Testing Sonoma Wire Works Fourtrack for iPhone
As a wannabe musician, I’m always on the lookout for cool things to merge the worlds of technology and music creation, especially when it’s something portable. There have been various pocket instruments that have been released for the iPhone, and BeatMaker, which lets you sequence, but my heart lies with recording actual instruments…and today I got to try out Fourtrack, which does just that.
Fourtrack is simple to use. You fire up the app, “Arm” a track to enable it to record, hit the record button, and go. You can use it with the built in microphone on the iPhone, or use a thirdpart mic for iPhone or iPod touch. Once you’re done recording your track, you can arm another track, and monitor the first track through headphones while you record the next. You can do this for up to 4 tracks.
In the main screen you can also mix the recording — adjusting levels, and panning tracks left and right. Keep in mind however, than when you export the tracks, these settings will not hold, only the original recorded wavs will transfer out, but you can get an idea for what you are after. You can jump to the beginning or end of a track, or scroll to a particular location, arm a track, do a quick overdub, and get back out. It actually works pretty good…most of the time. I’ll get to that in a minute.
When you are done, you can sync your tracks over a wifi connection. Find the song you want to upload, click on Wifi Sync, and the screen gives you an IP address to plug into your desktop machine. You need to be connected to the same network, but you can be connected by wireless or ethernet, as long as it’s the same IP class. Once you plug the IP in, the browser communicates back to the iPhone asking for permission to connect, and then you will get a screen to download the 4 tracks, like this:
Each track is a wav file, and for a little over a minutes worth of recording, each track was around 17mb, which makes sense since Fourtrack records at 16 bit, 44.1 kHz. You can then import tracks into your favorite app for further editing.
For my test, I recorded a part of an original composition of mine so it would be easy to compare to other recordings. Each of the four tracks was just one take so I could get a quick idea of quality. Here’s the finished recording:
The first three tracks were recorded at my kitchen table, all through the built in mic on the iPhone.
Track 1 – Acoustic rhythm guitar, soundhole about 6 inches from iPhone mic.
Track 2 – Vocal, singing into mic about 10 inches away.
Track 3 – Acoustic noodling (just one take…pay no attention to notes played!) 6 inches from mic.
For the bass track, I ran out to the garage, placed the iPhone on the floor, and played the bass through a little 50 watt practice amp. So therefore…
Track 4 – Bass cabinet, about 6 inches from the mic.
I panned the acoustic tracks left and right in the application, but since it exports the raw recordings, I re-panned them in Garageband after importing them. Aside from adjusting the levels, and the auto compression that iTunes has setup on import, there were no other tweaks to the audio files. What you hear is what came out of the application, through the built in iPhone mic. Not too shabby, I thought!
My experience wasn’t all perfect. I originally recorded the song entirely on my first run through with the acoustic. That went fine. About halfway through recording the second track, I got a major audio hiccup back in my headphones, which threw off my vocal, but I figured I could go back and do it again. However, while noodling the third track, the program locked up on me, and I had to soft reset my phone. And while laying down the bass track, the program locked up again, but this time I was able to close out and come back in without a reset. Needless to say, I just cut each track short, and made a 1 minute sample instead of a full song version!
I’m not sure if my gotchas came from too long of a track, or something else with my phone in particular…I’ll be curious to see what other comments are like around the iPhonesphere. For now though, Fourtrack looks to be a very promising application!