iOS

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.

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apeFilter by http://www.densitygs.com

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

iLoud, iUSBport, and Jamstik Oh my!

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed anything related to iOS music production. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been exploring and expanding.

It’s not always just about apps. We need other things to help us make the magic happen. Being mobile we tend to want things that are compact and easy to carry around, but not lose on quality.
They gotta be reliable, easy to use, fun, and compact.

Our devices sadly have limited memory storage. Once you make your choice on the device with the storage capacity you think will be enough, that’s it. No going back, and it seems like its never enough.
So what do you do? No USB port, and syncing with the PC is not always a practical option.
You need portable mass storage that can be accessed wirelessly, anywhere you are without needing to plug in.
This is where the iUSBport comes in.

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This handy little device allows you to have a mobile WiFi hotspot.
With a rechargeable battery that can also provide power to a connected USB device like mass storage drives, you’ll have all your data saved with you anywhere you go.
I’ve attached mine to a USB mini hub with multiple ports. So I can connect not just my mass storage device, but also my key chain memory stick, or whatever. Mix and match, just beware of how much powers being drawn from your iUSBport. Depending on how much you plug in you can keep it all going about 4-6 hours before needing to plug in to recharge.

The iUSBport is easy to use, just skip their app and use your browser though. Unlike other similar products saying they do the same thing, this has a very handy screen which reads out and informs you of pertinent information. So you know what’s going on and don’t have to guess.
It just works. It also has the capability to connect to existing wifi networks simultaneously (with your Ad Hoc) when it is plugged in at home you can connect and move files among your connected storage units and cloud based storage services like Dropbox. Neat! Always have access to your files, save, move among your apps, devices and do it anywhere.
This is something I really don’t leave home without when I want to work on some music away from it all.

This is honestly a bit outdated as HyperDrive, makers of my original iUSBport have introduced an even better version with the iUSBport 2. Gotta love sequels.
So check this cool gadget out at href=”http://www.hypershop.com/HyperDrive/”>HyperDrive and all their other cool new stuff.

While I’m at it and speaking of mobility, how about something with great on the go sound? Not headphones, but a speaker that brings the boom in a pint sized and manageable wireless, rechargeable package.
IK Multimedia iLoud.
This 40 Watt audio monitor delivers amazing sound quality and packs a punch.
I’ll make this easy. I tested out several similar portable monitors that came highly recommended. iLoud outperformed them all. None reached the levels of the iLoud by a wide, noticeable margin.

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All frequencies had excellent separation and sounded very clean. The bass isn’t over done and muddy like the others.

For the record I only use it as an audio monitor connected to my iPads. It can be used as an amp (with supported apps) and it also supports Bluetooth.
I don’t care about or use either. I just wanted a excellent mini monitor for my music productions that sounds great and goes anywhere.
That said, I’ve heard from others who complained about “hiss” when used as an amp. The Bluetooth has too much latency and compromises audio quality so I just haven’t bothered.
It’s about the sound, and iLoud does it very nicely. Even when the natural acoustics suck, it still pumps out great sound. I recommend this wireless rechargeable sound monster highly.

Last on the list of cool new gadgets I’ve been spending my time with is the highly anticipated Jamstik.
This is less review and more first impression after having very recently received mine.

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I just pulled it out of the box a few days ago. With giddy childlike excitement, I tore that box open.
I didn’t really know what to expect?
Well, it pretty much explains itself, so….anyway.
It feels like a tiny guitar that is honestly at first glance a little cramped. If you play guitar, it’ll probably feel uncomfortable at first. Spending some time with it to acclimate should lead to that discomfort becoming a memory pretty quick. I felt comfortable with playing this rather fast.
It’s just stupid, crazy fun!
With a built in pocket in the Jamstik housing, there inside it with the rechargeable battery is an Allen wrench, you can use to adjust the action on the compact fretboard. It’s pretty high out of the box, so adjust it however you need it. Easy.
The neck feels about right and familiar being in scale with full sized guitars. Just shorter is all.
Plus strings can be replaced and trimmed as you prefer.
It comes with a decent adjustable strap, two picks, and charge cable.
The weight feels a little light for obvious reasons, but not at all bothersome. In fact it felt like it hung just right for me.
It connects via a simple proxy app that runs in the background through its own wifi network. You change to the wifi network from your device network settings. Just like when you switch networks anywhere. Then open your favorite guitar app and jam away. Sweet!
Again since I’ve not spent a ton of time with my Jamstik, there are things I have yet to fully experience. One concern I had was if there’d be any latency over wifi. It seemed OK. This is something I need to spend more time with.

It does far more than act just as a cool mini guitar. It does that very well. You can use Jamstik like any MIDI controller to trigger multiple loops across the 6 strings and all the frets. It quickly can become a one man band control unit. I’ve only scratched the surface, but holy Schmidt is this thing fun.

I’m very impressed with this sweet device.

The world of mobile music production is going strong, and evolving with some uniquely mobile and practical new quality tools.

Onward music pioneers. The trail is seeing traffic.