Tape wants you to record - right now. And share, right now. Also: Skeuomorph this.

Tape wants you to record – right now. And share, right now. Also: Skeuomorph this.

“The future has arrived; it’s just not very evenly distributed.” – William Gibson.

Well, that’s certainly true of digital recording. Dedicated producers aside, the masses of musicians in the world are often still at a loss when they want to record their music on the iPads and laptops and machines that surround them.

And for all the great stuff that’s happened on the iPad for musicians, there’s still not one go-to app that everyone might use to record. Apple’s own GarageBand is one option, though even GarageBand is overkill if you just want to save some quick ideas on the guitar.

Tape from Focusrite seems to want to be that app. And the price is right: it’s free.

“Tape” isn’t just the name: this actually looks like a tape recorder.

While the design world shies away from skeuomorphic designs, the music world goes the opposite direction. And so, you actually see a big reel-to-reel tape recorder (kids, ask your parents), and even get visual representations of the tapes. In a way, this is the weakest part of the design: the big reels aren’t touchable, so they’re just eye candy.

But after that, everything else works stunningly easily.

Recording is dead-simple: hit the record button.

Input is easy, too. You can use the built in input on your iPad, or plug in a Core Audio interface for a computer. (Focusrite sells some excellent options; more on that in a moment.)

There’s a built-in metronome, and you can either record the left and right channels of your input separately, or link them together.

Visual feedback is essential, too, and you get meters and a waveform. (Though – ugh – if they just had made those bigger and left out the giant tape deck picture!)

Once you’re done, you get built-in mastering – a bit like Instagram for the sound, with “light” and “heavy” options and little else. You can also add a picture (finally, a use for that iPad camera – or, for better results, the memory card from your SLR). And then you can share immediately to SoundCloud. The combination of mastering, pictures, and titling means you’re actually encouraged to finish everything right on the device. That’s a nice idea for mobile users – certainly for novices, but perhaps also for people wanting to quickly post live sets and the like.

http://global.focusrite.com/apps/tape-app

Once you've finished a recording, you can instantly apply mastering presets, add a photo, and share to SoundCloud (and other social networks). Sorry, didn't have time to come up with titles and photos for this screenshot. I'm fired.

Once you’ve finished a recording, you can instantly apply mastering presets, add a photo, and share to SoundCloud (and other social networks). Sorry, didn’t have time to come up with titles and photos for this screenshot. I’m fired.

The Hardware Picture

Focusrite’s Tape may not appeal to all advanced users, but at this point it’s worth talking about their new hardware range.

iTrack Solo looks especially nice. Focusrite says they haven’t skimped on quality – this is the same well-liked mic pre you get in their high-end Scarlett range. But for a new price, recently dropped to GBP99, you get a two-in interface with mic and guitar jacks and stereo output that works with both your iPad and your desktop PC or Mac. It’s also in an aluminum chassis, so it promises to be road-worthy.

This is really a genuine iPad accessory – even passing Made for iPad certification, which many products from the pro audio world don’t – but it will run powered reliably on both desktop and iPad.

It’s not the smallest interface around; for that, I like the Sonoma WireWorks option, which also has superb audio circuitry inside. But for a versatile, compact interface with full-sized knobs and metering, this is the iPad interface to beat.

For the first-time buyer, there’s also an all-in-one iTrack Studio product that adds headphones, a condenser mic, and even an XLR cable, though I’m not as familiar with those components as I am with the audio interface.

No hardware? No problem. The Studio product includes everything you need. But, for serious users who do have all this stuff, you might still look at iTrack Solo. It gives you a Focusrite pre from the Saffire in a compact, inexpensive box that works with desktop or iPad, and might be worth adding to your studio. Photo courtesy Focusrite.

No hardware? No problem. The Studio product includes everything you need. But, for serious users who do have all this stuff, you might still look at iTrack Solo. It gives you a Focusrite pre from the Saffire in a compact, inexpensive box that works with desktop or iPad, and might be worth adding to your studio. Photo courtesy Focusrite.

I’ll be interested to see whether this can win over the first-time buyer; we’ll have to see if we can find a guinea pig for that. But for even advanced users, Tape is a no-brainer download for quick recording since it’s free, and I think iTrack Solo should be on your short list for audio interfaces, especially at the lower price.

http://global.focusrite.com/ipad-audio-interfaces

  • Mr Ecklie

    I know it’s free and all, but some basic editing features, like trimming, would have been nice.

  • Erlend D. Handeland

    The app looks super fun! Too bad it only runs on ios6.. :’(

  • Erlend D. Handeland

    Btw, I believe ditching skeuomorphic design is a big step back for user friendliness, mainly driven by computer nerds who design stuff after their own (the minority’s) needs.

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      wow, too much to say. but here are a couple of comments …

      * the design of old-school (mostly analog/discrete electronic) devices reflects the intersection of hardware limitations and some ideas about usability. they were not easy to use for the first generation of users. why would we want to imprison future generations of users inside designs that are rooted in limitations that have changed or even vanished?

      * the idea that the right way to design a flat panel capacitative touch interface is to mirror elements drawn from a 3 dimensional discrete electronics device seems absurd without further justification. do you have any ?

      * one of the things about us computer nerds is that we get things done on computers very very fast and very very efficiently (most of the time). one of the things about good audio engineers is that they things done on audio gear very very fast and very very efficiently (most of the time). now .. if audio equipment ends up being basically just a computer, which approach to working do you think you want to use as the basis for user interface design?

    • Random Chance

      I simply believe in good functional design. I could care less about wood end cheeks in software or images of reel-to-reel tapes that do nothing but take up screen space. That might look cute but it’s not functional design. I suspect that the design for this application was not done by a real designer but by a nerdy graphics artist or similar person. Looking at the screenshot of the program I can just say that I don’t immediately know what the program will do and how it will react to all possible inputs. Good design should make my job as a user easier. Ever heard about the principle of least surprise? Most touchscreen applications I’ve used so far seem quite hard to use regardless of whether they have cute graphics or not. I’d rather use a simple program with no apparent design than a simple program with lots of “design” that gets in the way and only distracts me from the task at hand. Oh, and I don’t say that fun and cute programs should be banned. I enjoy using some of them.

  • Jeffry Murphy

    Now this is what I call a great app! Its user-friendly and has a lot of awesome designs. Thumbs up! http://www.distrophonix.com/

  • characterstudios.be

    I just happen to have bought myself the little iTrack last weekend, and I have to say it’s delivers very well, especially if you think that it can be had for about 120 euro these days!

    I bought it because I regularly buy second hand microphones and to test them I need a mic preamp with p48 and a headphone output for monitoring… Carrying around this little thing and the iPad (which I already carry with me anyway) is a lot easier than the Mackie mixer I always used for the purpose. The mic preamp is nicely quiet with plenty of gain. Sure it’s not a very exciting preamp (it’s of the same ‘bland’ factor as say the AKG C3000B microphone), but for 118 Euro, I really can’t fault it at all.

    Setup was super easy, in fact, there was no setup, just connecting stuff. The iPad immediately switched input and monitoring to the little unit, and I was ready to go in Garageband and Cubasis!

  • Diana Hopper

    This app from focusrite seems to be amzaing as its other stuff. Will get it soon as possible.

  • Erin Tarn

    The essence of iOS music is mobility. The iTrack Studio requires mains power via USB hub to work with iPad. Kinda defeats the purpose. So far, the iRig Pro or better… Apogee One Version 2 are your best bets for on-the-go recording.

  • Rupert

    I use the TAPE app a lot for documenting ideas on-the-fly, however I have not as yet been able to transfer the files from my iPad mini to my PC via iTunes.
    Can anybody assist with this?