Wednesday, March 2, 2011

IPad 2’s Audio Power in Context

It was the demonstration of GarageBand on the iPad 2 that put Apple’s new tablet computer in context for me.

The ability to record eight channels of audio puts the new iPad in the same class as the 2002 Power Mac G4 that I bought in 2004 and took out of service just two months ago. But the iPad costs 1/5 as much, weighs 1/20 as much, and uses, I’m guessing, about 1/20 as much electric power. These are two products issued by the same company nine years apart, so it’s a valid way to measure how far we’ve come in computer technology over the last nine years.

The ability of the iPad to record pro audio will, I believe, change the way recordings are made, making music production even less dependent on the recording studio than it was already. There are already plenty of inexpensive devices that let you record audio remotely. The difference the iPad 2 will make, I believe, is the ability to add bits and pieces to a song that’s under production wherever you happen to meet musicians, without the need to plan ahead. Traditionally, if you play a song you’re working on for a musician and they have an idea for something to add to it, you would have to arrange an appointment for them at a recording studio. These days, I suppose, you might arrange for them to e-mail a track to you. That’s impressive enough, but if you have the iPad 2 along, you can record the new track right then and there without having to make arrangements to do it later. This is just one example of the way technology can make work more spontaneous and less dependent on institutional structure.