iPad 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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Cubasis – Review

Cubasis By Steineberg Media

Another iDAW from a big name maker joins iOS.

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UPDATE 11-25-2013
Cubasis now supports Inter-App Audio. I’ve tried it out, and it’s working very well. Only problem I’ve had was with assigning the TC-11 synth, it fails to open with Cubasis running IAA. I don’t know if if it’s a problem in Cubasis or with BitShapes TC-11? I suspect it’s likely on BitShape?

I’ve had some issues (unrelated to IAA) where I’ve attempted an all MIDI project, and the drum track I applied kept going out of phase after Mixdown. Real weird. Everything sounded great while playing the project in Cubasis, but as soon as I mixed down the project to master it, the mix down version keeps losing parts of the beat. It’s a pretty frustrating problem when after all the work is done and sounds good only to find it’s ruined when the project gets mixed down. It’s only happened when MIDI was involved.

UPDATE 7-1-13
Cubasis Version 1.5
A new synth, new drum loops, *track freeze, bug fixes, and a fun new bug. The recent update to Cubasis comes with a couple notable new additions. The Micrologue, a fine emulation of an analogue synth of yore. As if we don’t have enough of these already, but hey, it’s a nice addition at least. Its a simple 2 oscillator synth with all the standard controls. Nothing fancy, but you can make and save your own creations. It sounds ok, and in some instances not so ok. I mean it clips and pops here and there when playing it.
*Track freeze is now an option for tracks where the Cubasis instruments are used. A nice CPU saver that can come in handy.
There’s also the addition of numerous new midi drum loops to choose from. Many are quite good. Others are pretty standard. They’ll do in a pinch, I like them mostly.
On the down side a nice new (and for a moment scary) bug was introduced. Using a Cubasis instrument to lay down a riff, melody or whatever, when I double tap the clip from the track it is in to activate the note editor sub screen I hit quantize. The whole thing deleted instead of quantizing. Blunderful! I mean, wonderful. UNDO, recovered it each time, but its a pain in the arse.
There is also a problem sometimes with Cubasis refusing to upload a .cbp project file to Dropbox. No problems with .wav or any other supported file type.
Still no automation? What the hell is the deal here? I really hope its on the way very soon, I would have much preferred automation over another tired analogue synth emulation. Its not that I don’t appreciate the new loops and synth, its just those are not what Cubasis needs right now. Fingers crossed for next time.

UPDATED May 27:
Cubasis version 1.4 arrived finally. Supposedly the “UNDO” malfunction that destroyed many users (myself included) hard work, has been fixed. Has it? I don’t really know yet. I’d like to trust that it has been taken care of, so time will tell.
They also added MIDI clock sync, but I’ve heard from a few very reliable sources who are much more adept regarding MIDI than I, that it doesn’t work very well.

UPDATED REVIEW May 16:
SteinbergMedia has announced that they have submitted Cubasis V1.4 to Apple. This updated version specifically mentions that the UNDO problem resulting in data loss has been corrected. Numerous fixes and other improvements round out what looks like a significant update.
After Apple approves V1.4 Cubasis owners will be able to install it. I am honestly a bit weary, but it should be safe to use again soon. Fairness dictates giving it a chance, so I’ll assume the best.

UPDATED REVIEW May 7:
I had been happily working with Cubasis for a while now. I really warmed up to it. I felt confident in its design and stability. Despite my intial skepticism about there being no manual “save” function, I trusted that Steinberg had made sure that its auto save would be safe and reliable. I mean; nothing is more important than a project being saved.
Today all of that changed. I was working on a project, & it was going very well with no hints of any problems on my iPad 4. I spent days to get to the point where I was near completion. While putting the finishing touches on the song, I moved a single part in one track that I didn’t like. So no problem right? Just “Undo” right? That is what its for right? I touched “Undo” once (as I have countless times over the years never once having a problem in any other app) & without ANY warning Cubasis flipped out, and deleted the entire project. Redo didn’t work at all. The contents of the project vanished! Gone! Unrecoverable!
I have heard from a few people including a friend who had the same experience previously. I was alarmed of course, but I didn’t really feel great urgency and continued using it despite being warned. Clearly I didnt fully understand them. Well now this catastrophic bug just bit my head off. “Undo” should never globally delete the contents of the whole project. NEVER!
In the 4 years I’ve been working with a huge variety of iOS music apps, none has ever failed me to this degree. Crashes were about as bad as it ever got, rarely would any data be lost, and never have I seen a project murdered so completely. Not until this. It’s the kind of bug that I must report. It’s pretty important. If any app might potentially cause a total loss of work due to a bug, then it fails to inspire trust in the product as is. Some might think, “oh, he must’ve done something else” or “that had to be operator error?” NO! I promise that’s not the case. I have a full understanding of how “Undo” is supposed to operate. Im up to date with everything installed. I know how to use these apps and devices. I know what I’m doing. There is nothing mysterious about the cause. This is without any shadow of a doubt a huge problem within Cubasis. A monumentally upsetting failure. If you have experienced this, you probably understand just how upsetting it is.

No confidence in the current state of Cubasis. For now, I DO NOT recommend buying Cubasis, and warn all who are using this app to stop immediately if you are concerned at all with your work remaining intact. I’ve never suffered a greater, or more disturbing failure with any app before of this magnitude.

Original Review:

Steinberg Media is well known for its many contributions to the music world. A developer with a grasp of what it takes to make something special.
Based on the desktop software Cubase, they delivered Cubasis for the iOS platform.
Many heads spun out of control with eager and wide eyes when Cubasis hit the App Store. I couldn’t help but get a bit excited myself.
I debated buying it for some time, and of course tried to contact Steinberg for a review copy. Many many tries, until finally weeks later they responded, but had run out. Seems they had already given all copies away along with their press release.
Prior to obtaining my own copy I had only a brief encounter with Cubasis on a borrowed iPad to look at for about an hour or so. That didn’t exactly inspire me to spend $50.
Weeks past by, and I finally, accidentally (See my post: An Ever Changing Process) bought Cubasis.
Oops.

Well, I can’t undo that so I figured I’d make the best of it and find a use for Cubasis.
First thing that encouraged me was the slick user interface. So quick and responsive. Good looking too. I felt right at home in Cubasis as if I had worked with it many times before.

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I really was enjoying the workflow quite a bit. I still am. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I felt so at home so fast. Was it really made to be so intuitive? Perhaps? Then it dawned on me. Cubasis is really a lot like previous iDAWs I had seen and worked in many times already. I have done this before with other iDAWs that have been around a while. Not to suggest Cubasis isn’t designed to be intuitive, it is.
The layout is clean making it very easy to remain in a steady workflow without numerous screens or drop downs to sift through. Something I’ve missed when using my primary iDAW Auria.

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Using Cubasis with Audiobus has been the most comfortable experience I’ve had so far. They did a remarkable job with making Cubasis and Audiobus distraction free. Every instance I had was reliable. No crashes, no lost recordings, no broken connections. It simply works. Bravo.
In addition to the excellent Audiobus integration, Cubasis has an equally smooth virtual MIDI function. Connecting my favorite synths has been a piece of cake. More to be pleased with. Still using AudioCopy/Paste? Its supported for both import and export. So are iTunes File Share, Dropbox, and email export.

* I don’t use any MIDI hardware, so I cannot offer input on how that behaves. I would expect it to be well done?

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There are many high quality instruments and loops included to choose from in both audio and MIDI format. I couldn’t find any instruments to be lacking. They all sound really nice. Each have an attack and release slider to adjust your preferred sound in the track you place it in. No violin though? Whatever is missing shouldn’t be any problem. Simply connect whatever virtual MIDI compatible app with the desired instruments to Cubasis and assign it to which ever track you want. The adjustable scrolling keyboard works as expected. It has a row of 10 Chord buttons above it. Each of the 10 chord buttons can be edited and is specific to the track its used in. Delete the track you made custom chords in, and you delete those custom chords with it. No complaints there. Switch to pads or keys with a button tap.
The pads are customizable and have variable velocity. Tap the center of the pad for a big hit or around the edges for a softer strike. Assigning instrument chords, or drums to the pads is made easy. Another kudo.

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If you import a sample to a track it can be edited by a double tap to the waveform. That will bring up a sample editor tool taking up the bottom half of the screen. Tracks are still visible and can still be scrolled through making it easy to keep track of what you’re doing. Trim, reverse, set fades in or out, and save the edited file to the media browser. Make a mistake? No problem the multiple undo and redo buttons are there at the top of the screen on the tool bar just in case. I might add that when you undo or redo a nice message appears confirming what was done.

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If you want to edit MIDI or recordings of instruments packaged in Cubasis, the same double tap will bring up a key editor. Individual notes can be edited and rearranged. The velocity can also be adjusted. A robust quantize feature will help keep it all in time.

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All the editing, performing, recording, mixing and arranging throughout is crisp. No delays or screen jumping. Putting together a song including audio recordings works so seamlessly its hard to not want to use Cubasis. Everything is smooth and pleasant. Until you get to the FX, and mastering part. In short, you can’t really master anything here. The EQ is a 2 band prank with no depth. A less than average compressor, limiter are of no significant help.

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The FX choices are many in number and appear to be a complete collection. However when you use them they are a disappointment. They sound cheap and half baked. Some worse than others, like the Reverb. Its horrendous. I’ve heard better reverb from tin cans. The Chorus is minimal and weak. I could go on and on, but ill stop by saying, Steinberg can do much better.
At least the mixer is good for setting pans, & volume levels. There are 3 FX sends for the overall mix that can be leveled at each track individually or not used at all. If you do want to use the FX in a track you can have up to 3 inserts per track. Finally, you can mixdown to M4A, .wav or MIDI.

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Overall Cubasis is great to work in, but not so great to finish the work. Its features, & design are similar to many other iDAWs already available at half the price. It looks great, sounds good, a joy (I really like making first drafts here) to use, and a flop to polish it all up at a high level. Considering the total FX fail, no automation, and that you can do the same things in apps half the price, I can’t say this is worth $50. Its good, just not doing anything that sets a new watermark.
To be fair, its early for Cubasis. There may very well be many improvements and features on the way? They might take Cubasis to the next level some of us expected, but have yet to see? I don’t know. I’ve bought many apps based on potential that was never realized. So I am skeptical.
If this was released a year ago, it would have been more impressive. Since my aforementioned primary iDAW arrived with FX, sonic capabilities light years ahead of anything else on iOS and full automation, Cubasis misses the wow factor by a wide margin. I would consider this the better option if it is intended for use on iPad2.

For more details on Cubasis please visit SteinbergMedia

Purchase Cubasis from your iTunes App Store HERE

Review based on use with iPads 3&4.

UPDATED 4/16/13

Today Steinberg answers weakly (though I’m sure not directly) to a major concern by improving its selection of Cubasis mastering options. They added a 4 band Studio EQ, and a Limiter.
The new “Studio EQ” is definitely an improvement over the shelf EQ. It sounds OK, and is better than nothing, but doesn’t really impress me very much. Then again I’m spoiled by Aurias FabFilter ProQ.
I am very glad its now part of the Cubasis package though.
The new Limiter is fair. It serves its purpose at a functional level but raises no goose bumps. Neither are by any means appropriate for mastering. Not in my world. Its a step in the right direction and shows that Steinberg is paying attention to customers needs. Even if they are still holding back, offering mediocre solutions. I can only hope they will put a real EQ, Compressor, Limiter in Cubasis someday and improve the other subpar FX as well.
I hoped for automation, but it didn’t come. Not yet. Will it ever?
These things may come later, or not at all? For now Cubasis is still a neutered but well groomed breed with a few new tricks, leaving a lot to be desired.

Meteor MultiTrack Recorder Hits Earth: Review.

UPDATED REVIEW: 7-24-2013

So much had changed with Meteor since I first wrote about it when I first started blogging. Lots has changed for me as well. This iDAW has grown quite a bit. Now Meteor has 16 tracks that can be upgraded to 24 tracks via IAP. Full Audiobus support. Expanded and improved MIDI options, you can buy. New instruments via IAP. Solid FX. Its still got a lot of menus. Meteors workflow might grow on you, but I cant honestly say its grown on me. There are tons of helpful features included to help you make the most of your music projects. Somewhere.

There’s a few things that bug me about Meteor preventing me from falling in love with it and despite my initial joyous feelings, I just don’t get Meteor today. Maybe its me?
The U.I. is all about menus. Sure everything you need is somewhere in one of them, but its just too much for my taste. There is still always noticeable clipping when loops meet. Unlike every other iDAW I’ve used, Meteor has some quirk with playing a succession of copied loops back to back in a track without an audible click at every single meeting point. WHY? Is there a “Knock that shit off” setting somewhere that I can’t find? Every other iDAW I have used plays perfectly without any clicks in the exact same scenario without any fuss. Its beyond my patience level having to find the cause, when it simply shouldn’t be there to begin with, like every other iDAW.

They charge extra for the EQ. WTF?
No iDAW should ever sell without a decent EQ included. Its a primary tool. Adding a much more powerful EQ like a 10 band and selling that is fine, but to not include a basic 4 band parametric EQ or Graphic EQ is lame in my opinion. That being the case, and unless 4Pockets comes to their senses, I don’t recommend buying it. Get the “Audio Mastering” app instead. Its a better option anyway, so since you have to pay either way, you may as well get the best you can.
Meteor is pretty sophisticated, and powerful with complex tools. It seems to be more of a MIDI oriented machine which could be why I am unable to bond with it? Speaking of MIDI you can record and play MIDI, but not do any editing without buying the MIDI Editor upgrade. Really? There’s just too many hoops to jump through to get simple things done for my taste. I’m not saying Meteor is bad. Not at all. Its just not my cup of tea. Maybe it will be yours?

——-

UPDATE Fall 2011- Paul, From 4Pockets, makers of Meteor sent me the beta with many of the new features that will be in the next app update V1.1.
Most notable new features are that STEREO recording and STEREO tracks with “Pure Stereo Importing” are going to be added. The Editing suite has been upgraded, and so have the FX for stereo inserts, and channels. I love this!

Several additional improvements will be made to the menus, custom color selection for song parts. Midi capabilities like record and playback midi tracks with easy syncing via midi clock with other hardware.

I want to Thank Paul at 4Pockets for sharing this great news with me.

Original Review from June 2011 follows.
In a sea of 8 multitrack recorder apps for iPad, finally someone offers a nice 12 tracks. I should start right off with saying though I love Meteor, those 12 tracks are all MONO. Now before anyone flips out like I did, this doesnt mean everything you do in Meteor has to be MONO. Ill cover that more later in this review.

Meteor is setting itself apart by offering a number of features including a very robust FX collection. It comes with Stereo Reverb, Digital Delay, and Chorus Flanger. Applying these via the 3 global send FX bus’ is where the best capabilities of the FX shine above most any other similar multitrack apps.
You are not limited to only global FX, and can insert (mono) FX effecting only the selected track. They’ve added a nice little “FX Freeze” feature for adding multiple FX to various tracks that while in use reduces what would otherwise be a huge CPU killer.
This is a big deal, as many of the other studio multitrack apps dont really have a solution to this issue. Thus they are more limited in the quality of their FX. Its tough to even find a decent Stereo Reverb, but finally Meteor brings us a fantastic Stereo Reverb without causing the iPads CPU from exploding.

In addition to the 3 excellent  FX suites that are included, there is the option to purchase more FX units via the in app store at a modest price around $3 each. This helps keep the cost down and if you really need or want more you can add them anytime.Those additional FX are Compressor, Graphic Eq, Distortion, and Video Import. More are on the way.
But Meteor doesn’t stop at offering just great FX, it also has a 12 channel integrated mixer to tweak and fine tune every detail track by track. 2 Level indicators at the top help avoid blasting out speakers by showing you in real time how much sound is being pumped out. Of course you have full comand of pan, volume, mute, solo, all 3 FX send bus levels here.
By the way the mixer and FX can all be automated. Nice.
The Integrated Sample Editor does all that one would expect. Slice and dice imported audio files, insert silence, fade in or out, tweak FX, Normalize, numerous quantize settings, and create new clips in a non destructive environment. Of course you can also record audio directly from the iPad internal mic, or use any other compatible microphone such as the iRig Mic that I use with monitoring toggle.
I could spend a lot of time talking about every little feature but Im going to stick to the more important things in my review. I will note quickly some other critical and/or desired features. Meteor has full pasteboard support allowing copy/paste in or out between other compatible apps. Theres a Metronome with various settings to suit your needs, automatice delay compensation, and iPod library importing of songs, or samples from your iPod, and exporting compressed .CAF or non compressed .WAV file formats.
The overall user interface takes full advantage of the multitouch capabilities of the iPad, and is laid out logically and intuitively. I find nothing to be complicated or confusing. This interface brings a pleasant work environment that promotes an even more pleasant ease of work flow. All menus and drop downs are easy to find, and if you do find yourself lost at any point there is in app Help, and even further support via the 4Pockets.com video tutorials.  
Now on to my concern about MONO tracks. Personally I prefer and need stereo tracks. After some email exchanges with Paul, the big brain behind Meteor, I have come to appreciate why he chose MONO over Stereo.
You just cant have all the high quality FX and Stereo tracks at the same time. It would literally crash the CPU. Its just one of the limitations of the iPad so far. Paul did mention without promising anything that he will try to figure out something to provide better stereo systems or whatever, I am no tech expert. So for now Meteor is kind of a 6 stereo track recorder. I mean that in order to get the stereo effect you need to place the same audio file in two tracks running simultaneously. Yes, this does eat up tracks very fast, but thankfully he thought of that and the solution is a mix down facility to turn those two tracks into one. It’s quite easy, and it works great. No compromises in audio quality. However it is a slightly tedious extra step to consider that doesnt really fit in the desired workflow perfectly.  I am very interested in seeing what solutions he comes up with to eliminate this issue.
Overall Meteor Multitrack is an elegant design that proves to be highly capable despite device limits. Its proof that creative app engineering can bring consumers a very potent audio work station that covers most of the major functions you find in some desktop DAWs. While nothing on iPad is close really to competing head on with any desk top DAWs, Meteor shows that we are nearing a new era of music production in an entirely new way. In the end its all about audio quality. Does what I make on my iPad sound as good as anything else? I think the answer is yes. Meteor is a considerable leap forward, and I say should be part of any iPad musician’s arsenal of music apps. At $19.99 it’s certainly an excellent value, all things considered. Plus, you are not only getting a fantastic music production application, but are also buying from a developer who cares deeply for his products and design. User input is encouraged, acknowledged, and in some cases implemented. Customer service is stellar, and that’s important. You dont want to get anything and then find your concerns being totally ignored. It doesn’t feel right, and fails to inspire confidence in the product you paid good money for. That is something you will not worry about here.
Thumbs Up…5 Stars…Buy it. Use it. Love it.