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Hiatus coming to an end!

Finally!

We have finished moving and are sorting through boxes trying to get settled in our new home. This means that I can finally get back to doing the things I enjoy. Making music, and writing about the music apps I like.

I’ll get back to reviews very soon. The only issue is that having been away for a couple months my back log has become scary in size. So many apps came and went while I was trying to figure out where the heck we were going to live, I just don’t know where to begin?

AltiSpace, Caramel, Crystaline, MitoSynth, B-Step, Dot Melody, Bird Stepper…and oh man so many others. Not to mention plenty of updates to several of my long time “go to” music apps. Plus I have some gadgets to review like the iUSB Port, iLoud…and if it ever arrives “JamStick” is is nearly on deck too.

Well, I gotta start somewhere. I suppose I’ll throw a dart and go from there?

I’d ask for requests, but for some reason very few of you ever leave comments. Must be too labor intensive or something? 😉

Stay tuned and thank you for the support. You have all been great, and I appreciate that immensely.

Clif Johnston needs to move!

Hello folks.

My friend Clif Johnston, AKA Mood481, owner of Apptronica magazine and Netlabel (which I’m signed to) is trying to gather resources to move him and his wife here, Seattle Washington.

Now I would love to see him living not to far from me (Tacoma) and having a fresh start up here in the great Pacific Northwest.

He needs your help though, as moving is no small feat with many expenses (tell me about it, I have 75 days to move myself, but not as far) and logistics to work out.

He and his wife are trying to raise funds to make this all a reality.
I copies his story and pasted it below, but here is his fund raiser page link as well. I hope you might send a buck or two.

The following is taken from Clif Johnston and his fundraiser page.
How We Got Here

Rachel and I left our home in Seattle almost 6 years ago after she first got sick and had to give up her business. We sold our house and cars to pay for the move to Kentucky, where we would live in the house that had been my grandmother’s. I had arranged to keep my job in Seattle, so the hope was that we could reduce our cost of living to make up for the loss of income, pay off her medical bills, and eventually dig ourselves out of the financial hole we were in.

Just a few months after the move, the virus in her heart struck again, damaging it even more, resulting in surgery to implant the pacemaker / defibrillator that keeps her alive. At that point she was permanently disabled, unable to walk more than a few feet without a wheelchair. And we were tens of thousands of dollars further in debt.

My company went through a rough patch in 2009, which led to a temporary pay cut for a few months, and the future of the company remained mostly uncertain until we were acquired in 2011. Our first trip back to Seattle happened in September of that year, almost exactly 3 years later.

A Glimmer of Hope, and Then…

During that trip I talked seriously with my boss about returning to Seattle, and it was decided that the company would move us back after the first of the year in order to avoid a Winter move. The night before we had to fly back to KY, we got together with the friends and family we had left behind and celebrated the fact that we would soon be moving back home.

Unfortunately, by the time Spring arrived, the company that owned the company that bought us decided it was time to drop the newly merged company, finally leading to mass layoffs in May of 2012, to include me.

Within two days of becoming jobless, the company asked me to come back temporarily to finish some projects. I was still laid off, but it was postponed until the project was finished. One project led to another, and my perpetual state of being almost laid off lasted for another year until I was finally let go in July of 2013.

Trapped in Tennessee

In November of 2012, we had moved to Clarksville, TN to be closer to Nashville so my wife could get better cardiac care and the weight loss surgery needed to take some of the stress off of her heart. The surgery had been recommended by her original cardiologist in Seattle and it took 6 years to finally go through all of the insurance BS and preparation to get to the point of an actual scheduled surgery date, which was set for the beginning of October, 2013.

The timing was very rough, because my job had ended, but we couldn’t take a chance of changing insurance because then everything would have to start over from the beginning, if the new provider even covered the procedure, which many don’t. I couldn’t look very far outside the area for work, because a move would restart the clock on Rachel’s surgery. And it just so happens that our insurance provider isn’t very popular in the South, which made finding a job very difficult.

A Little Help From Our Friends

Due to all of the inter-state madness, my initial request for unemployment benefits was denied, leaving us with no income. So in November of last year we put together the first FundRazr campaign to help cover the immediate costs of insurance, rent, and necessities. Our amazing friends, members of online communities, and even strangers came to our aid, raising over $4000.

We were able to make it through that rough spot due solely to the kindness and generosity of people who cared, most likely the same people reading this right now. If so, thank you so much. We already owe you more than any amount of money could ever repay.

My unemployment claim finally went through in December. The amount falls over $400 short of covering our rent and insurance, not to mention things like food, the car payment, car insurance, utilities, etc. On top of everything, the way our insurance works is that as of January 1st, everything is out of pocket until we reach our deductible for the year (which we haven’t), making the first few months of the year rough anyway.

Time to Pack It Up

We’ve survived so far, but there are no jobs here for me. Rachel is a lot better physically. Her diabetes is gone, she’s able to get around without the wheelchair, and she has so much more energy than before. That makes all of the struggles worth it, but there’s still a long way to go for her, healthwise, and for us.

We have a place lined up in Monroe, WA, which is an acceptable commute distance from the city. There are plenty of jobs I qualify for in Seattle, and I have tons of contacts and resources to help from the past 14 years. We just have to get there… but we can’t afford the move.

I’m looking for work in Seattle already, hopefully with a company that will pay some of the relocation costs, but there’s no guarantee and we don’t have months to wait around for the perfect opportunity, because we’re spending every day figuring out what we can sell to pay the rent and insurance.

Again if you can help please visit Clifs fund raiser page.

Thank you.

Four Of The Best New Music Apps From Q1 2014

It is subjective for sure when anyone proclaims anything to be “the best” in any category. I’ve given this much thought and sincerely feel the following new “must have” music apps released in this first quarter of 2014 are: Sector, microTERA, iVCS3, and Sliver.
In a way this is also a group review in addition to praise.

Let’s start with microTERA by VirSyn

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VirSyn has always offered excellent synth apps. microTERA is yet another to get excited about. In case you don’t already know, wave shaping synthesis is a distortion synth style with finely detailed spectra; bringing a sort of controlled chaos.
This wave shaping synth is not unlike Cakewalks Z3TA. However in my opinion, this one has a better interface and also a superior arpeggiator. Sound designing is very strong with its 3 adjustable sine oscillators, 4 LFOs, 4 (EG) Envelope Generators each with 64 time/level segments, 16 voice polyphony and of course monophonic. Exceptional modulation customization with all relevant routing possibilities.
Also included is the 32 step programmable arpeggiator found in VirSyns other iOS synths.

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This synth also has a collection of outstanding built in FX.
The range of sound types that can be created are as wide as one should expect. The results are often even better and if you’re in a rush or whatever and just want something random just touch the dice until you hear something you like.
It doesn’t have any significant weaknesses and performs well with Audiobus, and IAA.

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Whether you prefer heavily distorted leads that bash through your ears or silky smooth pads that exude living personalities, microTERA does it.
Just another remarkable synth offering from VirSyn.

Next up is Sliver by Alex Matheu

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Here we have a soundscape maker with four by four real time, resizable clip based segments that, depending on your preferences, alter the imported audio. Or the preset audio samples as well.
Each of these 8 total segments or “Slivers” can be automated and placed however you wish.

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The filters, size, and FX are each controlled with independent X/Y boxes.
Since everything can be automated in real time Sliver offers some amazing fluid control of the textures. Scrub out new soundscapes with truly expressive results.
It’s basically a hyper creative playground for creating unique new instruments which you can also play out with the built in keyboard.
Sliver is endlessly fun and inspiring.

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Shatter up some new sounds with Sliver. Sample and resample. Record, copy, paste, and send to AudioShare. Sliver supports MIDI and Audiobus input.
I can easily see this innovative app being used to live trip-out all within earshot. Bravo!

3rd up, (and this is not in any significant order by the way) is iVCS3 by apeSoft

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apeSoft, makers of the incredible iDensity, iPulsaret and more, has gone and done something special with iVCS3. This is an emulation of the old hardware arguably made famous by Pink Floyd back in the 70s. This tops my “Holy S#@!” list of cool things.
This machine was largely responsible for the wild sounds and eerie textures heard in Dark Side Of The Moon. It was also seen in Pink Floyd’s movie/video “Live At Pompeii” where Roger Waters was exploring this thing’s sonic capabilities.

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iVCS3 was created in 1969 and is considered the first portable synth. Largely used as a sound FX generator (Dr.Who fans know this) without a keyboard, it was later expanded with a (KS) sequencer and (DK1) keyboard connectivity.
This modular synth is gorgeously recreated and emulated perfectly. That may just be my opinion since I’ve never touched a real one, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it anyway.

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This soft version is complete with not only all the original capabilities, but also loads of new modern uses for us to enjoy on our iPads; unlike anything Roger Daltrey could have imagined back in the day. Built-in dual samplers, MIDI, full Audiobus and IAA support, background audio, Dropbox, really just a huge list of features.
This even has 6 different reverb types including a spring convolution reverb, Quadratic Ring Modulation, delay, and noise generator. The features and specs go on and on.

All (or almost all) parameters are fully customizable right down to the color of the knobs.
The same old-time twist and plug routing exists such as the Trapezoid envelope controlled by a virtual joystick, and the modulation matrix with BattleShip-style pin placements instead of cables. So much to see, do, and hear with iVCS3!

It can be a little confusing at times, but there is a full instruction manual included within the app to guide you on your journey. A spectacular “Must Have”!

Last, but not least is Sector by Kymatica

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Kymatica is another one of my personal developer favorites. You can always count on something innovative coming from this guy. We all know and love his AudioShare app and AUFX series, and now “Sector”!

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Sector is a 32 bit sound engine, Stochastic, sample, slice, sequencer with markov-chain connections.
A 32 step sequencer with adjustable routing and wild probability sample, and slice order or chaos.
Creating glitches, and bizarre time warped sequences in Sector is crazy cool and fun.

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It’s not all just about flipping a coin to see what happens, there is also full standard sequencing control as well. Just tap and map out whatever sounds right to you. Countless musical possibilities abound.
It never gets old.
I think the sporadic randomness is the best part, but all together Sector is a mind-blowing new app that defines innovation.

Sector will have a built-in recorder soon, and of course you can bring your own samples in via the Open In function from other apps like AudioShare. Support for Audiobus and IAA are currently available now, with more MIDI connectivity coming soon.
Awesome!

To wrap this up, you may have noticed a slight trend with these apps. If not that’s ok. I see each if these as being a great representation for the innovative nature of their development.
We have loads of common emulations and even new things that, as great as they are, don’t really push things very far from what most think of as being conventional. iOS music is not just an interesting way to explore making music and having fun doing so. It is an opportunity unlike no other to find ways of being extra creative with the apps that can be made, where they otherwise can’t be.

If you want some new music apps that offer you huge musical inspiration, fun, and a different creative experience, then these are 4 of the newest and best. There are of course others, and there will be more. Check them out. Support great development.

Z3TA – Review

Z3TA is made by Cakewalk
Available in The iTunes App Store

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Cakewalks Z3TA (Zay-Ta) Wave-shaping synthesizer is now ready to be yours on your iPad. At 1/5th the price of the PC/Mac version and every bit as powerful in every way, its a steal.
Cakewalk says this iOS version has all the power, features and rich wave shaping goodness as its famous computer version. Only significant difference is that the iOS version has fewer presets. Which is no loss for those who want to really see what this sound designing behemoth can do at their own hands.

This beauty is something you should put your hands on and never let go.

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Alrighty then. I think I’ve pretty much used up every clever (and not so clever) euphemisms describing previous iOS synthesizers. Forgive me if I borrow from some of those other reviews here.

Z3TA is a god among synth gods. We have seen some amazing entries come our way, but this is ridiculously awesome. The first of 3 pages is the main “Synth” page for your sound sculpting joy.

6 wave-shaping oscillators each with dozens of waveforms to choose and assign to them. With these come 3 (A,B,&C) sections of more shaper controls to further twist, mangle and fold each oscillator to mind boggling sound angles. The textures and degrees of options leave me blissfully drooling.

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OK we have a lot of oscillators, but also a large collection of Envelope Generators (EG). Eight EGs to be exact. 1 bipolar (for pitch), 1 Amp, and 6 unipolar envelope generators for for general purpose. All but the pitch EG are 5 stage envelopes with independent curves.
Much of what you can do with these are brought to life with the modulation assignments. I’ll get to that in a bit.

I should also point out that there is a single die which would commonly be seen as a randomizer, it’s not. Touching the die will only randomly select a preset patch. It will not randomize any parameters.

Also found on this screen are parallel and dual mode filters. Again, dozens of filter types to choose from. 36db Low Pass Filters, resonant boosters, formant, comb and more. No shortage of filtering options and you can adjust panning separately or linked. However the Formant filter is a bit weak and I’m not entirely clear on why its separation slider won’t move?

Then we have the LFOs. Six LFOs! Again each with dozens of waveforms to choose from and assign. LFO One thru four affect all voices simultaneously, where LFO 5 and 6 affect individual voices.

Are you getting the picture? Power.

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The second page is the MOD/ARP section.
Divided in half this page houses the 16 source modulation matrix and the Arpeggiator.
The Mod Matrix should look familiar to eyes used to seeing such things, but if not its still intuitive enough to jump right in. Select the route, curves, controls, destinations etc, all very easily. It won’t be long before you find new textures and morphing designs of all sorts. More power.

The Arpeggiator operates as a standard algorithm type, or as MIDI mode. The algorithmic mode is strait forward with the usual up, down, octaves etc and nothing particularly challenging. We’ve all seen this. It works, no problem. The MIDI mode is a little more interesting as it plays preprogrammed patterns. Select from hundreds of creative MIDI patterns. There are some real gems. Additionally there is the swing and humanize dials to modify the groove with.
Lots of fun.

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The third and last page is the Effects page. Six advanced modular effects. Varied distortions, 3 Delays with sync, cross, ping/pong, modulations like Stereo Chorus, Flanger, Phaser of different types. A Reverb with big booming sound or subtle room types. A Seven band EQ with several mode types and speaker simulations.
All the FX in the chain can be re-ordered to your liking.

This is where I usually make note that I can’t list every single available parameter and feature. This is especially true with Z3TA. There are more than I have time to count. So please do visit the Cakewalk site for many more details.

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Even though I’ve included the more important details, many are left out.
I shouldn’t forget to mention that Audiobus, Inter-App Audio, and MIDI are supported. Also the multi range keyboard with x/y, modulation and bender are included standard. Really who didn’t expect that?

This synth is beyond worthy of the obligatory “HUGE” exclamation. It is not just that Cakewalk delivered the very same feature packed version as its PC original. Its in the sound. The feeling of control and satisfaction with what is heard will raise neck hairs.
The degree of shaping sound designs is enormous. I can’t take my eyes off this nuclear power plant of synths.
I’m not saying its the best synth ever made, but at the moment she does hold my heart firmly.

Z3TA (damned threes posing as “E”s) launches with a bang resembling independence day fireworks and celebration.
Only small concerns perplex me. Most are design related. I don’t get why there is no On/Off button on the Arpeggiator? Why is it in the settings drop down menu? Really, why? Another really silly design flaw is that with some parameters they only cycle in one direction. Such as selecting an oscillators octave, you have to cycle all the way through, one way with no backing up.
Also there’s no real arpeggio customization such as what’s found in synths like CubeSynth.
When using this with IAA hosted by Cubasis, some of the patches I tested crumbled and crackled while trying to record on iPad 4. However bad that sounded, the recording was pristine. It didn’t happen a lot, but it was bad on a couple occasions. I did not have that same experience on my iPad Air.
Plus Cakewalk seems to think we don’t want to easily share our custom patches with each other. There is no option to email custom patches or banks. Why? They don’t seriously expect us to plug our iPads into a computer just to dig them out and then share? Not me. No way.
That’s all I have to complain about really. It’s relatively cheap and I don’t think anybody complaining about its price can be taken seriously. This is worth every penny if not twice more.

Z3TA is sublime. Find a way to get yourself one.

Swoopster – Review

Swoopster is made by: HoldernessMedia
Available in the iTunes App Store

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HoldernessMedia, known for its excellent EchoPad delay app brings us a new stand alone Flanger/Fuzz effects app: Swoopster!

Swoopster is a versatile Flanger effects app with an intuitive interface designed well for performing and recording alike. It is compatible with professional-grade USB adaptations, or easily used as an effects unit with Audiobus or Inter-App Audio (iOS 7 required for IAA) in your favorite iDAW. In addition to being a Flanger, it can produce some very fuzzy, er…Fuzz, and each channel can be independently tweaked.

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Swoopster is controlled nicely with 4 X/Y pads. 2 for the left and right Flanger, and 2 for the left and right Fuzz. Each effect can be linked so that both channels are controlled by movements on either the left or right pads.

Swoopster has familiar DJ style “momentary” buttons to mute, or bypass only when touched.
The interface has a very clean design and is a cinch to use in any situation. Plus it’s easy on the eyes with no unnecessary visual fanfare, allowing a very productive experience with no fuss. The center of the performance screen has some preset parameters showcasing Swoopster’s various effects combinations to call up on a tap. Careful you don’t hit one of those during a live performance. You can save and rename your own to replace the factory presets but be sure you are on the “Tweak” page before you try to save and rename.

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What’s an effects unit without customizable parameters to design your own sounds? Of course Swoopster has the appropriately named “Tweak” screen full of the relevant parameters for you to manipulate.
On this screen you have adjustable sliders for each left and right parameters of the Flanger and Fuzz sections. Again, linking is possible here. Unlink everything and you can really freak out with some sweet effects. Bounce around, Flanger on one side clean on the other, or whatever. It’s a lot of fun experimenting with independent channel effects. I personally found this capability to be most interesting.

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Swoopster is simple looking and complex sounding.
Audio input and output each have a few different options, catering to whatever sound you want or need depending on the circumstances.
Using a mono microphone like iRigMic is no hindrance at all and the app’s input and output settings provide options to give a nice stereo sound quality. The “Wide Stereo” output setting really is expansive, and dramatically wider than the capable “Normal Stereo” setting.

Overall I have found Swoopster to offer a fantastic Flanger effect. I imagine it will be more popular with guitarists, but it has done a bang up job with my iOS synths as well. It has a quality sound that brings a lot to the Stand Alone Effects apps table.
Smooth, wide, comb filtered, sweeping Flanger sounds, to wild super fast vibrations and anything in between are a touch away.

The Fuzz effect is big. Although Fuzz is not something I’m a huge fan of, I can still hear the quality. It’s thick, big, scratchy, and in some cases booming and brutal. Great for guitars. It also can be tweaked to a wide range of fuzziness. Though subtlety isn’t its (Fuzz’s) best suit.

Combine both the Flanger and Fuzz or use each alone, whatever you want. It is more than just a Flanger/Fuzz. Crank it up and have some great sounding fun. Swoopster is able to be as Yanni, or as DethKlok as you want.

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HoldernessMedia does it again.