Month: September 2016

Cubasis 2 – What it should be

Cubasis Mobile Music Creation

Developed by Steinberg

Available in the iTunes App Store

I have had a love/hate, and often hostile relationship with early versions of Cubasis. I make no apologies, there were serious early version issues, missing critical features, and deal breaking problems. This is no longer the case. Cubasis 2 is not the same as those early versions that crashed, or deleted entire projects with a single ‘Undo’ tap for a minor correction. No, not at all. Cubasis 2 is now, what I expected then. A quality, powerful, and smooth iDAW I can rely on. That’s how I would describe it today. I trust this newest version and love it. 

In this review on the new and vastly improved Cubasis 2 I’ll cover the most relevant parts as I experience them. For more detailed technical specifications and complete list of features, I encourage you to visit Steinbergs website.

In case you didn’t already know, Cubasis is a mobile DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) with unlimited audio or midi tracks. It’s packed with many virtual instruments, samples, drum kits, and a decent suite full of basic audio effects. Of course that’s not all. Cubasis is truly packed with content, features, and options to help any creative flow get things done. One of the best things about this is it’s user interface. A very pleasant, smooth design that makes you want to use it. Digging through menus is not something to worry about. Steinberg really paid attention to making everything look easy. Don’t let that fool you, this is not a toy, and the appearance of simplicity is only a comforting mask that when lifted reveals great depth in a powerful workstation.

When it comes to working fast and efficiently, this is the DAW I find myself gravitating towards almost exclusively. Deep midi support is presented in a way that even audio-centric folks like myself, who sometimes resist using midi find it to be more intuitive than others. Those who are midi savvy will appreciate this ease of use as well as its reliability for even complex uses. Routing in general is super clean. Routing Inter-App Audio, or Audiobus is just as fluid as can be expected. 

Mixing looks and feels like you might expect. A simple tap on the Mixer button reveals the mixer board. If you don’t know already, it’s where you go to make  various adjustments to the overall mix, such as levels, pan, effects routing, and set automation read/write. 


Cubasis 2 now has a very nice Channel Strip. It’s a very welcome addition. Now controlling sound in detail for all channels is a option. Hi and Low cut off filter, Noise Gate, Compressor and Saturator tucked neatly into a always accessible pop up. You can really control your sound making the best possible mix. This was something sorely missing from early versions, but thankfully is currently a quality option included with the app. Some might say it’s an essential tool, and I would agree. In the past when there was no Channel Strip, it was simply put a real bummer. This is one more reason to take Cubasis 2 a lot more seriously. 


Another early version absentee was Automation. They’ve gone and added Automation (a few updates back actually) with complete set of easily assigned automation parameters. Finally I can really dig into things making specific tweaks throughout the track or global mix. Without automation it was very difficult to feel like I wasn’t playing with a gutted or lite version of a DAW. It’s such an important aspect and increases the overall professional feel of this app. I don’t know how anybody can take a DAW seriously without Automation as a standard function. I’m getting off track, but the point is it’s now an available built in option that many of us were baffeled by it being MIA in very early versions. I thank Steinberg for bringing this in. Better late than never, right? Cubasis with Automation, yes! 


Again like a broken record I will complain about the standard FX units. There are many standard FX included, and they have improved some. No you won’t have an awesome convolution or spring reverb unit, but for a few more bucks you can get an FX pack with much better versions of some of the built in FX and then some. With each pack you will get new FX units that are significantly better than average. I only have the FX Pack 1. The Stereo Imager came with it and I find it to be indespensible. They also don’t seem to be quite as big of a CPU drain as I expected. If you use them a lot in tracks, especially reverb units, you’ll want to consider using the Track Freeze option to help minimize demand on system resources. It’s not permenant and you can freeze or un-freeze whenever. Nicely done. 

A very recent addition is the Spin FX unit. DJs will appreciate this, but not limited to just them. It’s also pretty fun. 

Still just a 4 band studio EQ, but unless you want to do your mastering here it shouldn’t be an issue.The EQ is certainly good enough for general uses, but if you need more there’s always an app for that. 


Working within Cubasis 2 is very predictable. That’s a good thing. Double tap a waveform to bring it up below for a complete set of editing tools. Fix, trim fade, etc. If it’s a MIDI (or using included instrument and samples) track the same double tap brings of a fully functioning sequencer. Quantize, edit, and compose sequences with great ease. You won’t need much else. 

Cubasis 2 also has a minisampler with some included presets. This was another early feature that was missing. With the mini sampler you now have the capability of creating your own instruments in house. That’s very nice to have and opens up even more creative scenarios to explore.

Cubasis 2 is loaded to the gills with virtual instruments, drum kits, samples, and has a emulated analog synthesizer. The Micrologue synth is a basic analog style and has a growing library of presets. It also affords the usual synth patching parameters to the user to customize unique sounds. A new suite of 76 modern presets have been added. It’s a nice little synth, not bad. Not extraordinary either, but I like it and am glad to have it included.

The Microsonic (also included) offers hundreds of other quality sampled instruments. It now has some cool 60s era TAPE instruments faithfully recreating the iconic sounds of the time. 

Cubasis 2 has brought so many new tools, features and options. It’s hard to catch them all. Another new option is Real Time, Time Strech. Now you can load audio loops and have them match your mix perfectly. 

I’ll wrap this up, knowing I’ve left some things out but with a reminder to check the Steinberg site for all of the details. That said, Cubasis 2 is the new standard for mobile DAWs. It may not be perfect but come on, we are working on iPads after all. What it’s missing pales in comparison to what’s not and can almost always be made up for by another dedicated app. I’m a little sad to say I just don’t even use my AuriaPro much anymore and favor this much of the time. When it comes right down to it, what do I want to use that isn’t compromising my expectations of quality?  The answer is Cubasis 2. 

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Phonem 

Phonem is developed by: Wolfgang Palm

Available in iTunes App Store Wolfgang Palm has brought us so many amazing things over the years. His contribution to the iOS music scene may not be prolific, but it has been consistently outstanding. PPG Wave Generator and WaveMapper have both become staples in many artists mobile synthesizer arsenals. Now the powerful, vocal synthesizer, VST/AU desktop plug in Phonem has come to our devices. The App Store descriptions says ‘optimized to work pretty well on iPads’, but that’s just being modest. In my opinion it works very well, and is quite strong.


Originally designed to be a vocal synth, Phonem is not limited to just its initial intentions. It is a powerful synth with a huge array of parameters with infinite combination possibilities for modulating and routing. The engine proves to be highly competent and capable of a wide scope of synth sounds. 

With a large internal phoneme inventory, working with typical vocals, detailed text to speech, time corrected samples powerful excitation generator, and so much more you won’t be short on options to create incredible expressions. 

Phonem has a powerful matrix system of 19 sources controlling 40 parameters. A little on the small side but very easy to use. 6 envelopes, 4 LFos, 2 X/Y tables and just so much detailed programmability. It’s hard to find anything this can’t do with such a brilliant mod system. Just when I thought I found a limitation, Phonem proved me wrong. Thanks to the comprehensive help options, and a little reading time I’ve found ways to get any type of sound done. You can also easily import and modify wave tables or time corrected samples from WaveGenerator or WaveMapper. Or, create your own wavetables. 


Composing your synthesized text is as easy as sliding your finger. Touch and hold the spot and drag to create the sound you want in amazing detail. Missed something? No problem, it’s easy to fix and just as easy to add more. Change the slope, cut off, length and more. The ability to layer and intensify each source is no sweat. Abrupt or smoothly blended, turn the dials to get the right effect. There’s even specific dialect options among the many options. 


Thanks to the A/B button comparing edited sounds is simple. Check the Wave and make intricate edits. Pick individual parts of the spectrum or draw the frequencies. Everything is nicely placed on the screen making it so easy to work on certain pieces. Moving among the various modes to work with never gets convoluted. The redesigned browser of sounds can be filtered to very specific patch types.

There’s a nice delay and reverb unit built in. The programmable resonance filter is very well done and can bring flexible degrees of sound effects. If you spend some time with it you’ll find tons of new ways to create unusual FX. All around Phonem is a packed with quality and no detail is anything less than exceptional. 

There is no shortage of control which promotes a sound designing suite of massive potential. Connecting with Audiobus 2 or Inter-App audio works perfectly. I never lost connection or suffered any crashes. Phonem has been a real joy for me to work with, and I’m still finding more possibilities every time I open it up. 

Thank you Wolfgang Palm for another truly remarkable effort.