Month: March 2014

Four Of The Best New Music Apps From Q1 2014

It is subjective for sure when anyone proclaims anything to be “the best” in any category. I’ve given this much thought and sincerely feel the following new “must have” music apps released in this first quarter of 2014 are: Sector, microTERA, iVCS3, and Sliver.
In a way this is also a group review in addition to praise.

Let’s start with microTERA by VirSyn

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VirSyn has always offered excellent synth apps. microTERA is yet another to get excited about. In case you don’t already know, wave shaping synthesis is a distortion synth style with finely detailed spectra; bringing a sort of controlled chaos.
This wave shaping synth is not unlike Cakewalks Z3TA. However in my opinion, this one has a better interface and also a superior arpeggiator. Sound designing is very strong with its 3 adjustable sine oscillators, 4 LFOs, 4 (EG) Envelope Generators each with 64 time/level segments, 16 voice polyphony and of course monophonic. Exceptional modulation customization with all relevant routing possibilities.
Also included is the 32 step programmable arpeggiator found in VirSyns other iOS synths.

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This synth also has a collection of outstanding built in FX.
The range of sound types that can be created are as wide as one should expect. The results are often even better and if you’re in a rush or whatever and just want something random just touch the dice until you hear something you like.
It doesn’t have any significant weaknesses and performs well with Audiobus, and IAA.

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Whether you prefer heavily distorted leads that bash through your ears or silky smooth pads that exude living personalities, microTERA does it.
Just another remarkable synth offering from VirSyn.

Next up is Sliver by Alex Matheu

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Here we have a soundscape maker with four by four real time, resizable clip based segments that, depending on your preferences, alter the imported audio. Or the preset audio samples as well.
Each of these 8 total segments or “Slivers” can be automated and placed however you wish.

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The filters, size, and FX are each controlled with independent X/Y boxes.
Since everything can be automated in real time Sliver offers some amazing fluid control of the textures. Scrub out new soundscapes with truly expressive results.
It’s basically a hyper creative playground for creating unique new instruments which you can also play out with the built in keyboard.
Sliver is endlessly fun and inspiring.

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Shatter up some new sounds with Sliver. Sample and resample. Record, copy, paste, and send to AudioShare. Sliver supports MIDI and Audiobus input.
I can easily see this innovative app being used to live trip-out all within earshot. Bravo!

3rd up, (and this is not in any significant order by the way) is iVCS3 by apeSoft

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apeSoft, makers of the incredible iDensity, iPulsaret and more, has gone and done something special with iVCS3. This is an emulation of the old hardware arguably made famous by Pink Floyd back in the 70s. This tops my “Holy S#@!” list of cool things.
This machine was largely responsible for the wild sounds and eerie textures heard in Dark Side Of The Moon. It was also seen in Pink Floyd’s movie/video “Live At Pompeii” where Roger Waters was exploring this thing’s sonic capabilities.

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iVCS3 was created in 1969 and is considered the first portable synth. Largely used as a sound FX generator (Dr.Who fans know this) without a keyboard, it was later expanded with a (KS) sequencer and (DK1) keyboard connectivity.
This modular synth is gorgeously recreated and emulated perfectly. That may just be my opinion since I’ve never touched a real one, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it anyway.

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This soft version is complete with not only all the original capabilities, but also loads of new modern uses for us to enjoy on our iPads; unlike anything Roger Daltrey could have imagined back in the day. Built-in dual samplers, MIDI, full Audiobus and IAA support, background audio, Dropbox, really just a huge list of features.
This even has 6 different reverb types including a spring convolution reverb, Quadratic Ring Modulation, delay, and noise generator. The features and specs go on and on.

All (or almost all) parameters are fully customizable right down to the color of the knobs.
The same old-time twist and plug routing exists such as the Trapezoid envelope controlled by a virtual joystick, and the modulation matrix with BattleShip-style pin placements instead of cables. So much to see, do, and hear with iVCS3!

It can be a little confusing at times, but there is a full instruction manual included within the app to guide you on your journey. A spectacular “Must Have”!

Last, but not least is Sector by Kymatica

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Kymatica is another one of my personal developer favorites. You can always count on something innovative coming from this guy. We all know and love his AudioShare app and AUFX series, and now “Sector”!

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Sector is a 32 bit sound engine, Stochastic, sample, slice, sequencer with markov-chain connections.
A 32 step sequencer with adjustable routing and wild probability sample, and slice order or chaos.
Creating glitches, and bizarre time warped sequences in Sector is crazy cool and fun.

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It’s not all just about flipping a coin to see what happens, there is also full standard sequencing control as well. Just tap and map out whatever sounds right to you. Countless musical possibilities abound.
It never gets old.
I think the sporadic randomness is the best part, but all together Sector is a mind-blowing new app that defines innovation.

Sector will have a built-in recorder soon, and of course you can bring your own samples in via the Open In function from other apps like AudioShare. Support for Audiobus and IAA are currently available now, with more MIDI connectivity coming soon.
Awesome!

To wrap this up, you may have noticed a slight trend with these apps. If not that’s ok. I see each if these as being a great representation for the innovative nature of their development.
We have loads of common emulations and even new things that, as great as they are, don’t really push things very far from what most think of as being conventional. iOS music is not just an interesting way to explore making music and having fun doing so. It is an opportunity unlike no other to find ways of being extra creative with the apps that can be made, where they otherwise can’t be.

If you want some new music apps that offer you huge musical inspiration, fun, and a different creative experience, then these are 4 of the newest and best. There are of course others, and there will be more. Check them out. Support great development.

A few music apps to keep an eye on.

I have a bunch of apps that I’m sitting on waiting for some updates to come.
I’m sure a lot of us share this dilemma? Apps that we got and for whatever reason can’t or just won’t use them. The reasons may be arbitrary, but to each individual they are important.
Still there are a few I have sitting on my iPad that I see having potential for excellence.

Usually I’d just delete a high potential app that I can’t or don’t want to use. The 3 I still have installed are each something I think can be very good. Unfortunately at the moment and for reasons I’ll explain when I get to the app specifics, they are missing key elements or have flaws making them (fair or not) little more than a virtual paper weight.

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VOSIS
Voice Of Sisyphus Image Sonification. By Ryan McGee
This is really a unusual and creative synth app. Simply put it makes sound based on a picture. You load a photo then touch and drag on it to hear the sound that VOSIS translates from the greyscale pixel data. Interesting no?
It has basic synthesizer parameters like ADSR, some filtering, and so on.
Multi touch, reverb, image adjustments relative to the sonic properties, cutoff, and other parameters are included to bring photos (and live video!) to audible life.
This innovative and just damn interesting synth is sitting highest on my list of potentially great apps.
It could use some stability improvement, LFOs, and allow deeper routing parameters to modulate things. Basically I’m saying I’d like to see more traditional synth tools added for more control over the sound.
It supports Audiobus now which is a big move forward. I’d also really like to see IAA input supported.
All in all VOSIS is already capable of doing some cool things. Almost there.

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Xynthesizr By Yuri Turov
Mr. Turov sent me a copy of this app a while ago. I was a bit preoccupied and couldn’t get to it when I had hoped to. I wish I had though.
This oddly spelled app is a sleek 32 step matrix sequencer, synthesizer with generative properties. Highly musical and strait forward in design.
This iPhone only app (works but not native to iPad) is easy to use and instantly pleasing. It has most of what one might need to quickly tap or draw out some beautiful melodies.
It has a 32 bit float sound engine, MIDI, AudioCopy/Paste and support for AudioShare, SoundCloud, email, and iTunes File Share.
Its a stronger app than what I had initially expected. The developer is very attentive and clearly eager to make this something everybody will want to use.

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Although it has Audiobus support its missing IAA support. It also only can be used in portrait mode. Add supports for those, allow landscape orientation and make it iPad native so it can fit in more common iOS workflows would do the trick for me. Fingers crossed.

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MultiTrackStudio By Giel Bremmers
This is an ambitious new iDAW that by looking at its specs appears to be what a lot of folks are looking for.
16 Stereo tracks, automation, numerous effects, sequencing, editing, and mastering tools. Its also packed with a bunch of built in instruments. Synths, drums, sound FX, and emulated instruments. It’s got a lot of good things going for it. Edit by piano roll, score, drum, audio etc. Comprehensive MIDI support, ACP, iTunes File Share and the list of features goes on looking quite impressive. But…..

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…..MTS regarding routing IAA input apps suffers from one of the worst workflow designs I’ve ever had the displeasure of trying to use. It supports IAA but not Audiobus. Could be a big deal for those without iOS7.
The way routing IAA instruments is done here just doesn’t make any sense. No problem with routing IAA Effects though. For some reason its designed so you must create a MIDI track in order to be able to select any IAA audio instrument. This is far from intuitive and it doesn’t always work as expected.
Several times I followed the instructions so I could get an IAA instrument to connect with MTS and all I got were the apps internal (MTSi) instruments. What the f…. ?
So frustrating! I tried and tried to find a comfort zone with this app so I could start recording and seriously explore this app, but the routing is so frustrating I just stopped. I’m not exactly a rookie here, I know how to operate DAWs. I have all the iOS DAWs and none of them are this painful.
It’s very difficult to appreciate this app when just getting started succeeds only in causing fits of rage.
Its a real shame too. It looks like it can do most of what I want it to.
Until the workflow is redesigned to be legitimately intuitive I just can’t say whether this is good or bad? So it will sit in my “Potential” folder until that day comes when MTS is a pleasure to use rather than a sources of frustration. That potential is surely there.
One to watch out for.

These are just a few that I think have potential. Obviously its subjective and you very likely have some of your own. I’d be curious to hear from you, so leave a comment sharing your thoughts about another app you think this way about.

DrumPerfect – App Review

DrumPerfect Is Made By Marinus J.G. van de Molengraft
Available In The iTunes App Store

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I admit it, I’m no expert on drums. I’ve always gotten by just fine with various digital emulations of many drum machines.
You don’t have to be an expert drummer to know what sounds unrealistic or unnatural.

The aptly named DrumPerfect is the first iOS app made to truly emulate the human drummer and recreate natural sounds.

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DrumPerfect delivers a simple environment to sequence your kits with up to 16 samples, and 64 patterns. 4 great kits come packed in to start you off. You can also import your own samples to custom build new kits. Also included are some pre-made patterns to get the ball rolling and the juices flowing.

The step sequencer has some common and unique parameters to adjust that relate to human capability. Hits can be entered by step, or recorded live via tapping them out on the velocity ramp pad. The ramp pad is a little small, but responds well.

Every single note or strike in the sequence can be adjusted and tweaked by the relative sliders. Make subdivision and time signature adjustment for each pattern, move probability settings between two different velocities over each note. Humanize, and simulate two handed play naturally. I mean its nutty how much control you have over each stroke. Link certain events or let them fly freely. It all makes for some intricate coordinated sequences or wildly unpredictable and chaotic madness.
No human drummer can play every instrument simultaneously. Skilled as some may be, there are just certain physical limitations. This is the first app to really nail down those realistic moments and nuances.

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When they say this has “extensive editing” it’s not an exaggeration.
The details available to dig into are vast. Despite all the different timings, tempos, left or right hand, volume, soft, loud, and various possible setting combinations made for each step, the patterns are played out preserving the differences throughout. This is ingenious and must be experienced to believe it.

DrumPerfect simply sounds perfect. Just as we hoped and expected. This is innovative development at its finest. Its ready to fit right in to any iOS workflow with Audiobus, IAA, AudioCopy2, Dropbox, SoundCloud, and AudioShare supported. MIDI start/stop and clock sync also round it out.

Where it matters most DrumPerfect delivers. Its about realism and natural sound. The interface leaves some to be desired. It looks a bit basic and could benefit from some adjustments and improvements. Especially BPM adjustments. I’d like a way to touch the BPM to adjust incrementally, or even plus and minus arrows would be an improvement. At the moment you either have to bring up the keyboard to delete the current BPM and type in the one you want, or tap it out yourself. I don’t think its a big deal myself. Its all functional, intuitive and serves its purpose.

Remarkable and recommended.