In My Process

These are iOS music applications I am currently using.

Addictive Pro – Synth of the year?

Addictive Pro Developd by VirSyn

Available in iTunes App Store


It’s hard to not “squee” like a fanboy whenever I see something new from VirSyn. They just don’t disappoint with their high quality, user friendly, powerful and affordable products. Addictive Pro (not to be confused with the awesome Addictive Synth) is yet another outstanding offering from this top tier developer. 

Addictive Pro is a ‘hybrid synthesis algorithm’ based instrument with wavetable spectrum synthesis of up to 12 oscillators, with a virtual analog, noise spectrum, FM and ring modulator synthesis engine.  Further refinement of the sound is had with its well emulated classic analog filtering. A mouth full, I know and we are just getting started. 

Part of what makes this so great is the familiar or intuitive user interface. Start out easy with the ‘easy control’ to begin your trip. Two large customizable X/Y touch controllers dominate this first screen separated by the 4 major randomizable control sections; Wave, Mod, Arp, & FX. Tap the dice for one or all and receive something new and likely unusual. This will get you started very fast with no fuss. It’s also pretty entertaining to roll the dice. If you don’t like what you get, tap the parameter die again for a new roll. Repeat as necessary. Don’t give up too quickly though, you just might end up with something unexpected if you take some time to dig down and start tweaking specific pieces. Explore and you will be rewarded.


When you start to dig in you will likely start with checking out the tabs to the right of ‘easy control’. Here on the wave a, wave b, spectrum a, or spectrum b tabs you will find some real meat to bite into. Draw on the wave or spectrum to make broad or fine adjustments. Change the harmonic content from a wide selection of presets. Select the base set of harmonic partials. Set and configure oscillators. Or hit the randomizer again to roll the dice for something new. Need help? All screens have a “?”(Help) to tap that (as shown in above screen shot) will briefly describe each parameters behavior. More detailed instructions can be found at the developer website, linked at the top of this review. 

Each parameter field has some form of a menu to open. As shown above, touch the “Configuration” box to bring up the options for that parameter. Wave a, and b can be wildly different and further mapped out sonic realms can be explored and designed in great detail. The Stereo Width and Fatten are two nice parameters that should not be ignored. The ‘shadow oscillators’ and stereo impact can be manipulated for a delicate or brash effect. 

The virtual keyboard is pretty standard with programmable key and scales. Aftertouch controls can be assigned and routed. Adjust keyboard size, lock it etc. I think little need be explained here? Pretty standard stuff. 


The Mod section is where things get fun. 9 banks of modulation options with general base value controls and further detailed controls are revealed when touched and selected. Assign, route and edit values for modulation. LFOs have 6 wave form options, phase and delay rates. ADSR, Analog Filters and more can be found for a powerful set of modulation tools. 


I just wanted to show the Mod section without the “?” Help turned on. 

The Arp section has the usual and excellent VirSyn arpeggiator but with a added twist in Addictive Pro. It’s a 4 part polyrhythmic arpeggiator. This is very cool. Basically a 32 step sequencer with 4 separate parts, or ‘tracks’. This is a special feature in my opinion, for any synth. This is an amazing way to create grooves and melodies with intricacies not commonly provided. Each part can have a different clock or pitch with a step offset to make rich sequences. Individual run switches that when selected are always in time. Each part also has its own “Quick Edit” set of parameters to customize the sound. It’s really a remarkable feature with huge possibilities to explore. Plus you can record right here in the app. 


Most synths have FX of mediocre quality. VirSyn doesn’t skimp on the FX like other do. Each of the 7 FX banks sound very good. You won’t get a better reverb unit that is built in to another synth. When VirSyn says “Hi End Reverberation”, they aren’t over selling. It really is hi end. Not quite as hi maybe as a stand alone dedicated reverb app, but still very nice. All of the FX units are well done, and don’t sound like last minute cheap add ons. 

To sum it up, Addictive Pro is a highly capable, powerful synthesizer packed with all of the tools and parameters you need to make just about any type of sound. A sophisticated hybrid, wavetable oscilator synth that is stable and complete. Supports Core MIDI, Inter-App Audio, Audiobus 2, Abelton Link and more.  If there’s only one iOS synth to buy so far this year, it’s Addictive Pro. Short of a remarkable new release from another developer I’d call this the Synth of the year! 

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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. 

Convoluted Spectral Filtering

3 Incredible special effects apps combine to astound us!

Big tough words right? Well, I’m serious. I’ve had some time to really sit and dig in to 3 relatively new effects apps from 3 of my favorite developers. Time enough to discover that there’s not enough time to discover it all.
Individually, each is simply marvelous in their own right, but combine them and you have a massively exciting audio trilogy of sound effects goodness.

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apeFilter by http://www.densitygs.com

IMG_0570-0.JPG AltiSpace – Convolution Reverb by http://audio-mastering-ipad.com

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csSpectral by http://www.boulangerlabs.com/products/csspectral/

These incredible effects apps each have uniquely outstanding qualities that by themselves would be fantastically satisfying and hugely time consuming.
Plenty of joy will come from each one, offering loads of creative experiences.

It’s when they are placed together, working in harmony through Audiobus, that they stand together like a trio of god-like rock star band mates ruling the heavens of audio special effects. Special effects gone totally bananas.
Choose your Input > Effects > route and run them all into your favorite iDAW (or Output) app to capture the sonic sundae.
Typically I use AltiSpace in the middle, between aprFilter and then csSpectral, however this combo is not only excellent but also demanding on your device. I’d not recommend anything less than iPad 4 and preferably iPad Air. Depending on your device and needs, 512 latency should be fine.

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I load up my sample with apeFilter and make initial filtering adjustments. apeFilter has excellent sample and frequency control both backward and forward which can be manipulated in real time, any time.
The interactive GUI is perfect for controlling up to 36 peaks filters frequencies. Packed with high quality common filters (Lo/Hi and band pass, notch, and Hi or Lo shelf) and some post effects like delay and compression apeFilter is perfect for shaping your samples.

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Don’t forget the spectral grid where you can finger paint your way through the pitch space using the 4 compilers. Try it out and you’ll see.

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Next I have AltiSpace Convolution Reverb in the effects part of the chain. This is the first stand alone convolution reverb unit for iOS. In case you’re wondering what a convolution reverb is, it is a form of reconstructing the reverb effect of other reverb effects units. Taken from actual impulse response recordings or real world acoustical reverberations emulated digitally. It’s a lot of complicated math I won’t pretend to understand, it’s just really good. AltiSpace recreates some of the best reverb units made.

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Something you might notice that’s very different from algorithmic reverbs is the convolution reverb doesn’t have all those parameter controls you might be used to. Controls like tail, width, and swirl etc. Instead of tweaking various parameters, you just select a different IR or impulse response. With 250 loaded IRs there’s no shortage. Plus you still have basic parameter controls including some EQing and a super cool reverse option. I love the reverse part.

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In the last or output spot I use csSpectral. A Csound based multi effect processor. This thing is amazing. Nearly every parameter of each effects unit can be randomized and automated. There are 7 FFT (fast Fourier transform) based algorithmic spectral types. Including a Phase Vocoder, spectral blur, spectral re-synthesizer and more. There so much you can do with any one of these and you’re still only just getting started with this app.

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The 12 total variations of the DSP effects bring a truck load of sound effects goodness to the table. Basically there’s 3 variants each of the 4 effects units.
Multi-Mode Filter, Stereo Glitch Delay, Micro Cutter, Phaser Reverb, Modal Resonator, LoFi Delay, Bouncer (Cutter), Ball In The Box Reverb and more. Each have something special to offer. csSpectral is a big scary beast.
It’s just too much fun to play with sound in this.
Recording and editing the resulting samples are a cinch.

There is no rule you need to follow here. Like I said each app stands alone with its own greatness. I just happen to think altogether they make an impressive team.
It’s all going to be in how you use them, but the capability is there. Only the users themselves are responsible if they end up having a disappointing experience.

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.

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.