groove box

Stroke Machine – Review

20140527-231035-83435287.jpg

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!

20140527-231255-83575856.jpg
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.

20140527-231343-83623458.jpg
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.

20140527-231542-83742001.jpg
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.

20140527-231630-83790614.jpg
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.

Advertisements

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”

20140221-142552.jpg
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.

20140221-143432.jpg

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.”

20140221-151455.jpg
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.

20140221-152806.jpg
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.

20140221-154014.jpg
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.

20140221-154951.jpg
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