Is the New Apple iPad Worth it?

Here’s the lowdown: I own an iPod Touch, and so I have a scaled down version of the iPad. Do I produce music on it? Nope. Do I want to? Maybe. Why don’t I? Because it’s finicky, toyish and still doesn’t have the feel of working in a real DAW or control of working in a real DAW. And worst of all, it doesn’t have any Propellerhead software on it.

“Magical” and “Revolutionary” is the way Apple is describing their new 9.56 x 7.47 inch iPad to the public. But does this device really deliver for Musicians like you and me, who use Propellerhead Reason and Record?

Here’s the lowdown: I own an iPod Touch, and so I have a scaled down version of the iPad. Do I produce music on it? Nope. Do I want to? Maybe. Why don’t I? Because it’s finicky, toyish and still doesn’t have the feel of working in a real DAW or control of working in a real DAW. And worst of all, it doesn’t have any Propellerhead software on it.

On the positive side, I love the flat surface touch control. There’s no doubt that this is the most intuitive and tactile way to control any software. Give me touch, and give me more of it. Let me glide the faders and knobs with a single finger. Let me zoom in and out of areas by pinching and prying apart with my thumb and forefinger. Yeah! I love that.

I was reading in the latest issue of CM (Computer Music magazine) — issue 150, that the App developers were saying this would be a really great product. No offense, but that doesn’t tell me anything. Of course the App developers are going to start promoting the iPad. It gives them a platform to build more and better Apps for which they will make more and better money. Then I read how a certain person from a certain controller company thought the iPad wouldn’t be good for live performance (I share his belief, btw). But again, of course he’s going to dismiss the iPad because it will mean less sales for his company. Everything points to the fact that nobody really knows the impact the iPad will have. And it’s just too early to tell. And way too early to buy IMHO.

And then I read in the CM article that a certain head of Propellerhead software gave the iPad cautious praise. Does this perhaps hint at the possibility of the Props putting together an App of their own, specifically for the iPad? Perhaps. If that happens, I would most definitely give it a great deal more consideration. But this is all rumors and heresay for now. Nobody really knows. So save your money and put the $500 iPad cost to better use by getting an audio interface or nice set of monitors (ok, maybe just 1 monitor, but it’s a start).

Here’s what keeps nagging at me:

  1. Playing “Live” might be a problem due to the fact that the sensor technology is such that when you get all sweaty, the touching might not respond. And even if you’re not all sweaty, the touch system on my iPod Touch can be finicky and non-responsive at times. This still needs to be worked on.
  2. If you’re in the studio, it’s just an overgrown iPod (for now). It’s got the same apps, and the same OS running it. This means that you still can’t multitask, and existing apps don’t take advantage of the additional space.
  3. Did you hear me? It can’t MULTITASK. You can run one app at a time, no more. Which means you can’t run two plug-ins at once, or control a DAW and a synth at the same time.
  4. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from Apple, it’s never to buy the first product release. Why? Because they save all their goodies for v.2 and v.3 product launches. Right now this is nothing more than a larger iPod Touch. Wait 6 months for the iPad v.2 when Apple has had a chance to a) sort out the bugs, b) add new and improved functionality and c) app developers have had a chance to catch up.

    Case in point: my girlfriend bought me the first release of the iPod Touch and 4 months later the iPod Touch release came out with double the amount of space for the same price. I understand that technology keeps moving forward, but Apple just doesn’t take a breather. And as a result, I become a very jaded customer who will never buy the first release. Of course, Apple probably doesn’t care one bit about this situation. There are plenty of others who will jump on the bandwagon to buy this device and even — god forbid — PREORDER! But hey, to each their own. And if you preorder, I wish you the best of luck with your new iPad. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The additional screen real-estate is great, and there’s no question that there is some promise here. It’s also light-weight. But let’s see some Apps built for it first. Let’s see Reason and Record for the iPad. And let’s see how the iPad can be the next super DAW controller and music-making machine. Then, and only then can we assess whether or not this product really is “Magical” or “Revolutionary.” Right now it’s a lot of hype.

There used to be an expression when I was a debt collector talking to deadbeats and trying to get them to pay their bills. It went something like this: There’s a lot of smoke on the barbecue, but I don’t see any meat. Somehow the imminent Apple iPad release made me think of that expression. We’ll see how much “meat” is actually there in the coming months.

What are your thoughts on the new iPad from Apple?

Here’s an interesting article on the subject of iPads and Tablet PCs, which have been around for at least 6 years now. And I think this author is bang on right!,9929.html. Thanks Doinky for the link!

7 thoughts on “Is the New Apple iPad Worth it?”

  1. What I think the iPad might be useful for is reading magazines, books, and watching movies while traveling. If major publishers get behind it and you can download your latest copy of CM, EM, FM, etc…
    along with video content and apps specifically for the iPad it’ll be a winner. Only time will tell. As far as the Props go I think rather than port Reason or Record to it they should bring back Rebirth! The iPad and iTouch would be the perfect controller for Rebirth. Of course, considering I just barely purchased my first iPod last month, you know I’m not going to be buying one out of the gate.

    1. Lewis,
      Thanks for responding!

      I couldn’t agree more. You’re essentially talking about the iPad as a competitor for a digital reader like the nook or kindle (both of which I have absolutely no use for). And as such, it can win over these devices because you can add more than just reader apps onto it. But I just can’t see this being a winner. I may be wrong and only time will tell. But I think it’s more gimmick and hype than something solid and Magical or revolutionary. I’m quite comfortable with my novation SL 25 and Reason/Record. 🙂 All set for another 2 years thanks!

  2. I own Reason 4, i am excited about the Kong. I have ableton Live, but i love the interface of Reason – so maybe I may love Record in the same way. I am looking at spending $399. for reason/record combo. Do you recommend it?

    1. @DJ Girish: You’re going to get a biased answer from me, because I am a Reason/Record user. I don’t use any other DAW or software (though I have tried most of them before). Live is probably my second choice.

      As for whether or not I recommend it, I’d say yes, but it depends on what you want to do. If you like the Reason interface, Record has a similar interface so there’s no surprises there. The big surprise (and pro) is the SSL mixer, which is a very nicely designed mixer. You can still use the Reason mixers in the rack, but the main mixer is the SSL-based one. You also have a nice bus compressor for the overall mixing stage. And you will definitely benefit if you actually do a lot of “Live” recording, as it’s main purpose is for audio recording directly into Record/Reason. The time stretching algorithm is also one of the best out there, so that won’t disappoint.

      As for the cons, Recycle is still separate and you can’t chop up your beats or phrases inside Record (though there’s a slight workaround using “Comp” mode). And if you already have a DAW that handles audio input (like Ableton Live), you may not really need Record at all. And you might be better off putting your money to better use elsewhere — monitors, other VSTs or gear. Because functionally, you might be purchasing the same functionality that you get in Ableton Live.

      Lastly, I would say download a demo first and try it out first hand to see if you like it. Put it through all its paces and see what you think for yourself. Before you shell out the money, you should ALWAYS try it out first.

      That’s my best advice. I hope that helps you.


  3. hi… i didn’t agree with some things, nevertheless i do liked the article in general… this article was actually recommended to me by a friend at myspace and he was right. quite good read! Regards!

    1. @Resor,
      Thanks. I appreciate you taking the time to comment on the post. Keep in mind, this was written a while back, when the iPads were first introduced. Since then, we’ve seen a huge popularity for iPads and the technology for apps that run on them. While I still think that iPads are not going to take over the use of a computer in music-making, I do think that there’s more reason to look at them in a more serious light these days. And heck, they ARE fun! 😉

      Regards. Rob

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