How to Choose the Right DAW for Your iPad or iPhone Recording Needs

By Ryan C. Williams, Mike Levine

If you plan on using your iPad or iPhone to record music, you will need to choose a good DAW that suits your personal needs. So armed with all the knowledge you already have (in addition to the research your insatiable curiosity no doubt demands), how do you bring your search to completion and welcome the DAW of your dreams to your iOS device?

Well, it depends.

No matter which DAW you choose to use, spend the time necessary to learn all the tips and tricks that go along with it. Even if you use a simple tool, the complete knowledge of how to use that tool will help out way more than just toying around with a complicated piece of equipment.

But let’s take a look at the most common factors involved in a DAW hunt and how you might respond to them. It’s more accurate than shaking a Magic 8 ball and hoping for the best, at least:

  • Your device: Most full-featured DAWs exist only for iPads — you need the extra screen space to make full use of what the apps can offer. When in doubt, look up the app from your iOS device and see what’s available.

  • Features and functionality: Simply put, how much horsepower do you need? Are you planning to record full tracks on your iPad, or will you be using your iPhone as a scratch pad for tracks you plan on re-recording later? If you’re experienced and want to do more on your iOS device, take a look at the larger, more full-featured apps. If you want to go the easier route, go ahead and look at the smaller, more inexpensive apps. And check out reviews of the app — a little extra knowledge and real-world experience go a long way.

  • Virtual instruments: If you need some synthesizer or sampler options as part of your songwriting and recording process, Auria will require external synths and instruments patched in via Inter-App Audio or Audiobus. Comparably, if you’re only recording audio, buying Cubasis will get you a bunch of tools you might not otherwise need to use.

  • Audio quality: To record 24-bit/96-kHz audio, you need both an interface and an app capable of functioning at that level. Be sure that the app you purchase can handle what you want to do.

  • Audiobus and Inter-App Audio support: At some point, you may want to patch other synth or processing apps into your DAW for additional recording or processing. This level of support should be pretty common among DAWs, but read the fine print before you make your final decision.

  • Price: It all comes down to what you can afford, doesn’t it? To be fair, the jump from $5 to $50 isn’t too major, but that depends on your budget. Do what you need to do. And there are plenty of DAW options out there. Apps like Capture, Multitrack DAW, and FL Mobile Studio HD bring a great deal of functionality at a lower price tag.