I'm not of sound mind. I do not own a decent microphone and I am not an audio engineer. I do not record music or podcasts. I simply have thousands of audio files, captured and collected over a lifetime, that sometimes need just a bit of attention.
I have been on a personal quest for the perfect subset of iPhone apps. I have found wonderful productivity tools that allow me to read, write, and research -- all through my iPhone. Still, a few solutions have eluded the allure of going small. As much as I have hunted, I could never find a recording studio that could fit into my shirt pocket. Life can be such a challenge.
I first began to deal with my digital editing needs about fifteen years ago. I purchased Sound Forge for my Windows machine. My desires were simple. I wanted to extract snaps, crackles, and pops. I wanted classy fade-ins and fade-outs. I wanted the ability to lay down music tracks as a soothing background for my recorded memories. And, I absolutely wanted to snip out anything that made me look stupid.
When I transitioned to the Mac in 2013, I gave up Sound Forge and began my hunt for a new audio editor. I discovered Amadeus Pro. I purchased the product and found it very accessible. I loved gliding smoothly through the timeline, reviewing slivers of sound, and being able to freely trim or extend my selections. The batch processing capabilities turned out to be great. I also enjoyed the embedded effects and being able to hear the consequences of any action before moving ahead. Sweet stuff.
So, if Amadeus Pro has been such a comfortable product, why am I looking for an iPhone sound editor? Simple. I know that I am much more likely to eventually clean up all of my raw and unedited sound files if I can do so from my easy chair, the front porch, or my Mom's house. I saw some discussion on AppleVis about an intriguing app called Ferrite Recording Studio by Canis Lupus, a Wooji Juice application. I decided to give Ferrite a spin and downloaded it onto my iPhone.
The online documentation for Ferrite is quite good and promises a lot of functionality. The user guide describes support for large files and numerous formats. Ferrite projects can incorporate multiple sound tracks and many popular effects. I also found excellent information on how to edit through my Bluetooth keyboard. Most impressive was the chapter on VoiceOver compatibility. VoiceOver was not an afterthought or a lucky strike. The developers of Ferrite clearly meant to make their product accessible.
Although a healthy subset of Ferrite is free, I decided to take a chance and make all of the Ferrite In-App purchases so that I would be both working with a complete package and supporting a company that thought accessibility was important. I installed Ferrite 1.2.1 on my iPhone 6S Plus running iOS 9.2.1 with VoiceOver. As is often the case, I plugged in my EarPods and pulled out my Logitech Bluetooth Keys-To-Go keyboard. My focus has been exclusively on Ferrite's editing capabilities. For recording, I use DropVox, a handy utility for catching sound on the fly. Even so, I have had no difficulty importing sounds from DropVox, or from other apps using standard formats.
Ferrite is the most accessible audio editor that I have found for the iPhone. I can load and manipulate my large sound files. I know how to mark off segments in a track, and then copy, move, or delete the clips. I can bring in new tracks, manage my transitions, and save my work. When I have sent in questions to Ferrite customer support, I have been very pleased with the quick, friendly, and informative responses.
Still, working with Ferrite and VoiceOver requires a little patience and a bit of fortitude. Some tasks, such as fine-tuning a clip selection, take much more effort than you may prefer. There will be times when VoiceOver focus shifts unexpectedly, landing you somewhere else in the Ferrite window or inside the iPhone Status Bar, forcing you to swipe back to where you want to be. You can also accidentally transport yourself into temporary oblivion by tapping on the Time Bar at the top of the Ferrite edit window. (If that happens, it helps to know that you can escape unharmed with a simple double-tap on the iPhone glass.) And, under at least one circumstance, when you split a sound segment into clips, the screen might not immediately update in VoiceOver and you can either wait a bit or turn VoiceOver off and back on again. Fortunately, on the rare occasion that I have found myself tossed out of Ferrite back to the Home Screen, my data and edits have always been safe and sound.
If I could make one wish for a future version of Ferrite, I would ask for better timeline navigation and play-back capabilities for VoiceOver users. In order to create a masterpiece, I really need the ability to fine-tune my selections so that my clips start and finish at the absolutely perfect moment. Tiny splinters of sound can leave disturbing clicks and awkward blips that interrupt the effect I am trying to create. Perhaps these extraneous segments are easy to manipulate and eradicate in a visible sound wave, but these unwanted elements are very difficult to audibly isolate using the current keyboard and touch tools in Ferrite. However, with an enhanced ability to gently nudge the beginning and end points of selections in any direction, and a mechanism to listen to both the current selection and a short segment of the project with the selection ignored, I'd save time and be a much happier fellow.
Given a second wish, I would ask for even more control via Bluetooth keyboards, with special attention given to how those interactions would work most effectively with VoiceOver. At present, a VoiceOver user often has to switch between keyboard modes, known as Quick Nav, to take advantage of the available power in Ferrite. My fingers get tangled up after switching back and forth so often. However, I appreciate the precision that a keyboard can offer when doing detailed work. I hope greater keyboard enhancements are in our future.
I love having an audio editor on my iPhone, one that can handle the size and variety of files in my sound library. Ferrite is the first product that has been able to meet most of my needs. Ferrite does not yet have all the features or power that I have experienced on a desktop, but having it with me everywhere, in my pocket, makes it a very valuable tool. Great products take time and effort to evolve. Because I have seen a commitment to VoiceOver accessibility, I choose to be very hopeful that Ferrite will become an even better iPhone app that we can use for all of our sound editing needs. For now, Ferrite requires some extra effort to get things done. That works for me. A lot of fun often takes a little work. Like dancing in sand.
*** Morgan is the author of six other AppleVis blogs, including “Small Differences Matter”, “Big Is The New Small”, and “Think Small”. He gratefully welcomes and appreciates your comments and feedback.