Audiobus: Use your music apps together.
What is Audiobus? — Audiobus is an award-winning music app for iPhone and iPad which lets you use your other music apps together. Chain effects on your favourite synth, run the output of apps or Audio Units into an app like GarageBand or Loopy, or select a different audio interface output for each app. Route MIDI between apps — drive a synth from a MIDI sequencer, or add an arpeggiator to your MIDI keyboard — or sync with your external MIDI gear. And control your entire setup from a MIDI controller.Download on the App Store
Audiobus is the app that makes the rest of your setup better.
USB C: everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
I'm finally getting a USB C iPad so I have been doing some research on hubs and connectivity, charging etc... It's a confusing topic, with many gotchas and so I thought it would be worth sharing my findings. Please feel free to add to the discussion (and also correct any mistakes I might have made).
First of all: do you need an expensive USB C hub?
IMO probably not, unless you specifically need external display support and/or pass-through charging.
One of the reasons that USB C hubs are expensive is because they all support external displays, but in many cases as an iPad musician you will be paying for a feature that you will never use. Most of us use our iPads untethered to a second screen.
Pass-through charging is more useful, but it comes with a major caveat: you will very likely need a powerful wall charger to deliver enough juice to the hub so that it can power the iPad, any attached accessories, and the hub itself. In many cases the standard 20w charger that comes with the iPad will not be sufficient. You will need to buy a third-party wall charger rated at 65w or so to deliver enough power.
One way around that is to get a splitter rather than a USB C hub. This is a dongle that has a USB-C port for power and USB A port for data. You can then simply connect a basic USB 3.0 hub to the data connection and charge your iPad using the 20w power adapter that comes standard with the iPad.
There is also the Apple AV adapter which comes with a USB C connection for charging, and a USB A socket as well as an HDMI socket. This option is as expensive as many premium USB C hubs, but at least it's made by Apple so in theory should not have any compatibility issues, and will charge the iPad using the standard 20w charger.
So to summarise: if you need to charge your iPad while using it you have three options:
- A USB C hub with pass-through power, with a 60w wall charger.
- A basic splitter dongle with USB C for charging and a USB A connection for data. This will work with the standard 20w charger.
- The Apple USB-C AV Multiport Adapter. This also works with the standard 20w charger.
In this situation the USB C hub only makes sense if you really need external display support, and even then you might still want to consider the Apple AV adapter since it also offers HDMI and works with the 20w charger.
The cheapest option though is to get a splitter and connect a basic USB 3.0 hub to it.
But what about powering your peripherals?
You can use a USB 3.0 hub to power your audio interface and other accessories, just make sure it has 5w power in via USB and use a power bank to deliver power through the hub. By using battery power you can avoid any hum or noise problems that can come from using mains power.
Many hubs have 5w mini USB power inputs, this is enough to power an audio interface with phantom power without draining the iPad battery.
You can use this in combination with a splitter or the Apple AV adapter to also power your iPad via a second cable, or just plug the hub into a regular USB A to USB C adapter and run the iPad from its battery.
And of course you can run an audio interface straight from the iPad, with no external power. This will however drain your battery much faster.
What about headphones?
This presents another potential minefield. If all you need is to plug headphones into your iPad then the Apple 3.5mm to USB C adapter is the most obvious choice. However if you need to use headphones alongside other peripherals then you will need a spare USB C socket in your hub for the Apple adapter - the problem is that many USB C hubs don't come with USB C data sockets, only USB C power sockets. There are some hubs (such as the Kingston Nucleum) that do have two USB C sockets, one for power and the other for data. Those will work just fine with the Apple headphone dongle, but they are relatively rare.
Alternatively you can use an audio interface with a USB A socket - this will be compatible with any hub. The choices here range from simple USB DACs all the way to fully-fledged interfaces.
Finally you could also use a hub with a 3,5mm headphone out, or a splitter with a headphone out (one input for power, one output for audio).
A couple of additional points that are relevant:
Many USB C hubs come with very short cables, suitable for use with a laptop but not an iPad. You can get extension cables to fix this issue.
There are some dedicated hubs that plug straight into the iPad with no cable, they just hang off the device. According to several reports these are to be avoided as they can fail more easily, and also potentially damage the USB C port of the iPad itself. It's best to just get a hub that uses a cable.
So as you can see there are a bewildering array of choices. My preference would be to just go for a simple USB 3 Hub plugged into the Apple USB A to USB C adapter. This won't charge the iPad, but with a powerbank plugged into the USB hub it will power my audio interface. For headphones on the go I can either use the Apple 3.5mm to USB C adapter, or a USB DAC such as a Dragonfly plugged into the Apple USB C to USB A adapter (or even a generic 3rd-party adapter). A USB 3 hub is pretty cheap, add the cost of a powerbank and the relevant dongles and it's still way cheaper than most USB C hubs.