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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Why my iPad podcast workflow still includes the Mac

Note: This story has not been updated since 2021.

I’ve long been a proponent of using the iPad for podcasting, whether recording or editing them.

When the new Apple Pencil came out a year ago, I integrated it into my iPad editing workflow. I can edit podcasts with the Apple Pencil at a pretty impressive rate of speed, and the precision of the Pencil means that I’m more inclined to make detailed edits on the iPad than I am when I’m editing on my Mac with Logic Pro X and a trackpad. In fact, every episode of The Incomparable that I’ve edited in the past four months has been done on my iPad Pro.

I started editing podcasts on the iPad when I was traveling, since I haven’t regularly traveled with a Mac laptop in a few years now. But this summer I decided I’d rather edit The Incomparable, which I tend to do on Saturday mornings, somewhere other than at the same desk I use during the week. It’s nice to be in the same space as the rest of my family, even if we’re all doing our own thing and I’ve got headphones in while I edit the podcast.

Ferrite Recording Studio is a fantastic app that does almost everything I’d want an editing app to do, and combined with the power of the iPad Pro I can even edit podcasts with enormous panels, like our Incomparable draft episodes—though I had to rotate my iPad to fit all the tracks on screen.

This year the iPad has become much more capable at being a podcasting device than ever before. iPadOS 13 and the updated Files app give me access to audio files on USB media, which was a major hurdle before. A new update to Ferrite added support for recording on up to 8 tracks simultaneously, so I could record a multi-person session directly into my iPad if I wanted to. (In general I use a Zoom recorder for this, though—I will trust dedicated recording hardware over computer software every time.)

That leaves a couple of places where the iPad still lacks, though.

First: Recording multiple people via the Internet. On my Mac I use Audio Hijack to record my own voice as well as the audio from all the other people on a session, but you can’t run two audio apps at once in iOS. I’ve taken to recording many podcasts using Zoom Cloud Meetings, which will theoretically record the audio from participants on iOS as well as it does from those on desktop operating systems. I’ve also used RINGR, a cross-platform conferencing app, with results of varying quality. And I figured out a way to record my own audio locally onto an external recorder, so that’s an option.

But the truth is, I just record my podcasts on my Mac most of the time. On the road, I have iPad-only alternatives, but they offer enough trade-offs that I wouldn’t use them if I have a Mac handy.

Now here’s the tough one, one I don’t have a good answer for as yet. As cool as it is that I edit every episode of The Incomparable on my iPad, the fact is that all the audio files for that episode are prepped on my Mac before they get to my iPad. I sync audio tracks using a proprietary tool, then use iZotope RX to remove background noise, and finally use a compressor (currently it’s Klevgrand’s Korvpressor, but it’s the latest in a string of ones I’ve used, they’re like Spın̈al Tap drummers) to balance the volume of audio across different tracks.

Ferrite includes a compressor plug-in and a volume-leveling preprocessing feature, neither of which can I get to generate the output I desire. Korvpressor has an iOS version that I can use as a plug-in in Ferrite as I do on the Mac with Logic Pro X, but the iPad version crashes reliably, so I can’t use it. And there’s absolutely nothing I’ve found on iOS that can match the quality of noise and echo removal that iZotope provides on the desktop.

Now, I have definitely posted podcasts that were entirely processed on my iPad. I’ve made use of existing tools to make the audio sound as good as I could. And yet, when I listen back to those podcasts, I can tell that they don’t sound as good as the ones processed on my Mac.

Maybe iZotope will bring a subset of their audio tools to iOS at some point. Maybe I’ll find a plug-in that’s more stable inside Ferrite, or maybe I’ll figure out a way to use Ferrite’s leveling features more effectively. But for now, my iPad editing workflow still passes through my Mac.

Things are a lot better than they were even a year ago, but we’re not all the way there yet.

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