iPad Review :: Get it!

Tony Grund is one of Dubspot’s newest contributors, instructors, and allies.  In addition to this general article on the iPad itself, he has written reviews on a variety of apps geared towards DJs and producers.  You can read about the Looptastic HD, Korg iElectribe, TouchOSC, and Sonorasaurus Rex applications now.  Stay tuned for more to come…

iPad Review
Get It or Forget It: Get it!

Yes, I got an iPad. No, there was no waiting in line, or ordering online. Just went to the store, checked it out, and decided it was something I had to have. Just between me and you though, I knew I wanted to get it even before I saw it in the store. Why, you ask? Well, for all the potential of this thing. As a musician, DJ, and producer, the creative and business tasks the iPad offers seem limitless. And yeah, there was a little bit of the “gotta have the first one” thing in there as well.

If you’re interested in the iPad, then you will probably love it. The hype is all true: it feels great, works really well, and is truly a new type of computer. The potential is astounding. If you hate the idea of it then you’re probably going to dismiss it no matter what, so you might as well just stop reading now.

Here is my take on the iPad as a musician and what I think about it after having played with it for about two weeks.

What I Like:

1. No more walls. Slim and compact, yet with a powerful processor and reactive touch screen, the iPad breaks down the barriers between computers and humans to a point which we haven’t yet experienced. This is noticeable in all kinds of ways that truly cater to producers. For example, there is an app for putting together beats called Looptastic, in which you just drag and drop the loops from a pool at the bottom of the screen into the mix window above it. There is no clicking around with a mouse and then reaching for a controller (assuming you have one) to mix with. You just drag, position, and release, all in one gesture. The ease of this means that even people who aren’t producers can be putting together loops and simple tracks in no time at all. It’s intuitive, with virtually zero learning curve.

2. Because it is so small, you can just throw it in your bag and go. This is great for musicians who are traveling around on tour, or for those of us who live in major cities and are always on public transportation. As of right now there aren’t a lot of pro recorder apps out, but that is sure to change in the near future. The processor is certainly powerful enough to do basic things on multiple tracks. For DJs it is also great, because with the right app, we will be able to practice mixes on the go. Just plug in headphones and mix away! We’re waiting for Ableton to release a version of Live that works at least a little bit like the computer version! (Hint hint!!!)

For non musical purposes this point is great (and bad – see point 1 in the “what I miss” section below). The size of the iPad means that yeah it’s compact enough to grab and go, but the screen is also large enough to actually type on. Sure, it will take some getting used to, but once you do, there is no finger pecking. In fact, this whole review is being written entirely on an iPad! Apple’s iWork software is extremely useful and easy to use. Editing and spell checking is even easier than I initially assumed!

3. The fact that there is no keyboard or flip screen means that there is a more direct connection between the user and the machine. This isn’t really noticeable until you actually use it for something where you would notice it. For example, when looking at photos for an album cover at the record label I work for, we loaded all the photos into the iPad via iTunes. Then we just passed it around, looking at pictures and discussing. Everyone was chilling in their seats (in our case, a sofa and some cushy chairs) and talking about the pictures on the screen.  There was no need for people to get up and crowd around a computer desk and monitor. While we were looking at the photos, it became apparent that this is how computers were always meant to be used. Not as a machine that you have to move to, but more as a machine that becomes a part of you.

What I Miss:

1. The portability thing that I mentioned above in number 2 is actually a double edged sword. Yeah, it’s great that you can take it with you everywhere, but it also means that work can now encroach even further into our private lives. For example, the urge to whip out the iPad and work on a document on the bus or train will be even larger, and people will really need to allocate more “me time” into their schedules. Devices like the blackberry and iPhone already make email almost all intrusive, and I can see the iPad doing the same thing for other office tasks.

2. Audio interface, anyone? I don’t know of any that are on the horizon, but I’m sure they’re being dreamed up, or even put into production even as we speak! The faster processor combined with the larger screen means that companies can finally start looking into serious apps for music, which means that the hardware will also have to come along shortly. Some devices I can see that are necessary right off the bat? Something for DJs for sure. This wouldn’t require any inputs, just a couple of stereo outs and a headphone jack for cueing. And of course people will want to record, so a basic audio interface with a couple of ins and outs. In fact, the design for this is already on the market: the Apogee duet. The cable design of this interface makes it perfect for the iPad.

3. Here’s something that I’m putting in the “what I miss” section, but is more along the lines of “what I don’t miss”: flash. So many reviewers are crying about the lack of flash on the iPad and iPhone, but I say so what? What is so great about flash anyway that it’s necessary for most functions? My idea of a great web browsing experience is not accidentally mousing over an ad and having a huge popup screen block out most of the content. And apple is notorious for setting the bar high and making others play catch up (USB, FireWire, non-SCSI computers), so should we really be surprised about this omission? No. In a short while, I predict that most websites will see the value in making iPad-ready versions of their sites, so us users won’t even notice the lack of Flash.

Well, there you have it. My initial reaction to the iPad is hugely positive. It’s not going to replace my laptop for certain things such as studio recording and mixing, but it is certainly a great tool for the on-the-go musician. There is so much untapped potential for this product, and I’m eagerly looking forward to what companies will dream up for the near future.

Website: apple.com/ipad
Price: $499 – $699
Get it: store.apple.com

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