On The Road: Mixing the iPad With A DAW

Ever since I got an iPad earlier this year, I’ve been looking for a way to hook a decent large-condenser mic to it, so I would be ready for those times away from home when I needed to voice a quick audition or (with luck) a paying job. I’ve watched the online videos of the “big guys” like Beau Weaver and Joe Cipriano doing their recordings on the road, in the backseats of cars…wherever. But those were always done using a laptop. And my ancient PC laptop is clearly not up to the challenge.road_kit_image

At VO2013 in Atlanta, I had a chat about some of the new microphone offerings with Christopher Currier, product specialist with Sennheiser/ Neumann. We happened to get off onto the topic of hooking an XLR mic to an iPad, and he showed me a slick little unit from Alesis called the iO Dock (http://www.alesis.com/iodock ) Looked like just what I needed, albeit the $200 price tag was a little steep.

When I got home, I was just about to push the order button at Sweetwater when I noticed that the iO Dock only accepted the older iPad 2 30-pin connection, but not the newer Lightning connector on the iPad 3. (Alesis has apparently come up with an adapter since I did my research back in March, so don’t necessarily rule out the iO Dock).

The key came when I ran across an article about connecting USB peripherals to an iPad using a powered USB hub, rather than trying to power the peripheral (such as a DAW) through the iPad’s USB connection directly. This is done using Apple’s Camera Connection Kit, which in this case doesn’t have anything to do with cameras.

The setup may not be pretty, but it’s functional, it works, and the price is right; I was able to wire my existing XLR mic and Focusrite 2i2 DAW together for around $40.

The connections are fairly straightforward:

1) The Camera Connection cord (about $20) hooks to the iPad’s Lightning connector.

2) A short USB cable runs from the Camera Connection Cord to the USB hub. I used the Belkin F4U020 4-port hub (also about $20) but you could probably use other powered USB hubs…I just haven’t had the chance to try out any others.

3) The DAW is also connected to the powered USB hub via a USB cable.road_kit_diagram

4) The mic is connected via an XLR cable to the DAW, which also supplies the necessary phantom power.

I’ve included a photo of my iPad/DAW in operation, and also a diagram showing the connections a little more clearly. Throw on a set of headphones coming out of the DAW (which I deleted for the sake of clarity) and you’re ready to go on the road!

Now all I’ve got to figure out is how to get those network promo guys to call for a rush job while I’m on vacation.

About Gary MacFadden

Gary MacFadden is a voiceover professional specializing in audiobooks, eLearning, and narration. He became the editor of the print and online versions of the VoiceOver Insider in 2011, putting his journalism and business management experience to good use. For 25 years he was the spokesperson and Executive Director for the Adventure Cycling Association, America's largest recreational cycling organization with more than 40,000 members. When he's not in the vocal booth, Gary enjoys piloting his classic Cessna Skylark around the northwestern states.


  1. Love the new Web format, gang!
    Gary, other simpler options include the iTrack Solo (no powered hub required) or something I happen to own and have had success with on an IPad Mini and a Galaxy S3, the ART USB dual pre. It has an internal 9v battery to handle powering the device, but even with the battery off in use with the iPad it still works with a phantom powered mic beautifully.

    • Gary MacFadden says

      George—How did I know you’d come along with other, and potentially better, options? What I liked about my approach was that I was able to use items I already had on hand, other than the iPad camera connector kit. But, it does look a little “bread-boarded,” doesn’t it?

Leave a Reply to George Whittam Cancel reply