Test Drive: Recording and Editing on iGizmos

fire2 mainRECORD AND EDIT ON YOUR GIZMO

AudioFile Engineering’s FiRe 2 (and yes, that’s how they write it) is a recent update to the company’s original FiRe app, and does require a current gizmo. You’ll need an iPad, iPhone 4, or iPod Touch 4G or better to run FiRe 2. Those with older models can still buy the original FiRe, although the new features will make you think twice about getting a newer gizmo.

FiRe 2 packs a lot of functionality into an attractive package that’s pretty much brain-dead simple. I seriously doubt you’ll need any kind of manual to operate the thing, although online help is available from Audiofile’s website.

FiRe 2 starts up showing either a list of recordings or, if you quit while you were editing, it will show you that existing recording. From the recording list, you can scroll through and audition existing audio files, delete recordings, and download them to a computer via a built-in Web server.

Selecting a recording or starting a new one takes you to the Transport display. There’s a VU meter at the top, followed by a record time counter, an audio waveform display, and a set of record/stop and play buttons. A set of icons along the bottom of the application provide access to information about the recording, a dictionary’s worth of metadata fields, recording settings, and additional sharing options. Elements of the Transport display can be customized, including the format of the elapsed timer, the style of VU meter, and the waveform color scheme.

The Information tab provides the option to edit the name of the recording, and contains standard information such as format, length, and date/time stamps. A nice touch for those of you working in the field is the ability to capture both the location (via Location Services) and a photo of these scenes (with either the iPhone’s built-in camera or from the Photos app).

Recording options for a given file are made via the Settings icon. These settings are divided into six groups: Input, Transport, Recording, Editor, Effects, and Playback.

While the Input tab gives you a master gain control, you’ll want to use it only to boost the input level if you can’t get enough from your microphone. Processing settings use an iZotope plug-in for various effects presets, including hiss reduction, noise gates, limiting, and various audio enhancements. Turning on Playthrough lets you monitor the input signal directly.

Transport provides customization options for the way the screen looks, including color scheme, markers (which are set by tapping on the waveform while recording), and the audio meter scale. The latter supports regular VU as well as the K-series digital scales developed by Bob Katz. Nice.

The Recording tab is where you’ll put FiRe in Overdub mode, which lets you punch in and out while hearing your recording before and after the punch; it’s the auto-input feature. Countdown, which automatically starts a recording while providing a visual cue, is also enabled here, as are options to automatically add markers to recordings, place a limit on the overall duration of a recording, and other options.

The Editor tab enables visible Markers, Regions, and Snapping to control the positioning of those Markers and Regions, as well as placing Fades. The Effects tab gives you access to the controls for the aforementioned presets, including settings for the Dynamics and the EQ (which is three-band with a quasi-parametric midrange EQ). The effects are all courtesy of iZotope, and sound as good as one would expect from those folks.

Editing your files is a simple matter of turning your gizmo on its side. Using the play head, fade markers, and regular markers to identify regions for editing, you can cut, copy, paste, slice, delete, remove, or crop. All the stuff we really need to edit is there, and once you get used to the touch interface you’ll do just fine with it -- I did.

FiRe 2 delivers multiple options for sharing the output. You can upload the files to an FTP server, or take advantage of built-in SoundCloud integration if you have an account with the sharing service; likewise you can put your recordings into your Dropbox if you have an account and have the Dropbox app installed on your gizmo. Recordings made by the application are created and stored in Apple’s native Core Audio format, but you get numerous formatting options for offloading files. FiRe supports uncompressed files in AIFF and WAV, or in Broadcast WAV. You can also create compressed files in AAC, Ogg Vorbis (mp3), iXML, and SoundCloud formats.

What about differences between FiRe and its free sibling, Blue FiRe? Perhaps most important, Blue FiRe eliminates the ability to compress files. You’ll need to download the full-size original in Core Audio, AIFF, or WAVE format. Second, there is no built-in gain control and minimal effects, and the small overview waveform of the entire recording isn’t there. Third, the bulk of the metadata options are eliminated. Some recording features like overdub, playthrough, and the iZotope sound processing are missing, and SoundCloud/Dropbox integration isn’t available. You’ll also find some of the “nice to have” features, such as variable rate playback, are cut from Blue FiRe. Still, it’s a lot of editor considering it’s totally free; get it on the Blue Microphone website.

HOW MUCH?

Well, not much really. FiRe 2 is available from Apple’s App Store for the princely sum of $5.99. That’s right, six bucks. If your machine won’t support the new version, the App Store will politely tell you so and direct you to buy the original app, which is also six bucks.

I have to say that I’m having more fun with FiRe 2 on my wife’s iPad than congresscritters have on Twitter. If you don’t have one of these gizmos but are close to someone who does, do yourself a favor and lift it when they’re asleep. Spend the six bucks and go to town, even using the built-in microphone. And no, please don’t send me any twitpics.

Steve sez check it out.

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