Production

So busy….. Whew.

Hey there mobile music makers.
Sorry I’ve been on hiatus for a couple months. Our living situation had become rather urgent and changing moment to moment.
Short version is our slum lord who owns the house, that is basically sectioned off into 5 studio type apartments, stopped paying the utilities he was responsible for. That led to water being shut off for 10 days in March, and lots of headaches for us ever since. To top it all off, he has decided to just let the bank take the property.
Skip ahead to today (and removing the dramatic details) and we are on the verge of getting a house.
However time is running out fast. We only have until August 1st to find a place to live.
I hated to do it, but in the interest of sparing my wife and son the discomfort of just taking anything we could afford (which is nothing really) I swallowed my pride and am accepting my fathers enormous help. It pretty much adds up to receiving an early inheritance, and nobody has to die, yay!
I’d much rather have done this all myself. I’m no fan of not earning what’s mine. I’m doing this for my family.

Hopefully we will close on a nice little house not too far away. It’s an old house, which we like a lot more than those new cookie cutter yuppy houses that seem to pop up all over like so many silver SUVs and wannabe high rolling twenty something’s fixated on material wealth and appearances.
Fuck that. Excuse my French.
The house we are close to closing on is just right. Plus it has a huge basement that’s already partially renovated for me to set up a full on studio slash work space. A Smite Office, if you will.

Aside from all this I’ve been working on some new music. I’m making very chill ambient soundscapes with melodies and interesting textures. No drums. Lite percussive accompaniment might appear, but no in your face drum beats.
As usual I’m creating every sound from scratch myself using only my iOS music apps. So despite how much I love hearing Alchemy, it is once again pushed off the table.
At least it was, until that latest update arrived that seems to allow custom sound designing by importing user samples. I may have to reconsider and give that some thought. Is Alchemy now actually a synthesizer, instead of a cool preset morphing player? This is the one thing that’s held me back from using it seriously. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds amazing. Problem is, the sounds are recognizable and clearly presets made by someone else. Not that it’s a bad thing, I mean who expects everybody to always create every sound themselves? Its pretty unreasonable to demand or expect. I just happen to personally prefer making my own synths. I’m crazy like that, and I’m not judging.
So maybe this new import feature will open things up?

Well, back on track. Alchemy may be part of this new music. Several new apps I’ve received and or bought since March will find their way into my project.
Some new, some old. Some need to be reviewed.
I bought and tried to love Looptical, but ended up irritated by it so much that I just deleted it in a fit of rage. Money wasted. What a pain in the ass that app is.
I get it, people love it. That’s cool. I personally can’t freaking stand that thing.

Cubasis is forever removed from my workflow. Ironically right when they finally added automation.
Yay.
Not!
The FX are still crap, the instruments sound cheap, and I’d never use them so why would I care to automate a bunch of cheap crap? I don’t. Later Crapbasis. Too little too late.

Before this turns into a big rant of apps that piss me off, I’ll switch gears.

Oscilab, now with Audiobus support has become a new favorite of mine. It’s such a nice app. Great and clever on all counts. Fantastic sequencing with a cool twist. I really have been enjoying Oscilab thoroughly.

MitoSynth really sunk it’s teeth into me. Wooji hit a home run with this new synth. I love the novel interface and all the automation options. It took a few minutes to get comfortable with its design, but it wasn’t long before I looked up and several hours had gone by. What a joy to use.
Only thing I don’t like about Mito is the limited scales, and no assignable key conveniences. Sure, I should just know when I’m in tune, but having the option to just set the playable notes to all be in key is a very nice short cut.
Alright I’m a bit lazy there, so what.

Among those I’m also wearing out Z3TA, microTERA, CubeSynth, AudioReverb, Crystaline, iVCS, Samplr, iPulsaret, and several others.
Auria is now my exclusive iDAW. It simply can’t be beat as far as I’m concerned. Best on all counts in ease of use, quality, and functionality. On my iPad Air, I can work it harder than ever. I hardly ever use midi so it’s perfect for me. I just don’t have any problems with it.

Audio Mastering App will continue to be my “goto” mastering suite. It does everything I need it to do. Hi/Lo shelving, 3 band stereo imaging, gentle reverb, EQing, Compression…and it’s just easy and reliable. It fits me.
I have Final Touch, but it’s Stereo Imaging is pretty awful. The rest of it is alright, but a little contrived for my taste.

I think I’m done for now. This run on letter that was to be a small update on what I’m doing has gotten long enough.

If everything goes as planed, and we are settled in to our new home come August 1st, I’ll return to writing reviews.
Until then I have to choose how I use my currently limited hours each day, and making music takes priority over telling you what apps I think you should buy.

Wish me luck. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon.

Cheers 🙂

PS- We just got news that the house may very well be ours to move into as soon as next Friday, or shortly after. Yippie! Out of this dump, and into our own house. So close now.

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Synergy Studio-Review

*Release Date 11-30-2012 expected price $19.99 USD 13.99 GB

Developed by 4PocketsAudio

4PocketsAudio, makers of Aurora Sound Studio and Meteor bring us a unique new program called Synergy Studio. If you’ve seen their Aurora program you’ll notice some similarities. Not to say Synergy is the same, not at all. Synergy is a whole new ball game. 16 tracks, robust automation options, lovely instruments, quality FX with 3 bus sends, Waveform editing, and so much more packed into this fully loaded studio offering.

Personally speaking I’ve never properly bonded with the “Tenori-ish” style interface. Somehow Synergy delivers that style of experience but with a much greater integration of intuitive design and a massive amount of tools. Seriously, this thing is packed to the brim. It has a flow to it that feels more fluid than others of this style. For this interface style, Synergy provides the most comfortable music production environment.

Synergy can do it all. From being used like an instrument, creating simple short patterns, or highly complex layers chaining into a full-blown pro quality production. It can be done. Compose, mix, edit, and master all in one place.

The variety of included preset instruments are many and really have a high-end sound quality to them. No cheap sounding presets, though not exactly stuff we haven’t heard before. All of the presets can be modified in great detail to create a new sound, and then be saved for future use. If that’s not enough, (and really is it ever?) you can of course import your own samples via Dropbox.

Synergy is a fully loaded ride, so I recommend checking 4PocketsAudio for the full detailed list of specs and features HERE

16 tracks is a nice amount of room to work in for an all-in-one mobile studio. It’s a unique environment to produce music in, with the colorful sequencer, buttons full of tools, or sub menus with even further options. It can be a tad confusing at first. Thankfully for those familiar with 4Pockets previous entries into iOS music there will be a lighter learning curve, as much of the menu structure is very familiar. If this is your first shot at their products, don’t sweat it; the app comes packed with many helpful options including a manual. If you can read, you can figure it out.

I’ve been giving Synergy a good workout for a few weeks, and I’m happy to report that so far it’s not crashed once. Hooray for stability! A very important thing to consider when shopping for a complete mobile music studio. Compared to some of the more recent studio apps, Synergy does sound the best.
I can see Synergy being an attractive option for anyone looking for a fresh and complete studio view. Even if you’re not in the market for a whole new studio, Synergy would make a fine addition to your collection as a sequencer, editor, and looper. The sequencing and arpeggiator alone is worth the price of admission. Background audio enabled, MIDI, and direct audio recording add to the many useful options.

Simply put, Synergy is complete. I think it’s 4Pockets’best effort to date.

All things considered, this is potentially a great app. 4 stars, recommended.—See UPDATE below.

Buy Synergy Studio at iTunes, November 30 2012

UPDATED 1-28-13

Synergy Studio now supports Audiobus. A very welcome feature for sure!
As well as having added Audiobus support 4Pockets has addressed stability concerns effecting some users.
There still seems to be some slightly noticeable latency on the “Dots” and the keyboard input making live play a bit challenging for rhythmic players. Generally speaking I’m not having much difficulty with Synergy’s latency with making electronic music less dependent on beats. This may be different for others.
It has some quirks and could use a little more polish overall, but nothing that impedes its functionality.
As with any new music app of this complexity its understandable that there will be things to iron out. I would consider SynergyStudio to be a fine addition to any collection of music apps. With Audiobus support now, having Synergy and Meteor together offers keen advantages and convenience.

Stay tuned.

Auria App Review – Version 1.10

 A Truly Capable iDAW

Auria Is Made By WaveMachine Labs

Review is based on experience with Auria on iPad 3 and 4. My first experiences with Auria were on iPad 2 which I no longer have and or recommend for this app. It’ll work on iPad 2, but with great difficulties if Audiobus is in the process.
My reviewed copy of Auria was purchased at full price. I now also currently beta test Auria, but cannot write about any beta related experience.
Therefore nothing in the following review has anything to do with any beta builds of this app and all to do with my own experiences with the production version available for sale.

UPDATED 11-25-2013
Auria now supports iOS7 Inter-App Audio. It’s working beautifully so far for me. This should be the preferred method over Audiobus whenever possible since IAA operates at 32 bits floating point. Twice the depth of the 16 that Audiobus and AudioCopy/Paste operates.
It doesn’t really matter much if you’re making electronic music, but for acoustic, and vocals, recording at 32 bits is preferable to most people. All around though it’s just better than 16 in some ways many people may not even notice. Such as with clipping. There’s less chance of clipping when recording at 32, and you can be a little less meticulous with levels.
I’ve been recording 16 bits for ages and got used to it, having no significant issues. However 32 is a nice option for recording. The only down side is that projects are much larger. It seems a bit more stable with IAA as well.

UPDATED Review 9-5-2013

It’s been a little while since I’ve updated my review of Auria. It’s hard to keep up with so many apps both new and updated. A lot has changed with Auria over the months. It’s improved stability, the UI is becoming more touch oriented, and now MIDI is getting under way. It’s not fully MIDI capable today, and mostly the MIDI functions center on using Auria with external tools, but this is a good start.
They’ve added MIDI Sync with MMC, & MTC including complete MTC chase and MIDI clock options. MIDI plug ins support, and MIDI remote control for controlling Auria with Mackie MCU and HUI surfaces round out this first MIDI update.
OK, I don’t really use that stuff, and I mostly care about using Auria with “virtual core MIDI” on my iPads along with other VCM capable apps. Not yet, but not too far off in the future either. That’ll be a grand day.
Among the new MIDI capabilities Auria V1.10 has some new looks and features. Mixdown to email, snap to locators, markers, and highlight. A nice little time saver. AudioShare is now fully (finally) integrated!
There is now a handy new “Icon Bar” on the top of the editing screen. Much better than sifting through drop downs for simple tasks (like Duplicate!) that should be right there, and now it is.

There is still some lag when dragging through the timeline or moving regions. That’s driving me crazy, but tolerable since it has no relation to the sound. It’s all about the sound, but I would appreciate that being improved.

When using Auria with Audiobus this version has improved its auto track input function making the menu surfing a little less annoying. Speaking of Audiobus with Auria, I’m happy to report that stability is improved. That’s a big deal, I think because before there were many occasions where I’d finish recording a track, then touch the (from the input app) Audiobus remote to switch back to Auria, and whammo, crash, recording gone! This had been my largest concern. I never lost a whole project like I have in Cubasis, but it was a big problem that’s now fixed.

I offer the following advice based on my own experiences with Auria to have the best time using it.

Aurias stability overall can largely be controlled by you the user. First, forget about using all this on anything less than iPads 3 or preferably 4 if you want the best possible experience. When using Audiobus with Auria, be sure to disable all FX and plug ins during those sessions. If you already have some then turn them off until after the Audiobus session. Use the track freeze!
Keep the number of Audiobus inputs to a minimum. I recommend using only one input at a time through Audiobus with no more than one FX unit as often as is possible.
Always shut down background apps not currently in use. The more apps running and or assigned simultaneously in Audiobus to Auria, the more there is potential for issues. It is also a good idea to set the disk buffer to “large”. That has nothing to do with latency, and will make Audiobus recording sessions much more reliable especially with longer recordings. Do these things and you will have very few issues if any. It works for me and I’ve tested this extensively with excellent and consistent results. The largest project I have had after finishing Audiobus recording sessions, was 21 (on average my typical project is around 12-14 tracks) tracks. Then I added, Pro Q, and Timeless in the aux slots. Each track had individual standard EQing, and half of those with 1 or more plug ins, but the tracks were all frozen while working on another. Some automation was also used. No CPU or memory warnings, but it was very close to the limits on my iPad 4. If I ran more than 2 unfrozen tracks with all that, then I got low CPU. Its not magic. Though I can’t imagine how anyone could do the same with a full 48 tracks?

Auria isn’t perfect but it does work just fine, if you understand how to operate it. Plenty of people say they can’t do “anything” but somehow I have almost no troubles at all? The reason I must conclude for them, is that they do not completely understand how to use this amazing application to its fullest. Comments from users that are focussed on the problems they are having are just unfair, and results of operator error. It has to be. If I am using it without any of the major problems others claim to experience constantly with everything they try, then either I have some super natural power or they are not understanding the app. I certainly have no special powers or abilities, so my conclusion must be correct. This isn’t rocket science. Anyone can learn to use Auria. Impatience or operator error does not a bad app make.

Auria still sports the greatest selection of high quality plug ins by a wide margin. The audio capabilities are far and away the best you can get on iOS. There are still minor bugs, mostly in the UI, but since they do not effect the sound, they are (albeit annoying) tolerable. If you want the best options for the best sound, then those bugs shouldn’t matter. Like many of you I am looking forward to MIDI being fully integrated successfully. Thankfully that ball is rolling.

ORIGINAL REVIEW BELOW:

 
When I first heard of Auria I thought, “There’s no way they can do this, is there?” 
WaveMachine Labs answers with a resounding YES, offering Auria, a professional quality digital audio workstation with a great many high quality bells and whistles.
With the capability to support up to 96kHz sample rate at 24 bits, 32 or 64 bit dual precision audio processing engine, 48 stereo or mono tracks, (44.1 & 48kHz up to 24 tracks on iPad 1) your digital productions are in good hands. Designed with the future in mind Auria has support for 3rd party VST plug ins at additional charge via IAP from big names like PSP Audioware, Overloud and more.


Auria has so many features and functions, I find I’m still having those “ah ha” moments as I work with this incredible iDAW. A quick run down of the more impressive features follows. AAF import/export, audio copy paste (ACP will always result in a max bit rate of 16) drop box, (they say MIDI is under development) 8 assignable subgroups, each with two aux sends, full automation, WIST support, Auria Link to run two devices with Auria for a sync of up to 96 tracks, automatic sample rate conversion, track freeze, a comprehensive waveform editor, and so many more.

The on board included effects are very well done. A classic Reverb, Stereo Delay, Stereo Chorus, Re Tune, EQ with expander, compressor, and limiter are a must for anyone wanting to master their final mix. Last but not least my very favorite effect of all is an outstanding Convolution Reverb with a full IR library of high quality reverberation types. This is the best reverb I have experienced with iOS apps. I’ve said it many times, reverb quality is one of the more glaring disabilities of this platform. For good reason, quality reverb is a big CPU hog. You can hear the tin, thin, dull lack of quality in all the iOS reverbs, some more than others, and some are really made quite well all things considered. None however currently compare to the depth, warmth, and expansive nature of Auria’s included Convolution Reverb Plug In.
Still not quite up to desktop standards, but it’s a huge improvement. It’ll do nicely.
Thanks to track freeze, using multiple FX on multiple tracks is an option. If you don’t freeze, Auria will overburden your device CPU. No problem, it’s not permanent, unfreeze, and freeze again all you want.
 
For more about the detailed specs visit WaveMachine Labs HERE
 
The user interface is designed well for multi touch. The usual pinch, spread zoom in/out, and swipe functions are present. I have experienced some response problems here and there, but they are going to fix things in time. For now a minor annoyance.

The layout is very simple looking, but packed with tools and functions to intuitively enjoy Instead of a single fade or cross fade setting, Auria has four that each affect the fade differently. These are great for all sorts of fade type effects, and cross fading two waveforms that merge into one seamlessly, with careful placement of course. Very cool, if you ask me.

 
Initially after inquiring about beta testing I was informed by A WaveMachine Labs representative that they did not currently have an active, dedicated end user beta test team. I took concerned note of that and had reported this in my earlier version of this review. Turns out that another representative has confirmed otherwise, and that they do in fact have a strong team of beta testers currently for Auria after all. I was misinformed, or missunderstood, at any rate I am very glad to hear they do indeed currently have this in place.

At the moment its got a few minor issues regarding compatibility with other apps. The problem is that certain apps no longer work with Auria on the same device simultaneously. This began after the most recent update (from August 8th negatively affecting some popular music apps, its temporary). It happens. No one is perfect, and Auria is extremely complex. I was told the next update will probably revert Auria to the previous audio compatibility settings that will in short, be less restrictive and allow those apps to be used again on the same device. Nothing to get discouraged over. WaveMachine Labs is very attentive and eager to improve. They are very responsive and have helped me out of a few pickles already. They ( and the very active forum ) have been very helpful with the Low Memory messages I was getting early on, and since then I’ve not had that message again. The support from WaveMachine Labs is encouraging. Remember Apple is often slow to approve submitted updates.

 
 Auria to me is as close to what I call the holy grail of iDAWs, as seen to date. It’s not all powerful, and won’t replace desktop DAWs, but with further development, refinement, and increased VST plug in support it could be someday.

It is the best iDAW available with no peer. It actually saddens me a bit to say that as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my studio type apps for a good while. I’m not saying don’t ever buy any others, but it’s very hard to deny Auria’s presence as a game changer for mobile music production.
Its $49.99 price tag is high by the standards of most spoiled iOS customers, but relatively speaking it’s a very good value, and so are the additional plug ins. You get what you pay for.
I haven’t bought any of the current plug ins myself, as I’m finding the included tools are more than sufficient for my needs and desires for high quality results. I am excited about whats to come.

 

Transitioning from other studio apps to Auria might seem overwhelming at first glance.  I really haven’t experienced any instances where Auria presented me with anything confusing. Just some things that are new to me on this platform. Still, I read the user guide front to back and I’d recommend you do too. If you don’t want to, (really who wants to read a manual ?) but do have experience with apps like this, it will probably feel pleasantly familiar. Reading the guide will at least accelerate any potential learning curve while also uncovering useful things that might have otherwise been overlooked. For example I was very excited about 64 bit processing, but wasn’t clear on its impact compared to 32. I discovered you can either select 64 bit processing, or unselect it to default at 32 bits. 32 bits lessens the burden on your device resources, and is still pretty darn good. Point is, I discovered something useful by just reading a little. A lot of the things I see some users complain about are easily solved, or operator error. Anything else is being reviewed, and I have no reservations about trusting fixes will come soon.

 
If you’re ready to take the step forward into the bright future of iOS music production, click
 
 
to be directed to Auria in iTunes

I highly recommend Auria for iPad 2&3 users. I’ve not experienced Auria on iPad 1.

 

UPDATED 1-28-13

Since I wrote the above review after Aurias initial release a lot has changed.
They’ve added numerous professional plug ins to the mix further improving on the already excellent capabilities. More are likely to come as things progress. Check out my separate series of “Auria FX & Plug Ins Reviews” for more on those.
This iDAW is really the only one of its kind on iOS. Yes there are other breeds of good iDAW types, but none have the audio quality, processing capabilities, FX, and tools to do a complete production at Aurias level.
That said, Auria is by no means perfect, or a full desktop DAW replacement. It is closing the gap more than anything else on iOS.
The biggest problems are with CPU and memory.
I’m using iPad 3, and find I can get by just fine without any serious troubles. iPad 4 is probably more desirable. iPad 2 can eek by, but with a lot more restrictions requiring more patience. iPad 1 will probably burst into flames on start up?

Now with Audiobus support Auria has taken another fine leap forward making the workflow more of a great pleasure. I don’t know about you but I’ve had quite enough of AudioCopy/Paste.
With that added convenience, so comes even more strain on device resources. WaveMachine Labs suggests using iPads 3&4. iPad 2 can do it, but in small doses.

There’s some bugs still.
Every new update brings dozens of fixes, improvements, and additions. Crashes can happen if care is not exercised in how much is being done at one time. Most bugs are minor but frustrating nonetheless. This is a very complex program, & its still early for Auria. You can be confident in its development.
Its not difficult to squeeze a lot from Auria. Track freeze! This helps a lot on all devices.
When using plug ins or FX, just freeze those tracks at every opportunity. Unfreezing is very quick, so going back and forth is really a minor issue. This becomes especially important on iPad 2 and even more so when using Audiobus. For that matter when using Audiobus with Auria, it is advisable to bypass all FX, in addition to freezing any tracks not in use for the recording session.
That’s what I do, and its not a problem.

If you have any problems visit the forum for help. Its given lots of attention by knowledgable end users and the development team is very active.

UPDATED 4-5-13

The main complaints I’ve seen that aren’t operator error relate to the interface. “Clunky, choppy, sluggish” are some of the words I’ve heard uttered in regard to Aurias GUI. Much of it hasn’t bothered me personally, but I can see what people mean. Some things that are most odd to me would be the loads of drop downs, and menus to make selections of functions that would be better served by multi touch support. Now, Auria is starting to improve in this area with the addition of automatic region duplication by touching the end handle. This makes the chore no longer a chore where duplicating is concerned.
Another new feature is Time Stretch. Also enabled by multi touch. WaveMachine labs clearly considered Time Stretching seriously and chose the DIRAC algorithm which is known to be very good. After using it myself I must agree. Though I’m not fond of the first and second touch on the handle to activate it. Sometimes it doesn’t work because I time the first then second touch wrong. It does work though. Imported samples are time stretch automatically. Nice! I happen to think a single touch and drag would be better. At any rate these two new features are greatly appreciated and needed.
Additional improvements have been made to the Audibus functionality. Thank you!
Real time scrubbing has also been added. Again using multi touch to activate.
There’s other thngs, improvements and bug squashings, but these are the most note worthy of you ask me.
MIDI is surely in the nearer future. I’m just glad they are listening to user feedback and showing with solid actions that they hear you.
Auria is taking the right steps in the right direction. Very encouraging.

Studio HD App Review

Studio HD by Sound Trends

The iOS Studio

Review based on use with iPad 1,2 &3


Sound Trends has been a big part of why I make music using the iOS platform since day one. I’ve always enjoyed the apps they make like Looptastic, Gruvtron, and all, but Studio HD is where serious work is done when a full arrangement and production is called for.

With 24 discrete tracks that also include layering multiple audio files in individual tracks, there is no longer any shortage of work space for those larger songs with loads of various sounds, loops, FX, and recorded performances.
Beats are synced effortlessly to match up with the project BPM even if originally wildly different, it still sounds natural.

Studio HD offers a lot more than one might think. You can edit, copy, paste, crop, slice, stretch, and more
It comes packed with 14 quality real time FX controlled by an X/Y touch pad, and each track can hold up to 4 different FX each with its own individual setting.
The FX are very nice, and work great. As usual my only gripe is about reverb, but we all know that’s the devices limitations not the developers. You can also have up to 4 global FX as well.

Audio recording is supported by simply arming a track, and recording either with the devices built in mic, or also iRig Microphone. Other IO hardware is supported as well using the camera adapter.

One of my very favorite features is being able to automate the mix. Faders, FX, panning, etc.
Thanks to a handy multi undo feature anything that might have been an error, can be undone.
There are tons of features and for a full list please check out Sound Trends web page for a complete list and more detail HERE
One of the most important parts of working with iOS music is wireless sharing of files, and projects easily. Studio HD has it all covered with audio copy paste, drop box support, email, Open In, and share to Sound Cloud.
Importing and exporting a recorded performance from other compatible apps is effortless.
iTunes file sharing is also available.
Working in Studio HD is a breeze. It’s just down right fun and easy.
With high quality audio, a fully utilized multi touch interface, the time spent within the app working on a project never feels like work.

Studio HD comes packed with hundreds of pre made loops of various popular genres for free.
Hundreds more are available via in app purchase also. So whether it’s your own, or a pre made loop, they can all be included in the loop library clearly marked and differentiating users loops from the existing library. Auditioning loops during play in a project is also a feature making selections of just the right sound a snap.

This is one packed music production application I find to be indispensable. A truly must have iOS music production app.
Thanks to very attentive developers who have a keen eye on quality and it’s customers needs you’ll never have to worry about getting assistance.
I’ve found most issues some users have experienced to really be operator error.



.

Studio HD is my first choice for crafting a music project. I used it for more than half of my album Technopolis Lost production with confidence. You are only limited by your own creative drive. Studio HD continues to push forward with capability, and functionality. You can’t go wrong here.

Purchase Studio HD HERE