Sequencers

Sequencing and Specific Arpegiator Apps

DrumPerfect – App Review

DrumPerfect Is Made By Marinus J.G. van de Molengraft
Available In The iTunes App Store

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I admit it, I’m no expert on drums. I’ve always gotten by just fine with various digital emulations of many drum machines.
You don’t have to be an expert drummer to know what sounds unrealistic or unnatural.

The aptly named DrumPerfect is the first iOS app made to truly emulate the human drummer and recreate natural sounds.

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DrumPerfect delivers a simple environment to sequence your kits with up to 16 samples, and 64 patterns. 4 great kits come packed in to start you off. You can also import your own samples to custom build new kits. Also included are some pre-made patterns to get the ball rolling and the juices flowing.

The step sequencer has some common and unique parameters to adjust that relate to human capability. Hits can be entered by step, or recorded live via tapping them out on the velocity ramp pad. The ramp pad is a little small, but responds well.

Every single note or strike in the sequence can be adjusted and tweaked by the relative sliders. Make subdivision and time signature adjustment for each pattern, move probability settings between two different velocities over each note. Humanize, and simulate two handed play naturally. I mean its nutty how much control you have over each stroke. Link certain events or let them fly freely. It all makes for some intricate coordinated sequences or wildly unpredictable and chaotic madness.
No human drummer can play every instrument simultaneously. Skilled as some may be, there are just certain physical limitations. This is the first app to really nail down those realistic moments and nuances.

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When they say this has “extensive editing” it’s not an exaggeration.
The details available to dig into are vast. Despite all the different timings, tempos, left or right hand, volume, soft, loud, and various possible setting combinations made for each step, the patterns are played out preserving the differences throughout. This is ingenious and must be experienced to believe it.

DrumPerfect simply sounds perfect. Just as we hoped and expected. This is innovative development at its finest. Its ready to fit right in to any iOS workflow with Audiobus, IAA, AudioCopy2, Dropbox, SoundCloud, and AudioShare supported. MIDI start/stop and clock sync also round it out.

Where it matters most DrumPerfect delivers. Its about realism and natural sound. The interface leaves some to be desired. It looks a bit basic and could benefit from some adjustments and improvements. Especially BPM adjustments. I’d like a way to touch the BPM to adjust incrementally, or even plus and minus arrows would be an improvement. At the moment you either have to bring up the keyboard to delete the current BPM and type in the one you want, or tap it out yourself. I don’t think its a big deal myself. Its all functional, intuitive and serves its purpose.

Remarkable and recommended.

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.

Arctic ProSynth – Review

Arctic ProSynth is developed by: One Red Dog Media

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One Red Dog Media has been delivering excellent music apps for years now. Arctic ProSynth arrives offering a modern subtractive, 4 voice polyphony, synth, vocoder, arpeggiator, and sequencer all wrapped into one neatly designed package. Arctic ProSynth isn’t trying to be anything but itself. A powerful in your face synth that can get loud and rude. Like your crazy old ex, but this is in a good way!

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As you can see from the above screen shot the GUI is clean and uncomplicated. All parameters are tucked away in their respective categories noted on each of the buttons taking you to each screen. Moving between screens is fluid without delays. Quick and responsive, are good words to describe navigating Arctic Pro. Nothing flashy or gimmicky, but don’t be fooled. Arctic Pro has a lot of options available for you to create some big and complex sounds. The type of sound designing Arctic does best are big, brash, and fat.
It wouldn’t be my first choice for pads or delicate types, but that’s not what its about anyway. This is your goto synth for heavy, gritty and blasting sounds.

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To achieve these thick sound types Arctic Pro has 2 “Hyper” Oscillators for you to add increasingly dramatic “oomph”. These things take it up a notch that you don’t see a lot of elsewhere. With the adjustable ADSR envelopes, 2 multi-mode resonating filters, sub oscillator, and 2 LFOs with 3 wave shapes, independently sync-able destinations, and all the usual synth parameters with these unique Hyper oscillators, there is no shortage of creative possibilities. I’ve been enjoying using this to make some vicious bass-lines and leads. The usual scrolling keyboard is present along with a nice selection of scales to set.
I’ve only hinted at the specifications. If you want the full list visit One Red Dog Medias Website or check the iTunes App Store for more details.

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Want to do an arpeggio? No problem. Arctic Pro comes with a 4 octave arpeggiator. Nothing special on this page, but for simple arpeggios it gets the job done. If you want to really get into a detailed sequence, try the built in 4 track 16×4 gated step Sequencer.

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This will allow you to make some more complex arrangements with much more control over the notes and how each plays out. It should not be underestimated. It can be MIDI synced, and has multiple modulation destinations.

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A variety of FX are included for expanding further on whatever you can imagine. There are a delay, reverb, chorus, distortion with 6 types, phaser, 3 band EQ, and the killer vocoder. The FX in general are functional, but not exactly the best I’ve ever heard. To be honest I find the reverb and chorus to be particularly weak. What is cool about the FX is that they can be easily set in any order you like by simply holding the FX named button and then drag and drop. Choosing the order of course impacts how they will sound.
It’s the vocoder that stands out from the rest of the FX.

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Don’t try the vocoder with your built in mic, it’ll sound terrible. Plug in an iRig Mic or whatever you prefer, and then start using your voice to perform. Really, you gotta try it. Its a blast.
Speaking of performing, Arctic is well designed for just that. In addition to the adjustable keyboard you can choose to use the two X/Y pad. They can be routed however you like and add a lot of dimension.

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All in all Arctic ProSynth might not be the most versatile synth, but it is suited very well for those thick sounds. It gets big and loud like few others. There is always a place for a synth like this that specializes in doing something special, and doing it well.
It supports AudioCopy/Paste, Audiobus, and MIDI in&out! Inter-App Audio will be on its way soon.
Don’t let my observation of this being a distant choice for pads or the likes as Arctic is a fully loaded pistol ready to blow your head off in a way that just makes it a joy. We have seen far too many vintage analogue synth emulations or copies of things we have more than enough of. Arctic is different, and its the kind of different to be happy about.
I say get it. Why not? Different is good.
Available In iTunes

Here are some more screen shots.

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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.