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iLoud, iUSBport, and Jamstik Oh my!

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed anything related to iOS music production. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been exploring and expanding.

It’s not always just about apps. We need other things to help us make the magic happen. Being mobile we tend to want things that are compact and easy to carry around, but not lose on quality.
They gotta be reliable, easy to use, fun, and compact.

Our devices sadly have limited memory storage. Once you make your choice on the device with the storage capacity you think will be enough, that’s it. No going back, and it seems like its never enough.
So what do you do? No USB port, and syncing with the PC is not always a practical option.
You need portable mass storage that can be accessed wirelessly, anywhere you are without needing to plug in.
This is where the iUSBport comes in.

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This handy little device allows you to have a mobile WiFi hotspot.
With a rechargeable battery that can also provide power to a connected USB device like mass storage drives, you’ll have all your data saved with you anywhere you go.
I’ve attached mine to a USB mini hub with multiple ports. So I can connect not just my mass storage device, but also my key chain memory stick, or whatever. Mix and match, just beware of how much powers being drawn from your iUSBport. Depending on how much you plug in you can keep it all going about 4-6 hours before needing to plug in to recharge.

The iUSBport is easy to use, just skip their app and use your browser though. Unlike other similar products saying they do the same thing, this has a very handy screen which reads out and informs you of pertinent information. So you know what’s going on and don’t have to guess.
It just works. It also has the capability to connect to existing wifi networks simultaneously (with your Ad Hoc) when it is plugged in at home you can connect and move files among your connected storage units and cloud based storage services like Dropbox. Neat! Always have access to your files, save, move among your apps, devices and do it anywhere.
This is something I really don’t leave home without when I want to work on some music away from it all.

This is honestly a bit outdated as HyperDrive, makers of my original iUSBport have introduced an even better version with the iUSBport 2. Gotta love sequels.
So check this cool gadget out at href=”http://www.hypershop.com/HyperDrive/”>HyperDrive and all their other cool new stuff.

While I’m at it and speaking of mobility, how about something with great on the go sound? Not headphones, but a speaker that brings the boom in a pint sized and manageable wireless, rechargeable package.
IK Multimedia iLoud.
This 40 Watt audio monitor delivers amazing sound quality and packs a punch.
I’ll make this easy. I tested out several similar portable monitors that came highly recommended. iLoud outperformed them all. None reached the levels of the iLoud by a wide, noticeable margin.

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All frequencies had excellent separation and sounded very clean. The bass isn’t over done and muddy like the others.

For the record I only use it as an audio monitor connected to my iPads. It can be used as an amp (with supported apps) and it also supports Bluetooth.
I don’t care about or use either. I just wanted a excellent mini monitor for my music productions that sounds great and goes anywhere.
That said, I’ve heard from others who complained about “hiss” when used as an amp. The Bluetooth has too much latency and compromises audio quality so I just haven’t bothered.
It’s about the sound, and iLoud does it very nicely. Even when the natural acoustics suck, it still pumps out great sound. I recommend this wireless rechargeable sound monster highly.

Last on the list of cool new gadgets I’ve been spending my time with is the highly anticipated Jamstik.
This is less review and more first impression after having very recently received mine.

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I just pulled it out of the box a few days ago. With giddy childlike excitement, I tore that box open.
I didn’t really know what to expect?
Well, it pretty much explains itself, so….anyway.
It feels like a tiny guitar that is honestly at first glance a little cramped. If you play guitar, it’ll probably feel uncomfortable at first. Spending some time with it to acclimate should lead to that discomfort becoming a memory pretty quick. I felt comfortable with playing this rather fast.
It’s just stupid, crazy fun!
With a built in pocket in the Jamstik housing, there inside it with the rechargeable battery is an Allen wrench, you can use to adjust the action on the compact fretboard. It’s pretty high out of the box, so adjust it however you need it. Easy.
The neck feels about right and familiar being in scale with full sized guitars. Just shorter is all.
Plus strings can be replaced and trimmed as you prefer.
It comes with a decent adjustable strap, two picks, and charge cable.
The weight feels a little light for obvious reasons, but not at all bothersome. In fact it felt like it hung just right for me.
It connects via a simple proxy app that runs in the background through its own wifi network. You change to the wifi network from your device network settings. Just like when you switch networks anywhere. Then open your favorite guitar app and jam away. Sweet!
Again since I’ve not spent a ton of time with my Jamstik, there are things I have yet to fully experience. One concern I had was if there’d be any latency over wifi. It seemed OK. This is something I need to spend more time with.

It does far more than act just as a cool mini guitar. It does that very well. You can use Jamstik like any MIDI controller to trigger multiple loops across the 6 strings and all the frets. It quickly can become a one man band control unit. I’ve only scratched the surface, but holy Schmidt is this thing fun.

I’m very impressed with this sweet device.

The world of mobile music production is going strong, and evolving with some uniquely mobile and practical new quality tools.

Onward music pioneers. The trail is seeing traffic.

Hiatus coming to an end!

Finally!

We have finished moving and are sorting through boxes trying to get settled in our new home. This means that I can finally get back to doing the things I enjoy. Making music, and writing about the music apps I like.

I’ll get back to reviews very soon. The only issue is that having been away for a couple months my back log has become scary in size. So many apps came and went while I was trying to figure out where the heck we were going to live, I just don’t know where to begin?

AltiSpace, Caramel, Crystaline, MitoSynth, B-Step, Dot Melody, Bird Stepper…and oh man so many others. Not to mention plenty of updates to several of my long time “go to” music apps. Plus I have some gadgets to review like the iUSB Port, iLoud…and if it ever arrives “JamStick” is is nearly on deck too.

Well, I gotta start somewhere. I suppose I’ll throw a dart and go from there?

I’d ask for requests, but for some reason very few of you ever leave comments. Must be too labor intensive or something? ;)

Stay tuned and thank you for the support. You have all been great, and I appreciate that immensely.

So busy….. Whew.

Hey there mobile music makers.
Sorry I’ve been on hiatus for a couple months. Our living situation had become rather urgent and changing moment to moment.
Short version is our slum lord who owns the house, that is basically sectioned off into 5 studio type apartments, stopped paying the utilities he was responsible for. That led to water being shut off for 10 days in March, and lots of headaches for us ever since. To top it all off, he has decided to just let the bank take the property.
Skip ahead to today (and removing the dramatic details) and we are on the verge of getting a house.
However time is running out fast. We only have until August 1st to find a place to live.
I hated to do it, but in the interest of sparing my wife and son the discomfort of just taking anything we could afford (which is nothing really) I swallowed my pride and am accepting my fathers enormous help. It pretty much adds up to receiving an early inheritance, and nobody has to die, yay!
I’d much rather have done this all myself. I’m no fan of not earning what’s mine. I’m doing this for my family.

Hopefully we will close on a nice little house not too far away. It’s an old house, which we like a lot more than those new cookie cutter yuppy houses that seem to pop up all over like so many silver SUVs and wannabe high rolling twenty something’s fixated on material wealth and appearances.
Fuck that. Excuse my French.
The house we are close to closing on is just right. Plus it has a huge basement that’s already partially renovated for me to set up a full on studio slash work space. A Smite Office, if you will.

Aside from all this I’ve been working on some new music. I’m making very chill ambient soundscapes with melodies and interesting textures. No drums. Lite percussive accompaniment might appear, but no in your face drum beats.
As usual I’m creating every sound from scratch myself using only my iOS music apps. So despite how much I love hearing Alchemy, it is once again pushed off the table.
At least it was, until that latest update arrived that seems to allow custom sound designing by importing user samples. I may have to reconsider and give that some thought. Is Alchemy now actually a synthesizer, instead of a cool preset morphing player? This is the one thing that’s held me back from using it seriously. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds amazing. Problem is, the sounds are recognizable and clearly presets made by someone else. Not that it’s a bad thing, I mean who expects everybody to always create every sound themselves? Its pretty unreasonable to demand or expect. I just happen to personally prefer making my own synths. I’m crazy like that, and I’m not judging.
So maybe this new import feature will open things up?

Well, back on track. Alchemy may be part of this new music. Several new apps I’ve received and or bought since March will find their way into my project.
Some new, some old. Some need to be reviewed.
I bought and tried to love Looptical, but ended up irritated by it so much that I just deleted it in a fit of rage. Money wasted. What a pain in the ass that app is.
I get it, people love it. That’s cool. I personally can’t freaking stand that thing.

Cubasis is forever removed from my workflow. Ironically right when they finally added automation.
Yay.
Not!
The FX are still crap, the instruments sound cheap, and I’d never use them so why would I care to automate a bunch of cheap crap? I don’t. Later Crapbasis. Too little too late.

Before this turns into a big rant of apps that piss me off, I’ll switch gears.

Oscilab, now with Audiobus support has become a new favorite of mine. It’s such a nice app. Great and clever on all counts. Fantastic sequencing with a cool twist. I really have been enjoying Oscilab thoroughly.

MitoSynth really sunk it’s teeth into me. Wooji hit a home run with this new synth. I love the novel interface and all the automation options. It took a few minutes to get comfortable with its design, but it wasn’t long before I looked up and several hours had gone by. What a joy to use.
Only thing I don’t like about Mito is the limited scales, and no assignable key conveniences. Sure, I should just know when I’m in tune, but having the option to just set the playable notes to all be in key is a very nice short cut.
Alright I’m a bit lazy there, so what.

Among those I’m also wearing out Z3TA, microTERA, CubeSynth, AudioReverb, Crystaline, iVCS, Samplr, iPulsaret, and several others.
Auria is now my exclusive iDAW. It simply can’t be beat as far as I’m concerned. Best on all counts in ease of use, quality, and functionality. On my iPad Air, I can work it harder than ever. I hardly ever use midi so it’s perfect for me. I just don’t have any problems with it.

Audio Mastering App will continue to be my “goto” mastering suite. It does everything I need it to do. Hi/Lo shelving, 3 band stereo imaging, gentle reverb, EQing, Compression…and it’s just easy and reliable. It fits me.
I have Final Touch, but it’s Stereo Imaging is pretty awful. The rest of it is alright, but a little contrived for my taste.

I think I’m done for now. This run on letter that was to be a small update on what I’m doing has gotten long enough.

If everything goes as planed, and we are settled in to our new home come August 1st, I’ll return to writing reviews.
Until then I have to choose how I use my currently limited hours each day, and making music takes priority over telling you what apps I think you should buy.

Wish me luck. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon.

Cheers :)

PS- We just got news that the house may very well be ours to move into as soon as next Friday, or shortly after. Yippie! Out of this dump, and into our own house. So close now.

Oscilab – Review Updated 9-10-14

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Oscilab is created by 2Beat
Available the iTunes App Store

Oscilab has been on the radar of anticipated new music apps and now finally hits the App Store.
It is a unique wave sequencer where by touch, drag, and sweeps will determine much of the music making experience.

Right off the bat I was feeling great and very happy with how it operates even if it was a little unusual. Didn’t take long to get comfortable with this at all.

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28 wave shapers, 6 channel mixing, FX and great on the fly live sound manipulation for each channel independently via X/Y pads and some pretty nice synthesis and drum options are some of the many features. Everything is easy to find and access. Great interface. I likey!

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Exploring this unique and fun new sequencer has been nothing short of fun.
I really like how easily they made this for doing live tweaks to the sounds. With scenes that can wait until the current one has played out before the next seamlessly enters the flow, and instantly changing a sequence without any drop outs is sweet.

Shaping the sounds wether they are loaded samples or your own synth designs at a whim rocks.
The FX are pretty simple if not a bit bland, but no problem just run Oscilab through Audiobus or IAA and use your other FX apps to…. To…to… Hang on?

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Wait a second? Where’s the Audiobus or Inter-App Audio support?
I assumed it was available, but where?
No…no…..no…..NO!
Just AudioCopy, “Open In” and SoundCloud for sharing….WTF? This isn’t 2009.
Did this cool, fun, impressive app really just get released without the most basic and expected supports for inter app connectivity?
It can’t be? Not again…… Geeeez! How frustrating.

This isn’t happening, is it? Well, I guess so, never mind.
I don’t mean to be harsh, this is a cool new app, but come on. Call me when it can actually be integrated in the most common workflows we actually use these days. Then I’ll finish the review. Until then this ones on hold.

UPDATE

Since I initially wrote this half review Oscilab has seen significant updates with great improvements. I’ll try to be brief and to the point.
Now with Audiobus support and Inter-App Audio, improved midi functionality, and other nice tweaks Oscilab is my new favorite goto sequencer.
I love how simple it is to use. It makes a
To of sense and doesn’t try too hard to be different.

Highly recommended!

Stroke Machine – Review

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Stroke Machine is made by Wolfram Franke Franke Music
Available from the iTunes App Store

Wolfram Franke dives in to iOS music production with the colorful release of the unfortunately named “Stroke Machine”.
Really. That’s its name. In the many hours I’ve spent with Stroke Machine I never once found anything that brought on an “Aha!” moment of clarity that explained why this name was chosen; I just can’t make the connection.
My inner 15 year-old came up with at least a dozen alternate names that could be just as hilarious, but that’s a different immature article.

This new and interestingly designed groove box has a lot to offer. A whole heckuva lot!

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Stroke Machine is a full service “groove box”, synth, beat maker, 128 pattern sequencer and full on work station. To start, this machine certainly has plenty of very nice features and functions for designing multitudes of drum and synth sounds.

The built-in synth has two oscillators sporting the standard analog waveforms.
A built-in sample player which earlier had problems but is working much better today. The number of voices are limited only by your device CPU.
Modulation controls for frequency and ring also allowing quantized automation of the sounds. Multi mode filters, white and pink noise generators are here too.
The tone generators run to a transient generator, and another multimode filter.
There are four effects busses and about eight sound FX. Routing, LFO, ADSR or ADBD envelopes with variable slope, and more. Much more, (linked below) the list of features is substantial.

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Next is a 128 pattern/”kit” step sequencer and each pattern has room for twenty four (12 perc and 12 melodic) sounds, and tracks with many common parameters like Tempo, Swing, Measure, mute, solo, etc.

Also featured is a detailed note editor, modulation automation, and quantize. Like I said there are lots of bells and whistles. I can’t list everything completely. Check out Franke Musicfor all the details.

They say loading, arranging, and so on is done intuitively and quickly.
I don’t fully agree with that and find much of that aspect of this app to be anti-intuitive with some things being in places I wouldn’t have instinctively expected. Nevertheless it’s all there and its working.

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Problems with Stroke Machines early iterations had been plagued with debilitating bugs and missing key features. A somewhat rough start leaving many to feel like they bought a half baked beta with huge potential. This seems to happen a lot for some reason?
Thankfully Wolfram Franke has been on top of it all and addressing the many early flaws with considerable and affective updates.

Prior to the most recent update (2-19-2014) Stroke Machine was largely unusable. At least up to its greater potential.
That has all changed. Thank you Mr.Franke.
The sample player is working well now.
A new “subdued” color scheme option is installed allowing the user to replace the original color nightmare resembling a plate of vomit from a multi colored yarn doll.
I like the the new color scheme a little better. It feels like it takes some of the over crowded impression down a notch or two. Still, its pretty crowded, but with improvements made to the rotary or linear orientations and how they respond to user input is better.

The FX generally are all decent, serviceable for what they are intended. Navigation, buttons or sliders and dials still on occasion fail to respond requiring some additional touches.
Changing to a different kit of sounds throughout the arrangements works great now.
Using Stroke Machine with Audiobus has gotten better, and more stable. Inter-App Audio hosting is supported.
MIDI clock sync, and virtual MIDI have been added.
AudioCopy for performance and recordings, and AudioPaste for samples has been added.
Adjustable latency settings are now included.
Generally a large amount of fixes, and new additions have brought Stroke Machine up to speed. It inspires customer confidence seeing the attentive actions of this developer. Kudos there.

The multi range keyboard is nice, but it’s just too tiny. I don’t know how that can be addressed considering the lack of screen real estate to work with. I suppose it’ll have to do, and for the most part it will suffice.

The potential was always there, and now with massive improvements and much needed additional features, Stroke Machine is delivering.

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All in all, Mr. Franke thought well to offer a huge creative environment for us to use and do a great many things. Fun, useful and maybe at times still frustrating, Stroke Machine is not kidding around. This ambitious app may have had a bumpy start, but today it is a powerful, stable and inspiring machine. Not yet perfect, but definitely one to seriously consider picking up.

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