sequencer

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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Music Studio 2 Review – Tried and True

Music Studio is developed by Alexander Gross of Xewton

Available in iTunes for Apple devices, and Now GooglePlay for Android


Music Studio has been with us (on iOS) for years. It was one of the very first studio type music apps I ever bought way back when I had my iPod Touch 3G. It has seen steady and consistent updates keeping it on the level with our rapidly growing music needs. Now it’s even available for Android users in the GooglePlay store. I haven’t tried it on an Android, and honestly can’t comment about that version, but expect it works just as well.

This all in one music production suite is packed with everything you need to create music from start to finish. Over a hundred tracks sequencing, sampler, twin keyboards, custom drum & chord pads, 10 effects units, note editor, Automation, Audiobus In & Out, Inter-App Audio In and Out, MIDI, 100 Drum Loops…and more and more.


There is a free, lite version to dip your toes into if you’re not sure about buying straight away. The first thing I noticed was the quality and variety of instruments. Hundreds of studio recorded instruments come packed in with the purchase of the app, and dozens more can be purchased. Every relevant instrument is available, minus only a very few. Whatever might be missing shouldn’t be an issue these days with all the other music apps around filling nearly every gap. With MIDI, Audiobus and Inter-App Audio input/output fully supported, you’re only limited by you’re own collections of samples and instrument apps. This was the first production app I could find a Digerydoo that sounded good.


The twin keyboards can have their own instrument assigned and played. The bank of customizable chord buttons above reflect what’s being used as per your own preferences. Assigning individual percussion instruments or samples to the drum pads can also be used. Trigger and loop away, or record a sample with your device or external microphone and apply to one of the pads to use in your composition. It’s easy stuff.


Some might wonder where the mixer is? Simply put, it’s not here in the traditional sense. However every track can be mixed individually. Instead of a mixer page, just select the track to adjust the pan, level, effects, mute or solo etc. It can be a little bit of a challenge to get used to if you are more accustomed to a dedicated mixer board page, but the bottom line is, nothing’s really missing. It’s just being done differently. Most people aren’t going to be overly concerned with this unless they start piling on several dozens of tracks. Then the missing mixer just might prove to be a bit of a obstacle.

It’s never bothered me, and on the plus side a mixer page is indeed being developed for Music Studio 3. I have confirmed this directly with the developer.

Editing a tracks sequence, or sample is quick and easy. Just double tap the area within the track to bring up either the sampler page or the sequencer note editor page. Quantize, transpose, write, copy and all of that stuff should feel as familiar as it looks. Working with automated FX work much the same way. It’s a very straight forward work flow. This is very intuitive and has a very gentle learning curve. Nothing clunky or unnecessarily complicated. Smooth.


Moving on.

Music Studio 2 also has 10 built in effects units. They have improved over the years and you can assign as sends, inserts or use globally in multiples. As I mentioned above there’s automation. So making creative effects that move with the music are at your finger tips, just like any respectable studio type. All the audio effects mainstays are accounted for. Reverb, Delay, Phaser, Stereo Widener, Filter and so on. I find the EQ a little in the lite side being a simple 3 band, but that’s not much of an issue these days with Audiobus and Inter-App Audio providing such easy access to your other apps that are more specialized. What is available gets the job done and doesn’t sound cheap.


Music Studio is known for its excellent MIDI support. Whether you use virtual MIDI with other music apps, or hardware Music Studio keeps up and makes things easy on you. Reliable is the word.

There are so many great things to bring up, I can’t cover every detail. If you need more specifics, details or exact numbers just visit Xewtons Web Site. You’ll find more than just specs. There’s a thriving user community forum to help answer questions, get support or just share. Assuming the extensive in app help doesn’t put you back on track. No pun intended.

In conclusion, Music Studio stands confidently with other iDAWs, is priced very well, has better instruments than others, is a stable, quality production app with tons of tools and all delivered with a pleasantly clean interface. It’s great for those just starting out and won’t overwhelm newcomers and pros will like its longevity. It has been reliably developed with excellent consistency by a developer who is listening to his users wants and needs. Despite no separate mixer, all the same parameters can still be adjusted and mixed without skipping a beat. Few limitations and loads of options, Music Studio 2 remains an excellent choice for everybody.

Oscilab – Review Updated 9-10-14

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Oscilab is created by 2Beat
Available the iTunes App Store

Oscilab has been on the radar of anticipated new music apps and now finally hits the App Store.
It is a unique wave sequencer where by touch, drag, and sweeps will determine much of the music making experience.

Right off the bat I was feeling great and very happy with how it operates even if it was a little unusual. Didn’t take long to get comfortable with this at all.

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28 wave shapers, 6 channel mixing, FX and great on the fly live sound manipulation for each channel independently via X/Y pads and some pretty nice synthesis and drum options are some of the many features. Everything is easy to find and access. Great interface. I likey!

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Exploring this unique and fun new sequencer has been nothing short of fun.
I really like how easily they made this for doing live tweaks to the sounds. With scenes that can wait until the current one has played out before the next seamlessly enters the flow, and instantly changing a sequence without any drop outs is sweet.

Shaping the sounds wether they are loaded samples or your own synth designs at a whim rocks.
The FX are pretty simple if not a bit bland, but no problem just run Oscilab through Audiobus or IAA and use your other FX apps to…. To…to… Hang on?

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Wait a second? Where’s the Audiobus or Inter-App Audio support?
I assumed it was available, but where?
No…no…..no…..NO!
Just AudioCopy, “Open In” and SoundCloud for sharing….WTF? This isn’t 2009.
Did this cool, fun, impressive app really just get released without the most basic and expected supports for inter app connectivity?
It can’t be? Not again…… Geeeez! How frustrating.

This isn’t happening, is it? Well, I guess so, never mind.
I don’t mean to be harsh, this is a cool new app, but come on. Call me when it can actually be integrated in the most common workflows we actually use these days. Then I’ll finish the review. Until then this ones on hold.

UPDATE

Since I initially wrote this half review Oscilab has seen significant updates with great improvements. I’ll try to be brief and to the point.
Now with Audiobus support and Inter-App Audio, improved midi functionality, and other nice tweaks Oscilab is my new favorite goto sequencer.
I love how simple it is to use. It makes a
To of sense and doesn’t try too hard to be different.

Highly recommended!

Stroke Machine – Review

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Stroke Machine is made by Wolfram Franke Franke Music
Available from the iTunes App Store

Wolfram Franke dives in to iOS music production with the colorful release of the unfortunately named “Stroke Machine”.
Really. That’s its name. In the many hours I’ve spent with Stroke Machine I never once found anything that brought on an “Aha!” moment of clarity that explained why this name was chosen; I just can’t make the connection.
My inner 15 year-old came up with at least a dozen alternate names that could be just as hilarious, but that’s a different immature article.

This new and interestingly designed groove box has a lot to offer. A whole heckuva lot!

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Stroke Machine is a full service “groove box”, synth, beat maker, 128 pattern sequencer and full on work station. To start, this machine certainly has plenty of very nice features and functions for designing multitudes of drum and synth sounds.

The built-in synth has two oscillators sporting the standard analog waveforms.
A built-in sample player which earlier had problems but is working much better today. The number of voices are limited only by your device CPU.
Modulation controls for frequency and ring also allowing quantized automation of the sounds. Multi mode filters, white and pink noise generators are here too.
The tone generators run to a transient generator, and another multimode filter.
There are four effects busses and about eight sound FX. Routing, LFO, ADSR or ADBD envelopes with variable slope, and more. Much more, (linked below) the list of features is substantial.

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Next is a 128 pattern/”kit” step sequencer and each pattern has room for twenty four (12 perc and 12 melodic) sounds, and tracks with many common parameters like Tempo, Swing, Measure, mute, solo, etc.

Also featured is a detailed note editor, modulation automation, and quantize. Like I said there are lots of bells and whistles. I can’t list everything completely. Check out Franke Musicfor all the details.

They say loading, arranging, and so on is done intuitively and quickly.
I don’t fully agree with that and find much of that aspect of this app to be anti-intuitive with some things being in places I wouldn’t have instinctively expected. Nevertheless it’s all there and its working.

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Problems with Stroke Machines early iterations had been plagued with debilitating bugs and missing key features. A somewhat rough start leaving many to feel like they bought a half baked beta with huge potential. This seems to happen a lot for some reason?
Thankfully Wolfram Franke has been on top of it all and addressing the many early flaws with considerable and affective updates.

Prior to the most recent update (2-19-2014) Stroke Machine was largely unusable. At least up to its greater potential.
That has all changed. Thank you Mr.Franke.
The sample player is working well now.
A new “subdued” color scheme option is installed allowing the user to replace the original color nightmare resembling a plate of vomit from a multi colored yarn doll.
I like the the new color scheme a little better. It feels like it takes some of the over crowded impression down a notch or two. Still, its pretty crowded, but with improvements made to the rotary or linear orientations and how they respond to user input is better.

The FX generally are all decent, serviceable for what they are intended. Navigation, buttons or sliders and dials still on occasion fail to respond requiring some additional touches.
Changing to a different kit of sounds throughout the arrangements works great now.
Using Stroke Machine with Audiobus has gotten better, and more stable. Inter-App Audio hosting is supported.
MIDI clock sync, and virtual MIDI have been added.
AudioCopy for performance and recordings, and AudioPaste for samples has been added.
Adjustable latency settings are now included.
Generally a large amount of fixes, and new additions have brought Stroke Machine up to speed. It inspires customer confidence seeing the attentive actions of this developer. Kudos there.

The multi range keyboard is nice, but it’s just too tiny. I don’t know how that can be addressed considering the lack of screen real estate to work with. I suppose it’ll have to do, and for the most part it will suffice.

The potential was always there, and now with massive improvements and much needed additional features, Stroke Machine is delivering.

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All in all, Mr. Franke thought well to offer a huge creative environment for us to use and do a great many things. Fun, useful and maybe at times still frustrating, Stroke Machine is not kidding around. This ambitious app may have had a bumpy start, but today it is a powerful, stable and inspiring machine. Not yet perfect, but definitely one to seriously consider picking up.

Four Of The Best New Music Apps From Q1 2014

It is subjective for sure when anyone proclaims anything to be “the best” in any category. I’ve given this much thought and sincerely feel the following new “must have” music apps released in this first quarter of 2014 are: Sector, microTERA, iVCS3, and Sliver.
In a way this is also a group review in addition to praise.

Let’s start with microTERA by VirSyn

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VirSyn has always offered excellent synth apps. microTERA is yet another to get excited about. In case you don’t already know, wave shaping synthesis is a distortion synth style with finely detailed spectra; bringing a sort of controlled chaos.
This wave shaping synth is not unlike Cakewalks Z3TA. However in my opinion, this one has a better interface and also a superior arpeggiator. Sound designing is very strong with its 3 adjustable sine oscillators, 4 LFOs, 4 (EG) Envelope Generators each with 64 time/level segments, 16 voice polyphony and of course monophonic. Exceptional modulation customization with all relevant routing possibilities.
Also included is the 32 step programmable arpeggiator found in VirSyns other iOS synths.

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This synth also has a collection of outstanding built in FX.
The range of sound types that can be created are as wide as one should expect. The results are often even better and if you’re in a rush or whatever and just want something random just touch the dice until you hear something you like.
It doesn’t have any significant weaknesses and performs well with Audiobus, and IAA.

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Whether you prefer heavily distorted leads that bash through your ears or silky smooth pads that exude living personalities, microTERA does it.
Just another remarkable synth offering from VirSyn.

Next up is Sliver by Alex Matheu

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Here we have a soundscape maker with four by four real time, resizable clip based segments that, depending on your preferences, alter the imported audio. Or the preset audio samples as well.
Each of these 8 total segments or “Slivers” can be automated and placed however you wish.

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The filters, size, and FX are each controlled with independent X/Y boxes.
Since everything can be automated in real time Sliver offers some amazing fluid control of the textures. Scrub out new soundscapes with truly expressive results.
It’s basically a hyper creative playground for creating unique new instruments which you can also play out with the built in keyboard.
Sliver is endlessly fun and inspiring.

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Shatter up some new sounds with Sliver. Sample and resample. Record, copy, paste, and send to AudioShare. Sliver supports MIDI and Audiobus input.
I can easily see this innovative app being used to live trip-out all within earshot. Bravo!

3rd up, (and this is not in any significant order by the way) is iVCS3 by apeSoft

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apeSoft, makers of the incredible iDensity, iPulsaret and more, has gone and done something special with iVCS3. This is an emulation of the old hardware arguably made famous by Pink Floyd back in the 70s. This tops my “Holy S#@!” list of cool things.
This machine was largely responsible for the wild sounds and eerie textures heard in Dark Side Of The Moon. It was also seen in Pink Floyd’s movie/video “Live At Pompeii” where Roger Waters was exploring this thing’s sonic capabilities.

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iVCS3 was created in 1969 and is considered the first portable synth. Largely used as a sound FX generator (Dr.Who fans know this) without a keyboard, it was later expanded with a (KS) sequencer and (DK1) keyboard connectivity.
This modular synth is gorgeously recreated and emulated perfectly. That may just be my opinion since I’ve never touched a real one, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it anyway.

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This soft version is complete with not only all the original capabilities, but also loads of new modern uses for us to enjoy on our iPads; unlike anything Roger Daltrey could have imagined back in the day. Built-in dual samplers, MIDI, full Audiobus and IAA support, background audio, Dropbox, really just a huge list of features.
This even has 6 different reverb types including a spring convolution reverb, Quadratic Ring Modulation, delay, and noise generator. The features and specs go on and on.

All (or almost all) parameters are fully customizable right down to the color of the knobs.
The same old-time twist and plug routing exists such as the Trapezoid envelope controlled by a virtual joystick, and the modulation matrix with BattleShip-style pin placements instead of cables. So much to see, do, and hear with iVCS3!

It can be a little confusing at times, but there is a full instruction manual included within the app to guide you on your journey. A spectacular “Must Have”!

Last, but not least is Sector by Kymatica

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Kymatica is another one of my personal developer favorites. You can always count on something innovative coming from this guy. We all know and love his AudioShare app and AUFX series, and now “Sector”!

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Sector is a 32 bit sound engine, Stochastic, sample, slice, sequencer with markov-chain connections.
A 32 step sequencer with adjustable routing and wild probability sample, and slice order or chaos.
Creating glitches, and bizarre time warped sequences in Sector is crazy cool and fun.

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It’s not all just about flipping a coin to see what happens, there is also full standard sequencing control as well. Just tap and map out whatever sounds right to you. Countless musical possibilities abound.
It never gets old.
I think the sporadic randomness is the best part, but all together Sector is a mind-blowing new app that defines innovation.

Sector will have a built-in recorder soon, and of course you can bring your own samples in via the Open In function from other apps like AudioShare. Support for Audiobus and IAA are currently available now, with more MIDI connectivity coming soon.
Awesome!

To wrap this up, you may have noticed a slight trend with these apps. If not that’s ok. I see each if these as being a great representation for the innovative nature of their development.
We have loads of common emulations and even new things that, as great as they are, don’t really push things very far from what most think of as being conventional. iOS music is not just an interesting way to explore making music and having fun doing so. It is an opportunity unlike no other to find ways of being extra creative with the apps that can be made, where they otherwise can’t be.

If you want some new music apps that offer you huge musical inspiration, fun, and a different creative experience, then these are 4 of the newest and best. There are of course others, and there will be more. Check them out. Support great development.