iOS Apps

KASPAR – Review

KASPAR is developed by Yonac

Available from iTunes App Store

KASPAR (resisting obvious children’s cartoon references) launches with a fierce dragon logo before quickly revealing the synthesizer and all its glory. It is an immediate impression that perhaps intentionally conveys to the user that they just released a majestic, mythical beast. This is however no myth.

In order to properly control such power a proper cage is needed to house it. What I’m saying is don’t expect to fully enjoy KASPAR on anything older than an iPad Air. The developer has included this warning in the App Store description. Somehow a couple ding dongs still wrote bad reviews because this powerful new synthesizer doesn’t work well on their old iPad 4s. Who’s fault is that? Come on. There is a very fair warning upfront that they ignored. Makes as much sense as complaining to the makers of a gold fish bowl that their product sucks because they can’t fit their pet shark in it. I’ll detail the recommendations a little more at the end of this review.


KASPAR is a massive synthesizer or really 8 synths in one with 4 touch controlled morphing (or Auto) groups. Each synth has 3 oscillators (totaling up to 24) with multiple waveforms. Dedicated filter envelopes, an arpeggiator, chord maker, 6 dedicated mods slots with 20 possible targets, 2 LFOs and more. With a strong morphing capability, loads of high quality sound effects, there doesn’t seem to be any limits to what you can come up with.

The 4 group morphing unit is controlled by touch and KASPAR can record your own custom morphing shapes that you draw. Each of the groups are x and y controls. The morpher allows for deep sound modulation control with an endless pallet of possibilities, shapes and sizes. Reassign synths easily to any group, control the x and y curve speeds and enjoy manually shaping your sound or set to “Auto” and watch it go on and morph whatever mode(6) and loop(4) type you choose.


In KASPAR it’s all bout layering. So of course there is a screen to make general adjustments to each of the 8 synths, volume, pan, and both FX bus levels. Similar to a standard mixer.


Choose from about 300 presets. Better yet, make your own synth patches from a variety of common and several unique waveforms for each of the 3 oscillators. All have pulse width/ timbre controls, and oscillators 2 & 3 also have ring modulation. The overall combined sound can have noise added with a wide tone control, and a glide option. Play polyphonic or mono with legato on or off. Pretty standard stuff. It’s the variety of unique waveforms that can spice things up. There are some interesting shapes to choose from and they can make serious impact on the sound that synth makes.


As you edit each layer of synths you will find a nice selection of independent filters to enable. All have their own unique qualities. The Fat 70’s, Formant and Comb are very cool. Mix and match your favorites or whatever your final patch design needs. They are all excellent. I couldn’t find anything lacking with the filters. I just wish I could copy a filter setting to use in a different synth layer. Come to think of it, that would be nice to have for the oscillators or other parameters as well.


Each synth has its own set of 2 LFOs and an envelope. Each LFO has 7 possible waveforms. On the Mod page (not shown) you can have up to 6 different modifiers for each synth with 20 possible sources. For a single synth having just 6 mods, might seem like it’s not much, but remember we can make up to 8 layers of 6 each. That means there are up to 48 possible mods throughout the layers. It adds up and doesn’t pose any significant limitation.


The 2 FX busses can both have up to 8 effects units selected. The signal flow is easily adjusted by touch, drag and drop. For those not familiar how busses work, it means you are sending a chain of FX to the overall sound, not inserted to each specific synth. However each synth has bus controls to adjust how much of each busses chain of FX are applied to them. It would be interesting to see what it would be like to have independent FX chains, varying units and parameters for each synth someday. I don’t think even the latest iPad Pro could handle that today? That said 2 busses are nothing to shrug off. The FX units are all high end and custom made for KASPAR. There’s plenty of interesting options and combinations.


Being a stand alone synthesizer, KASPAR wouldn’t be complete without its own recorder. It can also be used to play a imported loop along with whatever sound the app is making.

With such an enormous range KASPAR doesn’t just stop here. Each synth also has its own multi mode arpeggiator and chord maker. Program your own chords to a single key in a snap. That’s become more useful than I had thought it would.

Put it all together and you have one colossal or “super synth”. Even my iPad Air 2 performed well with heavy loads of layers, FX, arps, filters and morphs running with the “Best” audio generation quality at 256 buffer through Inter-App Audio in Cubasis. Yonac really did a good job with efficiency here. They also thoughtfully made sure to include full MIDI services, Audiobus, Abelton Link, and AU plug in.

KASPAR sports up to 12 polyphony (tested with 8), a pleasant interface with after touch and velocity controls. A very playable synth that unlocks layered sounds not seen on iOS until now. It is making summer of 2017 one of the best for synth lovers.

As I mentioned near the beginning of this review here are more device recommendations for this super synth. You should have an iPad Air, iPad Pro, iPad Mini 2 or newer. If you must try KASPAR on an older device like an iPad 4 and are willing to take the risk and not blame the developer, you might have decent results if you turn the buffer to 512 and the audio generation quality to its lowest or “Good” setting. Just know that you probably won’t always be able to use all 8 synths, mods, FX, arps etc.

*Tested with iPad Air 2

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. 

The Music App Gamble

Something has been bothering me for a while. I have this folder on my iPad (both actually) I call “Music Apps With Potential”. It is full of incomplete music apps that are missing vital, basic functions. I can’t use them in their current builds because each is missing what I (most people I think would agree) consider very basic functions, and supports.
Those which I consider to be very basic are AudioCopy/Paste, midi, Audiobus, and or a built in recording feature. Basically the things that all iOS music apps should never be without. I’m not talking about expansions, or additional features that will increase usability. No, I am talking about the stuff that most of us expect and need in order to use the app to begin with. Stuff that if missing inhibit and or impead use.

It makes me a bit sad actually. So many music apps with great design. They’re innovative, unique, and just down right cool! Some are real game changers.
I knew they were half baked when I bought them, but I did check with each developer to confirm their development plans before purchase. Each of these were confirmed that the vital functions I had asked about, will be added in future updates. The time frames for these promised updates vary from app to app, but each had been confirmed.

With each confirmation I happily supported what I thought to be excellent development and I paid for the app.
Most of the time apps of this type don’t remain in the “potential” folder very long. They usually get the update in a timely manner or as promised. Unfortunately some never get out of app purgatory. Too many for me.
It is a little frustrating to see them there as a constant reminder of how many times I’ve been burned.
Worse is that such great innovations are abandoned and left unrealized.

While this sort of thing is a fairly small percentage of the whole, it is common. For me it’s common enough to make me reconsider ever purchasing another music app that cannot be used the day I buy it.
I understand that developers need to make money, and I have felt sympathetic frequently enough to take the gamble with buying their apps before they were really even close to ready. Always gambling on their word being true. Too many times have I been left holding an empty bag several months or even a year later having nothing to show for it.

They may have excellent reasons but I just don’t care. I see it as a breach of confidence. A hollow word, and an empty promise. It says a lot about ones integrity to break a promise or take advantage of people who will trust the giving of a seemingly honorable word. Even though most follow through, enough don’t and leave me feeling like it is now an undesirable gamble. Risky stuff sometimes. You know what they say about one bad apple.

It’s too risky of a gamble for me anymore. Simply put, after these many unfortunate experiences having lost the gamble, I am done. Finish the app, then I will buy it. I don’t believe I am being unreasonable to expect a product I buy should be finished and ready for intended use. How about you?

FEED App Review

FEED Me Seymour

Developed By Incidental

Review based on used with iPad 2, & 3

Image

FEED is a clever app that allows you to feed audio synced via iTunes and or,
record live audio via your device or external microphone and manipulate it. It’s
very simple and easy to use, not to mention highly entertaining. With full multi
touch support it allows you to capture multiple brief recordings, loop forward
or back, pitch shift, and modulate as fast or slow as your fingers can move. All of which can be done simultaneously if desired.

The audio appears as a colorful waveform in a circle. Altering the position of the circle on-screen will
manipulate its effect. Pinch or spread to change volume, or use the new volume slider.

Removing a recording is done by simply dragging it off-screen. Holding the center of the circle will loop the audio back and forth. You
can also scrub the audio by dragging around the circles edge. All audio is
passed through a slider controlled delay effect.

For more about FEED please click HERE to visit Incidental.

It doesn’t get any easier than this.

The results can be very creative or even hilarious.
FEED also allows you to record a performance to then upload
direct to SoundCloud, share via iTunes, or send in an email. No audio copy paste
yet, but I’m told it is a feature that will also be added later.

FEED is a very interesting app that could really be used well to sample quick
bits of spontaneously recorded audio anywhere you and your iPad happen to be.

Light on user control, and features for now, but a very promising app at least.
It will benefit greatly from further development allowing more control,
features and options to take it up a notch.

As I mentioned already, audio copy is planned. FEED is off to a very good start.
I can imagine a group of people singing and capturing bits on their iPad together
making some wild mixes. That’s the best part of FEED, it’s got a lot to do with
freeing up your imagination fostering collaboration.  It’s a fun way to touch
sound and draw up some real creative stuff.

What would you do with FEED?

More FEED please.

Buy FEED HERE from iTunes!

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.