It doesn’t take much to get up and running recording music on your Mac, iPad, or even your iPhone. With a few pieces of additional hardware and the right software, it’s easier than ever to have a home recording setup that, thanks to iOS and some great third-party apps, is as simple and as intuitive to use as iOS itself.
Head below for our latest guide to the essentials for making music with your iPad, iPhone, and Mac, many of which are currently discounted for Cyber Monday:
The best 4K & 5K displays for Mac
AUDIO INTERFACES |
First you need to get an audio interface. The right interface for you will depend on your needs: Do you want to plug in a guitar? A mic? Record a full band? Interfaces all have different ins and outs, varying audio quality, and other bells and whistles, but the concept is the same: an interface lets you plug your instruments into your Mac or iOS device and, depending on the interface, monitor your output and more with physical controls.
When it comes to quality, look no further than Apogee with its high-end interface options built for Mac users featuring full iOS support and, in some cases, an included Lightning cable. Whether its a $4K+ multi-channel system for the biggest recording studios on the planet, or a mobile guitar hook-up for iPad, Apogee has you covered. JAM, ONE, Duet or Quartet, Apogee’s interfaces are great for Pros looking for serious A/D conversions and high quality demoing on the go, or just someone looking for a gorgeous desktop audio control hub for Mac with intuitive controls.
- Apogee JAM 96K guitar interface $129
- Apogee Duet audio interface for Mac and iPad $595 (Reg. $649)
- Apogee ONE Audio Interface for iPad & Mac $349
- Apogee Quartet Audio Interface for iPad & Mac $1299 (Reg. 1,395)
***Be sure to check out Apogee’s manufacturer refurbished Black Friday sale.
For those looking to pick up an audio input/output option for Mac/iOS without hitting Apogee’s price range, IK’s gear is a great place to start. As one of the first audio companies to create affordable/quality audio interfacing options for iOS, IK’s iRig line of products receive great reviews in most cases and will get the job done well.
- IK Multimedia iRig Pro instrument/microphone interface with MIDI for iOS and Mac $100 (Reg. $150)
- IK Multimedia iRig HD studio-quality guitar interface for iOS and Mac $65 (Reg. $100)
- If you’re looking for wireless MIDI transmission, the PUC MIDI hub for iOS and Mac can be a solid solution. Pioneering wireless MIDI in the consumer space, the $129.99 PUC product allows for simple wireless MIDI transmission between any MIDI device with a traditional MIDI out jack and your iPad, iPhone or Mac.
- Some mid-tier honorable mentions in the interface category would be the Scarlett and iTrack Solo USB for iPad from Focusrite, as well as the Avid hardware for Pro Tools.
MIDI KEYBOARDS/CONTROLLERS |
MIDI keyboard controllers have been a staple in the electronic musician’s arsenal for many years and are becoming even more widespread as music production standards sink their teeth into the iOS environment even deeper. These days it seems like musicians of all sorts, no matter which genre they are into or which platform they record on, have some form of MIDI keyboard on hand.
Some prefer a deck with all the add-ons: extra faders and encoders for performing and tweaking parameters of all types over MIDI, while others are just looking for a quality set of keys for taking advantage of the endless virtual instruments at your disposal on iOS and Mac. Here are some of our top picks at all price points, but it’s hard to go wrong with Akai’s tank-like MPK series:
- Akai Series 2 MPK MIDI keyboards 225/249/261 $250 – $500 (Reg. up to $600)
- Akai MPK MINI MKII 25-Key MIDI Keyboard/Pad Controller w/ Joystick $100 (Reg. $200)
- ***Previous gen MPK’s are still a great buy and come in at about $100 less. M-Audio Keystation 49 (2014) USB Keyboard MIDI controller $100 (Reg. $150)
- IK Multimedia iRig Keys Pro 37-key Lightning MIDI controller for iPhone, iPad and Mac/PC $110 (Reg. $150)
- Alesis Q25 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller $39.99 (Reg. $60+)
Over the past couple years, there has been nothing more popular in music production than the bevy of grid/pad controllers that have hit the market. Spawned largely by the popularity of clip based production/performance apps like Ableton’s Live software, grid controllers allow producers and beat makers to take a slightly different approach to song creation than they would with a traditional drum machine or MIDI keyboard. Allowing for, in many cases, an unlimited degree of customization, most DJs and electronic music producers should have at least one grid/pad option in the studio. Here are some of our top picks:
- Novation Launchpad S 64-Button Ableton Controller $149.99
- Novation Launchpad Mini USB Midi Controller iPad, Mac and PC $100 (Reg. $130)
- Ableton Push Controller for Live 9 with 11 Touch-Sensitive Encoders $480 (Reg. $600)
- Native Instruments Maschine Mikro/Studio $322 – $975 (Reg. up to $1100)
- Akai Pro MPC Element Controller with 1+GB Sound Library $149 (Reg. $249)
- IK Multimedia iRig PADS for iOS, Mac/PC $149
Not all MIDI controllers come with keys and pads though. As featured in our Small States series that showcases products Made in America, the Jamstik guitar for your iPad (pictured right) offers string players full wireless MIDI control with iOS and Mac.
With real guitar strings, frets and picking action, guitar players (or those soon to be) should checkout the portable $300 guitar controller as well (you’ll find Cyber Monday discounts at Jamstik.com today).
DJ CONTROLLERS |
While more expensive models from Pioneer, Numark and Native Instruments options still sit atop the most popular DJ controller lists, all three companies have released more affordable (and mobile) options for both Mac and iOS.
- Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 DJ Controller for iPad/iPhone $399 (Reg. $559)
- Numark Mixtrack Pro II USB DJ Controller with Integrated Audio Interface and Trigger Pads $249 + extra 15% off at checkout on Amazon (Reg. $400)
- Pioneer DDJ-WeGo 2/3 for iPad/iPhone from $169 (Reg. up to $400)
- Numark iDJ Pro Professional DJ Controller for iPad $250 (Reg. $300+)
Every studio, home or otherwise, needs to have great monitors. Your computer speakers just aren’t going to cut it for accurately monitoring your output and mastering the art of mastering. Ideally you could get down to your local music store to hear monitors before purchasing as the setup that’s right for you will depend largely on your needs, the size of your room, and your ears. Solution: A good place to start without breaking the bank is KRK. While the professional VXT series can get relatively expensive, KRK’s prosumer Rockit line is a great sounding alternative and my usual recommendation for monitors under $500. Other highly recommended options to check out come from Yamaha and Mackie:
- KRK Rockit series monitors 5-10″ $300 – $880 for a pair (Reg. up to $450 each)
- JBL LSR305 – 308 Studio Monitors $260 – $440 for a pair (Reg. up to $325)
- Presonus Eris E4.5 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor $170 for a pair (Reg. $250)
- M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 Studio Monitors $120 for a pair (Reg. $200)
- KRK VXT series monitors 4-8″ $600 – $1100 for a pair (Reg. up to $800 each)
- Yamaha HS5 -HS8 Studio Monitor $400 – $700 for a pair (Reg. up to $400 each)
- Mackie HR mk2 624 – 824 $1000 – $1400 (Reg. up to $1800)
Headphones can be tricky with so many different options geared towards a number of applications from affordable in-ears for working out, to hardcore audiophile over-ears and everything in between. For this particular list, we will stick to options that work great in home recording situations and for critical listening tasks (not necessarily the set you’ll look best in walking down the street). It’s also interesting to note that for some, even the lesser expensive Sennheiser and Sony options can actually work best for recording and certain mixing applications, so it’s not necessarily the most expensive set you can afford that will work best for you:
- Sony MDR7506 Professional Headphones $85 (Reg. $110)
- Sennheiser HD-280 Headphones from $80 (Reg. up to $200)
- Audio-Technica ATH-M50/x Pro Studio Monitor Headphones from $136 (Reg. $200+)
- AKG K7 Series Headphones $258 (Reg. $500+)
- Beyerdynamic DT-770 – 990 Pro Headphones from $130 (Reg. up to $300)
Like headphones, a great sounding microphone is very subjective. The mic that’s right for my recording might not be for right for yours, and the mic you’ll want to use might change depending on your environment, audio source, and other variables. This is a product category that goes anywhere from $100 all the way up to well over $10,00 per mic. So in the name of the keeping this list comprehensive and practical, here are some of the best vocal options (some of which will double as instrument mics as well) across various price ranges for Mac and iOS, both USB and straight analog:
- Blue Microphones Yeti USB Mic $99 (Reg. $149)
- Blue Microphones Spark Lightning Mic $172 (Reg. $200) – check out our full review here.
- Apogee MiC original/96k Mic for iPad, iPhone, and Mac from $79 – $229
- Blue Microphones Mikey Lightning Recording Mic for iOS $90 (Reg. $100)
- Audio-Technica AT2020USB Condenser USB Mic $99 (Reg. up to $140)
- Audio-Technica AT4040 Condenser Mic $299 (Reg. $495)
- Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Mic $350 (Reg. $436)
LOGIC PRO X KEYBOARD |
I recently reviewed this excellent Logic Pro X keyboard from EditorsKeys. Check out the full review here and see how you can improve your Logic Pro workflow while learning new key commands. The company takes an authentic Apple keyboard and add icons for the various shortcuts that pros use daily in apps like Logic Pro. There are also versions for Ableton, Cubase, ProTools, and other music making software.
Mac: Logic Pro X: $199.99
iOS Universal: GarageBand for iOS: $4,99
iPad: Animoog: $5 (Reg. $30)
iPhone: Animoog for iPhone: $2 (Reg. $5)
iOS Universal: Moog Filtatron: $1 (Reg. $7)
iPad: KORG Gadget: $30 (Reg. $40)
iPad: KORG iPolysix: $20 (Reg. $30)
iPad: KORG iMS-20: $20 (Reg. $30)
iPad: KORG iELECTRIBE Gorillaz Edition: $10 (Reg. $20)
iPad: KORG iELECTRIBE: $10 (Reg. $20)
iOS Universal: KORG iKaossilator: $10 (Reg. $20)
iPad: Auria: $25 (Reg. $50)
DEALS, BLACK FRIDAY/CYBER MONDAY SALES |
Native Instruments Komplete instruments, effects, more up to 50% off
Apogee Mac/iOS interfaces (Man. refurb) up to 60% off
Rob Papen plugins/effects 25% off site wide w/ code FRI-MON
Ableton up to 20% off Live 9, Push and content packs
Blue Microphones Store up to 60% off right now
Guitar Center Black Friday Weekend/Cyber Monday sale