Updated Review

Periodically previously reviewed apps will see significant updates. As often as I can, I will update my review of it.

Turnado – Review

Turnado
Developed by: Sugar Bytes

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UPDATED REVIEW 5-26-2013
Just a little one, but Turnado now supports landscape as well as portrait.

It sure would be nice if there were a really good multi/real-time live effects unit with tons of modulation parameters and full customization. If only I could find something like this that does a good job on my iPads…
Wait! What’s this? Well, here it is! “Turnado.” That’ll do very nicely.

A massive live effects rack focused more on tripping out beats, but just as awesome for any sample to mangle.
This thing is ridiculous. Insane. Massive. Insert your favorite exclamation of joy . Easy & packed deep with very interesting effects of all kinds.

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This cavern full of effects fits nicely on the iPad in portrait view. Understandable at first look. Not overly complex. Its deceptively simple, with a wild multitude of adjustable parameters to lose oneself in a bottomless pit of effects possibilities. I mean this thing is deep!

Getting started is a snap. Just tap the presets menu and select one, or tap the dice ( die ) to randomly generate 8 different FX that you can control simultaneously with either the 8 associated effects knobs, or the 4 X/Y pads controlling 2 FX at a time correlating with those knobs. Select a factory sample, loop it, and just boogie with the 4 pads live. You can also drag FX units from the list of 24 professional grade algorithms, and drop in whichever slot you like. Great also for quickly replacing something.
Turnado is immediately satisfying and crazy fun. This is only the beginning though. Beyond the easy start, you can dig way further into each of the effects to make some very cool sounds. This is modulation tweaking paradise.

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Some of Turnados features:
Turnado supports Audiobus input and effects slots. Import your own samples via ACP (audio copy paste), iTunes File Share, and music library. It is also compatible with “Jack”. Full MIDI support and clock sync. Adjustable buffer down to a speedy 64! Background Audio capable. Its all ready and waiting for you. There’s way too many specs and features to list. Visit Turnados Web sight for all the details: HERE
As good as the factory samples are, nothing beats your own.

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Loading from the many FX carefully designed presets that fit pretty much any occasion is sweet for a quick run. Where Turnado really shows itself off is in the individual FX “Edit” screens. You’ll notice that each of the FX units have a little “Edit” button on them. Go ahead, tap it!
Whammo! Adjustable parameters galore. Welcome to the modulation candy store.

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Now you have all the pieces that make the effect live and breathe. You can easily end up in a vortex where time stands still with the amazing amount of sound options here. Imagine it, tweak it, and experiment with it all. I’ve spent many hours in this screen creating numerous presets of my own. There is so much to discover. Once you find and hear what you like save it to call up from the user list.

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The portion of the screen where all the editing is done can feel a bit tight, and small. No problem, double tap it and it zooms in. The zoom can also be disabled if you wish.
The FX are pretty amazing. As I mentioned already they are high quality, and focused on beat manipulation more than anything else. You’ll find numerous filters, slicers, loopers, wobblers, and so on. No worries if, like me, you would like to use Turnado for more than just beats. It is complete with excellent delays, and reverbs to boot. Sugar Bytes thought this through offering so many FX types, styles and options.

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They created a fantastic controller called “Dictator” that can control each of the 8 FX knobs and countless parameters with a single slider. This is a real treat and leads to some monstrous sound designs. Again, the Dictator is customizable and offers lots of preset configurations. Its unique, powerful and just plain crazy.

I can’t find anything terribly serious to complain about. The only issues I experienced using Turnado on iPads 3&4 were with the edit screen. It has during playback caused unwanted skipping or stuttering with each touch of that screen. A few times when I was really pushing Turnado hard by working all the FX at once, I temporarily lost audio. Only one crash on my iPad 3. These could be a problem in a live performance, not so much in your studio. Its early yet for the iOS version of Turnado.
I don’t expect these to linger. Sugar Bytes is quick to make fixes as demonstrated with a recent update already fixing some minor bugs. I’m not worried, and it doesn’t effect my feelings on this incredible app.

Highly recommended! Buy Turnado from iTunes HERE

You will definitely have lots of fun.

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Cubasis – Review

Cubasis By Steineberg Media

Another iDAW from a big name maker joins iOS.

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UPDATE 11-25-2013
Cubasis now supports Inter-App Audio. I’ve tried it out, and it’s working very well. Only problem I’ve had was with assigning the TC-11 synth, it fails to open with Cubasis running IAA. I don’t know if if it’s a problem in Cubasis or with BitShapes TC-11? I suspect it’s likely on BitShape?

I’ve had some issues (unrelated to IAA) where I’ve attempted an all MIDI project, and the drum track I applied kept going out of phase after Mixdown. Real weird. Everything sounded great while playing the project in Cubasis, but as soon as I mixed down the project to master it, the mix down version keeps losing parts of the beat. It’s a pretty frustrating problem when after all the work is done and sounds good only to find it’s ruined when the project gets mixed down. It’s only happened when MIDI was involved.

UPDATE 7-1-13
Cubasis Version 1.5
A new synth, new drum loops, *track freeze, bug fixes, and a fun new bug. The recent update to Cubasis comes with a couple notable new additions. The Micrologue, a fine emulation of an analogue synth of yore. As if we don’t have enough of these already, but hey, it’s a nice addition at least. Its a simple 2 oscillator synth with all the standard controls. Nothing fancy, but you can make and save your own creations. It sounds ok, and in some instances not so ok. I mean it clips and pops here and there when playing it.
*Track freeze is now an option for tracks where the Cubasis instruments are used. A nice CPU saver that can come in handy.
There’s also the addition of numerous new midi drum loops to choose from. Many are quite good. Others are pretty standard. They’ll do in a pinch, I like them mostly.
On the down side a nice new (and for a moment scary) bug was introduced. Using a Cubasis instrument to lay down a riff, melody or whatever, when I double tap the clip from the track it is in to activate the note editor sub screen I hit quantize. The whole thing deleted instead of quantizing. Blunderful! I mean, wonderful. UNDO, recovered it each time, but its a pain in the arse.
There is also a problem sometimes with Cubasis refusing to upload a .cbp project file to Dropbox. No problems with .wav or any other supported file type.
Still no automation? What the hell is the deal here? I really hope its on the way very soon, I would have much preferred automation over another tired analogue synth emulation. Its not that I don’t appreciate the new loops and synth, its just those are not what Cubasis needs right now. Fingers crossed for next time.

UPDATED May 27:
Cubasis version 1.4 arrived finally. Supposedly the “UNDO” malfunction that destroyed many users (myself included) hard work, has been fixed. Has it? I don’t really know yet. I’d like to trust that it has been taken care of, so time will tell.
They also added MIDI clock sync, but I’ve heard from a few very reliable sources who are much more adept regarding MIDI than I, that it doesn’t work very well.

UPDATED REVIEW May 16:
SteinbergMedia has announced that they have submitted Cubasis V1.4 to Apple. This updated version specifically mentions that the UNDO problem resulting in data loss has been corrected. Numerous fixes and other improvements round out what looks like a significant update.
After Apple approves V1.4 Cubasis owners will be able to install it. I am honestly a bit weary, but it should be safe to use again soon. Fairness dictates giving it a chance, so I’ll assume the best.

UPDATED REVIEW May 7:
I had been happily working with Cubasis for a while now. I really warmed up to it. I felt confident in its design and stability. Despite my intial skepticism about there being no manual “save” function, I trusted that Steinberg had made sure that its auto save would be safe and reliable. I mean; nothing is more important than a project being saved.
Today all of that changed. I was working on a project, & it was going very well with no hints of any problems on my iPad 4. I spent days to get to the point where I was near completion. While putting the finishing touches on the song, I moved a single part in one track that I didn’t like. So no problem right? Just “Undo” right? That is what its for right? I touched “Undo” once (as I have countless times over the years never once having a problem in any other app) & without ANY warning Cubasis flipped out, and deleted the entire project. Redo didn’t work at all. The contents of the project vanished! Gone! Unrecoverable!
I have heard from a few people including a friend who had the same experience previously. I was alarmed of course, but I didn’t really feel great urgency and continued using it despite being warned. Clearly I didnt fully understand them. Well now this catastrophic bug just bit my head off. “Undo” should never globally delete the contents of the whole project. NEVER!
In the 4 years I’ve been working with a huge variety of iOS music apps, none has ever failed me to this degree. Crashes were about as bad as it ever got, rarely would any data be lost, and never have I seen a project murdered so completely. Not until this. It’s the kind of bug that I must report. It’s pretty important. If any app might potentially cause a total loss of work due to a bug, then it fails to inspire trust in the product as is. Some might think, “oh, he must’ve done something else” or “that had to be operator error?” NO! I promise that’s not the case. I have a full understanding of how “Undo” is supposed to operate. Im up to date with everything installed. I know how to use these apps and devices. I know what I’m doing. There is nothing mysterious about the cause. This is without any shadow of a doubt a huge problem within Cubasis. A monumentally upsetting failure. If you have experienced this, you probably understand just how upsetting it is.

No confidence in the current state of Cubasis. For now, I DO NOT recommend buying Cubasis, and warn all who are using this app to stop immediately if you are concerned at all with your work remaining intact. I’ve never suffered a greater, or more disturbing failure with any app before of this magnitude.

Original Review:

Steinberg Media is well known for its many contributions to the music world. A developer with a grasp of what it takes to make something special.
Based on the desktop software Cubase, they delivered Cubasis for the iOS platform.
Many heads spun out of control with eager and wide eyes when Cubasis hit the App Store. I couldn’t help but get a bit excited myself.
I debated buying it for some time, and of course tried to contact Steinberg for a review copy. Many many tries, until finally weeks later they responded, but had run out. Seems they had already given all copies away along with their press release.
Prior to obtaining my own copy I had only a brief encounter with Cubasis on a borrowed iPad to look at for about an hour or so. That didn’t exactly inspire me to spend $50.
Weeks past by, and I finally, accidentally (See my post: An Ever Changing Process) bought Cubasis.
Oops.

Well, I can’t undo that so I figured I’d make the best of it and find a use for Cubasis.
First thing that encouraged me was the slick user interface. So quick and responsive. Good looking too. I felt right at home in Cubasis as if I had worked with it many times before.

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I really was enjoying the workflow quite a bit. I still am. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I felt so at home so fast. Was it really made to be so intuitive? Perhaps? Then it dawned on me. Cubasis is really a lot like previous iDAWs I had seen and worked in many times already. I have done this before with other iDAWs that have been around a while. Not to suggest Cubasis isn’t designed to be intuitive, it is.
The layout is clean making it very easy to remain in a steady workflow without numerous screens or drop downs to sift through. Something I’ve missed when using my primary iDAW Auria.

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Using Cubasis with Audiobus has been the most comfortable experience I’ve had so far. They did a remarkable job with making Cubasis and Audiobus distraction free. Every instance I had was reliable. No crashes, no lost recordings, no broken connections. It simply works. Bravo.
In addition to the excellent Audiobus integration, Cubasis has an equally smooth virtual MIDI function. Connecting my favorite synths has been a piece of cake. More to be pleased with. Still using AudioCopy/Paste? Its supported for both import and export. So are iTunes File Share, Dropbox, and email export.

* I don’t use any MIDI hardware, so I cannot offer input on how that behaves. I would expect it to be well done?

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There are many high quality instruments and loops included to choose from in both audio and MIDI format. I couldn’t find any instruments to be lacking. They all sound really nice. Each have an attack and release slider to adjust your preferred sound in the track you place it in. No violin though? Whatever is missing shouldn’t be any problem. Simply connect whatever virtual MIDI compatible app with the desired instruments to Cubasis and assign it to which ever track you want. The adjustable scrolling keyboard works as expected. It has a row of 10 Chord buttons above it. Each of the 10 chord buttons can be edited and is specific to the track its used in. Delete the track you made custom chords in, and you delete those custom chords with it. No complaints there. Switch to pads or keys with a button tap.
The pads are customizable and have variable velocity. Tap the center of the pad for a big hit or around the edges for a softer strike. Assigning instrument chords, or drums to the pads is made easy. Another kudo.

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If you import a sample to a track it can be edited by a double tap to the waveform. That will bring up a sample editor tool taking up the bottom half of the screen. Tracks are still visible and can still be scrolled through making it easy to keep track of what you’re doing. Trim, reverse, set fades in or out, and save the edited file to the media browser. Make a mistake? No problem the multiple undo and redo buttons are there at the top of the screen on the tool bar just in case. I might add that when you undo or redo a nice message appears confirming what was done.

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If you want to edit MIDI or recordings of instruments packaged in Cubasis, the same double tap will bring up a key editor. Individual notes can be edited and rearranged. The velocity can also be adjusted. A robust quantize feature will help keep it all in time.

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All the editing, performing, recording, mixing and arranging throughout is crisp. No delays or screen jumping. Putting together a song including audio recordings works so seamlessly its hard to not want to use Cubasis. Everything is smooth and pleasant. Until you get to the FX, and mastering part. In short, you can’t really master anything here. The EQ is a 2 band prank with no depth. A less than average compressor, limiter are of no significant help.

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The FX choices are many in number and appear to be a complete collection. However when you use them they are a disappointment. They sound cheap and half baked. Some worse than others, like the Reverb. Its horrendous. I’ve heard better reverb from tin cans. The Chorus is minimal and weak. I could go on and on, but ill stop by saying, Steinberg can do much better.
At least the mixer is good for setting pans, & volume levels. There are 3 FX sends for the overall mix that can be leveled at each track individually or not used at all. If you do want to use the FX in a track you can have up to 3 inserts per track. Finally, you can mixdown to M4A, .wav or MIDI.

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Overall Cubasis is great to work in, but not so great to finish the work. Its features, & design are similar to many other iDAWs already available at half the price. It looks great, sounds good, a joy (I really like making first drafts here) to use, and a flop to polish it all up at a high level. Considering the total FX fail, no automation, and that you can do the same things in apps half the price, I can’t say this is worth $50. Its good, just not doing anything that sets a new watermark.
To be fair, its early for Cubasis. There may very well be many improvements and features on the way? They might take Cubasis to the next level some of us expected, but have yet to see? I don’t know. I’ve bought many apps based on potential that was never realized. So I am skeptical.
If this was released a year ago, it would have been more impressive. Since my aforementioned primary iDAW arrived with FX, sonic capabilities light years ahead of anything else on iOS and full automation, Cubasis misses the wow factor by a wide margin. I would consider this the better option if it is intended for use on iPad2.

For more details on Cubasis please visit SteinbergMedia

Purchase Cubasis from your iTunes App Store HERE

Review based on use with iPads 3&4.

UPDATED 4/16/13

Today Steinberg answers weakly (though I’m sure not directly) to a major concern by improving its selection of Cubasis mastering options. They added a 4 band Studio EQ, and a Limiter.
The new “Studio EQ” is definitely an improvement over the shelf EQ. It sounds OK, and is better than nothing, but doesn’t really impress me very much. Then again I’m spoiled by Aurias FabFilter ProQ.
I am very glad its now part of the Cubasis package though.
The new Limiter is fair. It serves its purpose at a functional level but raises no goose bumps. Neither are by any means appropriate for mastering. Not in my world. Its a step in the right direction and shows that Steinberg is paying attention to customers needs. Even if they are still holding back, offering mediocre solutions. I can only hope they will put a real EQ, Compressor, Limiter in Cubasis someday and improve the other subpar FX as well.
I hoped for automation, but it didn’t come. Not yet. Will it ever?
These things may come later, or not at all? For now Cubasis is still a neutered but well groomed breed with a few new tricks, leaving a lot to be desired.

Vio – Mini Review

Square B Vio created by Square B

Updated: May 1st 2013

Vio now has Audiobus support. Landscape is now supported and advanced features are visible by default. Some other improvements have been made with stability and the interface. I don’t know about you, but I’m really glad for Audiobus support. This app can be loads of fun, but now its more convenient and useful. A cool app for sure!

Vio is the first app that made me briefly believe I could actually sing. I can’t, but Vio does an amazing job with transforming my terribly tone deaf vocal efforts into perfectly tuned crooning.
Mostly Vio effects whatever audio is put through it in unusual, but cool ways. With the “Advanced Settings” enabled you can make sure its all in tune with more options for key and scale.

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Visually, Vio is pretty though simple. As you can see from the screen shots there are a few different shapes to choose from. Additionally there are several unique “Sounds” to choose from. They each have a unique quality, but some sound much like others with subtle differences that become more obvious through touching the screen, pinching and dragging around.

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Vio turns your iPad into one big X/Y controller to interact in real time with whatever audio its capturing. The sounds or effects, range from deep reverberated space, to closed in, modulated, vibration, and robotic sounds. They are good FX for not just singing but for any live audio you might want to spice up. Experimenting will reveal entertaining and practical results.
The built in device mic works fine, but I’d recommend using a separate microphone like an iRig Mic.

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Yes, Vio has Audiobus support coming for the “Input” slot in its very next update! It’s already shown in the Audiobus input apps selection.
Id have liked to see Vio with support for the “Effect” slot, but sadly not yet. Using it while recording from your preferred “Output” app is effortless. If you do not wish to take the bus, Vio also has DropBox, SoundCloud, AudioCopy and iTunes File Share to move your Vio recordings. I love how something as beautifully simple as Vio can be such fun and inspiring.

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Fun and useful, Vio is available in your iTunes App Store

Borderlands – Review

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Borderlands Created By: Chris Carlson

Updated: June 2 2013.
Borderlands was one of those apps that showed huge potential with great innovative design. It was one I had purchased because I believed in it and really bought the promise of updates. Unfortunately those promised updates to bring vital functions to make this great app live up to its potential. Functions like AudioCopy/Paste and or Audiobus. They should have been added months ago.

It’s not often I will show much interest in music apps that are shipped missing critical components leaving a rather inconvenient to use product. Borderlands is so very unique and designed with such a pleasant user interface, I can’t ignore its brilliance.

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What is Borderlands? Where are the controls or virtual knobs and sliders? What it is, is a gesture controlled granular synthesis instrument. No knobs, sliders, or much of anything except a clean interface with a minimalist list of function buttons on the top of the screen. Everything is controlled by you and your hands.

Load audio files (this is the main problem I’ll touch on later) onto the screen and they appear as waveform snapshots. You double tap to produce “clouds” which are then what brings the audio to life as you sculpt grains of sound. Double tap the cloud again to bring up its specific set of controls. How you move, pinch, spread, zoom, throw or swipe will determine the sounds it generates. Don’t want the cloud or just done with it? Swipe it off the screen to delete it.

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Further control over the audio is done via the top of the screens buttons or icons. These manipulate the grains direction, the grain windows such as Sinc, Exponential, Random and so on control the behaviors. It’s a beautiful experience and fun to experiment. I recommend visiting the website HERE where you will find information , news, and helpful tutorials.

Borderlands is well made to suit live performances, as well as instrumentation for music productions. Turn on the “Gravity” function to enable accelerometer control to add to the fun. While the sample rate is a bit lower than I would prefer and the latency is high, it still sounds really good.

It’s early for Borderlands and what we have today is just a taste of what’s in store through further development as time goes on. The biggest problem with Borderlands is sharing. Importing is limited to a iTunes Borderlands specific playlist you must load and sync well in advance of use. A very cumbersome and dreadful way to import your own samples. If you’re not near your computer with iTunes and want to add something you just made, its not possible at this time. No Audio Copy Paste, No iTunes File Share, No Dropbox, No Audiobus. I’ve found these missing features to be very problematic, as well as terribly inconvenient. You can record, but pretty much only have the options to share that by uploading to SoundCloud.

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Now hang on, I’m not bashing this. I’ve corresponded with Chris Carlson over the past couple months several times. He is doing all of the development himself in his limited spare time. Consider that please. Additionally like you and I, he has a life with many things requiring his attention. Borderlands today is not what Borderlands will always be. He is working diligently to bring in new features, many improvements, and expanding its capabilities. This cannot be rushed if it is to be done right.

Improving audio quality is one thing high on the list. Midi options are planned. Audio Copy Paste, & the AudioShare App SDK is being looked at for implementing shortly. Even better news is he is working on Audiobus Output support. Which contrary to intuition is the routing of audio in to Borderlands to capture. That is far more complex than Audiobus Input which just sends audio.

Borderlands is special and developed by one massively creative person. Limited today, but with a little more time we can expect big things to make the experience far more enjoyable than it already is. This is the kind of creative app development that deserves support. I feel good about having spent the money. Almost there.

So all things considered I rate 3.5 stars. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a great app, but its painful to import your own audio and honestly I wouldn’t use the playlist method of importing. Really this is a 5 star app just temporarily stuck on 3.5 pending the inevitable improvements. You can bet I’ll be adjusting that appropriately the instant those arrive. And they will arrive.

Audiobus – Review

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Audiobus

Developed by A Tasty Pixel and Audanika.

FINALLY! Monday December 10th iOS music starts taking a huge leap forward.

Its been a long time coming, and just about everyone making music with iOS has been eager for the Audiobus arrival. The wait ends (12-10-12) and a new era of streamlined iOS music production begins.
Am I hyping a bit? Yep. I have been not so patiently waiting for this. I might even say dreaming of this.

Audiobus is simple in concept. It certainly isn’t nearly as simple to engineer.
It allows compatible music apps to play with, through, and record each other.
Just select the app or apps Input for a synth, another as an Effects unit, and lastly the Output goes to the app doing the recording. Animated arrows will indicated an active connection. Easy. That’s it. At least that’s all we need to know. It just works.

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There are not a lot of apps ready to go yet, but you can be sure the list of apps supporting Audiobus will grow fast. As it does and more are on the bus, the need for AudioCopy / Paste will equally dwindle. Sorry ACP. The SDK will eventually become public for all developers of music apps to implement this critical tool. Some highly anticipated apps like Auria, Audulus, EchoPad, Magellan and many more will be coming. Inside Audiobus is a handy list of apps currently compatible.

Using Audiobus is fast and simple. Each app connected will have a small remote controller relevant to each apps function. Each app connected will have its icon appear on the remote. For example I was playing in GlitchBreaks as the input, and sending it to Loopy HD as the output recording. I didn’t have to switch apps to record, in fact that remote I mentioned was neatly tucked away at the bottom of the screen in GlitchBreaks (on the left side in Loopy) with a record button. I hit record, and started playing out some wild glitches. Loopy captured the whole thing. Each recording easily went to an empty track perfectly in sync. Piece of cake! Of course switching apps is just a easy, there’s a little button on the remote to switch between apps very quickly. So much better than copy paste.

For more on Audiobus such as detailed instructions, information, and list of compatible apps please click HERE to visit the website.

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Included in Audiobus is also a handy audio input. So you can use Audiobus to capture audio through a mic, and route it through effects and/or to an output. If you get stuck on your first day with how to work it all, there is a complete instruction manual contained within the Audiobus app.
That’s about all there is to it. Nothing could be finer. No lengthy complicated process to learn. This was made with great care to fit in to your workflow seamlessly. I’m sure unless you just stepped out of Tardis it won’t take much to sell you on Audiobus.

Must Have App Of The Year!
5 stars. Get it from iTunes App Store Monday December 10th. No looking back.

UPDATED 1-28-13

Audiobus now offers users a choice of latency settings. Now users can choose between 256 & 512 buffer settings. iPads 3&4 will default to 256, but earlier devices now default to 512.
Depending on your preferences or needs operating in 512 is likely to benefit most people conserving much needed system resources on all devices. Whatever you prefer, at least there is now an option for individuals to choose what works best for them.