Must Have

These are the iOS music apps I consider A “Must Have”

WOW Filterbox – Review

WOW Filterbox
Sugar Bytes

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Do you have a sweet tooth for wild filter effects and crazy modulation? Chomp down on SugarBytes’ latest iOS effects app, WOW Filterbox.

After SugarBytes brought us the clinically insane Turnado multi FX app, I wasn’t sure what to expect from them next. WOW arrived a couple of months ago, and turned my filtering effects cravings upside down. This app is drenched in all kinds of twisted awesomeness.
What is WOW? The question might be better put, what isn’t WOW? 21 filter types, 7 distortions (3 beautiful analog-emulated distortions), and vast modulation parameters all packed neatly into a slick user interface for full real time control.

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This highly adjustable, programmable filter FX app is bursting with modulation options. 3 independently programmable and controllable X/Y units allow 6 parameters to be run simultaneously, all manipulated by touch to alter the sound in real time.
Take your samples and in WOW you can make them sound schizophrenic to sublime. A new dimension of sound FX options that go beyond just simple effects and sounds such as: trance-style gated sequences, broad sweeps, beats, alien attacks, Oompa Loompas screaming in agony, talking 80s mannequins, worrisome wobbles, or whatever you can think of.
Fun? Oh yeah! Useful? Hell yes!

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Point is, whatever sample you start with can be so drastically modulated and filtered that it sounds like something entirely different. It isn’t a requirement, but it is what WOW does best. With so many parameters to mess with, the filter world is at your disposal.
No other app around today has this much filter and modulation power.
It all sounds great too. The app has clearly been well engineered to produce excellent audio quality. SugarBytes says the distortions have been carefully crafted to produce the best harmonics with “anti aliasing” for “high definition audio”. It can get demanding on early generation devices, but on iPads 3&4 it has behaved well for me.

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Ultra low latency of 64, up to a more stable 512.
WOW is Audiobus compatible, can also record in the app, and save in the internal files manager. AudioCopy/Paste, full MIDI support, Jack, iTunes FileShare, BackGround Audio, and more round out a deep features list.

For more details check out SugarBytes website.

WOW is also available as a plugin (via IAP) in Auria. If you already bought the WOW stand-alone app, you do not have to pay again to use it in Auria. Nice.

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WOW Filterbox is literally something that will make you say “Wow!”

The more I explore this app, the more I love it. There are plenty of factory presets to choose from, and the depth of complexity that comes with customizing your own sound is what makes this app a true marvel to behold.
I’ve found the interface to be very smooth and well made. There are times when, selecting an option from one of the drop downs, the text descriptions are tiny and I have accidentally selected the wrong thing. That might be a concern for exploring the app during a live performance; however with the option to create your own user presets, those problems can be avoided.
I’ve not encountered any significant issues, and recommend WOW Filterbox to anybody looking for a deep and interesting (not to mention fun) way to create great modulated, filtering effects at any level.

Available in iTunes

CubeSynth – Review

CubeSynth
Developed by: VirSyn
Available in the iTunes App Store

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I have to admit, I am a big fan of VirSyn. They’ve been delivering some of the best software instruments to desktop computers for ages. It’s their iOS entries that have captivated me. I’ll try not to “fanboy”, but holy cow! CubeSynth is fantastic. I’ve enjoyed VirSyns AddictiveSynth since it launch a while back, and I just didn’t expect them to drop this one on us. I’m so glad they did!

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CubeSynth is not at all like AddictiveSynth except for the fundamental features and the ingenious arpeggiator.
This is an additive synthesizer with a deep set of controls to morph sounds. A huge spectrum of sound capabilities await your touch to sculpt, tweak, and evolve dramatic and detailed soundscapes.
4 predefined sound sources (A,B,C,&D) independently controllable with their own draw screens, are where the magic happens. At least that’s a good place to start. There are literally thousands of parameters to be manipulated. With each of the 4 sources are a set of 6 controls you can adjust in extremely fine detail. Up to 512 adjustable partials per voice, numerous Wave Source tools, and options options options galore open up a universe of amazing synth sounds. This is a grand synth of massive functionality. Morphing done right!

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I’ve spent several days engrossed within CubeSynth. It could easily be a big time killer for anyone who loves complex synth controls.
When you open the Sound Source control screens you are presented with a draw screen to manage each if the 6 sound modifiers. Level, Pan Position, Attack, Decay, Filter, and Noise. As I mentioned this is also where you can select wave sources from various types to apply in any combination. Maybe I’m a bit odd, but I find this sort of control to be extremely satisfying.

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Control the harmonic or in-harmonic spectra, brightness, pitch, modulation assignments and so much more.
CubeSynth has 3 envelopes with 64 time/level segments. Again these are touch manipulated and impact how the overall sound morphs.
How each parameter behaves is very detailed and allow a range of short, and subtle to long, spread out changes. You could easily create a single patch that will take on its own life and direction as though its a song of its own by just holding a key or keys.
Like AddictiveSynth before, CubeSynth not only has an insane amount of complex details to control, but also a randomizer. Tap the dice and CubeSynth will make a patch for you. This can be very helpful when you just want to be surprised with something to build off of. It may take a few rolls of the dice, but something interesting is bound to happen.

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CubeSynth shares the brilliant Arpeggiator found in AddictiveSynth. Create sequences up to 64 steps. Each step has its own accent, tie, octave, and key setting. It can trigger single notes and chords with a general Gate, and Accent dials. I’m really glad to see that VirSyn left the arpeggiator alone. It has been my favorite arp among all of my synths. It just can’t be topped in my opinion.
Of course there are also a healthy number of preset arps, and synth patches to choose from. If you liked the dice for the synth, you’ll probably find them just as intriguing when rolling them to randomly create a new arp sequence.
VirSyn says in the app description the randomized arpeggios are “%100 usable”, but I kind of disagree. Many times I’ve rolled the dice and ended up with an arp that just made no sense at all. Sure there have been a bunch that miraculously hit the right spot, but far from %100. Nevertheless, it’s still a great function. Besides it’s more interesting to make something yourself. Isn’t it?

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We can’t have a synth and call it full featured without the obligatory FX banks. In many cases these are pretty generic and just tacked on other synths. Not CubeSynth. Each of the 7 FX are quality options. Not quite as detailed as what’s probably found in your iDAW, or stand alone FX apps, but very capable with excellent sound characteristics. Included FX are: A Hi&Lo EQ, Phaser, Delay, Overdrive, Ensemble, Chorus, and Reverb.
Except for the Overdrive, & Ensemble the FX each have a fair amount of adjustable parameters to fine tune the specified effect.
Reverb for example, has diffusion, absorption, tail delay, and tail stereo controls beyond the standard size and wet/dry adjustments more commonly found in most synth apps. Like I said, the CubeSynth effects all sound very good making them more desirable for use than most synths.

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Complete is really a accurate descriptor of this synth. MIDI, Audiobus, AudioCopy, and a built in recorder round out the list of useful features. Plus the keyboard can be programmed to a lot of scales and all keys.
I didn’t list every specification but you can visit VirSyn for more details and information.

Do I recommend CubeSynth? Yes! I can’t really recommend CubeSynth any higher. I’ve not experienced any problems or shortcomings. It hasn’t crashed on either iPad 3or4 (haven’t been able to try on an iPad 2 first hand, but it does work just fine on iPad 2) the only thing that made me scratch my head was when I was slowly moving a finger up a white key to manipulate the assigned modifier, the closest black key was triggered without ever touching it. Big deal? Maybe. Maybe not.
Inter-App Audio is not yet part of CubeSynth but VirSyn confirmed that it is coming.
!!***!!***!! UPDATE !!**!!**!!
CubeSynth now supports Inter-App Audio. As of 11-25-2013 CubeSynth and VirSyns AddictiveSynth both support IAA.
This is a must have synth. Great sound, great features, great variety. There aren’t a lot of iOS synths that can create enormous evolving soundscapes, rich pads, leads, and all things in-between quite like Cube.
Just get it.

Audio Reverb – App Review

Audio Reverb
Developer: VirSyn
Available in iTunes App Store

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VirSyn is no newcomer to high quality music software development, yet I was still caught by surprise when I saw they released a new stand alone Reverb effects app. Interesting timing. We just saw two others very recently.
Audio Reverb is very different. Most reverbs are algorithmic types that emulate various spaces and whatnot. In this case we have an Impulse Response type that is from real recordings of natural acoustic reverberations. Additionally classical algorithms are included to recreate their acoustical properties.
The combination makes for some of the most amazing and most natural-sounding reverberation effects. This is currently the very best sounding of the stand alone reverb app types.

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Audio Reverb is packed with a well designed collection of the most important adjustable parameters allowing massive design potential. VirSyn understands the importance of “Early Reflection” and full user control. Our ears perceive these early reflections and basically translate to our brain what sort of room is being heard. Is it big or small, or made of wood or concrete etc.
From those room sizes, and how frequencies are absorbed, to even discerning the materials in the walls of said rooms.
This is pretty dang important and if done right (as I believe VirSyn has here) is what separates good from great to the spectacular Reverb units.
How you adjust the “Early Reflection” parameters will have a big effect on the overall sound being recreated, and with much variety.
It can be complex stuff, and even subtle adjustments can impact what’s heard. With the quality of this app’s design, there are numerous possibilities to stumble upon, or seek out specifically. As complex as this is, don’t sweat it this app has hundreds of very carefully crafted presets to suit most any need ready for you.

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In addition to thoughtful attention to early reflection parameter details, Audio Reverb also contains a sophisticated Tail Equalizer. The “Tail Equalizer” controls frequencies contained in the early reflections and the reverberation tail. This is where you set “color” or “temperature” to a room. It does not filter the direct signal.
With the Hi/Lo shelving filters, and the LoMid & HiMid frequency peaking filters, including gain and resonance controls you can have any “color” or “temperature” you like. These types of filters are relatively common among reverb units, but there is something special about what VirSyn has given us in this app. It makes a difference you can really hear.

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It all comes together and becomes cohesive with the “Room Parameter” section of controls.
Often other iOS reverbs ignore things found in this section. In order to define the reverberation effect best, a well made selection of parameters to basically recreate a room or space is needed.
Tail Delay is directly related to the room size being simulated.
Room Size essentially moves the walls of the room in or outward. Setting the distance between the walls.
The Diffusion parameter controls the density of echos from the reverberated sound and the adjustable range is very effective.
The higher the setting, the more dense the echo is, and will lend to a more natural sound.
The often forgotten Absorption parameter is very welcome. It simulates the surface and air absorption of high frequencies. More absorption affects high frequencies making them shorter than low frequencies. A higher sound will die out faster as this is increased.
Tail Stereo and Reverb Time set the tail stereo width, and the overall length of decay from the initial sound entering the simulated room. An astonishing 100 seconds is the maximum time setting. Sometimes its like the sound just keeps going on and on further and further away. It doesn’t just end (unless you want it to and set a short time) or suddenly peter out in a coarse halt. Its super smooth, and natural. It is as if the sound continues infinitely beyond what you can hear. It’s a quality that adds a feeling of the sound being timeless, figuratively speaking. Really this sounds the most natural of all stand alone reverb options by a wide margin.

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Audio Reverb is of course Audiobus supported at the FX and Output slots. You can record directly to the app through your device mic or iRig Mic (any compatible mic), and is also complete with AudioCopy/Paste. iTunes File Share (Just being a little sarcastic)is also supported for some reason. Furthermore recordings can be uploaded straight to your SoundCloud.

Another cool feature of Audio Reverb is you can play your own music from your iTunes Library. Add some reverb effect to any song. Try Pink Floyd’s “GoodBye Blue Sky” with a cathedral setting. Nice!

After spending a solid amount of time with this and all other iOS reverbs, and testing extensively, I have found Audio Reverb to have the very best sound quality overall. It is flexible, reliable, and has no strange anomalies. This is exactly the kind of reverb we’ve been missing. It’s better than Auria’s Classic Reverb Pro by miles.
The added waveform graphic is not just colorful and appealing, but useful for a visual queue of what’s going on with the sound.
Instead of sounding like an effect laying on top of the sound (which of course is exactly what is happening), it seamlessly blends with it as if it were always a part of it. That’s the good stuff!
As great as this is, there’s some pretty big things missing. Notably there is no MIDI integration to be found as seen in the likes of AD480 Pro or AUFX:Space. That may present a problem to some. On the other hand if like me, you’re focused more on audio and using this through Audiobus, then no problem.
Another missing feature that I was really hoping to find upon first opening this app was no chorus or swirl type modulation. Maybe I am asking for too much, but I’d love to see something added at some point.
It could also benefit from a email option to share user presets.
Its been very stable in all my tests with iPads 3 & 4 through Audiobus, and with other demanding synth apps. This is a powerful reverb that doesn’t get in your face demanding power. I’m sure there is a way to over do it, but in regular to heavy use its not been a problem for me.
If you want a big, natural sounding reverb, don’t mind the lack of MIDI, and have $10 then you should probably get this.
I wish I had Audio Reverb a couple years ago.

AUFX:Space – Review

AUFX: Space
A High Quality Reverb From: Kymatica
Available Now From iTunes App Store

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Reverb is one of those FX that is found almost everywhere. It’s used in so many settings. From ambient electronic to heavy metal, reverb is in most any music. It’s not just an effect for music, but also something that occurs naturally in seemingly mundane places. Basements, cathedrals, auditoriums, arenas, and caves to name a few. It is often equated to vast space. Sometimes outer space, which is ironic as sound doesn’t carry in a vacuum. Sure that’s not literal when referring to reverb in terms of space with stars and planets, but it does represent the vastness that reverb can convey.

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So “Space” is a good descriptive word when we are talking about reverb. AUFX: Space, is the latest and the first in a series of effects units being developed by Kymatica. You may know of Kymatica from their other highly useful and quality apps like “AudioShare” “BitWiz” and “Gestrument” among others.
What the rest of the AUFX series turns out to include remains to be seen, but “Space” is a great start. Reverb and iOS have not had a long running record of high quality offerings. “Space” aims to change that going forward. Finally a stand alone high quality reverb app is here.

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AUFX: Space is a high quality 32 bit DSP reverb unit with enough adjustable parameters to shape or mimic countless reverb types superbly.
All the standard reverb parameters plus a few more are built in to Space. Spread, Damping, Pre-Delay, Wet/Dry, Scale, Gain, Room Size, Color, and both LoPass and HiPass resonant filters with Cutoff. Very nearly complete. I say nearly because it’s missing a parameter I’ve been seeking for ages in iOS reverbs; “Swirl” or “Chorus” of sorts. Not like a full-on Chorus effect, which I suspect will be offered later in the AUFX series, but a kind that adds a dimension of movement with the reverberations. Maybe it’ll come, but it’s a lot to ask for since it would add more power demands to an already efficient app. No need to over do it, but it would be nice to see for once.

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The numerous highly adjustable parameters I listed from Space have allowed me to make some fantastic-sounding effects that nothing (Aurias Reverb Plug Ins are the exception) in iOS has allowed before. Space scratches the reverb itch.
Deep, rich, warm, and expansive to short, cold, subtle and every effect in-between sound really nice. Unlike most iOS reverb options, which by comparison to “Space” sound very thin, cheap, and like they’re coming from within tin cans. They have been improving slowly, but this is a significant and targeted advancement. AUFX: Space fills a void (no pun intended) I thought might never be filled. I wish I had this 2 years ago.

FEATURES

Process hardware input/output or other apps through Audiobus (input/filter/output slots supported).
Ready for the future inter-app audio standard.
Fully MIDI controllable, including Virtual MIDI.
Background Audio.
Save and load user presets.
Comes with several bundled presets.
Record the result directly in app.
Email recordings or export to AudioShare audio document manager app.
Access user presets and recordings through iTunes File Sharing.

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Using this app with Audiobus has proven to be problem free so far as I’ve experienced on my iPads 3 and 4. In case “clipping” were to happen there is a thoughtful “limiter” function which can be enabled from the menu. It says it adds 10MS to latency, but I haven’t noticed it. You can also save your concoctions to call up later easily from the menu.

The U.I. is simple and uncluttered making usage effortless. Its just you and Space with nothing distracting. The way it should be. With the ability to record directly, run through all Audiobus slots, and MIDI including virtual MIDI, its ready for any project. Not to mention its already built with iOS 7s “inter-app audio” standard in mind and prepared for when iOS7 releases.
When this releases (could be sometime in July) I would encourage anyone who wants a simple yet sophisticated and excellent reverb option to pick this up.

EDIT: 7-23-2013
I wanted to add that I have been using “Space” with my iRig Mic to capture audio recording directly to the app. It was not only convenient, but really sounded great even through the iRig. Just holding on the recording from the menu brings up a option to quickly move files to AudioShare.
The launch price of $3.99 is a steal! Low price compared to others, but by no means is this cheap. Sure you could go spend $10 $20 or more for other stand alone FX, but you won’t get anything better than this.

It will be very interesting to see what Kymatica offers next in the AUFX apps series. I for one am very eager to find out. At any rate, this is a really great start!

Thor Polysonic Synthesizer

Thor Polysonic Synthesizer
Made by: Propellerhead Software

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Remarkable, beastly, outstanding, monstrous, unearthly, incredible, you should get this synth.
That was the easiest review ever. Not enough? What? You want me to elaborate?
Oh, alright.

Every time I see a new iOS synth I get very excited. Don’t you? Well you should. Thor is no simple or run of the mill synth. Its a port of course, but a port that still has stones. Instead of a single synthesis type, Thor has 6 oscillator types! What? Yes 6. Analog, FM Pair, Wavetable, PhaseMod, Multi Oscillator, and Noise. Its can make for some nutty but thunderous combinations depending on how you apply them to the 3 available slots.
Add to the incredible selection of synth types, there’s 4 filter types for 3 slots. Then there’s a whole mess of routing options and modulations to dig into. It is a mind blowing collection of options that can lead to some of the most creative synth sounds imagined. Thor is godlike.
Kind of getting ahead of myself here, so ill expand in the order of the interface screens next.

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The functions and parameters that all make up Thor being numerous and complex, are thoughtfully contained in 3 main screens with collapsible and expandable sections. It might seem at a glance like there’s too many hoops to go through in order to make an adjustment, but what’s the alternative? Ive seen some complaints about this. When you think about it and understand how much stuff there is packed into Thor, those complaints boil down to being just nit picky, and painfully trivial. If everything were visible without consolidating, the interface would be a big mess full of tiny buttons, knobs and itty bitty text. What Propellerhead did to keep everything neat, clean and accessible works out nicely.

First is the “Keyboard” screen.
Pretty strait forward and self explanatory. This is where the performing is done. Select Mono or Polyphonic with adjustable portamento. There are 2 assignable rotary knobs and buttons. Adjustable pitch bend, modulation, and strum sliders reside on this screen. The Strum slider is fairly unique to synths & works as you might think. Hold a key or keys and strum away or tap “Hit” for a stab. It all can make for some unique play styles when applied together during recording or performance.
Also on this screen is the “Assist” function which is used to select scales and keys.
It all comes together smashingly for a very satisfying experience.

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Next we have the “Knobs” screen. This is where the magic happens. As I mentioned previously, you have 3 slots to apply any combination of the 6 oscillator types. 3 filter slots for the 4 available filter types, a “Shaper” unit with 9 shapes, a mixer, and all the routing. Plus there are 3 envelops and 2 LFOs.

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You might think it could get pretty crowded with all of these tools, and if it weren’t for the “Expand” function to help control space it would be.
Each piece has additional options for waveforms, speeds, types, in the form of drop down menus neatly contained within each unit. The sound designing capabilities are astronomical. Nothing has been diluted or compromised here at all.
With so many synthesis types available to combine with one another it could seem like Thor is a student of many but master of nothing. That would be an error. Each type can be controlled in great detail. The WaveTable for example is loaded up with many wavetable types for you to select from. No you can’t make your own wavetable, but there’s plenty to choose from. The 4 filter types Comb, LoPass Ladder, State Variable and Formant can be used in any combination (like the oscillators) in 3 separate slots. How you combine and route each of these will offer some sonic dimension that few synths can approach. Thor’s FX units are Delay and Chorus, and pretty darn good to boot.
All of your Thor creations can be moved to or from the Reason version of Thor.
The over used “playground” description seriously applies to Thor in the most sincere ways. This is really not just a playground but more like the Disneyland of sonic realms.

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The 3rd and final screen is called “Routing”. Here we have a comprehensive matrix for some massive routing and modulation options. Tweak signal flow and directions of each parameter with fine adjustments to just about anywhere. Its a relentless range of depth and possibilities. You can be as complex or simple as you wish with your routing. Additionally a micro keyboard is always available on the bottom of the “Knobs, and Routing” screens for you to audition your creations.

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In addition to the matrix on this Routing screen is a 16 step sequencer. One of the more detailed I’ve seen in a synth allowing fantastic control over each note, 2 curves, velocity, gate, and step durations. Select the order, skip notes, change direction, and speeds etc its all there. Super slow 16/4 to light speed 1/64 speeds.

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Thor is a class act. This synth is ridiculously rich with features and capabilities. Obviously I’ve left out a lot in order to keep this all at a decent length. Check out the Propellerhead Software site for more details.
Thor supports Audiobus Input, MIDI, and background audio. It works great with my iRig Keys. There doesn’t appear to be any ACP support, and no built in recording. That will be a disappointment to those who still prefer to do things that way.

To sum it all up I’d have to say that Thor on iPad is a monumental addition to the ever increasing library of pro quality options being delivered to iOS. Thor is complete, playable, and insanely deep. Creating synth sounds with loads of character and life are just the beginning. -(*edit) In case I’m not making myself clear, the resulting sounds can be amazing. Ive been enjoying the strong sonic capabilities Thor puts in my hands. Making thick, evolving pads that breath are my favorites, but any types can be made and sound great. You get out of it, what you put into it.- With over 1000 patches built in there’s plenty of inspiring sounds to mess with, but building from the ground up is where its at. The tools are there, its up to you to make it however you like. Experiment and have fun with it. The only thing that bugs me is there’s no way to share custom patches by email, and the color scheme of GUI is drab to me. Then again I am color blind, so maybe its delightful to others?
This is the kind of synth that will keep you hooked and coming back over and over to design sounds like no other. Its behaved well for me on my iPads 3&4 with no stability issues at all. Its recommended for iPad 2 and up. Sorry iPad 1 owners.
It is a legend born from Reason and having this on our iPads is a dream come true. Synth lovers rejoice! At the time I wrote this Thor is selling for $14.99 (USD) and that’s a bargain for what you’re getting here.

Thor is available in iTunes HERE

Couple extra screen shots:

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