In 2009 I got an iPhone 3G, and being a musician, naturally I wanted to see what my new device could do. I started buying apps randomly, and started putting together songs on the go. This was quite a revelation to me, that I could write music away from my studio. A few months later I looked for like minded individuals and communities, and came across a little site named Palm Sounds. It was different, instead of just being slight bits of stale information, this site was healthy, packed with fresh news about this new music scene every day, and run by an incredible individual, Ashley Elsdon. Palm Sounds has run an incredible, indispensable corner stone of the mobile music app scene for 10 years now, 10 years! What an outstanding achievement.
Palm Sounds has been a daily routine for me, like reading the morning paper ever since I discovered it in 2009. Over the years I have started blogging, and developing apps as well, which has led me to be fortunate enough to get to know Ashley. He is super passionate about what he does, and is committed to bringing fantastic content to you, and contributing in many ways to the mobile music scene. I would like to commend Ashley and Palm Sounds for being here for us for the past 10 years, and I look forward to the next 10!
Sliver is a powerful tool for soundscape and sonic texture creation.
Working beautifully with any audio content… melodic, rhythmic, noise, or otherwise, Sliver is well suited for a broad range of project types including:
Sound Design / Sound Effects
Unique Sonic Textures
Cinematic Sound Elements
Creating a playable instrument from any sound.
The core of Sliver is the 4 real-time resizable clips (slivers) that can be moved around the waveform. Each sliver has it’s own channel with independent volume, pan, filter, and sliver size. These controls can be set in motion with Sliver’s automation engine. Sliver uses a real-time automation system to movement in your textures. This system also allows for override to be able to shape the ongoing captured performance. The filters and size windows are controlled by XY pads, giving Sliver a natural playability, creating a new type of instrument.
Touching along the waveform places, moves, and sizes the slivers, allowing you to intuitively scrub the waveform with a variable loop size.
A chain of effects assigned to XY Control pads allows you to shape and mangle the sounds produced by the slivers.
You can Automate every control.
Sliver uses Apples UIKit Dynamics to create physics on the XY Pads, allowing customized settings for the controls to shape the sound randomly with physics.
Sliver supports Audiobus, sitting in an input slot.
You can import samples via AudioShare import or Audiocopy.
You can resample, record your own samples, or do both at once.
Sliver supports MIDI learn and is fully controllable from Virtual, Network, and MIDI hardware.
Make some noises, mangle some sounds, create your own soundscape.
4 Real-time Manipulation Slivers
4 Independent Audio Channels
Full Automation Control
Apple UIKit Dynamics Physics Controls
8 X/Y Pad control
Low Pass Filter
Temp Sync’ed Delay
Realtime Pitch-shifting without effecting Time Domain (TimeStretch)
As an iOS musician I have been interested for some time about the apps on the other side of the fence, the Android apps. The one that I have heard the most about is Caustic, and now it is on iOS. Caustic is a self contained studio app, it gives you an assortment of synths, and a drum machine, and a way to sequence them with a piano roll style editor, pattern sequencer, mixer, and effects.
I know the first thing you are thinking, do I need another DAW in iOS? I think you need this one. Caustic hits a lot of the right notes for what I expect out of a mobile DAW. Although it compares more to the self contained rack style DAW idea like Reason rather than a digital audio workstation. It is like having a rack full of synths and a sampler in your pocket.
Caustic comes with 8 synths, a Vocoder, and a Drum Machine. It has a well rounded variety of synths to choose from. The best part is the amazing sound quality of the synths, any of them could easily be stand alone apps. Included are:
Subsynth, a subtractive analog synth that is great for leads and basses.
PCMsynth as it’s name implies is a digital PCM style synth that also has a wide variety of uses, great for recreating some big 80’s sounds.
Bassline which is a Roland 303 style synth.
Padsynth which is a harmonic wave table synth, which is great for, well, pads.
8Bitsynth which is a bit wise style synth, and is great for making great noises from formulas.
Modular, as it’s name implies is a modular synth and is spectacular and deep, just amazing the quality and depth included.
Organ, yep, included is an organ synth with draw bars and all, it sounds decent, not that I am really am organ sort of guy or know the intricacies, but I could get nice sounds from it.
FMSynth and rounding out the stable of synths is a nice rendition of a classic FM synth, great for bell, piano, and chime sort of sounds but also can be used for all sorts of leads, basses, and pads.
Also included is a Vocoder, and a 6 channel drum machine named Beatbox. Beatbox contains mute groups, and also has tune, punch, decay, pan, and volume controls for each channel. You can also load up your own samples.
You can load up 14 instances of any combination of the devices at once. Each of the 14 channels have 2 slots to add effects. Caustic comes with an assortment of 16 good quality but quite simple insert effects. Included are :
While the effects get the job done, I would have liked to see a little more complexity in them and control.
Caustic contains a mixer to mix the 14 channels, 2 send effect buses, and mastering channel strip. Each channel has 3 band EQ, controls for send effect amounts, delay, reverb, pan, width, and of course level. I would have liked to have seen sliders instead of knobs for the volume, preferably long throw, and larger more accurate metering on each channel.
As part of the mastering strip you get built in reverb and delay as send effects on top of the 2 customizable slots, you also get a master bus parametric EQ, and a limiter (great for tightening the mix). Again a knob is used where I would have liked to see a long throw slider and nice tall metering on the master channel.
Caustic also comes with a pattern sequencer that is reminiscent of a tracker. You can select the patterns that you create for each device in the rack and sequence your song quickly. It is quite simple but effective. The only complaint I have is you lose the overall picture of what your note data looks like, if I could see the little notes on the patterns I would be much happier.
Each pattern is edited underneath the respective device in the rack, in its own piano roll note editor. In the note editor there are a minimal of amount of editing options; copy, paste, and, delete. Nice selection options are included, so you can lasso a group of notes, select them all, or select by time in the grid.
One very nice thing that some of the other iOS DAWs lack that Caustic has is automation. You automate any of the synth parameters by recording live automation of the knobs. You can also edit this automation with sliders. Giving Caustic a lot of editing power.
One place that caustic is lacking is in support of some iOS audio app standards like Audiobus, Audiocopy, and Inter App Audio, although thank goodness it has export to Audioshare!
Overall if you are an iOS electronic musician Caustic is a great tool to add to your arsenal, and I Highly recommend it.
Cubsasis is a new iPad DAW from Steinberg. I used to use Cubase as my main DAW on PC before I was converted to Ableton live. It was quite a full featured DAW, and while I have not been keeping up with every version, I have seen that it has been definitely keeping up with the times. It is quite exciting that Steinberg decided to make a version of their DAW for iPad.
The first thing that you will notice when firing Cubasis up is how polished, responsive and intuitive all of the controls feel. It launches and is ready to play in about 5-8 seconds on my iPad 2 (This is very important to me when inspiration strikes). Selecting instruments is done quite easily, and loading them up is very quick and easy. You can really tell Steinberg put a lot of work into making a really great user experience.
Everything looks great, but how does it sound you ask? Cubasis comes packed with a lot of instruments, these are sample based Halion instruments, and they do sound great. When adding tracks to the current sequence you can decide if it will be a MIDI (Instrument) track or Audio track. If you add an instrument track, the last chosen instrument will automatically be loaded, and is very easy to change. Tapping on it’s icon brings up a comprehensive list of instruments, sorted by categories represented by icons of the instrument type. I really do wish that Cubasis had a synthesizer also, this would round out the sonic possibilities. Also you can easily change instruments from the track inspector with the plus and minus sounds. Also included in the track inspector are some basic sound shaping controls that let you change the attack and release of the sound.
Each track can have 3 assignable insert effects and can send a signal to 2 global send effects. The effects in Cubasis sound quite nice, and held up quite well with most of the things I threw at them. They are optimized for little CPU use so there is a little bit of a trade off for quality, but definitely work well for most applications.One of the glaring omissions was that you cannot automate the effects in the mixer. The included effects are Reverb, Chorus, Delay, Phaser, Flanger, Filter, Limiter, Compressor, Amp Sim, Overdrive, EQ. As you can see it gives you quite an arsenal to work with. I have a few more complaints about the effects. You cannot reorder the insert effects, so if you decide you want one of your effects earlier in the chain you have to remove them and re-add them, which brings me to another complaint. I don’t see a way to save effects presets, so in this scenario, there can be quite a bit of reprogramming. One more nit-pick about the effects, some of them just have perentages, for example the attack and release on the compressor isn’t in miliseconds, so it is a bit strange to use, also the ratio seems backwards from most compressors.
A nice touch is how the editor screens pop up from the bottom of the screen, allowing you to still keep sight of your sequence when editing. The media browser, MIDI editor, keyboard / drum pads, audio editor, and the mixer all do this. If you have used Cubase in the past, then the mixer should look very familiar. All of the channels are well laid out and they have very intuitive controls for pan, mute, solo, insert effects, gain, and arming the track for recording. Another large omission is a lack of flexible routing, I was hoping to be able to create subgroups for different mixes, and to do some more complex effect routing like side chain compression.
The sequencer is well thought out, and contains nice tools like split, glue, copy, paste, etc. This makes it really easy to work with both MIDI parts and Audio parts. You can snap to a grid that you set. It definitely gets the job done and gets out of your way. If I had any wishes they would be to jump forward in the timeline to the end of what you just copied so you could quickly paste, and to be able to set a loop on the current MIDI or Audio part to be able to drag it out and keep looping it like Ableton live does. It is nice to have a pop out tool bar with all the useful functions, and keeps things nice and clean. The major issue I have with the sequencer is no automation lane of any kind. There are a lot of iOS sequencers now, and almost all of them have automation, this seems like such a glaring omission.
Cubasis also comes with quite a few audio loops to help you get some ideas, although did this bring out another point, that there is no BPM detection or time stretching in the software.
The MIDI editor feels just like it’s big brother and the touch version of it works very well. The only thing that feels slightly clumsy is when step editing you have to switch between select and draw quite a bit, seems like it would be more intuitive if you could select in draw mode when you touch a note, to change it’s position.
The Audio editor is quite slick, and comes with some basic editing functions including fades and normalize. One thing I want to note is how smooth drawing of the waveform and performance is throughout the app. It really has been optimized quite well.
Cubasis has two methods of playing the instruments, with a keyboard view, and drum pads, both work very well and are extremely responsive. The keyboard has 10 chord preset locations that makes it great to program some chords and jam with, again the slick interface shows in this implementation, and it just feels great. If you have non drum instrument you are greeted by 16 pads that play these chords as well. If you have a drum kit selected you get 16 pads that feel great, and you also get a mod wheel that pitches the samples slightly too.
Cubasis supports virtual MIDI, and allows you to sequence other apps, external instruments, this is all accomplished per instrument track in the MIDI Connections section of the inspector. One thing I did not see, and is especially important to the next section is the ability to send or receive a MIDI clock and sync to it.
The new version of Cubasis supports Audiobus, and it does so with a really great implementation of it. If you open Audiobus and launch Cubasis, any apps that are inputs automatically get Audio tracks assigned for quick recording into a project. I even added an insert effect and took it out, and it dynamically reassigned and named the tracks for me. You can also use Cubasis as an output, but it doesn’t look and it looks like it can be an output and input at the same time.
The one thing that makes the Audiobus experience bittersweet though is the fact that there doesn’t appear to be clock sync in Cubasis, meaning that if you are going to be sequencing other synthesizers, drum machines, or playing them into Cubasis that you will probably be editing the Audio to remove unwanted space, where if clock sync was there it would sync on start for you, and make sure that all of your clock based parameters on the other apps were correct.
Import / Export options
Cubasis comes with a nice set of import and export options. In the media browser you can use the share button to export your project view email, dropbox, or zip. Audio files can be emailed, dropboxed, opened with other apps, audio copied, or sent to SoundCloud. Wow. You can also export your projects and import them in Cubase on the desktop, which I didn’t get to try out since I don’t own the latest version of Cubase. You can import audio via Audiocopy and Paste or iTunes library import. Steinberg really covered all their bases in this department!
Overall Cubasis is a really nicely polished product, but is missing some essential features. It could be so great, and the best all around sequencer on iPad if Steinberg decides to implement these.
I am beta testing Wolfgang Palm’s new iPad synth Wave Mapper. The first thing I want to say about it is just plain wow! Wolfgang has really outdone himself with Wave Mapper.
The first thing that becomes apparent when you load up Wave Mapper is that it envisions such a new way of creating sounds, with such surprising results when you just move the icons around. It really captures the essence of what is important to most musicians who are looking for a patch but don’t want to use factory sounds. It is so easy to come up with really great sounds very fast. So they can focus, quickly get a patch for their track, and get to making music, but still feel that they didn’t use the factory presets, so their sound will still be unique.
The interface is just begging you to “roll some patches”, I mean the factory sounds are fantastic, but it is amazing how inviting it is to create a patch. Also it is very nice that it isn’t just a show that cycles through some presets with very little options, it is deep, you can use the Wave Map view to start out with the kind of sound you are trying to create, then dive deep to fine tune the Oscillators, AMP, Envelopes, LFO’s, etc.. Truly Brilliant.
All of the parameters are quickly accessible through their icons as well, just long touch on one of them, and you are instantly editing the envelope for that oscillator you just touched. It doesn’t stop there either, when you are looking at the envelopes as the sounds are playing you visually see the glowing dot traversing the envelope, and release the note you see that glow on the release, such a nice little touch.
Wave Mapper really hits the sweet spot between accessibility and complexity, and it just sounds fantastic.
Sir Sampleton is a small sampler app that is easy to use and supports Audiobus. If you need a quick sampler, that has little overhead, and is extremely easy to use Sir Sampleton has you covered.
You are presented with a large keyboard 2 rows, 1 octave each. It has a very minimal interface, just a few buttons on the top and the keyboard make up the entire thing.
The sounds menu defaults to sample, but also included are a piano, synth, flue, and drums. You can customize some of the settings in the app from the sound settings and advanced settings screen, changing the octave of the keyboards, note lengths, tuning, transposition, vibrato, and dual samples.
There are also more advanced settings like independent volumes and start times between the upper and lower keyboards. It has some deep features like MIDI, Background Audio, Velocity to Volume, and Velocity to Pitch. You can loop the samples, and another great thing when sampling you can wait for the sound before it starts recording (This feature is key). Also a hold to sample setting is present.
Also present is an interesting little rhythm section that emulates some older keyboards. You can choose from various styles like rock, disco, funk, electro etc… and it even has a beat generator that mixes the beats up.
One thing missing from Sir Sampleton is audio copy and paste, which would be a nice addition to be able to quickly import sounds. Also missing is a way to record your performance and export it. To remedy this though the developer has implemented Audiobus support, which takes care of the recording and exporting, and with Audiobus you can record into Sir Sampleton as well, while it would still be nice to be able to paste in sounds, this helps make the app feel less isolated.
If you are looking for a simple little sampler with Audiobus support then look no further, it has a little quirky charm to it, although it is a little light on features, it does sample quickly and easily, for quick playback.
Do you tap on things, are you a finger drummer. I have annoyed many people by tapping on all sorts of surfaces, I do it subconsciously. I always have beats in my head. There is an app that can harness this need to tap, and turn it into usable beats.
Beepstreet’s Impaktor is a universal iOS app.
Impaktor takes mic input and translates that with a synth engine into beats. And it does this very well. When you open the app, plugin some headphones, and start tapping you will hear your taps synthesized. You have some basic controls on the main screen to control that synthesis, with six different voices or drum parts to play.
Set your tempo, hit record and it will start rolling through the pattern, assuming you have the metronome on, you will hear clicking, then you start tapping, the quantize will quantize your inputs, and you can set the pattern to variable lengths per synth/drum voice/part.
With the default sound set that comes up, you get some really nice synthesized ethnic percussion instruments, like a Tabla, Metal Drum, Conga, etc. The Ethnic drum presets are the largest and offer 42 varieties. But other kits are included as well.
You can also create your own patches and kits, because Impaktor has a fully featured synth engine underneath. Where you can change a host of settings to create just about any drum sound you are after.
Not only can you save each Kit, but you can save all the settings in a session.
Impaktor includes Delay and Reverb that give the drums a more spacious feel, also included on the reverb is a lo-cut and hi-cut which is nice to get the mix just right.
Impaktor also has a recording manager, where you can either live record you playing or bounce the current pattern. Once the recording is saved you can Email it or Audiocopy it out to other apps. Recordings are also saved in the iTunes File Sharing folder.
Impaktor is fantastic, and captures the spirit when inspiration hits to quickly lay a beat down with your fingers. It is so full featured that it is definitely not a novelty, and can be used as a serious drum synthesizer. It also works and supports the iPhone 5’s new resolution.
Lets hope that Impaktor rides the Audiobus as well!
Like most iOS musicians and developers, I have been following the Audiobus news closely. To be able to route audio between iOS applications on the device has been a dream since the first audio apps were released. Audiobus makes this happen and beautifully.
When I first heard about Audiobus I was in the middle of development on Glitchbreaks, and thought wow that would be so cool to be able to implement that. As it came closer and closer to release, and I heard that there would be a limited run of developers that the Audiobus folks were going to make the SDK available to, I signed up.
I was one of the lucky first wave of outside developers to jump on the bus, and I am writing this blog entry to let everyone know how my experience went with the implementation.
An hour or so before I received the SDK I asked Sebastian if there was a place I could read up on the documentation, he gave me the link. The first thing I noticed was how well it was documented, and how easy it looked to implement. A little later he sent me an email inviting me to be part of the first wave of outside developers, I downloaded the SDK, and had it up and running in Glitchbreaks in 15-20 minutes. It is that well put together, and easy to follow to get into an app.
Later in the next hour or so, I got Sebastian and Michael setup on my testflight beta and a few minutes later, Sebastian sent me a screenshot, and it was tweeted that Glitchbreaks was officially supporting Audiobus.
This all happened on Thursday.The next few days, I optimized some of my effects code so I didn’t tear down my AUGraph when switching effects, and was ready to submit to Apple on Saturday night.
My initial version of Audiobus support includes Glitchbreaks as an input app, meaning that it Audiobus will take Glitchbreaks’ input and allow you to filter it in other apps, and record it in other apps. My goal is to keep working to make Glitchbreaks a filter app, and an Output app so you can filter through it, and record into it. This will take quite a bit more, and not because of Audiobus, but because of how Glitchbreaks is structured, but soon I will be sending that version out as well.
So if you are a developer and are thinking about implementing Audiobus, let me tell you, it is a fantastic SDK to work with, and the people developing it are super helpful, and are extremely responsive.
If you are a musician, you need Audiobus, go buy it now, it will change how you make music on your iOS device.
Do you have a lot of samples? As a musician I certainly do. And the one big weakness of iOS and audio is not being able to have a centralized location to store them all. If you are like me, you have a few apps that contain large libraries of samples and use those to copy them around to the other apps. I use Nanostudio for this, because I have the largest set of samples in it, but as much as I love Nanostudio, using it as a sample library is painful, especially since you have to go into the sampler instrument and edit a pad in order to just copy or paste a sample in or out. AudioShare by Jonatan Liljedahl sets out to solve this problem.
It is a very simple, light weight sample library app. It is a universal app that looks great both on iPhone (5 as well) or iPad. It uses both the Sonoma Pasteboard and General Pasteboard. It gives you information about your audio, like the format type, bit rate, sample rate, and Length, and has a really nice looking waveform view.
AudioShare lets you play and loop your sounds, and also has a nice tool to quickly normalize your audio. Organizing your samples is easy, since it lets you create folders, rename, and move your files.
It has a wealth of export options, including Soundcloud, Email, AudioCopy (Sonoma and General Pasteboard, and Open In functionality. Of course it also has import options as well, AudioPaste, and even recording from an external source.
It does all of these things quickly and efficiently, and I would highly recommend using AudioShare as your sample library manager.
Jonatan has been actively updating AudioShare since it’s release, and has already added so many great features. The one feature that would make it even better for me would be full Dropbox support, currently you can Open In Dropbox, but being able to transfer over multiple samples from Dropbox with a 2 window sort of interface would be golden. I am keeping my fingers crossed, as I hear this maybe coming to AudioShare.
At it’s core Beatsurfing is a midi controller for iPad. With one big difference than most, you have complete control over the design, and can create this design on the iPad itself. This in itself is revolutionary.
Once you start editing your own scene, you are greeted by a menu with some basic shapes (Square, Circle, Line, and Slider). Tapping one of these invites you to tap anywhere on the screen to place one. This is very intuitive, and gets you right into editing. Once you place a shape you are given a few editing controls for color, rotation, size, layer depth, whether you want it on a grid or not, and duplicate. All of the controls feel very natural, and not too complicated. It never feels like you just opened a CAD application.
You can also set the properties of each shape once you have it placed, this is where things get really interesting. Each shape has basic midi options, like the channel or note that it will trigger. One very interesting thing you can do is detect direction, which will detect the direction if you are swiping across the element. This is great for getting some interesting patterns for percussion, reminiscent of the fish percussion instrument.
Another very dynamic and interesting thing you can do to each element is add behaviors, these change how the elements work when they are played, which is great because 3 of the 4 elements do quite a bit more than just a midi trigger. For example the circle element is like a sequencer, each time you tap on the circle it changes the selected slice on an outer ring, which triggers a different midi note.
One thing I felt a little constraining was the fact that I could only assign a successive note range, it would be very useful to be able to assign any midi note to an element that contains more than 1 trigger, instead of being locked into a range.
I successfully controlled Ableton Live via my IO Dock’s midi ports, and was able to control NLog Synth but I never did find an options menu to select network midi, wifi midi, etc.
Overall I found Beatsurfing very intuitive and easy to start building my own MIDI controller quickly on my iPad. I would recommend it to anyone looking to quickly be able to make new controllers with a hands on feel, without having to be tethered to their computer. I will say though, when writing this review the manual was still in progress, so some parts of the app were not super clear.