The best apps leave you imagining more features, but not expecting them. FourTrack is one of these. It is what it says it is, a fourtrack recorder on your iPhone. It allows a musician to record four tracks (one at a time) on top of each other, applying a pretty impressive amount of control in terms of sound quality, panning, and compression. Using the built in mic, or the external mic, it’s just as easy as plug and play with Four Track.
In order to take full advantage of the CD quality recording capabilities of FourTrack, plug your mic in before you start to record. Not doing this will result in popping and clipping and all manner of nastiness. Now that we’re through that, it’s pretty straight forward. When you get into this app, track number one will be armed, as evidenced the little red light under the pan knob.
All you do at this point is move a slider to record. You’ll see a meter at the top of each track. If it lights up, you’re probably distorting your sound, cool it down by moving your mic away from the source or being a little quieter. Once you’re done recording that track, move the record slider left. If you’d like to record over what you’ve just done, seek the beginning of the track with the dial above the record slider, make sure that track is armed, and rerecord.
If you’re moving on to another track, simply arm the track with the indicator below the track number and move along. You could spend some time playing with the panning and gain, but I wouldn’t suggest it aside from the novelty. I’ll explain why later.
If you’ve got the iPhone connected to wifi on the same network as your computer, this process couldn’t be much easier. Once you’ve recorded a few songs, all you do is go to the song list, and press the Wifi Sync button on the bottom left corner. You’ll be given an IP address that you type into your browser window.
A prompt will appear on the phone, letting you know the computer wants to connect, press okay, and in the browser, you’ll be able to pick from and recording on the song list. Download the .wav files and you can import them into just about any Audio Recording Software to play with further.
The sound quality is excellent. Even if you’ve never dealt with recording equipment, you’ll be able to get your head around this feature set. The Hardest part of the whole thing is the export feature set, and this isn’t even so bad. You can record as much as your iPhone will hold, with no other limitation. The UI is also very well thought out. The Slider to activate recording will keep you from overwriting a track you really love. It’s a great tool for sketching out songs. You could, theoretically use it to record a full song, but this would be akin to attempting portraiture on an etchisketch. You can do it, but it might boil down to a waste of time and effort.
You can only record one track at a time. This might be considered to be a hardware limitation, and not something the app should address given only one mic on the iphone itself, but after listening to a high quality recording, it feels like a feature that should be there. One of the great features is the pan, but if you plan on exporting the track, you’re going to lose all this information. You’ll lose the gain that you’ve added to each track as well. This makes it hard for me to even mess with these features, knowing they exist only on the phone. Also, be very careful about updating this app. If you haven’t exported your songs, it’s very likely that an update will erase them. It would be advisable therefore, to export everything you like soon after recording.
Like many apps, if you expect FourTrack to be the equivalent to its real world analog, you will be disappointed. This is not a real four track, and it doesn’t come close to performing in that capacity. It is, however, a very good on-the-go recording device, especially for musicians. I had it for nearly a week and used it as a melodic note-taker, sketching out the essentials to songs I would have otherwise forgotten. Is this a good purchase? Well, if you are a musician, yes. If not, I have a hard time thinking of a single use for this app.