Apps

FACChorus – Review

FACChorus by: Frederic Corvest 

Available in the iTunes App Store


FACChorus (Fred Anton Corvest) is a stand alone, versatile Chorus effects app designed to emulate classic physical modules of day’s past. Not unlike the analog Roland Juno Chorus effects (and others) from decades ago. 


FACChorus sports a simple and clean interface resembling a rack mount style with realistic, responsive knobs. The no fuss look may seem a bit dated to some, but fits right in all the same. It mirrors the actual signal path from left to right (input to output) making it quite intuitive. Not that there could really be much to confuse anyone, anyway. Plus, who cares about looks when what really matters it how it sounds.


So how does it sound? Well, it sounds really good, even through an iPads built in mic. Of course better with a plug in mic, USB or in a AU (Audio Unit) setting.  This Chorus unit has a wide range of possible effects from clean and subtle to clinically insane. Most iOS synths and iDAWs have a built in Chorus but lack any real versatility and often even with the most subtle settings, sound overly wobbly. FACChorus can be manipulated to suit any need for vocals, guitars, and of course iOS instruments. Lush, rich and wide. Spacey or water logged, FACChorus gets you there. 

The properly named presets offer a nice range of ready to go effect parameters suitable for most situations.  Sadly there’s not any way to save user presets. Nor does it save your last state when the app is closed and reopened. This could be problematic for some users. 

While this great sounding effects unit supports Audio Unit V3, it does not support Inter-App Audio or Audiobus. Considering that most iDAWs (like Cubasis and GarageBand Mobile) support UA V3, this may not be much of a problem. However a lot of users have a workflow that depends on their use of IAA or Audiobus, and missing those supports could be a crucial turn off. Even though AU V3 basically works the same way as IAA. 

It’s early still, so it remains possible that more workflow supports or features might be part of future development. 

That all said, for three bucks you get an incredible sounding Chorus unit that would’ve cost far more in the physical world. 

A few music apps to keep an eye on.

I have a bunch of apps that I’m sitting on waiting for some updates to come.
I’m sure a lot of us share this dilemma? Apps that we got and for whatever reason can’t or just won’t use them. The reasons may be arbitrary, but to each individual they are important.
Still there are a few I have sitting on my iPad that I see having potential for excellence.

Usually I’d just delete a high potential app that I can’t or don’t want to use. The 3 I still have installed are each something I think can be very good. Unfortunately at the moment and for reasons I’ll explain when I get to the app specifics, they are missing key elements or have flaws making them (fair or not) little more than a virtual paper weight.

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VOSIS
Voice Of Sisyphus Image Sonification. By Ryan McGee
This is really a unusual and creative synth app. Simply put it makes sound based on a picture. You load a photo then touch and drag on it to hear the sound that VOSIS translates from the greyscale pixel data. Interesting no?
It has basic synthesizer parameters like ADSR, some filtering, and so on.
Multi touch, reverb, image adjustments relative to the sonic properties, cutoff, and other parameters are included to bring photos (and live video!) to audible life.
This innovative and just damn interesting synth is sitting highest on my list of potentially great apps.
It could use some stability improvement, LFOs, and allow deeper routing parameters to modulate things. Basically I’m saying I’d like to see more traditional synth tools added for more control over the sound.
It supports Audiobus now which is a big move forward. I’d also really like to see IAA input supported.
All in all VOSIS is already capable of doing some cool things. Almost there.

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Xynthesizr By Yuri Turov
Mr. Turov sent me a copy of this app a while ago. I was a bit preoccupied and couldn’t get to it when I had hoped to. I wish I had though.
This oddly spelled app is a sleek 32 step matrix sequencer, synthesizer with generative properties. Highly musical and strait forward in design.
This iPhone only app (works but not native to iPad) is easy to use and instantly pleasing. It has most of what one might need to quickly tap or draw out some beautiful melodies.
It has a 32 bit float sound engine, MIDI, AudioCopy/Paste and support for AudioShare, SoundCloud, email, and iTunes File Share.
Its a stronger app than what I had initially expected. The developer is very attentive and clearly eager to make this something everybody will want to use.

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Although it has Audiobus support its missing IAA support. It also only can be used in portrait mode. Add supports for those, allow landscape orientation and make it iPad native so it can fit in more common iOS workflows would do the trick for me. Fingers crossed.

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MultiTrackStudio By Giel Bremmers
This is an ambitious new iDAW that by looking at its specs appears to be what a lot of folks are looking for.
16 Stereo tracks, automation, numerous effects, sequencing, editing, and mastering tools. Its also packed with a bunch of built in instruments. Synths, drums, sound FX, and emulated instruments. It’s got a lot of good things going for it. Edit by piano roll, score, drum, audio etc. Comprehensive MIDI support, ACP, iTunes File Share and the list of features goes on looking quite impressive. But…..

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…..MTS regarding routing IAA input apps suffers from one of the worst workflow designs I’ve ever had the displeasure of trying to use. It supports IAA but not Audiobus. Could be a big deal for those without iOS7.
The way routing IAA instruments is done here just doesn’t make any sense. No problem with routing IAA Effects though. For some reason its designed so you must create a MIDI track in order to be able to select any IAA audio instrument. This is far from intuitive and it doesn’t always work as expected.
Several times I followed the instructions so I could get an IAA instrument to connect with MTS and all I got were the apps internal (MTSi) instruments. What the f…. ?
So frustrating! I tried and tried to find a comfort zone with this app so I could start recording and seriously explore this app, but the routing is so frustrating I just stopped. I’m not exactly a rookie here, I know how to operate DAWs. I have all the iOS DAWs and none of them are this painful.
It’s very difficult to appreciate this app when just getting started succeeds only in causing fits of rage.
Its a real shame too. It looks like it can do most of what I want it to.
Until the workflow is redesigned to be legitimately intuitive I just can’t say whether this is good or bad? So it will sit in my “Potential” folder until that day comes when MTS is a pleasure to use rather than a sources of frustration. That potential is surely there.
One to watch out for.

These are just a few that I think have potential. Obviously its subjective and you very likely have some of your own. I’d be curious to hear from you, so leave a comment sharing your thoughts about another app you think this way about.

App Tease

I’ve been making music using only iOS devices and music “apps” going on 4 years now. In that time I’ve seen, used, beta tested, and reviewed countless music apps. I own somewhere around 400 music apps alone. Not counting all the crazy games and gadget apps. Addiction anyone?
In all that time development has gone berserk bringing new, improved and capable apps. It’s been nothing short of astonishing with how far it’s all come. Not to mention the insane low prices. Oh the prices! So low, for such brilliance.

In the early days using iOS music apps had been a bit cumbersome. I sure thought so. I had to record in one, audio copy and then paste into another. That was never enjoyable, but it made a lot of things possible that otherwise couldn’t be done without hooking up to other hardware or computers.
I hate wires, iTunes File Share is dreadful, so record & audio copy were essential features in any music app I would take seriously. Nothing against apps that didn’t have audio copy, it was just what I needed to do what I wanted to do wire free.

Audiobus finally arrived in December 2012 forever changing how I make my music, as I am sure it has done the same for many of you. It essentially brought everything together in a seamless and simple process. Not unlike how music is made on computers with DAWs and VSTs. They day I got Audiobus was the last day I used ACP in my process. It wasn’t until January when more developers supported Audiobus in significant number. That number grows day by day. Today everything I use to make music goes through Audiobus one way or another. See ya ACP!

After years of wishing, and hoping for something like Audiobus, and now having it, there’s no going back. So why do so many new music apps come out with no Audiobus support? Why? It is now the most necessary feature for any music app. It has resolved any need for any other method of transferring audio between music apps. Any other method is just painfully outdated. Obsolete even. Somehow new music apps keep coming out with no Audiobus support. It doesn’t make sense? Why release an app that makes us drool and get all excited about it, only to learn the apps developers failed to recognize that they left out support for one of the most critical features?
“App Tease”!

Hey look, a really cool new synth arrived in the App Store that sounds amazing! It’s a must have! Oh, wait a second? It doesn’t have Audiobus support. It doesn’t even record? What? You can only transfer audio via iTunes File Share or through some proxy via audio copy paste in another app. For the love of gawd why?

I’ve asked developers many times, and invariably hear the same absurd response. “We are listening to our customers feedback and will implement the most requested features in future updates.”
BullSpit! Seriously, they didn’t think end users would want to use their hot new music app with the single most important feature currently available today? If they didn’t know that, then how’d they even know to include a volume control? I can see the response to that would be something like: “Oh we didn’t know if end users wanted to actually hear anything? We will consider that for a future update. Thank you for your interest.”
OK, that was extreme. To me though, missing something like Audiobus support in the initial release of a new music app is pretty extreme itself. It reminds me of my favorite comparison of offering the coolest sports car ever made but with no steering wheel. They’ll be upgraded to support that later. Ferraris without steering, that’s what these new music apps without Audiobus are to me.
Apps made before last December get a pass. So do Midi controllers for the most part. They are jumping on board and updating often in most cases anyway. It’s the newest music apps that are making my head spin by arriving without it.

A year ago many of us would dismiss an app as a “toy” if it failed to have its own record function and audio copy. Today if a new app comes without Audiobus support, and no support even for the old ACP tech from past years, its hard to not feel teased. It’s a no brainier. New music apps must have basic functions and supports. Unless the intention is for novelty use.

Maybe I am alone on this? Maybe no one else wonders why a developer would create a super cool new music app that everyone will want, but not make it useable by today’s standards? It’s possible these are just the rantings of a mad man. Nevertheless, I am begging developers to please stop teasing me with the absence of Audiobus support, but are otherwise highly desirable and cool new music apps. No one wants to buy a Ferrari that only goes strait, and will be upgraded later if enough customers ask for a steering option.
No more App Tease, please. You know Audiobus support is crucial. Just finish it, then release it. 4 years ago it was tolerable. Today it’s just silly.

Can I get a second from any other end users in the comments? I’d like to hear from you if this strikes a chord. No pun intended.

Gestrument – Review

Created by: Jesper Nordin and Jonatan Liljedahl

Created by: Jesper Nordin and Jonatan Liljedahl

Gesture and Instrument met one crazy night on a blind date set up by their friends. It was love at first touch. They had a child and named it Gestrument.
Gestrument grew with the best attributes of its parents into the perfect combination.

Alright, enough of that. You get the picture. Gestrument is a new MIDI controller and instrument created by Jesper Nordin and Jonatan Liljedahl.
Designed for ease of use to comfortably perform a multitude of musical styles, Gestrument delights the senses.

Controlling other iOS music apps via virtual MIDI is, as it should be, a simple process. Simply put, you just load another synth, enable its background audio and MIDI out, wallah, you’re in business. Gestrument just knows what to do. You can expect that further MIDI development is underway.

Gestrument is shipped with its own synth and dozens of great preset sounds, assignable to 8 instrument banks. These can be played simultaneously or in any combination along with whatever is being controlled in the background. Tap the instruments 1-8 on or off on the fly. Some pretty interesting combinations are at the ready awaiting discovery.

Each instrument can have its own settings, such as pitch, note length, range etc. A nice reverb with 3 quality settings can be applied to the overall mix. It would be nice if each instrument could have its own FX setting, but for now its global. All On or all off.

Playing Gestrument is intuitive and uncomplicated. Your iPad screen is the whole playing surface. It’s a nice use of screen space without waste. One finger controls the instruments, the other controls selectable parameters (Like pulse, pitch, scale morphing, and rhythm) by dragging away and angling from the first. It’s a snap. Depending on where you touch the screen and how you combine the second touch will impact the sounds the instrument makes. It’s a very clean and expressive way to create music. It’s easy for anyone to start making great music right away. Gestrument also has just the right amount of options for the experienced musicians who desire a greater amount of control.
Although a little light on programmable options now, further development will surely add more complex options as Gestrument grows. The developers are open to user feedback. So if you want something, just ask them. You may get it.

Gestrument Features
Visit HERE for more on Gestrument from its creators.

It would be really nice to see some more gesture, or multi-touch controls. As is, the multi-touch is limited to 2 fingers. It’s all in how you combine the movements. It may sound like that’s not much, but a lot can be done with some creative use in how you play it.

Recording and playback looping are available. AudioCopy and direct link to AudioShare are also included. Gestruments recorder however doesn’t seem to record MIDI controlled sounds. You’ll have to use the record function from the other app for that.

I have found Gestrument to be a very pleasant app. It’s a synch to use, and sounds great. This is a quality instrument and is highly stable. It’s not crashed on me once even while playing all 8 instruments and controlling the two synths from Magellan.
This is the chocolate and peanut butter of gesture and instrument. Yum.

4 stars Recommended. Buy Gestrument HERE at iTunes.

Why Audio Copy? Because The Trees Don’t Have Outlets.

I hear from people all around the world fascinated with the iOS way of making music anywhere they like. Being able to make music anywhere is a big and appealing factor.
Not having to pack any computers, keyboards, or the wires to connect them is a compelling experience.
The devices are only part of the experience, it’s the music apps that make it or break it. Thankfully most developers understand how important it is to function without the need of any other gear or cables. Anywhere.
One thing I’ve seen in common with iOS music enthusiasts is they love to be able to make music where ever they want to. Perform a gig, record in a studio, or my favorite, go to a secluded park. It’s all under the mobility umbrella.
Being mobile and able to complete a project where ever you want is not without it’s basic requirements. One critical requirement is being able to record a melody or whatever, and easily move it from one application to another. At home or on stage this is very easy thanks to access to our daily technological connections. Just plug in, turn on MIDI, swap files over WiFi, or File Share. No problem.
When away from all the comforts of home or stage this is a different story. Without any of those other aids, wires, and connectivity how does one record and swap files all on a single device?
The band aid to the dilemma has been Audio Copy Paste. It’s far from perfect, is not the best solution, but it is the only option when in a secluded park, forest or on a mountain trail. Audio Copy allows the user to fully experience being mobile, and not needing any other devices, Internet connections, or wires. I’m not talking about 10 minute recordings, that’s nuts. I’m talking about brief recordings mostly under one minute, often much less.
In these scenarios audio copy becomes more important, and in my opinion a requirement.
Let me be clear, I do not love audio copy, I accept it. When I am away making music I don’t have any other technology access at all beyond my iPad and apps. It all must work wherever I go. Audio Copy as flawed as it may be, serves a purpose and up to now has been the only truly mobile file sharing option. As I am writing this I’m checking Twitter, and saw a comment about how well apps without audio copy are mobile and work very well on stage. That’s partially true, but a painfully narrow view of mobility. It neglects the point of choice and freedom. I suppose if going to another place with all the abundance of technological comforts was all one ever does, than sure. No problem, you’re mobile-ish.
Is that really mobile though? What if you have a broader definition of mobile freedom? Then what? Well, your only choice is Audio Copy if you want to swap files. Not the end all be all of solutions forever, but it works well enough when other options are just not options.
The future is likely to be very different as AudioBus appears to be on the visible horizon. A far better way to get things done while still not needing any other gear or connectivity. Of course that depends heavily on developer cooperation. All your apps need to be compatible using AudioBus without problems. I am very optimistic about that not being a problem. While I’m not a techy guy fully understanding it’s technical specifications, I do understand its importance. Frankly I don’t care about the tech aspects, I just care that it works well preserving audio quality. I’m just an artist using the tech, not a developer making it. I trust the developers to get it right and cooperate. Failing to do so would be tragic.
So that’s why, Audio Copy, at least for now. It’s flawed, but does the job when there are no other options. It fills a void that until AudioBus arrives fills it alone.
Music applications that neglect to offer Audio Copy are just not getting this point of view that defines true mobility. They are still good apps, but when I’m on a trail, in the forest, in the middle of nowhere, how am I supposed to use them? I cant. I dont. The trees don’t have outlets or Internet routers. It’s not a personal thing, it’s just about seeing things without placing obstacles in the way of the users.
I honestly do not understand why any music app developer would purposely ignore the fact that their definition of mobility is not universal. It’s not just about a few places the developer thinks you can go, it’s about all the places anyone would like to go. It’s about offering people the option to enjoy their music apps fully wherever they go. Its like an MP3 player without a headphone jack. Sure you can plug it in to a stereo or something, but you can’t use it on a hike, or visit to a park because the developer doesn’t like headphones and thinks you should only use it plugged in with speakers. Yes, speakers are better, but that’s not a realistic option if you want to enjoy it anywhere.
Well, that’s my point of view on the topic. Audio Copy has its uses, and works when no other options are available to do the job. Mobility, Freedom, Choice. That’s what makes iOS music great.

All users have a different idea of what mobility means to them. None right, none wrong, all equally important. I would never say that a person who doesn’t use these things as I do are not mobile. Not at all. I’m only suggesting that for my uses in some circumstances it’s nice to have the option to perform a task.

I can’t wait for AudioBus. Fingers crossed. I’ll be happy to never mention Audio Copy again.