Audiobus

DRC Polyphonic Synthesizer – Review

DRC Synth is developed by Imaginando

Available for free download in iTunes


I’ve seen, used, tested and yawned at every iOS analog emulated synthesizer. This is one particular type of synth that are dime a dozen and not short on competitive options. I’m not saying that DRC isn’t good. In fact I think it’s great. While most developers are creating a graphical resemblance to old hardware to tug at our nostalgia heart strings, these guys are putting the focus on not what you see, but how you use what you hear. 


DRC most resembles the robust and brutal sounds of iSEM (the Oberheim remake for iOS) or iMini (Or Mini Moog) with its signature sound. This definitly is a well made emulation that packs a wallop with the best. This 8 voice polyphonic analog* synth is clearly not just another sell out 2 oscillator emulator of historic hardware trying to cash in on something famous that is either hard or impossible to find. No synth lovers, they really put their hearts into this. One could argue that we have plenty of these already. True, but this not only has the sound talking the talk, it also has a interface of minimalistic design that walks the walk where functionality is concerned. 

The beauty of the simplistic and minimalist user interface design is no accident. It surely isn’t lazy or result of lacking creativity. Everything you need to use, can be used all on this one screen. No interruptions with page swiping. Just set or select the parameter tabs from the 4 quadrant window panes. It promotes a very comfortable usability that’s been largely overlooked by most. Adjusting parameters while playing live in real time allows you to bring new life and evolution into a sound while being performed. This is one of a few instances where I felt really at ease playing the keyboard and slowly maipulating a filter or noise generator at the same time. It feels right. 


Among all of the usual 2 oscillator analog emulators, DRC has something else I found interesting. The above image shows the Mod Wheel and After Touch controls. It also shows the key and scales options. At the bottom with the key labels, flanked to the right and left are ribbon controllers. I couldn’t find anything in the manual that explained them? They can be used to play through the notes of the scale. Whatever the intention is, I found them to add a little extra dimension to certain aspects. They are especially handy while using the arpeggiator. Not sure this was worth getting fixated on, it’s not the first time I’ve seen ribbon controls, but the location is what got my attention. Anyway, I just happen to like it. 

DRC has the MIDI, Audiobus, Inter-App audio supports like we expect. Abelton Link is also supported. You can use the cloud to easily share patches among your devices quite nicely. The usual filters are available, and for a synth of this breed they are the fine quality most would demand. I don’t like listing every parameter, so just check the app page in iTunes to get the full list, or visit the developer website. Both are linked at the very top of this review. 

In the modifiers DRC has something here that you don’t see every day. In the LFO waveforms options is a FS&H, Filtered Sample and Hold. It works similarly to the Sample and Hold waveform that is more common, but ramps up from one random position to another more smoothly. It has a very interesting effect to the LFO behavior. 

It has a Chorus, Delay and Reverb effect unit. You can use the Notch filter cutoff and resonance to make your own phaser effects. All pretty standard stuff. The Reverb is intentionally unrealistic and generates an interesting artificial, spacey component to the sound. It’s not designed after any real world units, or even a simple plate. It’s just a long crazy reverberation effect intended to add more depth to a sound. Interesting, but ultimately still just a cheap sounding reverb. I should add that I’m a reverb snob, so don’t put too much into my comments on this part. I just feel it could be better and remain an equally interesting sound effect. 

Free to download, DRCs synth engine is fully operational for 7 days before purchase is required to permanently unlock and use. It’s worth giving a shot if you like iSEM or iMini type sounds. If you don’t have those apps but want that type of sound, this could be a great first choice. 

Music Studio 2 Review – Tried and True

Music Studio is developed by Alexander Gross of Xewton

Available in iTunes for Apple devices, and Now GooglePlay for Android


Music Studio has been with us (on iOS) for years. It was one of the very first studio type music apps I ever bought way back when I had my iPod Touch 3G. It has seen steady and consistent updates keeping it on the level with our rapidly growing music needs. Now it’s even available for Android users in the GooglePlay store. I haven’t tried it on an Android, and honestly can’t comment about that version, but expect it works just as well.

This all in one music production suite is packed with everything you need to create music from start to finish. Over a hundred tracks sequencing, sampler, twin keyboards, custom drum & chord pads, 10 effects units, note editor, Automation, Audiobus In & Out, Inter-App Audio In and Out, MIDI, 100 Drum Loops…and more and more.


There is a free, lite version to dip your toes into if you’re not sure about buying straight away. The first thing I noticed was the quality and variety of instruments. Hundreds of studio recorded instruments come packed in with the purchase of the app, and dozens more can be purchased. Every relevant instrument is available, minus only a very few. Whatever might be missing shouldn’t be an issue these days with all the other music apps around filling nearly every gap. With MIDI, Audiobus and Inter-App Audio input/output fully supported, you’re only limited by you’re own collections of samples and instrument apps. This was the first production app I could find a Digerydoo that sounded good.


The twin keyboards can have their own instrument assigned and played. The bank of customizable chord buttons above reflect what’s being used as per your own preferences. Assigning individual percussion instruments or samples to the drum pads can also be used. Trigger and loop away, or record a sample with your device or external microphone and apply to one of the pads to use in your composition. It’s easy stuff.


Some might wonder where the mixer is? Simply put, it’s not here in the traditional sense. However every track can be mixed individually. Instead of a mixer page, just select the track to adjust the pan, level, effects, mute or solo etc. It can be a little bit of a challenge to get used to if you are more accustomed to a dedicated mixer board page, but the bottom line is, nothing’s really missing. It’s just being done differently. Most people aren’t going to be overly concerned with this unless they start piling on several dozens of tracks. Then the missing mixer just might prove to be a bit of a obstacle.

It’s never bothered me, and on the plus side a mixer page is indeed being developed for Music Studio 3. I have confirmed this directly with the developer.

Editing a tracks sequence, or sample is quick and easy. Just double tap the area within the track to bring up either the sampler page or the sequencer note editor page. Quantize, transpose, write, copy and all of that stuff should feel as familiar as it looks. Working with automated FX work much the same way. It’s a very straight forward work flow. This is very intuitive and has a very gentle learning curve. Nothing clunky or unnecessarily complicated. Smooth.


Moving on.

Music Studio 2 also has 10 built in effects units. They have improved over the years and you can assign as sends, inserts or use globally in multiples. As I mentioned above there’s automation. So making creative effects that move with the music are at your finger tips, just like any respectable studio type. All the audio effects mainstays are accounted for. Reverb, Delay, Phaser, Stereo Widener, Filter and so on. I find the EQ a little in the lite side being a simple 3 band, but that’s not much of an issue these days with Audiobus and Inter-App Audio providing such easy access to your other apps that are more specialized. What is available gets the job done and doesn’t sound cheap.


Music Studio is known for its excellent MIDI support. Whether you use virtual MIDI with other music apps, or hardware Music Studio keeps up and makes things easy on you. Reliable is the word.

There are so many great things to bring up, I can’t cover every detail. If you need more specifics, details or exact numbers just visit Xewtons Web Site. You’ll find more than just specs. There’s a thriving user community forum to help answer questions, get support or just share. Assuming the extensive in app help doesn’t put you back on track. No pun intended.

In conclusion, Music Studio stands confidently with other iDAWs, is priced very well, has better instruments than others, is a stable, quality production app with tons of tools and all delivered with a pleasantly clean interface. It’s great for those just starting out and won’t overwhelm newcomers and pros will like its longevity. It has been reliably developed with excellent consistency by a developer who is listening to his users wants and needs. Despite no separate mixer, all the same parameters can still be adjusted and mixed without skipping a beat. Few limitations and loads of options, Music Studio 2 remains an excellent choice for everybody.

Shoom Synthesizer- App Review

Shoom Synthesizer is developed by: Yuri Turov

Available from iTunes


Shoom Synthsizer is a fantastic X/Y touch controlled instrument for iPad. 3 polyphonic synths in one.

An intuitively designed interface clearly emphasizing ease of performance with a great amount of playable screen space makes this super fun to play. 


3 simultaneously playable synths each with their own set of two multi-waveform, FM cross modulation oscillators are at your disposal. Each synth has its own noise, and volume control as well as the standard ADSR and LFO basics. A handy 4 pole low pass resonance filter and overdrive are also included with each. Nothing fancy, but made for easy patching and variable sound types. From crunchy, screaming leads, to booming bass lines, and on to amazing drones. 


Shooms built in stereo delay and reverb effects stand in nicely for simple sound effects. I’d say they are pretty good for what they are. Many users have said that Shooms strength is with making drones. I agree, but wouldn’t say that is all it can do. There’s plenty of room to get creative with this and have some pretty unique sound scenes to play. 

Of course it has Inter-App Audio and Audiobus 2 supports. So far I have found both to be very stable on my iPad Air 2. Though like any iOS synth the more active voices being used, the more the chance of distortion.

I love that each synths note can be played independently and / or held. Get all ten fingers involved. If your digit dexterity is above average, you could do some impressive things. Even with average finger dexterity like me, you’re going to smile. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of Shoom, and I found it to be very easy, very quickly. More importantly the sound quality is fantastic. This is one grand instrument that has more to it than meets the eye. Sure you aren’t getting a massively powerful synthesizer, but you do get quality.

Only thing I felt I was longing for was user sample import. Is that a big deal? Maybe not, but I’d like the option. 

It’s a bargain, it sounds fantastic, and it’s fun. A no brainer purchase. 

Convoluted Spectral Filtering

3 Incredible special effects apps combine to astound us!

Big tough words right? Well, I’m serious. I’ve had some time to really sit and dig in to 3 relatively new effects apps from 3 of my favorite developers. Time enough to discover that there’s not enough time to discover it all.
Individually, each is simply marvelous in their own right, but combine them and you have a massively exciting audio trilogy of sound effects goodness.

IMG_0569-0.JPG
apeFilter by http://www.densitygs.com

IMG_0570-0.JPG AltiSpace – Convolution Reverb by http://audio-mastering-ipad.com

IMG_0571-0.JPG
csSpectral by http://www.boulangerlabs.com/products/csspectral/

These incredible effects apps each have uniquely outstanding qualities that by themselves would be fantastically satisfying and hugely time consuming.
Plenty of joy will come from each one, offering loads of creative experiences.

It’s when they are placed together, working in harmony through Audiobus, that they stand together like a trio of god-like rock star band mates ruling the heavens of audio special effects. Special effects gone totally bananas.
Choose your Input > Effects > route and run them all into your favorite iDAW (or Output) app to capture the sonic sundae.
Typically I use AltiSpace in the middle, between aprFilter and then csSpectral, however this combo is not only excellent but also demanding on your device. I’d not recommend anything less than iPad 4 and preferably iPad Air. Depending on your device and needs, 512 latency should be fine.

IMG_0568.PNG
I load up my sample with apeFilter and make initial filtering adjustments. apeFilter has excellent sample and frequency control both backward and forward which can be manipulated in real time, any time.
The interactive GUI is perfect for controlling up to 36 peaks filters frequencies. Packed with high quality common filters (Lo/Hi and band pass, notch, and Hi or Lo shelf) and some post effects like delay and compression apeFilter is perfect for shaping your samples.

IMG_0566.PNG

IMG_0567.PNG
Don’t forget the spectral grid where you can finger paint your way through the pitch space using the 4 compilers. Try it out and you’ll see.

IMG_0561.PNG
Next I have AltiSpace Convolution Reverb in the effects part of the chain. This is the first stand alone convolution reverb unit for iOS. In case you’re wondering what a convolution reverb is, it is a form of reconstructing the reverb effect of other reverb effects units. Taken from actual impulse response recordings or real world acoustical reverberations emulated digitally. It’s a lot of complicated math I won’t pretend to understand, it’s just really good. AltiSpace recreates some of the best reverb units made.

IMG_0565.PNG
Something you might notice that’s very different from algorithmic reverbs is the convolution reverb doesn’t have all those parameter controls you might be used to. Controls like tail, width, and swirl etc. Instead of tweaking various parameters, you just select a different IR or impulse response. With 250 loaded IRs there’s no shortage. Plus you still have basic parameter controls including some EQing and a super cool reverse option. I love the reverse part.

IMG_0558.PNG
In the last or output spot I use csSpectral. A Csound based multi effect processor. This thing is amazing. Nearly every parameter of each effects unit can be randomized and automated. There are 7 FFT (fast Fourier transform) based algorithmic spectral types. Including a Phase Vocoder, spectral blur, spectral re-synthesizer and more. There so much you can do with any one of these and you’re still only just getting started with this app.

IMG_0560.PNG
The 12 total variations of the DSP effects bring a truck load of sound effects goodness to the table. Basically there’s 3 variants each of the 4 effects units.
Multi-Mode Filter, Stereo Glitch Delay, Micro Cutter, Phaser Reverb, Modal Resonator, LoFi Delay, Bouncer (Cutter), Ball In The Box Reverb and more. Each have something special to offer. csSpectral is a big scary beast.
It’s just too much fun to play with sound in this.
Recording and editing the resulting samples are a cinch.

There is no rule you need to follow here. Like I said each app stands alone with its own greatness. I just happen to think altogether they make an impressive team.
It’s all going to be in how you use them, but the capability is there. Only the users themselves are responsible if they end up having a disappointing experience.

So busy….. Whew.

Hey there mobile music makers.
Sorry I’ve been on hiatus for a couple months. Our living situation had become rather urgent and changing moment to moment.
Short version is our slum lord who owns the house, that is basically sectioned off into 5 studio type apartments, stopped paying the utilities he was responsible for. That led to water being shut off for 10 days in March, and lots of headaches for us ever since. To top it all off, he has decided to just let the bank take the property.
Skip ahead to today (and removing the dramatic details) and we are on the verge of getting a house.
However time is running out fast. We only have until August 1st to find a place to live.
I hated to do it, but in the interest of sparing my wife and son the discomfort of just taking anything we could afford (which is nothing really) I swallowed my pride and am accepting my fathers enormous help. It pretty much adds up to receiving an early inheritance, and nobody has to die, yay!
I’d much rather have done this all myself. I’m no fan of not earning what’s mine. I’m doing this for my family.

Hopefully we will close on a nice little house not too far away. It’s an old house, which we like a lot more than those new cookie cutter yuppy houses that seem to pop up all over like so many silver SUVs and wannabe high rolling twenty something’s fixated on material wealth and appearances.
Fuck that. Excuse my French.
The house we are close to closing on is just right. Plus it has a huge basement that’s already partially renovated for me to set up a full on studio slash work space. A Smite Office, if you will.

Aside from all this I’ve been working on some new music. I’m making very chill ambient soundscapes with melodies and interesting textures. No drums. Lite percussive accompaniment might appear, but no in your face drum beats.
As usual I’m creating every sound from scratch myself using only my iOS music apps. So despite how much I love hearing Alchemy, it is once again pushed off the table.
At least it was, until that latest update arrived that seems to allow custom sound designing by importing user samples. I may have to reconsider and give that some thought. Is Alchemy now actually a synthesizer, instead of a cool preset morphing player? This is the one thing that’s held me back from using it seriously. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds amazing. Problem is, the sounds are recognizable and clearly presets made by someone else. Not that it’s a bad thing, I mean who expects everybody to always create every sound themselves? Its pretty unreasonable to demand or expect. I just happen to personally prefer making my own synths. I’m crazy like that, and I’m not judging.
So maybe this new import feature will open things up?

Well, back on track. Alchemy may be part of this new music. Several new apps I’ve received and or bought since March will find their way into my project.
Some new, some old. Some need to be reviewed.
I bought and tried to love Looptical, but ended up irritated by it so much that I just deleted it in a fit of rage. Money wasted. What a pain in the ass that app is.
I get it, people love it. That’s cool. I personally can’t freaking stand that thing.

Cubasis is forever removed from my workflow. Ironically right when they finally added automation.
Yay.
Not!
The FX are still crap, the instruments sound cheap, and I’d never use them so why would I care to automate a bunch of cheap crap? I don’t. Later Crapbasis. Too little too late.

Before this turns into a big rant of apps that piss me off, I’ll switch gears.

Oscilab, now with Audiobus support has become a new favorite of mine. It’s such a nice app. Great and clever on all counts. Fantastic sequencing with a cool twist. I really have been enjoying Oscilab thoroughly.

MitoSynth really sunk it’s teeth into me. Wooji hit a home run with this new synth. I love the novel interface and all the automation options. It took a few minutes to get comfortable with its design, but it wasn’t long before I looked up and several hours had gone by. What a joy to use.
Only thing I don’t like about Mito is the limited scales, and no assignable key conveniences. Sure, I should just know when I’m in tune, but having the option to just set the playable notes to all be in key is a very nice short cut.
Alright I’m a bit lazy there, so what.

Among those I’m also wearing out Z3TA, microTERA, CubeSynth, AudioReverb, Crystaline, iVCS, Samplr, iPulsaret, and several others.
Auria is now my exclusive iDAW. It simply can’t be beat as far as I’m concerned. Best on all counts in ease of use, quality, and functionality. On my iPad Air, I can work it harder than ever. I hardly ever use midi so it’s perfect for me. I just don’t have any problems with it.

Audio Mastering App will continue to be my “goto” mastering suite. It does everything I need it to do. Hi/Lo shelving, 3 band stereo imaging, gentle reverb, EQing, Compression…and it’s just easy and reliable. It fits me.
I have Final Touch, but it’s Stereo Imaging is pretty awful. The rest of it is alright, but a little contrived for my taste.

I think I’m done for now. This run on letter that was to be a small update on what I’m doing has gotten long enough.

If everything goes as planed, and we are settled in to our new home come August 1st, I’ll return to writing reviews.
Until then I have to choose how I use my currently limited hours each day, and making music takes priority over telling you what apps I think you should buy.

Wish me luck. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon.

Cheers 🙂

PS- We just got news that the house may very well be ours to move into as soon as next Friday, or shortly after. Yippie! Out of this dump, and into our own house. So close now.