Review

All apps reviewed live here

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! 

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. 

Electrify NXT – Review

Electrify NXT is made by Ingolf Koch
Available in the iTunes App Store

…A virtual groove box with drum loops, synths and FX”

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I’ll be honest, I didn’t get along very well with the first Electrify app. When I saw that Ingolf Koch released NXT I was a tad skeptical. After talking to some fellow iOS music artists who have experienced both the old Electrify and the brand new NXT, my eyes began to open. I got a little excited for this new and different follow-up.
When I finally had NXT in my hands exploring it for the first time, I understood why the folks I spoke to were so happy with it.
Electrify NXT is much different, and better.

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Electrify NXT is more than a sequel, it is a completely new app. Redesigned appearance, workflow, audio engine, and tools to provide a greatly improved product. A product that does its job very well.

Loaded up with hundreds of presets, samples, loops and effects, it has a nice FM synthesizer, 8 sampler drum kit, multi track sequencer, automation, sampler, and mixer. All utilizing the intuitive touch interface splendidly.

The polyphonic FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesizer has 11 algorithms and wave-morphing oscillators. Full envelope, and LFOs, all with easy multi-effects routing. Creating classic FM type sounds from scratch is a snap. Having this built-in synth is very good for quickly crafting sounds, melodies or sound effects. Use presets or create and save your own.
It’s a good, capable synth, but I wouldn’t say it has infinite sound possibilities. At any rate I’m glad it’s included.

“Nearly all parameters of instruments and effects can be modulated by envelope, LFOs or by real time parameter sequencing.”

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The drum kits can have 8 samples loaded to the 8 pads. Tap out your own beats using those pads, or just touch the sequencer steps you want them in.
The looper/slicer is indeed strong and is excellent for rearranging and redesigning your beats perfectly. Including a clip editor, creating custom loops is fun and simple. Just the way I like it. Beats and sampling made easy.
With over 1600 full loops and individual clips covering a wide variety of styles and sounds to choose from there will be no shortage of options for your sequences; or use your own samples of course.
Everything can be set to play in perfect sync and on the fly. Load the screen with blocks of samples and quickly activate or deactivate what’s playing and when however you like. No interruptions.

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As you can see from the above screen shot, customizing the background can be done. Piece of cake, but I’ve experienced some occasional crashes when using my own custom backgrounds. Going back to the default options resolved the crashes.

NXT offers a sweet list of several effects to use. Each effect is well done and can be modulated, tweaked and adjusted. With little x/y pads for each in the chain for some added convenience.
Usually offering FX in this quantity ends up with mediocre quality. Arguably the same could be said here with some, however they have a purpose and are functionally sound. I don’t think there’s much reason to complain. The variety of FX are very nice to have.

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Collectively all the tools offered in NXT are well done. Sequencing is easy. Sound design, sampling, arranging, mixing etc, it’s all incredible. I could go on and on in detail about the vast amount of pieces that make up NXT, but this would become unreadably long. That said, I encourage you to visit the developer website for all the details to fill in the blanks.

Clearly I like this app. It is however not perfect. It won’t be a hit with everybody. Much of whether or not one may like or dislike NXT has to do with individual workflow and preferences. Its a sequencer not a DAW. While it is intended for use in live performances, there are still a few minor issues that might make that scenario a bit unattractive at the moment. Little things that wouldn’t be too bothersome in the “studio” (where ever that may be) may be very problematic live. One example is when previewing a sample, I’ve had it fail to stop playing. That can really get in the way.
A “UNDO” option would be nice. Despite the recent update I’ve still heard some audio drop outs when leaving the clip editor. Not as much as before though.
The GUI has on rare occasions paused briefly during the switch from one thing to another. Such as from the main front screen to the mixer etc. On the other hand, there has been little to complain about in general.

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Updates have been steady and coming with bug fixes, various improvements, and new features. As is, this is still my favorite sequencer workstation and I think it’s the best new sequencer of 2013.
As time goes on it will only get better.

Where iOS workflow is concerned NXT is well rounded, but not yet complete without current support for Inter-App Audio. It does have integrated AudioCopy/Paste, Audiobus, and MIDI.

Electrify NXT is one ambitious groove box with a lot of power.

*Quotes taken from Ingolf Koch iTunes App Store description

Effectrix – Review

Effectrix is made by Sugar Bytes
Available in The iTunes App Store

“A professional multi-effect sequencer for iPad”

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Like many of you I have and enjoy Sugar Bytes other iOS apps. Turnado, WOW Filterbox, and Thysis each having some great things to offer.

Effectrix is uniquely it’s own breed. While it does contain similar effects found in their other apps (minus Thysis) it is not just another effects app.
The 14 “intelligent” effects are thrown onto a sequencer matrix for some unusual and sometimes perfectly chaotic looping sessions.

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Fun is an understatement. Sugar Bytes does have a way with creating interesting and useful apps that promote creativity. They also have a unique talent for making their programs ridiculously fun.
Effectrix is something to get blissfully lost in as you explore the infinite combinations of effects sequenced to your specific liking.

It’s a perfect interface for making sequences and easily applying any combination of the 14 FX, or all.
The familiar randomizer or “Dice” are present and accounted for.
Plus a large collection of presets that suit most any event. From weddings to witch burnings, and everything else.

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There is a bit less specific or detailed FX controls such as found in Turnado, but these aren’t stripped down effects at all. The most important parameters are there for your tweaking needs.
2 assignable modulation parts per effect allow quick and easy automation of the selected options. Full expressive control is standard.
Apply the effects on the matrix by touch, and or drag along its open bar through the width of it.
Easy!

Effectrix fits any iOS workflow with support for Virtual MIDI, Network, Clock Sync etc. Inter-App Audio, Audiobus, and AudioCopy/Paste all here.

Want to have some fun with music from your iTunes playlist? No problem, a integrated audio player and recorder come with Effectrix too.

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This app brings a new form of effects sequencing to the table and should not be missed. There isn’t a whole lot one can say about this. It’s just damn good.
Winner.

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