DAW

Cubasis 2 – What it should be

Cubasis Mobile Music Creation

Developed by Steinberg

Available in the iTunes App Store

I have had a love/hate, and often hostile relationship with early versions of Cubasis. I make no apologies, there were serious early version issues, missing critical features, and deal breaking problems. This is no longer the case. Cubasis 2 is not the same as those early versions that crashed, or deleted entire projects with a single ‘Undo’ tap for a minor correction. No, not at all. Cubasis 2 is now, what I expected then. A quality, powerful, and smooth iDAW I can rely on. That’s how I would describe it today. I trust this newest version and love it. 

In this review on the new and vastly improved Cubasis 2 I’ll cover the most relevant parts as I experience them. For more detailed technical specifications and complete list of features, I encourage you to visit Steinbergs website.

In case you didn’t already know, Cubasis is a mobile DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) with unlimited audio or midi tracks. It’s packed with many virtual instruments, samples, drum kits, and a decent suite full of basic audio effects. Of course that’s not all. Cubasis is truly packed with content, features, and options to help any creative flow get things done. One of the best things about this is it’s user interface. A very pleasant, smooth design that makes you want to use it. Digging through menus is not something to worry about. Steinberg really paid attention to making everything look easy. Don’t let that fool you, this is not a toy, and the appearance of simplicity is only a comforting mask that when lifted reveals great depth in a powerful workstation.

When it comes to working fast and efficiently, this is the DAW I find myself gravitating towards almost exclusively. Deep midi support is presented in a way that even audio-centric folks like myself, who sometimes resist using midi find it to be more intuitive than others. Those who are midi savvy will appreciate this ease of use as well as its reliability for even complex uses. Routing in general is super clean. Routing Inter-App Audio, or Audiobus is just as fluid as can be expected. 

Mixing looks and feels like you might expect. A simple tap on the Mixer button reveals the mixer board. If you don’t know already, it’s where you go to make  various adjustments to the overall mix, such as levels, pan, effects routing, and set automation read/write. 


Cubasis 2 now has a very nice Channel Strip. It’s a very welcome addition. Now controlling sound in detail for all channels is a option. Hi and Low cut off filter, Noise Gate, Compressor and Saturator tucked neatly into a always accessible pop up. You can really control your sound making the best possible mix. This was something sorely missing from early versions, but thankfully is currently a quality option included with the app. Some might say it’s an essential tool, and I would agree. In the past when there was no Channel Strip, it was simply put a real bummer. This is one more reason to take Cubasis 2 a lot more seriously. 


Another early version absentee was Automation. They’ve gone and added Automation (a few updates back actually) with complete set of easily assigned automation parameters. Finally I can really dig into things making specific tweaks throughout the track or global mix. Without automation it was very difficult to feel like I wasn’t playing with a gutted or lite version of a DAW. It’s such an important aspect and increases the overall professional feel of this app. I don’t know how anybody can take a DAW seriously without Automation as a standard function. I’m getting off track, but the point is it’s now an available built in option that many of us were baffeled by it being MIA in very early versions. I thank Steinberg for bringing this in. Better late than never, right? Cubasis with Automation, yes! 


Again like a broken record I will complain about the standard FX units. There are many standard FX included, and they have improved some. No you won’t have an awesome convolution or spring reverb unit, but for a few more bucks you can get an FX pack with much better versions of some of the built in FX and then some. With each pack you will get new FX units that are significantly better than average. I only have the FX Pack 1. The Stereo Imager came with it and I find it to be indespensible. They also don’t seem to be quite as big of a CPU drain as I expected. If you use them a lot in tracks, especially reverb units, you’ll want to consider using the Track Freeze option to help minimize demand on system resources. It’s not permenant and you can freeze or un-freeze whenever. Nicely done. 

A very recent addition is the Spin FX unit. DJs will appreciate this, but not limited to just them. It’s also pretty fun. 

Still just a 4 band studio EQ, but unless you want to do your mastering here it shouldn’t be an issue.The EQ is certainly good enough for general uses, but if you need more there’s always an app for that. 


Working within Cubasis 2 is very predictable. That’s a good thing. Double tap a waveform to bring it up below for a complete set of editing tools. Fix, trim fade, etc. If it’s a MIDI (or using included instrument and samples) track the same double tap brings of a fully functioning sequencer. Quantize, edit, and compose sequences with great ease. You won’t need much else. 

Cubasis 2 also has a minisampler with some included presets. This was another early feature that was missing. With the mini sampler you now have the capability of creating your own instruments in house. That’s very nice to have and opens up even more creative scenarios to explore.

Cubasis 2 is loaded to the gills with virtual instruments, drum kits, samples, and has a emulated analog synthesizer. The Micrologue synth is a basic analog style and has a growing library of presets. It also affords the usual synth patching parameters to the user to customize unique sounds. A new suite of 76 modern presets have been added. It’s a nice little synth, not bad. Not extraordinary either, but I like it and am glad to have it included.

The Microsonic (also included) offers hundreds of other quality sampled instruments. It now has some cool 60s era TAPE instruments faithfully recreating the iconic sounds of the time. 

Cubasis 2 has brought so many new tools, features and options. It’s hard to catch them all. Another new option is Real Time, Time Strech. Now you can load audio loops and have them match your mix perfectly. 

I’ll wrap this up, knowing I’ve left some things out but with a reminder to check the Steinberg site for all of the details. That said, Cubasis 2 is the new standard for mobile DAWs. It may not be perfect but come on, we are working on iPads after all. What it’s missing pales in comparison to what’s not and can almost always be made up for by another dedicated app. I’m a little sad to say I just don’t even use my AuriaPro much anymore and favor this much of the time. When it comes right down to it, what do I want to use that isn’t compromising my expectations of quality?  The answer is Cubasis 2. 

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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.

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.

Are We Spoiled?

We have so many amazing applications at our disposal, for crazy low prices. So why do people complain so much about iOS ad ons that are just as good as their desktop counterparts?
Ill use Auria as an example since it has the largest selection of ad ons and plugins currently available with iOS DAWs.
For the moment lets suspend our personal feelings of the app itself and focus on the relative costs for perspective.
Auria itself is $50 and comes with 32-64 bit audio processing, a stellar convolution reverb, a sophisticated standard EQ, Automation, FX, and numerous pro grade features. All working very well, for a lot of people including for me. Far from perfect but all things considered, not a bad value.
Considering its limitations, largely because of the iPads limited CPU and system resources, its pretty damned capable and priced appropriately.
If you want a comparable DAW on your desktop or laptop you will pay not only more for the hardware, but also a bunch more for the software.
FL Studio Producer is about $199.99 for example with similar standard features. Obviously there are differences, but the relative point here is about what you get for your dollar.
Other PC DAWs can cost more, hundreds more.
Now consider the plugins.
Auria has many FabFilter plugins just as good as the same ones for PCs.
FabFilter Pro Q for example is about $190.00 for PCs and $30 for Auria users. Yet are practically identical.
Somehow I still see people complain that $30 is way too expensive. WHAT?
Folks have their reasons for complaining about prices in great variety. None that I’ve heard have sounded the least bit relevant, or slightly reasonable, and in fact strike me as nothing more than unrealistic, and spoiled.
There are several ad ons and plugins to compare that show the very same price differences for pretty much all the equally available quality plugins. In every case the iOS option is drastically less costly.
Why so many silly complaints then?
Some say it doesn’t work, or they can’t get it to work. That also strikes me as strange since I have no problems with it at all.
I have no special super human powers, so I assume its operator error on their part. It works fine.
Before you start listing all your reasons for why you don’t like Auria or its plugins, remember this really isn’t about why you like it or don’t. If you’re going to go on about why PCs are better, again thats not on topic here, and why would you care anyway? I have no illusions of the disparity of power between iPad and PCs. iPad gets the job done just fine for those who wish to take the alternate route despite known limitations. This is about the costs. This is about the question “Are We Spoiled”?
Looking at the brief (yes I am aware its a general comparison) comparisons it seems clear to me that the complaints about the cost of iOS plugin options are ridiculous at the very best.
Just having a quality convolution reverb with a vast I.R. Library included (not including the additional I.R. libraries purchasable for tiny sums) is worth the $50 that Auria costs alone. GASP! How can I say that?
Well, a convolution reverb sounding just as good on PC will run you around $250! Some cost way more than that even.
So yes, $50 for the whole package (that again works fine for me on my iPad4, once I figured out all the silly settings necessary) convolution reverb included.
What the hell more do you want? Are we spoiled or what?
We’re only just getting started with iOS seeing DAWs supporting high quality options, tools, and plugins. So as we see more in the future are we still going to be complaining about the low prices being way too high?
I really hope not. Its not unrealistic to be concerned that some developers may choose to not go ahead with their product because the users are unwilling to accept the low cost of their product, much less any ad ons they might offer.
That’s a nightmare scenario, and I don’t sit up nights worried about it, but there is some reason to be concerned.
If developers see a community of users still complaining about even low prices, they might not make our dream iDAWs (or whatever app) because of that spoiled cacophony going on and on about nonsensical price expectations.
I’m not point the finger, though it kind of looks that way, but I am just as guilty as the next guy or gal. Or I was. I get it. I understand we have been spoiled by the super low costs of super cool apps for years. All the while we were still complaining or demanding more.
So as we get to the point now that “more” is becoming realized, so are the options, and slightly increased prices. All of the iOS app prices while maybe being higher than we started with are still very low.
You can’t have more, and get it for less. Its not a fair position to take.
Isn’t it time we start appreciating the progress instead of looking for things to complain about?
Its OK to not like something because it doesn’t fit in with your way of doing things, but lets try to not bash things that many folks find to be an excellent value and have no trouble working with. Lets try to not get bent out of shape when something costs a little more than we’re used to while offering us the “more” we demanded, and still for much less than its PC counterpart.
Bad for you is not the end all be all qualifier of a bad app on the whole. Sure there are “bad” apps, and apps that are priced inappropriately, but what’s the point of ridiculing them to death again and again? There are no rewards or points scored for complaining, especially about low prices. It just ends up making a lot of people look very spoiled. Who wants that?
Maybe we can all look a little harder at the bright side? See more of the positives. Be champions for this new thing and have some patience. It’ll all get there sooner than later.
However if its all really that terrible to you, then why are you torturing yourself? Go back to your PC or whatever made you happy before. Not everything is for everyone, but everyone can be a little more positive and grateful for what they have. Why not?

The Must Have iOS Music Apps In My Process

Updated July 24 2013

A few additions and deletions to consider in this updated list. I’ve added some really impressive new apps, as well as removing a couple I’m tired of waiting for updates.
A couple of the most notable additions is Waldorfs Nave, Nave is special, and very powerful with tremendous sonic crafting options. “Audio Mastering” app which I find to be an extremely useful, and quality mastering option. If you are using something like Cubasis then it is absolutely essential.
Thor Polysonic Synthesizer, AUFX:Space ( a fantastic stand alone reverb ), and now that Audiobus is supported MorphWiz and SampleWiz are added.

A while ago I made a similar list of iOS music apps that I generally considered “Must Have” iOS Music Apps. It got a bit long & messy. It was more of a wide look at the apps I thought had a fairly universal appeal for anyone interested in making music this way. I’m making this new list to reflect a more current collection of iOS music apps, but most specific to what is used in my own process rather than a list of options or just simply great apps. There are so many great apps.
This is a response of sorts to the questions I am asked most often about my music process.”Hey, David! What music apps do you use and recommend?” And “Why?”

First. I only require that these have Audiobus support now, or at least AudioCopy/Paste until they can be updated with Audiobus. Any music app failing to have, or a plan to soon have those basic functions, are simply not installed. At least not until they do. I am always open to revisiting other excellent music apps when they are completed with these basic supports. The reason this is so important to me is because I have always been committed to the wire-free creative experience that iOS offers.
I enjoy that freedom most and it adds to my inspiration. Wires don’t appeal to me and I feel are no longer necessary in this day and age. If I wanted wires I’d use a laptop.
iTunes File Share is dreadful and not part of my process. The rare times ill use File Share is just to move projects for storage on my computer. Lastly, I only occasionally use Virtual MIDI and own no other hardware.

What I used previously versus what I use today is very different. So much has changed. The amazing growth and development in iOS music apps available today has advanced very quickly. It is a very exciting time for me as I’m sure it is for countless others who are equally (if not more) enthusiastic about this unique platform for music production.

So for what ever its worth, here is my list of apps I consider “Must Haves” and use in my process to make music. The ones I just can’t live without.

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iDAW

Auria – The single most complete iDAW for mixing, editing & mastering from cradle to grave.

Meteor- The next best thing to Auria for professional quality. Now with up to 24 tracks via IAP. Good automation and fantastic MIDI controls. Instruments, and solid FX, but paying extra for an EQ is offensive. Still great iDAW.

Synthesizers

PPG WaveGenerator, PPG WaveMapper, Animoog, Addictive Synth, Sunrizer Synth, Magellan Synth, NLogPro, Nave, Thor, CrystalSynth XT

Sequencers

iPolySix, SynergyStudio, Cubasis

Samplers

Samplr, CsGrain, SampleWiz

Granular/Synth

GrainScience, iPulsaret, iDensity, GrainBender, Stria.

Drum and Percussion

DM1-The Drum Machine, DrumJam, Stochastic, MoDrum. GlitchBreaks

Instruments

ThumbJam, Guitarism, OMGuitar, Gelileo Organ, MorphWiz

Virtual MIDI

Gestrument, MusixPro, ArpeggionomePro, Chordion.

FX

EchoPad, Filtatron, Turnado, AUFX:Space

Miscellaneous

Impaktor, AirVox

Tie It All Together, Edit, Master Etc.

Audiobus, AudioShare, Twisted Wave, Audio Mastering.

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There you have it. A list of the iOS music apps I must have in my process. This is by no means a declaration of any kind. Everyone has a unique process with apps they prefer. I hope that answers the question some of you have asked. I’m sure this will all change tomorrow. 🙂