Author: smitematter

Cubasis 3

Mobile music creation system. By Steinberg.

Available from iTunes App Store. Universal app for iPad and iPhone.

There are currently several excellent DAWs for iOS to choose from and for many, picking the right one for their needs can be quite difficult. Everybody has their favorite and will swear the DAW they prefer is the best for you. But is it? I would submit that Cubasis 3 is the best choice of those available for just about any production type. It has a very friendly user interface, full automation, strong midi control-excellent for working with audio- and is very stable. For a tracking type like me, I consider Cubasis 3 to be the best for my needs. By the end of this review I hope to have helped you make up your mind.

There is more than enough room for as many audio or midi tracks as you could ever possibly need as it is billed as unlimited! However your device CPU is not unlimited, so eventually your iPad or iPhone will protest when you add more tracks and actions (like automations or FX) than the device can actually handle. Every track has controls for its level and panning, routing audio or midi, to do your channel selections, place insert and send FX. Assign Inter-App Audio instrument, or audio unit and complete whatever track automations you need. Take notes and make color changes too. No convoluted menus to thumb through, just a clean upfront way to work.

From a selected midi track, add your audio unit from the “Media” icon (top left corner), next select “Instruments”, then “Audio Units” to find your available Audio Unit apps. Double tap the desired unit and it’s plugged in and ready to go. You can view the select app small or large, with or without a keyboard. Full audio unit control on screen just like if you opened up the original app itself. Select routing from an audio or midi track to locate any Inter-App Audio options. This is, in my opinion, the simplest and cleanest way of routing IAA, Audio Units. Of course Audiobus 3 routes through Cubasis without any fuss. Not sure why I had to go through “Media” to get my Audio Unit or Audio Unit Midi to work right instead of through the track routing like IAAs but that seems to be what Cubasis 3 wants. I would like Audio Units to be chosen from the same place, but it doesn’t like it when I try that.

Cubasis 3 comes packed with a nice selection of onboard effects. They aren’t super high-end but do the job in most cases. If you want some better options you’ll have to purchase one or both FX pack add-ons. Those will be markedly improved options to have if you don’t use any 3rd party stand-alone Audio Unit or IAA effects apps for whatever reason.

I must say that despite my admittedly snobby POV regarding reverbs I was not disappointed with the FX pack 1 delays and reverbs pack. The RoomWorks SE reverb unit is especially nice and free when you register your copy of Cubasis 3 with Steinberg Media. I also find myself using the FX pack 2 a bunch. These are relatively inexpensive add-ons and are worth the buy. If you already bought them from Cubasis 2 then you do NOT need to re-purchase any IAPs. YAY!

For a few more bucks each there’s the 3 “waves” plug-ins but it’s better to buy the pack of all 3 rather than one by one. These are essential for any mastering attempts. A 10 band EQ should be in everybody’s hands so seriously consider the “Waves” pack if for nothing but the Q10. The other two are a Compressor, and a Maximizer both of high quality. You get all 3 for $10 (USD) as a package deal or they are $8 each individually. All three should become a natural part of your workflow when putting the final touches on a project and are as good as any app or plug ins available on iOS today.

New for Cubasis 3 is the “Classic Machines” bundle of drum machines spanning the 1980s. 12 drum machines emulating the most iconic and familiar beat boxes like 808, 909 etc. Its a pretty cool set to have for a relatively tiny price. Another add-on for a small sum is the Arpeggiator for the included Micrologue synth. Honestly I feel like this should’ve been included with the base package but it’s not expensive and comes in handy more often than not.

Like I said before Cubasis 3 has the best user interface for my needs and probably most anybody else. Everything is just a tap away and nothing buried in some sub menu where logic defies looking for. With a feature rich menu of useful tools for practically any job, Cubasis 3 is loaded. There’s too much to list but rest assured Steinberg didn’t let anything important go unresolved.

A 32bit floating point audio engine that meets professional studio standards with precise audio and midi editing capabilities. Full screen channel strip mixer. Time stretching, pitch shifting and hundreds of included loops, a mini sampler for creating custom instruments, a built in Micrologue synthesizer with tons of presets and just a whole heck of a lot more. It’s worth the price of admission as is, but a steal if caught on sale. This is what an iOS DAW should be and can be. A real no-fuss work place to bring all your creative ideas to life just how you want them.

FAC: Fred Anton Corvest Mobile Bundle

Bundle includes 5 AuV3 FX apps. For details Visit the FAC site.

FAC Bandit, FAC Chorus, FAC Envolver, FAC Maxima, FAC Transient.

FAC Bandit is a multi band FX processor that includes a Saturator, LoFi, and Ring Modulator. What really makes Bandit shine (and I consider this a must purchase to get the most of it) is the IAP add-on that puts Delay and Reverb FX on the table of options. Bandit has a DJ styled control interface allowing for up to three separate FX types. Each of the three bands has its very own processor, then you have a crossover control between them to fine tune and smooth the mix from one to the next. This set up makes for some amazing special FX combinations that blur nicely into one. This isn’t a full control reverb or delay unit, it’s a simplified multiband FX concept that I would use along with something like VirSyns AltiSpace Reverb or similar. For example, start with a Saturator then add a ping pong delay and finish the chain with a hall reverb and you have a very interesting and cool sounding result. Try with one of Thumbjams guitars and you’ll hear just how much depth is added. Of course you can use this within your iDAW and apply to a track or main mix. Bandit is easy on the CPU and works very well with others.

I liken Bandit to three FX pedals in one, and it really does work like one. I wish I had this way back when I was collecting various FX pedals for my strat.

FAC Chorus IS the chorus I’ve been looking for. It’s actually a chorus/flanger in one box. The characteristics like “thick” or “clean” determine just how subtle, powerful or dramatic the effect can be. Thick is for those heavy flange or chorus types that are extra warm and fuzzy. Clean is for more subtle but no less impressive effect. Change the LFO (sin, tri or tri/sin) for further impact on the sound design. Too often I’ve found other chorus FX sound far too unnatural even on their mildest settings. That is not the case here, thankfully. You can use it to create some wildly unnatural sounding effects if you want, but you won’t find yourself straining to make adjustments that do little to clear some of the sound fog when you want something to sound more clean. Clean is clean! I love the way it emulates cozy and wide chorus sounds as well as some subtle flanging effects when I want them. Turn to “thick” and things can get super chewy! This is the best of both modulated worlds.

FAC Envolver Is a MIDI/Audio effects unit that controls the envelope parameters of your synth or plug in MIDI instrument to effect the sound depending on which of the two circuits are selected. To put it very simply Envolver modulates your sounds in a number of very interesting ways by manipulating attack, decay, sustain and release parameters of the instrument being used. I got sucked into a time hole where everything around me disappeared as I explored Envolvers unique abilities to modulate sounds via the rhythmical trigger gate circuit. For example I had a single 4 bar recording and managed to turn it into an interesting arpeggio. The Envelope Follower circuit can be used to do some intriguing side chain ducking effects and much more. I spent several hours just goofing around with the parameters and discovering how powerful Envolver really is. It does a solid job with providing several ways to modulate things like panning or tremolo effects as well as chopping it into some sweet sequences. It is a great way to come up with some different and creative percussion or drum patterns using whatever audio is being run through it. Try running a simple drum beat through this and play with the dials to uncover something new. A lot is going on under the hood of Envolver, and I highly recommend reading the online documentation available in the app. It’s an essential read if you have any interest in using this incredible app to its greatest potential. You don’t know it yet but you want and need this. Envolver should not be overlooked!

FAC Maxima is a Limiter effect. This is an essential tool for finalizing any production and keeping precise control over your levels for each track, or more commonly the master mix. It’s best used in the mastering segment of work to get everything on the same level. Most limiters are tricky because you can easily damage the sound with unwanted artifacts, but sometimes you might want them as you never know when something unusual is lurking at extreme levels. That said, you have room to use this creatively as well as just for leveling control. What sets Maxima apart from other Limiter types is its simplified parameter controls that are very precise. We have all had those tracks that seem to have varied peaks and lows causing much frustration while trying to get it under control. That’s when a Limiter like Maxima comes in and can save the day by smoothing out the levels to the exact chosen dB. Quiet things down or make it loud, this is the tool you need to maximize your sound.

FAC Transient is a specific FX unit that targets the attack and sustain portions of your instrument. Normally this type of effect would only be considered for use on drum tracks. That is partly true here, but somehow FAC managed to create an all-purpose Transient manipulator that isn’t just for drum tracks. Transient can be used to make improvements to any track in your mix. Get results with the attack and sustain control to your exact needs. Try using along with Maxima. The two can combine to open more doors to control specific parts in a track that may have otherwise been overlooked like calming down a swell or making it more swole. Transient is another excellent tool for mastering that you didn’t know you needed. I wouldn’t suggest using headphones for these types of mastering projects, monitors will reveal sounds not heard when pressed against your skull or shoved in your ear canal.

Final notes.

All of these AuV3 apps allow for user-created presets to save for future use.

This bundle of 5 FX units can deliver pro results at an indie price. You get all five for what could easily be the same price of just one from other developers. If you are serious about making the most of your music, or just want a creative edge FAC offers this tool box of quality FX and processors at a comparatively low cost.

Extensive real time use tested with multiple tracks in Cubasis, MultiTrackDAW, and Nano Studio 2. Compatible with AuV3. Each app can be purchased individually or bundled.

Get Plugged In With Eventide FX For iOS

There are a significant number of excellent effects plug-ins available these days for iOS users, freeing us from the typically marginal quality FX found in most iDAWs. Eventide has added 3 more to the menu to choose from: Blackhole Reverb, MicroPitch, and UltraTap Delay. All can be purchased from the App Store.

Each of these plug-ins do a lot more than just their basic named concept. While each does well to master its primary function, it also can go beyond its simplistic expectations and offer the user a broader array of effects uses. All have a ribbon function for automating parameters and a load of preset options to explore.

MicroPitch (shown above) is, for all intents and purposes, a dual voice pitch shifter unit capable of excellent chorusing effects. It’s more than just its name implies. Same can be said for BlackHole-a reverb unit, and UltraTap, a delay unit.

Blackhole Reverb is an algorithmic reverb unit that artificially creates spacious and clean depth to your sound. It’s not exactly the longest reverb unit available for iOS but it’s way better than what you can find in most workstations (except Auria) or built in options for the common synth app. There is a really nice tail-reversal ability in the “Gravity” function that totally inverts the decay. This particular reverb unit is not as heavy on CPU as some others, which is nice, but comes at the cost of being less capable of truly enormous spacial reverberations. For the most part Blackhole lives up to its name and is a great option for those looking for a reasonably priced highly programmable reverb unit that won’t bleed your CPU dry.

UltraTap Delay is a fantastic 64 tap delay unit that goes beyond being a simple delay unit. While having the capabilities of some massive delays UltraTap can also morph those repeated taps into a uniquely modulated reverb effect by adjusting the “Slurm” dial along with the width and spread. Specifically, the Slurm dial blurs the spaces between taps to smooth out a delay modulated reverb effect. I really like how versatile this FX unit is. The “Chop” dial is a multi waveform LFO tremolo effect. Great for making choppy glitched out gated effects and creating huge swells. There are some really creative possibilities available to you with this unique tap delay unit.

MicroPitch is a dual voice pitch shifter and harmonizer that can add some meat to an otherwise pale sound. With its onboard delays this thing can bring out some wild slap backs and widened stereo sounds. I guess you could say it’s a sound “biggiefier”. OK, not actually a real word, but it gets the point across. Additionally MicroPitch parameters can be manipulated to make some very nice choruses or ghostly echoes. This one kind of surprised me a little. After exploring some of its presets and twisting some dials I discovered incredible versatility has been packed into MicroPitch. This is a truly impressive effects device. Easily can be a go to chorus unit to say the least.

All of the Eventide FX apps are stand alone, Inter-App Audio and Audio Unit AUv3 capable. Each also has a programmable ribbon feature for automating select parameters in real time. They all have built in help, and a great many presets. Of course, you can save your own presets as well. I recommend getting all three and exploring them in combination for some “out of this world” effects.

Eventide’s FX are now available for iPhone and iPad. Download from the App Store.

KAULDRON – Stir up some magic!

KAULDRON is developed by Yonac Inc.

Available in the iTunes App Store

Oh my-where to begin? I don’t have enough good things to say about Yonac’s latest entry into the ever-expanding and impressive world of iOS music. We all know (unless this is your first look at iOS music) about the incredible Magellan, Galileo, AirVox etc, and now on the heels of KASPAR they drop KAULDRON like a bomb (I mean bomb in the most loving way). If these synthesizers are any indication of what might be possible in the near future, then paint me in the dead center of the target with gleeful, outreached arms and keep dropping.

I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the overflowing nostalgia pool of available analog emulation synths. It’s not that I have anything against them, it’s just that there’s so many already and mostly all doing the very same things. I understand the giddy feeling for wanting to buy recreations of long-past physical synth icons, most of which you either can’t find, or cost way too much. I believe expectations are, or at least should be, much higher and KAULDRON (among a few others) stands out high above the crowd.

What we have here is a carefully developed engine that has vast range of tones. The three oscillators can combine for intensely driven power leads or fluffy and spacey pads. Oscillator two has an FM option, and the third has a keyboard track. A rather nice set of filters with envelope controls, and a VCA with two distinctly different attack curves to suit nearly any style. The Pink or White Noise both offer some flare and sound very clean. The Maximizer can be set with up to five voices to give loads of options when combined with the Drift and super wide spread. In all and just as Yonac says, you really only need minimal twists of the knobs to make powerful adjustments. Everything seems to have a massive range between 0 and 100.

The 2 LFOs have several waves to choose from, an envelope control, and 4 modulation banks to bring a little or a lot more life to the mix. Four target parameters might seem like a small amount of mods, but it shouldn’t be anything to stick ones nose up or scoff at. The amount of possible textures spring to life regardless of whether there were many more. It doesn’t feel or sound like there’s any shortages. Controlling selected parameter behaviors can be done on the Pads page.

These customizable X/Y pads aren’t just for the mod matrix benefit. Anything can be assigned to these responsive pads. Pads are pretty common sure, but not all pads are created equal. Some will drift as you release your finger or have some lag as said finger slides around the box. Not these pads. I love it, they are tight, and obedient. I can’t think of any setting they wouldn’t be perfect for.

The arpeggiator is combined on the same screen with the three FX units. A highly programmable arpeggiator with three modes and several program patterns are at your fingertips. Most synths have four or six programs to choose from so it’s very nice to have a much more robust set to choose from. Not the best arp unit ever, but also nothing I think can be called weak. Definitely better than average.

The three FX units (really four actually) are also above average for any synthesizer. The Chorus/Flanger can be set to one or the other. Both are clear and faithful.

The Delay does its job as it is told to and doesn’t talk back. BMP sync or have independent left/right times. It’s a Delay unit, I don’t think much needs explaining.

The Reverb unit is better than typical. Instead of a gradual size parameter going from smallest to biggest you get a selection of Reverb types. Each type from 1 to 7 having a specific Reverb size like Room, Hall, Cathedral, Plate etc. suitable for any need. You won’t hear wobble like echo at large and long settings like older lower quality reverbs. They don’t sound cheap or tinny which is very nice.

A quality set of effects for sure.

I saved my favorite feature for last. The “SPAWN2” or randomizer. SPAWN turned heads first in Magellan with its amazing ability to make usable new sounds more often than not. SPAWN2 is a massive improvement!

A combination of machine language, algorithms, and predictive artificial intelligence designed to make randomizing more like a living patch assistant. Never mind all the techy stuff, this thing is insane. Three foundation algorithms to choose from in expert mode. Cumulative-which create a reoccurring variation of the existing patch selected each time you hit the button. Persistent-will create a new variation of the current preset each time. More random than Cumulative. Lastly is Random, which does exactly that, totally random new patch will be born.

Using Persistent SPAWN with the Autonomy parameters all set to zero will keep the current patch you like but offer a whole new arpeggio pattern.

Want to get to it faster? Release the expert control setting for a fully autonomous randomizer that will still impress.

You can and should get lost playing around with all the settings in this crazy new SPAWN2. Everything it’s done for me has come out shiny and useful. Even when totally not what I expected at all. SPAWN2 is a new high water mark for future randomizers to aspire to.

All in all KAULDRON has amazing features, crunchy bold tones, spacious dimensions of sound and impressive stability. It’s redesigned sound engine is remarkably capable. This synth has a special quality to it and demonstrates willingness to bend to any need. It is another piece of critical evidence that iOS synthesizers can run neck and neck with the best. There’s many more bits and pieces I’ve left out so be sure to visit Yonac’s website for more specifics and a user guide to learn all about it. It is ready to fit into any workflow (IAA, Audiobus, AUv3, MIDI etc) fluidly.

If you never wanted another analog synth, or can only buy one ever again, then KAULDRON should be added to your collection or arsenal. No regrets, all love. Get it.

LayR – Multi Timbral Synthesizer

LayR – Multi Timbral Synthesizer is developed by Living Memory Software

Available from iTunes App Store

LayR is described as a “massively polyphonic, Multi Timbral Synthesizer” capable of up to 256 voices of multi layered and textured sounds for 64 bit devices. I was a little skeptical initially and expected less. I was wrong. LayR can actually do as it says it can.

Andy Bull created LayR somewhat by accident. He started out with something else in mind, not looking to create a synthesizer. After experiencing some disappointments with some of his iOS synths in a live stage setting, he ended up making something to meet his needs as a live performer. LayR was born, and here we are today able to enjoy the fruits of his labor. So much juicy goodness.

LayR launches with a clean, albeit dark, interface showing the general mix functions of whatever layers make up the selected patch or “performance”, as they are called. A performance is a collection of instruments which contain layers of synths. One performance can be as simple or as complicated as desired. The overall results can be astonishing, with layers coming and going in various states and times. There are a lot of excellent presets available that demonstrate the many possibilities and can be great templates to dissect and learn from. Overall it’s an exciting synthesizer that will satisfy.

Each layer is its own independent synth with 2 oscillators, each with their own shape and phase states that can be morphed, modulated and filtered. There are 2 ADSRs which can be looped from super fast out to 100 seconds, along with a 3rd ADSR controlling the overall volume. Both of the filters (LP, HP, Band & Notch) can be smoothed with a handy mini filter mixer. The 2 LFOs are well behaved and have several shapes to choose from. At first glance it all seems like a standard twin oscillator synthesizer, but that’s forgetting to consider the amazing depth of what can be hundreds of layers playing together in a giant cooperative audio party. You could easily spend days constructing elaborate performances. Pack a lunch.

It’s hard to explain just how much detail LayR is able to control better than the above screen shot. As you can see this is thoughtfully designed with a forward looking layer parameter linking tool. This will be indispensable when one gets ambitious, getting deep into greater numbers of layers with parameters that will likely need to be linked, and really helps with keeping the intended order together without needing to try and remember what was where or having to constantly switch back and forth to make sure certain layers have the same behaviors. Just link them in sets of parameter groups. My inner synth nerd did backflips when I first discovered this clever tool. You can also copy and paste one parameter to another.

The 16 step multi channel arpeggiator is quite robust. This screenshot (above) should convey how carefully it was designed to give the user a rich midi routing capability that works reliably. Up to 8 event tracks can be set up with their own synth layer, making for some very lively compositions. While getting acquainted with LayR I found some presets that were impressive and inspiring. Some had multiple synths of varied arp events, all playing together with the touch of a single key. Event notes are visible by the flash of the corresponding key as played by the arpeggiator assignments.

The in-app help can be accessed at any time should there be a need, so even someone new to multi channel arpeggiators can learn to create their own routes for their project with a minimal learning curve.

Getting back to the graphical interface, its design uses symbols relevant to each parameter control. Most experienced synth users should understand what they mean but it might also be a little unfamiliar to others more accustomed with text identifiers. Those not used to this will become best friends with the top right corner info button within the first hours. Eventually it becomes second nature. The scale and key can be set, as well as an option for a colorful keyboard if all black isn’t desired. The keyboard can be adjusted in size, range, scrolled or locked.

LayR has 3 sound effects; Reverb, Delay and a 3 Band EQ. The FX are competent and useful but not particularly noteworthy.

Inter-app audio and Audiobus are supported, but not AU. I feel like the lack of AU support is for a good reason. Might be because the current iOS AU systems can’t quite keep up yet with something so intensive as LayR. Perhaps that will change in the future?

I spent several days digging into LayR and found it to be a wonderful experience. Great sound, nice quality filters, excellent morphing and an overall magnificent synthesizer. It truly excels when put to the test of making many layers of timbres, multi channel arpeggios and wildly evolving soundscapes. LayR is no slouch by any means and should fit in everybody’s collection.

I highly recommend LayR. Be sure to check out the developers Website for a more specific feature list and links to helpful tutorial videos.

Massive Update April 20 2018 V 1.2

Audio Unit: LayR now includes a fully functional audio unit version with a dynamic user interface that adapts to the available screen space.
PDF Manual: The old help system is replaced by a comprehensive manual which can be read in-app or exported to your preferred PDF reader.
Improved User Interface: The entire UI has been given a modern facelift including pinch to zoom, double tap to zoom and fully labelled controls in the Layer Editor.
Instrument Mixer Drag & Drop: Instrument and Layer strips can now be re-arranged in the Instrument Mixer. Layers can be converted to new Instruments or copied between instruments with drag and drop.
MIDI Controller Mixer: A new panel that sports optional sliders for Channel Volumes and every MIDI cc that’s been assigned to the current performance. Allows users to perform live MIDI controller mixing in-app. Can also be used to query which parameters have been assigned to MIDI and in which Instrument/Layer they are located.
Arpeggio Sequencer: The arpeggiator gets a more descriptive name and some cool additions including new event types, new playback modes and the ability to set mode, speed and length per track.
Modulation Matrix: Modulation sources in the Layer Editor can now be routed to any destination.
Improved Oscillator: The oscillator gets Coarse/Fine tuning and “Fixed Mode” which decouples the oscillator from the MIDI keyboard. Also FM has been greatly improved with a new mode allowing modulation over the full audio range.
LFO Sync Mode: Keeps LFOs in all playing voices synced to the same phase as each other.
Wave Folder Pitch Adjust: The amount of folding is now reduced as notes get higher, this helps reduce aliasing artifacts that may be introduced by the folder when processing high frequency content.
Legacy Mode: A experimental option that keeps LayR’s engine to a fixed lower CPU usage, this will hopefully extend LayR’s lifetime for users with older, lower powered iOS devices.
Light Colour Scheme: An optional lighter colour scheme for use in bright daylight conditions.
2nd MIDI Input Port: For stand-alone app: A port which listens on all channels for MIDI Bank Select/Program messages, this port can be used to select Performance presets while allowing the other input port to use all 16 channels for multi-timbral use.
New Presets: A whole new bank of 36 presets by Sky Runner and another new bank dedicated to individual user presets.