sampling

Borderlands – Review

20130111-164931.jpg

Borderlands Created By: Chris Carlson

Updated: June 2 2013.
Borderlands was one of those apps that showed huge potential with great innovative design. It was one I had purchased because I believed in it and really bought the promise of updates. Unfortunately those promised updates to bring vital functions to make this great app live up to its potential. Functions like AudioCopy/Paste and or Audiobus. They should have been added months ago.

It’s not often I will show much interest in music apps that are shipped missing critical components leaving a rather inconvenient to use product. Borderlands is so very unique and designed with such a pleasant user interface, I can’t ignore its brilliance.

20130111-165438.jpg

What is Borderlands? Where are the controls or virtual knobs and sliders? What it is, is a gesture controlled granular synthesis instrument. No knobs, sliders, or much of anything except a clean interface with a minimalist list of function buttons on the top of the screen. Everything is controlled by you and your hands.

Load audio files (this is the main problem I’ll touch on later) onto the screen and they appear as waveform snapshots. You double tap to produce “clouds” which are then what brings the audio to life as you sculpt grains of sound. Double tap the cloud again to bring up its specific set of controls. How you move, pinch, spread, zoom, throw or swipe will determine the sounds it generates. Don’t want the cloud or just done with it? Swipe it off the screen to delete it.

20130111-170434.jpg

Further control over the audio is done via the top of the screens buttons or icons. These manipulate the grains direction, the grain windows such as Sinc, Exponential, Random and so on control the behaviors. It’s a beautiful experience and fun to experiment. I recommend visiting the website HERE where you will find information , news, and helpful tutorials.

Borderlands is well made to suit live performances, as well as instrumentation for music productions. Turn on the “Gravity” function to enable accelerometer control to add to the fun. While the sample rate is a bit lower than I would prefer and the latency is high, it still sounds really good.

It’s early for Borderlands and what we have today is just a taste of what’s in store through further development as time goes on. The biggest problem with Borderlands is sharing. Importing is limited to a iTunes Borderlands specific playlist you must load and sync well in advance of use. A very cumbersome and dreadful way to import your own samples. If you’re not near your computer with iTunes and want to add something you just made, its not possible at this time. No Audio Copy Paste, No iTunes File Share, No Dropbox, No Audiobus. I’ve found these missing features to be very problematic, as well as terribly inconvenient. You can record, but pretty much only have the options to share that by uploading to SoundCloud.

20130111-172250.jpg

Now hang on, I’m not bashing this. I’ve corresponded with Chris Carlson over the past couple months several times. He is doing all of the development himself in his limited spare time. Consider that please. Additionally like you and I, he has a life with many things requiring his attention. Borderlands today is not what Borderlands will always be. He is working diligently to bring in new features, many improvements, and expanding its capabilities. This cannot be rushed if it is to be done right.

Improving audio quality is one thing high on the list. Midi options are planned. Audio Copy Paste, & the AudioShare App SDK is being looked at for implementing shortly. Even better news is he is working on Audiobus Output support. Which contrary to intuition is the routing of audio in to Borderlands to capture. That is far more complex than Audiobus Input which just sends audio.

Borderlands is special and developed by one massively creative person. Limited today, but with a little more time we can expect big things to make the experience far more enjoyable than it already is. This is the kind of creative app development that deserves support. I feel good about having spent the money. Almost there.

So all things considered I rate 3.5 stars. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a great app, but its painful to import your own audio and honestly I wouldn’t use the playlist method of importing. Really this is a 5 star app just temporarily stuck on 3.5 pending the inevitable improvements. You can bet I’ll be adjusting that appropriately the instant those arrive. And they will arrive.