I have written extensively here and in Electronic Musician about my search for a way to combine the power of Ableton Live with the different but similar power of the many sonic mangling apps available to iOS users. Lewitt’s Connect 6 ($299) might just be the end point of that search.
For a number of years I was trying to use an iConnect Audio4+ to realize my dream of setting up my iPad as an effects return in Ableton, so as to allow the sending of any signal or loop in Live to apps like Borderlands, iDensity, and Samplr for processing, just as if I was sending the audio to a reverb or delay bus in Live.
The iConnect strung me along with the promise of being able to do this, but ultimately instability issues dashed my hopes. While the audio interface part worked consistently, the connectivity to the iPad was hit and miss. Eventually, after some new configuration software, the connectivity became stable just in time for random shrieks of horrible electronic noise to start showing up. I gave up, resigned to either using Ableton alone or possibly converting to a full-on iPad performance system.
Enter Connect 6
While Lewitt’s audio interface is being marketed as much to podcasters, Zoomers, and live streamers as to musicians and recording engineers, it seemed to hint at being able to make my dream come true. (To learn more about the non-music uses go here.) The claim that caught my attention was: “Lossless digital audio transfer between computer and mobile device via USB-C.” I wasn’t sure if this was the two-way street that would enable me to finally set up the reliable system I sought, soI contacted them and described what I was trying to do. They seemed sure it would and sent me a demo for review.
Unboxing the device, I was impressed by its feather weight and compact space-age design. One of the reasons I enjoy performing through a laptop and iPad is the ease of transporting gear. After years of hauling heavy amps and pedal boards hither and yon, I love having only to throw a laptop, iPad, interface, MIDI controller, and some cables into a small bag or knapsack to make music.
I won’t lie, it took a little figuring out to make Connect 6 work; but it was far easier than the original iConnect matrix, and once I had it up and running I was able to save the configuration as a preset.
As you can see from Fig 1, I set up an effects return and inserted Live’s External Audio Effect plugin. I set it to send through Live’s outputs 5 and 6 to the iPad and receive into inputs 3 and 4. I also set up a Live return track configured to 5 and 6 in the pre/post mixer section.
I then set up the Lewitt Control Center software as pictured in Fig 2. I confess, I arrived at this through much trial and error, and am still not sure why it works, but it does! Once again I could send audio from any track in Live to my iPad, where I hosted Borderlands, Samplr, SpaceCraft, and others, then return that processed audio to the return track in Live.
As to stability, it is seeming very promising. Apparently, in my case, it requires setting up the iPad first, while plugged into Connect 6, and plugging the interface into the laptop last to guarantee solid connections every time. Under the best of circumstances, working with iPad apps in the Aum mixer is fiddly. I have to remember to open some apps individually, prior to opening Aum in order for them to load on their respective tracks. I occasionally experience distortion when loading Simplr. I haven’t figured out why yet. And yes, it would no doubt behoove me to upgrade to an iPad Pro if I want to safely use all the amazing apps available.
Dreams Come True
Still, when this system is working, which at this point is every time, it makes it worth all the tech terrors. Being able to apply and easily manipulate granular apps like iDensity and Borderlands—whether while playing through them in real time, sending Ableton loops through them, or creating loops within those apps—brings me such joy that I am willing to keep working on making this system viable and I am beginning to think that Connect 6 may yet prove to be the final solution.