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GarageBand supports a wide array of accessories that can turn your iPad and even iPhone into a decent music studio. There are docks that provide balanced and unbalanced audio inputs, and even microphone pre-amps. This allows the user to plug-in professional quality microphones and instruments such as guitars and keyboards. There are even MIDI input adapters for the iPad, which allow you to connect a proper keyboard controller. These devices are made by pro-audio companies, such as Alesis, MOTU, Tascam, and others. There are simply too many to list or link to.
To be honest, I have not invested in any of these accessories. I have a Mac Pro and a M-Audio 8 channel I/O system. I have professional quality instruments, microphones, pre-amps, amps, and effects. Why eat sardines when you have caviar? Even without accessories, one can plug in an instrument or microphone through the headphone jack (which is a three-ring connector, allowing an audio input as well as headphones). If you want to be cost-effective, you can use your iPhone headphones/headset as a vocal or instrument mic. You can even use the built-in mic on your iOS device. Just don’t expect pro results with cheap audio shortcuts.
GarageBand can produce professional results, and if you doubt that, listen to the demo song. That said, most professional artists will still use ProTools, typically on a Mac, as they need more tracks and knob-twiddling capabilities. GarageBand can’t handle every pro-audio requirement. It cannot record multiple tracks at the same time, making it impossible to record a whole band in one take. It will not replace ProTools or other digital audio workstations, as it stands now. But you can create professional quality music with GarageBand on an iPad. For the $4.99 price, you also get the iPhone version. It does almost everything as the iPad version, but with the smaller device, it is not as easy to use. It would be fine for messing around while in transit. You could spend hours playing with GarageBand on an airplane. Sometimes I whip it out and play the synth lead from Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”…
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