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Toward an easier iPad podcast workflow

Equipment hooked up
Recording a podcast on the road in 2019.

At MacStories, John Voorhees pushes the ball forward regarding podcasting on the iPad:

I wanted a solution that worked equally well when I’m sitting at my Mac or iPad, allowing me to talk over Skype and record myself locally. What I discovered was an incredibly versatile solution that accomplishes in a single device what Snell and Federico cleverly constructed from a field recorder and USB audio interface: the Sound Devices MixPre-3 II.

The iPad podcast workflow of mine that John references is this one from last year, in which I took two devices I already owned—the Zoom H6 recorder and the USPBPre2 audio interface—and chained them together to build a set-up that records my audio and also lets me send and receive audio from Skype as usual.

It works, but it’s two boxes—and John’s solution is a single box. That’s better. However, the MixPre-3 seems to fail at a key moment:

The trouble was that, although I could record my audio locally to the SD card, the audio of the Skype call still played over my iPad’s speakers and used the iPad’s microphone. It was a perplexing problem because audio from other apps was properly routed over the USB-C cable.

Short of Apple supporting more sophisticated audio on the iPad itself, the iPad podcasting dream is a single USB interface that will act as a proper audio interface for the iPad—routing iPad sound out and microphone input in—while also acting as a recorder. It seems like the MixPre-3 fails this at the very last moment. John’s solution, of routing via analog means instead, is very clever—but it means that the audio he’s sending back over Skype is probably coming out of his iPad’s onboard microphones, not his good microphone. That’s good enough, unless his recording fails.

These days… well, these days I don’t travel at all. But before the pandemic, my travel iPad toolkit ended up being the Audio Technica ATR-2100 microphone, which I connect to the iPad via USB and to an external recorder via XLR, since the Audio Technica microphone offers both ports. I end up with a pristine recording of my voice, but no backup recording of the Skype call in case of a recording failure on the other end.

The real question is, which process will complete first — us finding a bulletproof solution to recreating Audio Hijack in external hardware, or Apple realizing that it needs to seriously upgrade its audio game on iPadOS. (Sadly, my bet is not on Apple.)

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