GarageBand and AudioBus

A new update to Apple’s GarageBand for iOS came out today which quietly ushered in an extremely cool new feature. That feature is first-class integration with AudioBus. You may be asking yourself, “what’s AudioBus?” Brother, let me spell it out for you.

Garage Band

Garage Band

Unlike operating systems like OS X and Windows, iOS doesn’t really support multiple applications in the same way a “traditional” desktop OS would. Almost grudgingly, Apple added a restricted version of multi-application concurrency in iOS 4. The architecture of iOS has never had the easy integration between applications that it’s older cousin, OS X, has had.

So when it came to audio apps on iOS, it was always tricky getting them to work together. On the desktop we can simply route audio through the built-in sound system or with AU plugins. But on iOS, the default posture of each application is to act, more or less, like a silo that stands alone. For music, this kind of sucks. If I have a rad patch setup on AmpKit that I want to record guitar with, I’d like to put it GarageBand. Maybe I have a cool drum-loop app that’s better than the loops I get with GarageBand. Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I could somehow route these things?

Enter AudioBus. It functions similar to an audio bus on a mixer, but for audio apps on iOS. You configure a chain of sources, effects and destinations. Any app that integrates the AudioBus SDK can play along. As of today, GarageBand has now joined the ranks of these apps that support this awesome feature. This is a BIG DEAL.

There are several DAWs on the App Store, but GarageBand is the one most people know, and probably has the best balance of power with ease-of-use. It also says something when Apple essentially blesses the ambitious, barely-within-the bounds architecture of AudioBus. Could this portend a future release of iOS where this is a first-class part of the OS? As both a musician and iOS developer, I salivate at the very propsect. Even if that doesn’t happen, just having this ability to route a huge number of third-party audio apps into GarageBand is a big step forward for my own personal, musical productivity.

I don’t plan on giving up my desktop Mac anytime soon for audio recording. But the future clearly lies with systems like iOS. It’s not fully there yet, but the writing is on the wall. This is a good step forward to pushing that change further along.