Beats

Stroke Machine – Review

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Stroke Machine is made by Wolfram Franke Franke Music
Available from the iTunes App Store

Wolfram Franke dives in to iOS music production with the colorful release of the unfortunately named “Stroke Machine”.
Really. That’s its name. In the many hours I’ve spent with Stroke Machine I never once found anything that brought on an “Aha!” moment of clarity that explained why this name was chosen; I just can’t make the connection.
My inner 15 year-old came up with at least a dozen alternate names that could be just as hilarious, but that’s a different immature article.

This new and interestingly designed groove box has a lot to offer. A whole heckuva lot!

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Stroke Machine is a full service “groove box”, synth, beat maker, 128 pattern sequencer and full on work station. To start, this machine certainly has plenty of very nice features and functions for designing multitudes of drum and synth sounds.

The built-in synth has two oscillators sporting the standard analog waveforms.
A built-in sample player which earlier had problems but is working much better today. The number of voices are limited only by your device CPU.
Modulation controls for frequency and ring also allowing quantized automation of the sounds. Multi mode filters, white and pink noise generators are here too.
The tone generators run to a transient generator, and another multimode filter.
There are four effects busses and about eight sound FX. Routing, LFO, ADSR or ADBD envelopes with variable slope, and more. Much more, (linked below) the list of features is substantial.

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Next is a 128 pattern/”kit” step sequencer and each pattern has room for twenty four (12 perc and 12 melodic) sounds, and tracks with many common parameters like Tempo, Swing, Measure, mute, solo, etc.

Also featured is a detailed note editor, modulation automation, and quantize. Like I said there are lots of bells and whistles. I can’t list everything completely. Check out Franke Musicfor all the details.

They say loading, arranging, and so on is done intuitively and quickly.
I don’t fully agree with that and find much of that aspect of this app to be anti-intuitive with some things being in places I wouldn’t have instinctively expected. Nevertheless it’s all there and its working.

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Problems with Stroke Machines early iterations had been plagued with debilitating bugs and missing key features. A somewhat rough start leaving many to feel like they bought a half baked beta with huge potential. This seems to happen a lot for some reason?
Thankfully Wolfram Franke has been on top of it all and addressing the many early flaws with considerable and affective updates.

Prior to the most recent update (2-19-2014) Stroke Machine was largely unusable. At least up to its greater potential.
That has all changed. Thank you Mr.Franke.
The sample player is working well now.
A new “subdued” color scheme option is installed allowing the user to replace the original color nightmare resembling a plate of vomit from a multi colored yarn doll.
I like the the new color scheme a little better. It feels like it takes some of the over crowded impression down a notch or two. Still, its pretty crowded, but with improvements made to the rotary or linear orientations and how they respond to user input is better.

The FX generally are all decent, serviceable for what they are intended. Navigation, buttons or sliders and dials still on occasion fail to respond requiring some additional touches.
Changing to a different kit of sounds throughout the arrangements works great now.
Using Stroke Machine with Audiobus has gotten better, and more stable. Inter-App Audio hosting is supported.
MIDI clock sync, and virtual MIDI have been added.
AudioCopy for performance and recordings, and AudioPaste for samples has been added.
Adjustable latency settings are now included.
Generally a large amount of fixes, and new additions have brought Stroke Machine up to speed. It inspires customer confidence seeing the attentive actions of this developer. Kudos there.

The multi range keyboard is nice, but it’s just too tiny. I don’t know how that can be addressed considering the lack of screen real estate to work with. I suppose it’ll have to do, and for the most part it will suffice.

The potential was always there, and now with massive improvements and much needed additional features, Stroke Machine is delivering.

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All in all, Mr. Franke thought well to offer a huge creative environment for us to use and do a great many things. Fun, useful and maybe at times still frustrating, Stroke Machine is not kidding around. This ambitious app may have had a bumpy start, but today it is a powerful, stable and inspiring machine. Not yet perfect, but definitely one to seriously consider picking up.

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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

DrumJam Review

A new flavor of jam

*Review is based on experience with DrumJam on iPad 2&3

By Sonosaurus LLC makers of ThumbJam
Featuring Pete Lockett

  
Sonosaurus, maker of the incredible ThumbJam, teamed up with award winning percussionist Pete Lockett to create DrumJam. A truly accessible drum and percussion application smothered in brilliance. We all know about ThumbJam and how great it is. You can safely expect the same excellence of DrumJam in a familiar, and clever user interface.
Everything in DrumJam is right on one screen with handy drop downs and buttons or sliders that expand, or change to another setting option, on touch. It’s a nice, strait forward design leading to a very snazzy level of fluid control and no confusion. Both of the main control x/y pads are on the same screen, the pattern based instruments on one pad above, and the solo instrument on the other underneath
It’s easy to feel comfortable with live performance, there is no jumping from one screen to the next interrupting the flow of your jam.
DrumJam has dozens of looped percussion instruments & drum kits to easily select by drag and drop to create multiple layers of varied rhythmic sound types. With an x/y pad type controller it allows full manipulation of individual instruments. Pan, volume, mute, solo, filter and are all easily controlled here.

Each instrument has up to 20 different patterns recorded by Pete Lockett himself, and are also controlled by this pad. With multi tempo loop recordings over a wide range of tempos, all can be changed easily without messing up the rhythm thanks to the time stretch function.

Reverb and Delay can be enabled by the touch of a virtual button.

Each looped instrument can be locked to prevent accidental pattern changes.
If you just can’t decide what to do, hit the randomizer for something totally unexpected. The randomizer can also be timed to change on its own periodically.
It simply flows like a comfortable stream of uninterrupted jamming jubilation.

For more on all the features of DrumJam click HERE to visit Sonosaurus LLCs website.
 The lower x/y pad allows control of the many solo instruments for you to play over the looped patterns or completely alone. Instruments here are placed in the same drag and drop way. It’s all designed very consistently.
With sensitivity control, and a full range of quantize, sounding great has never been so easy or fun.
The solo pad can have FX applied including Reverb, Delay, Pitch bend, LoFi, and Distortion. Go ahead crush it!
The instruments having been real recordings all
sound fantastic. Whether its a short beat or entire performance, all can be recorded at studio quality 44.1 kHz, 16 bit .wav and shared via multiple options. Sharing options include, audio copy, “Open In”, iTunes file share, and export to SoundCloud.
DrumJam is packed with a comprehensive menu of MIDI control options that support clock sync in or out. Virtual MIDI, and Background audio with a power save feature is included.

I’ve spent several hours lost in DrumJam exploring and enjoying everything it offers. I can attest to the fact that even a novice rhythm maker can have a joyous experience sounding like a pro. With all the tools necessary and quality of DrumJam all around I’m sure a pro would be hard pressed to argue the greatness of this highly inspiring application.

I just don’t have any complaints.

Thanks to the excellent reputation of its developer there’s no reason to think further development isn’t in the future pipeline. Some of the things I was able to confirm with Sonosaurus which are in that pipeline follow.
Here is the future road map of DrumJam

– support for playback of recorded loops in the app

– support for import of user samples for building custom solo kits
– additional sets of loops with alternate time signatures
– additional solo instruments
– additional loop instruments
The additional content may be a mix of factory-included and in-app purchases.
That’s strait from the source.

These days music apps are more than tools. Yes they are increasingly capable, but they also offer a way for everyone to enjoy them to their fullest. Randomize a fun experience, create original parts for a composition, practice, teach or learn with it. Its all there.
DrumJam is at the top of the iOS music heap among some very good company and should be on all music lovers iDevices.

It’s a no brainer click HERE to buy DrumJam from iTunes.