So, this is interesting.
In my quest to simplify my computer setup I’ve been reducing my plugins and other software to bare minimum. Nowadays I’m almost running pure Cubase 8 (fortunately it comes with some great stuff built in). And I’ve been adding more hardware – mainly EQ and compression for some different flavours and to save time by getting the sounds about 80% right upon recording.
As an aside, it’s pretty funny to hear about ‘mix as you go’ being some kind of new technique brought about by electronic musicians who compose/record and mix iteratively, rather than in separate steps. If you’re recording live instruments and you have any choice at all about the room, instrument position, mic choice and mic position (let alone outboard processing on the way in), then you’re already shaping the sound with an ear for the mix. These choices affect the tone of the sound just as an electronic musician might apply EQ or reverb to sounds as they build up the layers of their song.
Anyway, so I’ve been moving more and more of my mix processing outside the box. But occasionally I’ve felt the need for something a bit different, a bit off-the-wall. But it doesn’t seem to make sense to install a new plugin for the sake of a single project (or even a single song). I’m thinking about the long-term health of my computer here. I used to do this and ended up with dozens of plugins I’d hardly used (and, in truth, many were easily enough replaced by stock Cubase processors).
So, enter the iPad.
Is this the loosely-coupled multi-purpose processor with quasi-disposable software modules that I’ve been dreaming of? Maybe. So I got myself a cheap 2/2 line audio interface, dug up an old USB-MIDI interface (luckily class-compliant), patched them behind my rack, and now my iPad fits in just like any other outboard gear. And I’ve been experimenting a bit. This setup seems ideal for stereo effects processors (such as Flux and Amplitude), as well an monotimbral synths (such as Launchkey and Thor). I’m sure there are plenty of other interesting apps waiting to be tested. The iPad doesn’t quite seem ready to be a multitimbral sound module (and there’s certainly nothing as sophisticated as HALion Sonic 2, which is my default sound source for most things). But surely that’ll change soon. Maybe something like GarageBand or Beatmaker can already operate as multitimbral modules? And after well over a decade of VSTi, do we really need to return to the days of having to manage MIDI timing slew for high-polyphony external modules? And is this any different to having a MacBook as a separate sound module?
So, I’ve got some interesting exploring ahead. 🙂