FACChorus – Review

FACChorus by: Frederic Corvest 

Available in the iTunes App Store and the Mac 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. There is now the ability to save custom presets added. 

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 Au V3, it’s hardly any real concern. Au V3 basically works the same as IAA. 

It’s early still, and it’s already progressing thanks to a dedicated developer. 

That all said, for three bucks you get an incredible sounding Chorus unit that would’ve cost far more in the physical world. 

Keep an eye out for an OSX version that works very nicely with Logic Pro X, and GarageBand for Macs. 

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. 

Alchemy Synth Mobile App Updated Review

Alchemy Synth Mobile By Camel Audio: Playing with big sounds.

Updated Alchemy Synth Mobile Studio Updated Review: April 30 2013

Alchemy Synth Mobile Studio – Pro how I love you, let me count the ways. Oh I never was a very good poet. Anyway, the latest update to Alchemy Mobile Pro is one for the books! It is feeling more like a mini studio with the new 4 track sequencer. Which explains the name tweak to Alchemy Synth Mobile Studio as well. However, the new 4 track sounds scruffy on my iPad 4. I don’t know what’s going on there? They thoughtfully added a good quantize tool, Position indicator. Save and load songs or even just tracks. iCloud support. Audiobus support! No SoundCloud?
New drum pads and sounds for crafting beats. Its mostly all looking good, and sounding great!
All kinds of cool new goodies. It won’t replace your iDAW, but it is a lot more powerful and versatile than ever. This is all based on the “Pro” upgrade, which I recommend buying to fully appreciate this vamped up app.

Prior review update 7-28-2012
Originally I only reviewed the free version. I finally decided to get the Pro Upgrade, and I’m very glad I did. The differences are significant. Below you will see my experiences with the free version and I must say that I am loving the Pro Version even more! With the Pro Upgrade I can now enjoy Alchemy Synth Mobile to its fullest. Saving my experiments and or projects to recall later is now an option. Recording remix pad movements is now also possible, and virtual MIDI graces the unlocked capabilities as well. Bouncing or layering multiple synth sounds opens a lot more possibilities for deeper probing into the sonic wonder that is Alchemy.
I got along alright before upgrading today, but I really didn’t realize what I was missing until now. The Pro Upgrade is very much worth the price ($14.99 via IAP)with all the additional capabilities, features, tools, and yes more great presets. So consider these things before you read the following original review below that only speaks to the free version. I highly recommend the upgrade.

The Following original review was based on the Free Version with use with iPad 1 & 2, 3, iPod Touch 3G & 4G

Ever want a synth that has really majestic, spacious, and evolving sounds? Something that can almost be a song just by pressing and holding a single key, but also allows freedom to explore and perform? Camel Audio offers at least those things, but certainly much more with Alchemy Synth Mobile.
While it has such enormous sounds of fantastic quality, it does limit you in that there’s no way to craft a patch or something truly your own. Is this a bad thing? I suppose that depends on personal opinion?
No, you cannot create your own patches with this mobile version, but you can tweak (but not save) any of the presets in numerous ways. There are really tons of options and possibilities.
Alchemy Synth Mobile comes loaded with dozens of spectacular presets, and loops, with the option to purchase more sound packs via In App Purchase. You can get some more free patches by simply creating a Camel Audio account online from within the app. Did I mention Alchemy Mobile is free? Yes, free. It’s the entry level, slightly limited version, but it’s free.
Of course you can upgrade to the Pro version that unlocks its MIDI capabilities, (Including Virtual Core MIDI) and connectivity to the desk top version for a reasonable price.
However, I must admit I have not sprung for the full “Pro” version.
Honestly, I haven’t felt any need for it myself yet. I’ve been running the free version (with most of the available purchased sound packs, my favorites are “Big Tone & Arp Dimensions”) since its release and have not felt limited at all.

Alchemy Synth Mobile can record a short performance, and easily copy and transfer out to other ACP compatible apps. I wish it had email, and drop box support though.

Playing Alchemy is much like any other virtual synth on iOS with a scrollable keyboard that is reliable and responsive. There’s a grid of 8 boxes that responds to your touch and depending on where you swipe, tap, or hold, the sounds can be altered from one extreme to another. Kind of like a sub set of presets within a preset, that morphs with user input in real time. The additional selections of looped beats such as a nice chill ambient or a cool trance set provides more room for fun, or an engaging performance.

There are also two X/Y control boxes with preset parameters (they vary from one patch to another) allowing additional control over textures, FX, resonance, speed and so on. These are quite nice to use while performing ( even if it’s just you and your cat ) offering more creative control.

The standard ADSR controls are present, as well as several slider styled controllers for many different things (again varies from one preset to another) that include, FX, Octave, Filters, Arpeggios, Pulse, Speed, and so many more. Altering the BPM is also a snap with an easy touch and slide to increase or decrease.

So there’s loads of controls, tweakable parameters, FX, and sound variations at your finger tips. You just can’t save your settings. So that one perfect sound you had made yesterday, is gone today.

With all these controls, but no ability to save anything, why bother? Well, these may be preset patches, loops, arpeggios, and what not, but they are also some of the most complex, evolving, cinematic ( …insert you favorite word to describe something really big) preset sounds you might not hear anywhere else on iOS.
Yes with the right synths and some effort you could create and save your own similarly complex patches with other synths, but these are really special. Some are cliche, some are strange, some are mind boggling , but all are very well made. You may not be able to save your variations of them, but they sure are some of the best sounds any virtual synth offers so far. In some instances certain presets are practically their own song. Find one, hold the key, slowly move around the grid of boxes, and or the X/Y pads, and you’ll hear what I mean.

 In the end, Alchemy Synth Mobile might lock you out of crafting your own sounds to save and use within the app, however there is nothing stopping you from copying it and pasting into your favorite sampler to then modify, expand and save for your very own. So there is that, and that’s going to have to do.

Alchemy Synth Mobile is one sonic powerhouse unlike any other. It takes up a lot of disk space especially if you add sound packs. It seems to perform best on my iPad 2, but it’s also doing very well on my iPad 1 and even my iPod Touch 3&4.
This is certainly worth the download considering its free, and in my opinion the additional sound packs are worth the cost. Alchemy is where you go for really amazing, big sounds.

4.5 Big Bright Stars. Get it.