music apps

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. 

Master FX – Review

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Master FX App is made by iMusicAlbum
Available in iTunes App Store

iMusicAlbum has recently been offering quality audio processing options for iOS music production that are highly convenient for many uses.
Their latest is this live audio multi-effects app for external sources such as vocals, instruments etc. Additionally it can be used in the Audiobus effect and output slots, making this a very versatile app.
Primarily Master FX is intended for use with guitars, vocals, or any other instruments that can be adapted to your device where the app will process desired effects. Recording can be done within the app itself as well as your favorite iDAW.
Sadly, at least at the moment I am writing this, Master FX does not support inter-app audio. This means if you use Audiobus to facilitate recordings of external instrumentation that you are only able to record 16 bit audio. Otherwise apart from that this can record at 24 bits. For electronic music 16 bits is just fine, but for live vocals or guitars it is less desirable.

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Master FX comes with 7 effects modules and limiter at the main output. 6 effects can be run simultaneously.
The built in effects are: Chorus, Reverb, Delay, Compressor, Flanger, Pitch, and a 3 band Parametric EQ.
The order of each module can be customized to fit whatever preferences you may have for the signal order. Furthermore, two assignable pad banks (6 each, A&B) can accommodate your presets for quick FX switching via the “Live” tab.
Add to that independent “left/right” channel recording to capture a guitar and vocals at the same time.

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The effects are not simply just wet/dry sliders, but actual independent modules. This means by selecting the module tab the corresponding effect unit opens up full screen to present you with all of its adjustable parameters.
They are still not exactly “specialized” effects such as what you would find in a stand alone effects app (like Audio Reverb, EchoPad etc) but they are each quite good in their own right. For live situations they are especially handy being all in one app, on one screen.

Several carefully crafted presets are included for certain and specific scenarios or instruments in mind. You can also create and save your own preset banks.

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Recording can be done directly to Master FX, and files are easily managed. If you’ve used any of iMusicAlbum’s other apps like the excellent “AudioMastering” app, you will feel right at home with the same style of file manager. Not to mention the whole design of Master FX is also designed with the same uniform interface as this developer’s other audio apps.

For a full list of specs, video tutorials, and app details please visit iMusicAlbum

Managing files in the app is one thing but moving files around needs to be easy too. Anybody familiar with iOS Music production knows that moving files around between our various other apps or cloud services is a must. No problem. Master FX has the bases covered with Dropbox, AudioCopy/Paste, iTunes Playlist & File Share, “Open In” and WiFi tools for importing and exporting with ease.

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I’ve been testing Master FX mostly as it’s intended, by recording and processing audio captured with my iRigMic. I found no issues or problems at all. Even though iRigMic is mono, Master FX, with the right selection of modules and signal path set, did a great job of giving my recordings body and fullness that resembled a stereo recording with no discernible difference.
I am impressed.
I also tried it as an “Effect” slot in Audiobus and had just as good of an experience.

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For an all in one multi FX app, Master FX does a fine job in each of its possible situational applications.
Stable, easy to use and understand it should make for a top choice.
My only gripe is that it doesn’t currently support inter-app audio, and the Reverb and Chorus could be a little bit better. Nothing bad, they are decent, I just feel they are not this app’s strong point.
This is more of a “student of many” rather than a master of anything in particular. If you’re looking for a particular, highly specialized effect type this probably shouldn’t be the first choice. However if you want a collection of good effects to use simultaneously and packaged neatly in one app for live uses with real world instruments or vocals, then this is a list topper. Check out the tutorial on iMusicAlbum’s website (linked midway and top) for the two channel recording. Many of you should find it particularly interesting.

iSEM – Review

iSEM Available in the iTunes App Store
Developed By:Arturia

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Arturia has the vintage analog emulation thing down. Their TAE (True Analog Emulation) technology they’ve developed is a premium body of work. They have a history of creating some of the very best emulations of vintage classics that have forever left their mark on the music world. iSEM is the latest carefully crafted, vintage emulation of the famous Oberheim Synthesizer Expander Module (S.E.M.) from 1974. The sounds from the hardware back in the day graced legendary progressive rock, and electronic music artists like Tangerine Dream, and Rush. Today we can recreate those synth sounds not only with great ease on our iPads, but also with the same sound characteristics that made them famous. iSEM delivers.

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Attention to detail in faithfully recreating the visual appearance is obvious. All of the original Oberheim functions are neatly placed in uncluttered, and separate screens identified by their own button at the top of the screen. This 2 oscillator sawtoothed legend looks and sounds like the old hardware. iSEM maintains all of the original parameters of the classic that inspired it.
2 LFOs, multi mode 12db Lo, Hi, and Band Pass filter, notch, and 2 ADS envelopes .
This also has some added functionality that expand upon its original, improving the synths overall scope of sound design range.
Noise, Sub Oscillator, Arpeggiator, 8 voice programmer module, FX and more. Here is a link to some more info in the Arturia Official iSEM Trailor

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The modulation matrix that comes with iSEM has 8 source to destination banks. Virtual dials control the parameter selection and how much you want of them in the mix. Very simple to use and immediately satisfying. Combined with the voice programmer (next) there are loads of cool sounds to be made.
The 8 voice programmer module (see above image) allows independent voice settings for each. Select the desired parameter by a virtual knob that cycles through all of the routing options, and apply it’s effect and behaviors via additional up/down sliders. How about that!
Well, maybe it’s not exactly the most impressive thing, but it does give you more room to spice up your sound creations effectively.

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iSEM also comes with some well emulated analog FX. Delay, Chorus, and Overdrive. Pretty much just the basics. These FX actually sound very nice. The Overdrive really packs a punch. Not a whole lot to say here that isn’t probably very obvious.

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Last is the “Pref” section. In this spot you can control the amount of every parameter in 4 banks. Each parameter is selected again by a virtual dial, and the amount by adjusting up/down sliders. So there is really quite a bit that can be done to craft sounds in very fine detail.
iSEM is well thought out and designed for easy use. Full midi mapping control, Audiobus, WIST, and Inter-App Audio ready.
There is no recording function onboard so that also means no AudioCopy.. It works easily with the iRig Keys if you don’t want to use the scrolling keyboard. Play mono or polyphonic by the flip of a switch.
It’s stable, and behaves itself when connected to other host apps just as well as it does all alone. Things were not nearly as simple back in the day of wires and heavy equipment. Considering how things back in those hardware days were so much more complicated, you gain perspective of how truly spoiled we are with today’s technology. Can you imagine the look on Klaus Schults face if you told him in 1975 that his truckload of synthesizers and gear would fit on a device like an iPad? He would’ve Schultsed his pants!

iSEM may not be the most feature rich synth ever made, but it’s not trying to be. This is a special type of sound that is especially suited well for thick leads and warm pads. With over 500 presets there’s a lot to try out, or build off. That’s a lot of presets, and honestly many are totally unnecessary. Several of them sound very much the same.
In closing I have to say that although I am not particularly thrilled with yet another analog synth emulation, iSEM does do an excellent job finding its own place with its head slightly above glut of vintage synth copies we have seen so often. I think we have enough now?
A brand new synth design would be very welcome from Arturia in the future.
If you love that vintage sound, then this is the perfect synth for you. You will get your monies worth. This is a excellent, quality synth and you really can’t go wrong unless you already have a dozen analogs.

Arturia iSEM YouTube tutorial

For those of you synth history fans I included a copy of some interesting historical tid bits that I received from Arturia in their press release.

Some history from Arturia taken from the Arturia official press release:
“Hatched by legendary synth designer Tom Oberheim back in 1974, the dual-oscillator SEM was originally conceived as a way of beefing up weaker-sounding compatible analogue monosynths of the time before becoming a sought-after sound in its own right — so much so that its American creator came up with a series of successive SEM-based instruments, first pairing up two SEMs with a 37-note keyboard and a simple analogue step sequencer to form the Two Voice, Oberheim’s first self-contained compact, duophonic synthesizer in 1975, thereby beating rivals to the polyphonic punch. Programmability came courtesy of Oberheim’s breakthrough Polyphonic Synthesizer Programmer which — when hardwired into the fair-sized Four Voice (featuring four SEMs and a 49-note keyboard) in 1976 and enormous Eight Voice (eight SEMs set across two tiers) in 1977 — enabled the control voltages of many parameters for up to eight SEMs to be memorised for the first time. Though these instruments were undeniably groundbreaking, quickly finding favour with the likes of popular prog-rockers Rush and electronic music trailblazers Tangerine Dream, polyphony was, after all, achieved with multiple SEMs so each voice/module had to be programmed independently, which was quite a daunting task — even by somewhat shaky Seventies standards!

Fast forward, then, to 2013 and the truly 21st Century musical landscape has changed considerably, as has music technology itself. Today, of course, we take polyphony and programmability for granted, though not necessarily that still-sought-after Oberheim sound. Ingeniously, iSEM quite literally taps into all of this and then some, putting more musicality at anyone’s fingertips than its analogue namesake designer dared dream possible back in Oberheim’s Seventies salad days!”

Arctic ProSynth – Review

Arctic ProSynth is developed by: One Red Dog Media

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One Red Dog Media has been delivering excellent music apps for years now. Arctic ProSynth arrives offering a modern subtractive, 4 voice polyphony, synth, vocoder, arpeggiator, and sequencer all wrapped into one neatly designed package. Arctic ProSynth isn’t trying to be anything but itself. A powerful in your face synth that can get loud and rude. Like your crazy old ex, but this is in a good way!

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As you can see from the above screen shot the GUI is clean and uncomplicated. All parameters are tucked away in their respective categories noted on each of the buttons taking you to each screen. Moving between screens is fluid without delays. Quick and responsive, are good words to describe navigating Arctic Pro. Nothing flashy or gimmicky, but don’t be fooled. Arctic Pro has a lot of options available for you to create some big and complex sounds. The type of sound designing Arctic does best are big, brash, and fat.
It wouldn’t be my first choice for pads or delicate types, but that’s not what its about anyway. This is your goto synth for heavy, gritty and blasting sounds.

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To achieve these thick sound types Arctic Pro has 2 “Hyper” Oscillators for you to add increasingly dramatic “oomph”. These things take it up a notch that you don’t see a lot of elsewhere. With the adjustable ADSR envelopes, 2 multi-mode resonating filters, sub oscillator, and 2 LFOs with 3 wave shapes, independently sync-able destinations, and all the usual synth parameters with these unique Hyper oscillators, there is no shortage of creative possibilities. I’ve been enjoying using this to make some vicious bass-lines and leads. The usual scrolling keyboard is present along with a nice selection of scales to set.
I’ve only hinted at the specifications. If you want the full list visit One Red Dog Medias Website or check the iTunes App Store for more details.

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Want to do an arpeggio? No problem. Arctic Pro comes with a 4 octave arpeggiator. Nothing special on this page, but for simple arpeggios it gets the job done. If you want to really get into a detailed sequence, try the built in 4 track 16×4 gated step Sequencer.

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This will allow you to make some more complex arrangements with much more control over the notes and how each plays out. It should not be underestimated. It can be MIDI synced, and has multiple modulation destinations.

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A variety of FX are included for expanding further on whatever you can imagine. There are a delay, reverb, chorus, distortion with 6 types, phaser, 3 band EQ, and the killer vocoder. The FX in general are functional, but not exactly the best I’ve ever heard. To be honest I find the reverb and chorus to be particularly weak. What is cool about the FX is that they can be easily set in any order you like by simply holding the FX named button and then drag and drop. Choosing the order of course impacts how they will sound.
It’s the vocoder that stands out from the rest of the FX.

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Don’t try the vocoder with your built in mic, it’ll sound terrible. Plug in an iRig Mic or whatever you prefer, and then start using your voice to perform. Really, you gotta try it. Its a blast.
Speaking of performing, Arctic is well designed for just that. In addition to the adjustable keyboard you can choose to use the two X/Y pad. They can be routed however you like and add a lot of dimension.

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All in all Arctic ProSynth might not be the most versatile synth, but it is suited very well for those thick sounds. It gets big and loud like few others. There is always a place for a synth like this that specializes in doing something special, and doing it well.
It supports AudioCopy/Paste, Audiobus, and MIDI in&out! Inter-App Audio will be on its way soon.
Don’t let my observation of this being a distant choice for pads or the likes as Arctic is a fully loaded pistol ready to blow your head off in a way that just makes it a joy. We have seen far too many vintage analogue synth emulations or copies of things we have more than enough of. Arctic is different, and its the kind of different to be happy about.
I say get it. Why not? Different is good.
Available In iTunes

Here are some more screen shots.

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Are We Spoiled?

We have so many amazing applications at our disposal, for crazy low prices. So why do people complain so much about iOS ad ons that are just as good as their desktop counterparts?
Ill use Auria as an example since it has the largest selection of ad ons and plugins currently available with iOS DAWs.
For the moment lets suspend our personal feelings of the app itself and focus on the relative costs for perspective.
Auria itself is $50 and comes with 32-64 bit audio processing, a stellar convolution reverb, a sophisticated standard EQ, Automation, FX, and numerous pro grade features. All working very well, for a lot of people including for me. Far from perfect but all things considered, not a bad value.
Considering its limitations, largely because of the iPads limited CPU and system resources, its pretty damned capable and priced appropriately.
If you want a comparable DAW on your desktop or laptop you will pay not only more for the hardware, but also a bunch more for the software.
FL Studio Producer is about $199.99 for example with similar standard features. Obviously there are differences, but the relative point here is about what you get for your dollar.
Other PC DAWs can cost more, hundreds more.
Now consider the plugins.
Auria has many FabFilter plugins just as good as the same ones for PCs.
FabFilter Pro Q for example is about $190.00 for PCs and $30 for Auria users. Yet are practically identical.
Somehow I still see people complain that $30 is way too expensive. WHAT?
Folks have their reasons for complaining about prices in great variety. None that I’ve heard have sounded the least bit relevant, or slightly reasonable, and in fact strike me as nothing more than unrealistic, and spoiled.
There are several ad ons and plugins to compare that show the very same price differences for pretty much all the equally available quality plugins. In every case the iOS option is drastically less costly.
Why so many silly complaints then?
Some say it doesn’t work, or they can’t get it to work. That also strikes me as strange since I have no problems with it at all.
I have no special super human powers, so I assume its operator error on their part. It works fine.
Before you start listing all your reasons for why you don’t like Auria or its plugins, remember this really isn’t about why you like it or don’t. If you’re going to go on about why PCs are better, again thats not on topic here, and why would you care anyway? I have no illusions of the disparity of power between iPad and PCs. iPad gets the job done just fine for those who wish to take the alternate route despite known limitations. This is about the costs. This is about the question “Are We Spoiled”?
Looking at the brief (yes I am aware its a general comparison) comparisons it seems clear to me that the complaints about the cost of iOS plugin options are ridiculous at the very best.
Just having a quality convolution reverb with a vast I.R. Library included (not including the additional I.R. libraries purchasable for tiny sums) is worth the $50 that Auria costs alone. GASP! How can I say that?
Well, a convolution reverb sounding just as good on PC will run you around $250! Some cost way more than that even.
So yes, $50 for the whole package (that again works fine for me on my iPad4, once I figured out all the silly settings necessary) convolution reverb included.
What the hell more do you want? Are we spoiled or what?
We’re only just getting started with iOS seeing DAWs supporting high quality options, tools, and plugins. So as we see more in the future are we still going to be complaining about the low prices being way too high?
I really hope not. Its not unrealistic to be concerned that some developers may choose to not go ahead with their product because the users are unwilling to accept the low cost of their product, much less any ad ons they might offer.
That’s a nightmare scenario, and I don’t sit up nights worried about it, but there is some reason to be concerned.
If developers see a community of users still complaining about even low prices, they might not make our dream iDAWs (or whatever app) because of that spoiled cacophony going on and on about nonsensical price expectations.
I’m not point the finger, though it kind of looks that way, but I am just as guilty as the next guy or gal. Or I was. I get it. I understand we have been spoiled by the super low costs of super cool apps for years. All the while we were still complaining or demanding more.
So as we get to the point now that “more” is becoming realized, so are the options, and slightly increased prices. All of the iOS app prices while maybe being higher than we started with are still very low.
You can’t have more, and get it for less. Its not a fair position to take.
Isn’t it time we start appreciating the progress instead of looking for things to complain about?
Its OK to not like something because it doesn’t fit in with your way of doing things, but lets try to not bash things that many folks find to be an excellent value and have no trouble working with. Lets try to not get bent out of shape when something costs a little more than we’re used to while offering us the “more” we demanded, and still for much less than its PC counterpart.
Bad for you is not the end all be all qualifier of a bad app on the whole. Sure there are “bad” apps, and apps that are priced inappropriately, but what’s the point of ridiculing them to death again and again? There are no rewards or points scored for complaining, especially about low prices. It just ends up making a lot of people look very spoiled. Who wants that?
Maybe we can all look a little harder at the bright side? See more of the positives. Be champions for this new thing and have some patience. It’ll all get there sooner than later.
However if its all really that terrible to you, then why are you torturing yourself? Go back to your PC or whatever made you happy before. Not everything is for everyone, but everyone can be a little more positive and grateful for what they have. Why not?