While I’m best known for chance-based “circuit bending,” I’ve been composing and playing deterministic music for much longer, and I’m always interested in experimental music technology. My hacked iPad 2, broken out into a Music Desk crammed with extreme audio apps, is my favorite new instrument.

On its own, the iPad sounds fine and its large touchscreen is a fantastic musician’s interface. But for studio use, the iPad is too lightweight; it needs added stability, better ergonomics, and a more professional wiring interface. That’s what this hack is all about.

Here’s how you can make a dockable Music Desk for your iPad by adding 1/4″ line inputs and outputs (Apple has the inputs reserved, but you’ll be ready if Apple opens them), video output, guitar/microphone input with level control, headphone output with level control, a power indicator LED, and a USB jack that will allow both stereo line input and MIDI I/O, via a MIDI-USB adapter.


  • ViewStand aluminum viewing stand for iPad — from Macally (macally.com), item #VIEWSTAND
  • PodBreakout Mini or PodBreakout Nano Style 1 — from Kineteka (kineteka.com), items #POD-DOCK-MINI or # POD-B-N-S1
  • Potentiometers, audio taper, panel mount: 50kΩ (1) and 1kΩ stereo (1)
  • RCA video jack, panel mount
  • Audio jacks, 1/4″, panel mount: mono (4 unswitched and 1 switched) and stereo (1)
  • USB jack, Mini-B type, panel mount I used Bulgin #PX0446.
  • LED, blue, 5mm
  • LED housing I used a vintage lens from my collection, but you can also use a ping pong ball (see Step 2).
  • Knobs, to fit 1/4″ shaft (2)
  • Cable clips for 5mm cable, adhesive (4)
  • Hookup wire, stranded, insulated copper, 22 gauge or so
  • Centronics parallel printer cable — These cheap, outmoded cables pile up at second-hand shops.
  • A/V cable, 1″ (3.5mm), 4-pole — These have 4 rings on the plug.
  • Heat-shrink tubing, 1/8″ diameter


  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Center punch and small hammer or mallet
  • Drill press (preferred) or hand drill
  • Drill bits: 1/8″, step bit
  • Hole saw, 3/4″ or a reamer to enlarge a smaller hole to 3/4″
  • Adjustable wrenches or nut drivers, small
  • Soldering pencil with chisel tip, 1mm–2mm
  • Solder
  • X-Acto knife
  • Wire strippers and cutters
  • Multimeter
  • Lighter or heat gun for the heat-shrink tubing