He’s a seriously clever guy! If anyone could do this, i’d believe it would be him (though probably with help)

  • http://twitter.com/dirtRAID Brand B

    it would be dope if Apple sold AU plug ins in the App store that would be accessible to any installed app.. I’m almost positive the code to do so already exists in iOS.

  • peter

    Why hasn't anybody made a decent tablet laptop competitor for the iPad yet? There is no reason that technological progress (the interface) needs to be tied to dystopian progress (the app approval process, the functional limitations), other than self-fulfilling pessemistic prophecies about what will sell. I just don't understand the acceptance of that combination, or the apparent need to make the iPad work as a music platform when you still need an additional music platform to finalize or share everything… It's like people who watch tv shows they know are shitty, because they can watch them everywhere, rather than just buying some dvds or getting Netflix.

    But soapboxing aside, seriously, there are people manufacturing touch control surfaces for music, why can't those same people get into manufacturing computers too?

  • http://www.papernoise.net papernoise

    I don't think it matters that much if this thing really works or not right now.
    If it's not working now, it will be working soon, I'm sure of it. Because once an idea is in people's heads, it's hard to get it out. And people have this idea in their head and the technology is probably ripe enough to transform it into a working hardware-software combo.
    It also doesn't matter that much why you should want to have a DAW on an iPad. It might make sense in some cases and probably not make sense in many others. It's probably cutting some corners to get all the audio computation going in realtime (how will the actual sound quality be?). It won't replace your studio software (how is a 10" screen not going to frustrate you after 20 minutes of work?) and the UI Design needs to get rid of all the legacy interaction patterns that come from the old WIMP paradigm, which really does not make any sense on a multi-touch based device like the iPad. So I certainly won't sell my MBP and get an iPad just for this one software, traditional computers still have a lot of advantages.
    Still, I'm sure it will make some sense on the long run, because things don't have sense per se, we give that sense to them.
    What this Auria is doing is basically opening a door, starting a trend, showing a possibility and others will follow. As tablets, slates, and traditional computers progressively melt into one platform (because that's the evolution we are currently seeing) we'll probably see how traditional DAW software will adapt to the new form factors and input methods. If the market finally produces something like a 27" touch based iMac thing, then probably it will be something that replaces your studio. 
    And btw. If this is really working, it means some unknown independent developer has beaten Apple in its own territory, and that's really something to be happy about!  :)

  • Jonas the Blowfish

    awesome work, Rim!!!
    I'm going to do mobile recordings with it.
    Glad to hear this confirmation that USB Class 2 Audio is supported!

    I don't know how much of it's functionality I'm going to use, but 96kHz recording on the go is going to be a great feature.
    I hope the UI is suited for recording in difficult situations (like freezing cold and windy weather) and doesn't need pixel precision touches at least for the basic start/stop recording functionality.

    Also I find the insight interesting that you actually went down even to assembly level to max out the performance.

  • Martin Wheeler

    MIDI ?
    "iVSTi's" ?
    Though I would be very happy to see this exist as a catalyst to bring on other stuff, personally I would trade at least 40 of those 48 audio tracks for a handful of MIDI tracks capable of hosting softsynths, granular synthesis plugs and, though we all know NI won't let that happen, Reaktor. But once again, bring it on … 

  • http://music.cornwarning.com chaircrusher

    An iPad is a fancy touch screen portable, and under the hood is the computing power of a midrange laptop circa 2005.  Shoehorning a multitrack DAW on it is a neat trick, but having to use external gear to make it useful negates the portability advantage, and the extremely limited storage means a lot of mucking around moving files on and off.

    For multitrack recording this would be my last choice.  It's a neat hack, no doubt but little more than that.  

  • stopclips

    If it's possible to get multiple simultaneous audio inputs in iOS, is it possible to get > 2 simultaneous analog outputs?

    If so "proper" DJ apps could be potentially possible, which would make touring amazing.

  • Simon

    Very excited about this, now tempted to upgrade from the iPad 1.

    Question for the devs: why VST and not Audio Unit?

  • nickt

    conceptually this is very interesting given the processor etc limitations on an ipad (extremely skeptical of how it will function in the real world).

    storage? midi? pointer? keyboard? interface latency? real VSTs? early adopter headaches? no thanks. for me, working on a 15" MBP is hassle enough.

    bottom line the ipad is just too small and recording/editing ANYTHING in this environment would a total nightmare. IMHO. even when the ipad grows to 2x the size i won't be interested, as i would need 2 screens of at least 20" to maintain sanity.

    nice concept but an impractical toy. i agree with peter: why? just because you can.

    ipad is great in the kitchen for all my recipes! :)

    • Martin Wheeler

      You are of course free to determine the iPad's relevance for your own work, but to write it off as an 'impractical toy' simply because it's display is 'too small' to 'record/ edit ANYTHING' is just absurd. Ever been on a movie shoot ? How big are the displays on the recorders being used there ? Most are less than an 1/8 th of the size of an iPad. How big are the displays on 1/4" reel to reels ? Is it impossible to record on them ? if you want to look at 48 tracks at a time, I would agree that the iPad is obviously not as good as a 20" display. But a 20" display isn't as good as a 100" display. So maybe we can't edit on a 20" anymore ?
      Would I choose an iPad as my main DAW if I was recording and editing 48 track sessions. No, of course not.
      Could I deal with an iPad display as the interface with which  to record mono, stereo, four or eight track takes ? If the software could cut it ( a big if ) then of course.
      Could I edit a dialogue track or an improvisation, or an FX session or pretty much any labour intensive stereo editing ? Sure, if the software was happening. Can't see why it's so hard to imagine …

  • minijack

    from a user perspective (seem to be a lot of developers on here), what if you've already purchased psp, fabfilter, etc VSTs – would you somehow be able to get those in app purchases for free? if not, then this app doesn't support VSTs…..it just has very fancy in app purchases. and if you're PSP or fabfilter, what kind of price do you charge for an "in-app purchase" VST versus a VST that someone bought on PSPaudioware.com? If it's significantly less (and you'd think it would have to be) won't everyone who bought those VSTs at the full price feel ripped off?

  • http://www.futureguitarnow.com Steve Conrad

    "iOS5 supports USB Class 2 devices. We've got Auria recording with 18 input interfaces (the largest available right now). "

    Can you provide the name of a USB Class 2 devices with 18 Audio channels that I can buy today?

  • http://www.sinevibes.com Artemiy

    To Rim and guys at Auria, can you please tell me why you have chosen the VST format over AudioUnits? And either way, do you plan to have AudioUnit support in the future too? That would be awesome and we (Sinevibes) would surely love to port our stuff.

  • bliss

    Is this VST mumbo-jumbo similar to how one used to be able to purchase plugins that were already within Logic, but merely needed to be unlocked? Only in the case of Auria, the plugins would be unlocked at the time of purchase, therefore being available for use when the user receives the software?

  • bliss

    In the previous post I was referring to Logic Platinum.

  • bongo_x

    It’s going to be great when the ipad is more powerful, and you add a real external keyboard and trackball, and a bigger external screen, and some hard drives.  Then we can finally get rid of these awful desktops and laptops that have been holding us back.

  • Rim Buntinas

    @bliss, yes, essentially that’s what we’re doing. 

    @artemiy, I chose vst because I felt it was the more popular standard.  If your plug-ins are au, it’s not that difficult to compile them for vst under auria. 

    @steve Conrad, we will be posting a complete list on our site, but for example the presonus audio box 1818vsl works great

    @minijack, its up to each manufacturer to det the price, but plug-ins will be very reasonably priced (between $10 – $20). 

  • Luís Silva

    My dream is to produce my music using only my Ipad. A DAW system with virtual instruments on the Ipad is really a dream that I hope to see realized. But please place MIDI Edition and Piano Roll. I use Garageband in Ipad2 and it is very disappointing Garageband not have Piano Roll. Please do not forget the Piano Roll. Thank you :) )) You are Great :) ))

  • Mic Gee$

    @the person mad about calling the plugs vst…all vst acronyms is virtual studio technology…um thats exactly what this is…since you are stuck to being an ars about terms i figured i would chill you a bit.  Just call them plug ins, so the baby arses will stop crying.  

    @the people who dont see the ipad as the replacement for their desktops and laptops…well, you are just not forward thinking people…i bet you just make pop music or do cover songs as your brain dont allow you much growth.

    @ the folks who just cant see the ipad being nothing to do music on…i dont even want to hear your overtechnical uncreative music…i already know its boring, usual, and static…because your brain is.

    To rim!  I thank you for making this app!  I will now do what i have been wanting to do for two years…sell the desktop and buy a second io dock and ipad2. Hurray for the future!  I never liked making music on a laptop!  I love the ipad as a musical instrument…have these folks not played animoog?  I dont care what you call it…i'll be getting my 50 bucks ready!  right now i use meteor and its a bit unfriendly in how it works…and the effects are just not great!  

    @Art, i hope sinevibes does get plugs ported over to this…. :) there are some of those plugs you make i want!

  • Rondubb

    I’m ready to buy this, and my iPad 3 ready to run it. Please hurry up and hook me up…lol

  • Rim Buntinas

    @Chris

    I suppose we're just going to disagree on that point.  I respect your opinion.

  • peterkirn

    I'm going to jump in here and say I agree with Chris. At the very least, you're going to want to handle the term "VST" carefully. Otherwise, people will indeed expect a level of interoperability that just isn't here. That said, I won't go as far as Chris and say you shouldn't mention the term "VST" at all – just that you should be very clear in order to avoid confusion that this requires a special plug-in that can be derived from VST.

  • Neil Voss

    Is there any reason you couldn't do some sort of usable-but-costly script interpreter as a way to develop DSP/ui plugins? Like reaper supports simple JS based plugs… I know Apple technically may forbid this but there are plenty of apps and games that have LUA or JS support (I did one with LUA). It probably wouldn't hold a candle to compiled DSPs but for basic processing and especially for things like edit or UI scripting it could be quite useful.

  • G(jomojo)W

    I'm an Ipad 2 owner. (a gift intended to shut me up about needing a computer that was not connected to the internet).

    The DAWs are buggy, (latency, noises, pops), especially without extensive training. No wonder that electronica midi style instrumentation has become king.

    That being said, isn't the iPad multitracking going to be more of the same.

    For decades I have advocated using the services of a professional studio, rather than "Joe's Garage", since $100 an hour would save most of us money.

    The time wasted on the learning curve and digital doorstops has to be improved for those of us who would like to make multi track video demos, with the thousands of dollars worth of music equipment in our "studio".

    The ipad's buggy connectivity to the mics, stereo keyboards, and digital recorders and direct guitar inputs, is not very promising. Then add the need for an external video monitor and powered audio to the camera kit, makes me wonder "wasn't the iPad a wireless device?" How the hell will I ever use iPad 2 to get a serious music video on Youtube?

    Wireless…..OMG what a concept. Now that I would take to a gig.

  • peterkirn

    Unless a developer found some way to transfer a license from a desktop to iOS, you'd likely be purchasing plug-ins separately for this iPad app, so your instinct is more or less correct. But I don't know that you'd see very many desktop VSTs ported anyway.