Hardware, Studio Setup

What Gear Will You Need To Buy to Use GarageBand iOS?

Written By : Andrew Siemon

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If you’re new to GarageBand iOS, understand that you can start immediately, without spending any money or buying more gear. However, a time will come when you want to expand what you can do with it. Here’s my list.

Essential Adapters That You’ll Definitely Need

Before even buying a single thing, you’re going to need adapters. And that is a certain fact.

If you don’t already have adapters, don’t worry, because I’m going to list all the adapters I have to use with my iPhone/iPad. These will be for connecting various music production equipment to GarageBand iOS.

1) USB Adapters

As you can see, it has the USB-C charging port on the side, and then a regular USB-A on the other side. The end is a Lightning port.

For starters, you’re going to need a standard USB Multiport Adapter.

This one is good because it has the additional port for:
1) adding more devices or
2) driving an audio interface in case your phone can’t do it.

The following list is the type of port/adapter you’ll need for your specific device:

iPhones – Lightning
iPad 1 to 4th Generation – 30-Pin Dock Connectors
iPad 5th Generation and Onward (Starting in 2017) – Lightning
iPad Pros (Before 2018) – Lightning
iPads Pros (After 2018) – USB-C

Most of us are going to need either a Lightning Multiport Adapter or a USB-C multiport adapter.

This is one I use all of the time for my iPad Pro 2022. It’s a USB-C to USB-A adapter. I can’t find the exact one but there is a good one from Amazon Basics (on Amazon).

2) USB-C Adapter and Hub

For the latest iPad models with USB-C, a USB-C hub is incredibly useful. It lets you hook up several devices at once, from MIDI keyboards to external displays, streamlining your workflow.

More importantly, it allows you to connect an audio interface, a midi keyboard, AND headphones all at the same time. As you know, iPad ports are limited.

This is absolutely crucial if you want to connect more than one device at a time.

I’ve had good experiences with j5 Create. They have a small hub on Amazon that you can try. I’m using the really big one for my desktop setup and I have no complaints.

I’m in the market for a multiport adapter that also acts as a stand. But I’ve been afraid to take a chance on the BYEASY one pictured above that I’ve had my eye on for months.

Maybe you want to get it and let me know how it goes.

3) UGREEN TRS To 1/4″ Adapter

Without question, you’re going to need a TRS to 1/4″ adapter at some point or another (also on Amazon).
3) UGREEN TRS To 1/4 Adapter
Most audio interfaces will have a 1/4″ jack that will need a TRS to 1/4″ adapter plugged into it for your headphones.

If I were you, I would get the pack of UGREEN adapters because they’re high quality and you can get several of them – which you will need. Someone will either steal them from you, or you’ll lose them.

Additional Adapters for More Functions

1) Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter

4) Lightning to 3.5mm  Headphone Jack Adapter
Newer iOS devices without a headphone jack will need this adapter to connect traditional headphones or studio monitors, crucial for accurate audio feedback.

The headphone dongles are really annoying and I wish we didn’t have to use them, but it is what it is.

This poses a problem for newer iPads and iPhones because you can’t connect your charger or your audio interface and headphones at the same time!

This is a huge problem, and can only be solved by a USB-C hub/adapter like I mentioned earlier.

2) Lightning to USB Cable

5) Lightning to USB Cable
Directly connect USB-A devices to your iOS device with this cable (on Amazon).

It’s perfect for a stable connection to MIDI keyboards and audio interfaces.

Check Compatibility: Ensure the adapter matches your iOS device’s port type.

Power Considerations:
Some devices may require external power when connected to your iOS device. Plan accordingly.

The Main Gear You’ll Probably Need to Get

Now that you’ve got all the boring stuff out of the way, you can get into the gear that’s actually fun and looks cool. We’ll start with the first thing that I ever got: a MIDI Keyboard.

1) MIDI Keyboard Controller – M-Audio Oxygen Pro 25

A MIDI keyboard like this one is great for interacting with GarageBand’s instruments in a fun way.

They make everything a lot more accessible. The more popular option is the AKAI Mpk Mini 25-Key, however, I would say the M-Audio Oxygen Pro 25 is a much better MIDI keyboard.

If I had to do it all over again, I would’ve chosen the M-Audio Oxygen Pro over the AKAI MPK Mini.

2) Studio Headphones – ATH-M30x

Audio Technica ATH-M30x
Quality headphones like the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x (on Amazon) are great for accurate audio monitoring.

I’ve had the M30x for years and they serve their purpose well. If you wanted a better version of these, I would recommend the ATH-M50xBT because they can be Bluetooth or use a wired connection if you’d like as I explained here.

In essence, you get the best of both worlds, including a great pair of casual listening headphones but also a set of monitors that can be used in the studio.

3) Audio Interface – Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 ensures high-quality audio input and output.

The Scarlett series is probably the safest option for someone looking to get into music production and home recording. I’ve heard good things about the M-Audio Air 192×8, however.

4) Microphone – Shure SM58

Shure SM58
The Shure SM58 (Amazon) is the one I’m using in my vocal booth.

The SM58 is probably the most reliable microphone that you can use, for both studio recording and performances. It can do both.

5) Pop Filter

5) Pop Filter
Minimize vocal plosives in your recordings with a basic pop filter.

What does that mean? It means that if you make “S,” “T,” or “P” sounds into the microphone, they won’t sound extremely loud and annoying to the listener. A pop filter is an essential tool. This one has served me well.

6) iPad Case ZUGU iPad Pro 11

ZUGU iPad Pro 11 Case 2018
I got this thing back in 2022 on Amazon when I first got iPad Pro 11″ (2021 model) and I can’t recommend it enough. It works great.

Not only does it protect your iPad in case you drop it, but it also acts as a stand and it holds your Apple Pencil while not thwarting its ability to charge from the side of your iPad.

The ZUGU Case gets a 10/10 from me. One of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

7) Mic Stand – K&M

I’m using the K&M 26145 Stand, and I have no regrets. It works great. It’s adjustable in many different ways and it does the trick.

In case you’ve never heard of them, K&M makes some of the best stands. You have to pay a premium for them, but I think it’s worth it. Messing around with cheap stands is a nightmare.

8) Magic Keyboard

8) Magic Keyboard for GarageBand iOS
Rather than using Apple’s special keyboard for the iPad, I combined the ZUGU case and the Magic Keyboard.

This wound up being the perfect decision. It worked awesome for my setup. I needed the ability to write as if I was using a laptop, but I also wanted a really solid case to protect my device. It worked out ideally in the end.

Gear For When You Start To Get More Serious

As you grow, adding tools that offer more control and flexibility will help you a lot.

1) Studio Monitors

Etymotic ER4SRs or iLoud Micro Monitors provide a much better experience for mixing because they’re designed for it, unlike other casual headphones.

I got the Micro Monitors in 2020 and I never looked back. They’re solid. And they have Bluetooth connectivity/wired as well.

2) MIDI Drum Pad Controller

The Akai MPD226 adds expressive beat-making capabilities.

Personally, I wish I would’ve just gotten the M-Audio Oxygen Pro 25 right off the bat instead of the AKAI MPK Mini and the MPD 226.

But there are people who want a dedicated interface for drums. If you’re one of those people, the MPD226 is great.

3) External Solid State Drive / Hard Drive

Organize and back up projects with the Samsung T5 SSD.

I’ve been using this Solid State Drive for software as well as file storage for over a year now. It works perfectly. I imagine that the next one I get, however, will be at least 5TB.

4) Headphone Amplifier & Splitter

If you want to connect many devices to your audio interface, a headphone splitter/amp is a great choice.

The HM-4 is great value, but it’s not perfect. The knobs on it are low-quality and it can introduce a bit of hissing into your sound past the 50% to 75% mark. However, it’s working fine for me right now.

5) Headphones Extension Cable

I also have one of these connected to my audio interface, that way I can run my headphones from a long distance away from the audio interface if I need to.

Amazon Basics stuff is usually pretty good. I haven’t had any problems with them yet.

For Those Who Want to Get The Most Out of It

Advanced users can explore sophisticated gear for nuanced music production.

1) An Advanced MIDI Controller – M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro

A feature-rich keyboard like the M-Audio Oxygen Pro 61 or Hammer 88 Pro offers detailed control.

The Hammer 88-Pro, which is pictured above, is more like a piano. It has all the pads and faders you would need and 88 keys. I don’t personally own this, but if I wanted a full MIDI keyboard, I would get this one.

2) Premium Microphone – Rode NT1-A or Electro Voice RE20

Upgrade to a Rode NT1-A for a really solid condenser microphone. If you’re looking for a dynamic microphone, I’ve heard the Electro Voice RE20 is awesome.

I haven’t tried either of these microphones, but I’ve heard great things from people much more knowledgable than me.

3) Audio Interface with More Inputs & Better Sound – SSL 12

The SSL12 (on Amazon) accommodates multiple audio sources and has much better drivers.

This is the next audio interface Il’l get. It has MIDI connectivity, multiple inputs and outputs, and it looks like a beast all around.

Professionals have told me that you’re much better off to drop big money on something like this than an expensive guitar.

4) Acoustic Treatment & Vocal Recording Booth

4) Acoustic Treatment & Vocal Recording Booth .jpg
This vocal booth was really overpriced but it does work. For that reason, I can’t personally recommend it. It should give you an idea of what’s out there, however.

The thing about it, though, is that it actually works well. It’s not an isolation booth, but it will stop sound from reverberating when you record vocals.

The effect is a much better vocal recording. Maybe you can find something a bit better for the price.

Sound Panels and Bass Traps
You can also get some acoustic panels and bass traps that look just like these. You tack them onto your walls.

5) The iPad/iPhone’s Audio Recorder

5) The iPadi/Phone's Audio Recorder
How to set up the Voice Memos on your iPhone. This enables to record stuff on the fly.

Go to your iPhone’s Settings and then Control Center to choose “Voice Memos” to bring it into the iPhone’s primary functions. You can then use the Voice Memo on the fly.

Using the iPad or iPhone’s Voice Memos will work really well for this.

6) 3rd Party Loops and Sample Libraries

Why You Shouldn't Look Down on Loops and Samples
Pictured here are Apple Loops, Splice & Loopmasters.

Expanding your toolkit with a subscription to Splice Sounds provides access to extensive samples. Additionally, exploring third-party AUv3 plugins broadens your possibilities.

Splice is great, however, I found it to be very expensive. It cost me around CA$45 per month for a subscription. You could try Loopmasters, Cymatics.FM, and Unison instead.

Comments, questions, or concerns? Let me know what you think in the comments. I’m also all ears for product recommendations that you wished you would’ve received when you were starting out.

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Andrew Siemon is the principal creator of ProducerSociety.com, a website dedicated to all things music, including music production, music theory, recording, and how to use the most popular DAWs. Starting out as a metal guitarist, Andrew has since moved into other areas of music production including hip-hop and fusion

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