sequencer

DrumPerfect – App Review

DrumPerfect Is Made By Marinus J.G. van de Molengraft
Available In The iTunes App Store

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I admit it, I’m no expert on drums. I’ve always gotten by just fine with various digital emulations of many drum machines.
You don’t have to be an expert drummer to know what sounds unrealistic or unnatural.

The aptly named DrumPerfect is the first iOS app made to truly emulate the human drummer and recreate natural sounds.

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DrumPerfect delivers a simple environment to sequence your kits with up to 16 samples, and 64 patterns. 4 great kits come packed in to start you off. You can also import your own samples to custom build new kits. Also included are some pre-made patterns to get the ball rolling and the juices flowing.

The step sequencer has some common and unique parameters to adjust that relate to human capability. Hits can be entered by step, or recorded live via tapping them out on the velocity ramp pad. The ramp pad is a little small, but responds well.

Every single note or strike in the sequence can be adjusted and tweaked by the relative sliders. Make subdivision and time signature adjustment for each pattern, move probability settings between two different velocities over each note. Humanize, and simulate two handed play naturally. I mean its nutty how much control you have over each stroke. Link certain events or let them fly freely. It all makes for some intricate coordinated sequences or wildly unpredictable and chaotic madness.
No human drummer can play every instrument simultaneously. Skilled as some may be, there are just certain physical limitations. This is the first app to really nail down those realistic moments and nuances.

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When they say this has “extensive editing” it’s not an exaggeration.
The details available to dig into are vast. Despite all the different timings, tempos, left or right hand, volume, soft, loud, and various possible setting combinations made for each step, the patterns are played out preserving the differences throughout. This is ingenious and must be experienced to believe it.

DrumPerfect simply sounds perfect. Just as we hoped and expected. This is innovative development at its finest. Its ready to fit right in to any iOS workflow with Audiobus, IAA, AudioCopy2, Dropbox, SoundCloud, and AudioShare supported. MIDI start/stop and clock sync also round it out.

Where it matters most DrumPerfect delivers. Its about realism and natural sound. The interface leaves some to be desired. It looks a bit basic and could benefit from some adjustments and improvements. Especially BPM adjustments. I’d like a way to touch the BPM to adjust incrementally, or even plus and minus arrows would be an improvement. At the moment you either have to bring up the keyboard to delete the current BPM and type in the one you want, or tap it out yourself. I don’t think its a big deal myself. Its all functional, intuitive and serves its purpose.

Remarkable and recommended.

Electrify NXT – Review

Electrify NXT is made by Ingolf Koch
Available in the iTunes App Store

…A virtual groove box with drum loops, synths and FX”

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I’ll be honest, I didn’t get along very well with the first Electrify app. When I saw that Ingolf Koch released NXT I was a tad skeptical. After talking to some fellow iOS music artists who have experienced both the old Electrify and the brand new NXT, my eyes began to open. I got a little excited for this new and different follow-up.
When I finally had NXT in my hands exploring it for the first time, I understood why the folks I spoke to were so happy with it.
Electrify NXT is much different, and better.

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Electrify NXT is more than a sequel, it is a completely new app. Redesigned appearance, workflow, audio engine, and tools to provide a greatly improved product. A product that does its job very well.

Loaded up with hundreds of presets, samples, loops and effects, it has a nice FM synthesizer, 8 sampler drum kit, multi track sequencer, automation, sampler, and mixer. All utilizing the intuitive touch interface splendidly.

The polyphonic FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesizer has 11 algorithms and wave-morphing oscillators. Full envelope, and LFOs, all with easy multi-effects routing. Creating classic FM type sounds from scratch is a snap. Having this built-in synth is very good for quickly crafting sounds, melodies or sound effects. Use presets or create and save your own.
It’s a good, capable synth, but I wouldn’t say it has infinite sound possibilities. At any rate I’m glad it’s included.

“Nearly all parameters of instruments and effects can be modulated by envelope, LFOs or by real time parameter sequencing.”

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The drum kits can have 8 samples loaded to the 8 pads. Tap out your own beats using those pads, or just touch the sequencer steps you want them in.
The looper/slicer is indeed strong and is excellent for rearranging and redesigning your beats perfectly. Including a clip editor, creating custom loops is fun and simple. Just the way I like it. Beats and sampling made easy.
With over 1600 full loops and individual clips covering a wide variety of styles and sounds to choose from there will be no shortage of options for your sequences; or use your own samples of course.
Everything can be set to play in perfect sync and on the fly. Load the screen with blocks of samples and quickly activate or deactivate what’s playing and when however you like. No interruptions.

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As you can see from the above screen shot, customizing the background can be done. Piece of cake, but I’ve experienced some occasional crashes when using my own custom backgrounds. Going back to the default options resolved the crashes.

NXT offers a sweet list of several effects to use. Each effect is well done and can be modulated, tweaked and adjusted. With little x/y pads for each in the chain for some added convenience.
Usually offering FX in this quantity ends up with mediocre quality. Arguably the same could be said here with some, however they have a purpose and are functionally sound. I don’t think there’s much reason to complain. The variety of FX are very nice to have.

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Collectively all the tools offered in NXT are well done. Sequencing is easy. Sound design, sampling, arranging, mixing etc, it’s all incredible. I could go on and on in detail about the vast amount of pieces that make up NXT, but this would become unreadably long. That said, I encourage you to visit the developer website for all the details to fill in the blanks.

Clearly I like this app. It is however not perfect. It won’t be a hit with everybody. Much of whether or not one may like or dislike NXT has to do with individual workflow and preferences. Its a sequencer not a DAW. While it is intended for use in live performances, there are still a few minor issues that might make that scenario a bit unattractive at the moment. Little things that wouldn’t be too bothersome in the “studio” (where ever that may be) may be very problematic live. One example is when previewing a sample, I’ve had it fail to stop playing. That can really get in the way.
A “UNDO” option would be nice. Despite the recent update I’ve still heard some audio drop outs when leaving the clip editor. Not as much as before though.
The GUI has on rare occasions paused briefly during the switch from one thing to another. Such as from the main front screen to the mixer etc. On the other hand, there has been little to complain about in general.

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Updates have been steady and coming with bug fixes, various improvements, and new features. As is, this is still my favorite sequencer workstation and I think it’s the best new sequencer of 2013.
As time goes on it will only get better.

Where iOS workflow is concerned NXT is well rounded, but not yet complete without current support for Inter-App Audio. It does have integrated AudioCopy/Paste, Audiobus, and MIDI.

Electrify NXT is one ambitious groove box with a lot of power.

*Quotes taken from Ingolf Koch iTunes App Store description

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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Thor Polysonic Synthesizer

Thor Polysonic Synthesizer
Made by: Propellerhead Software

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Remarkable, beastly, outstanding, monstrous, unearthly, incredible, you should get this synth.
That was the easiest review ever. Not enough? What? You want me to elaborate?
Oh, alright.

Every time I see a new iOS synth I get very excited. Don’t you? Well you should. Thor is no simple or run of the mill synth. Its a port of course, but a port that still has stones. Instead of a single synthesis type, Thor has 6 oscillator types! What? Yes 6. Analog, FM Pair, Wavetable, PhaseMod, Multi Oscillator, and Noise. Its can make for some nutty but thunderous combinations depending on how you apply them to the 3 available slots.
Add to the incredible selection of synth types, there’s 4 filter types for 3 slots. Then there’s a whole mess of routing options and modulations to dig into. It is a mind blowing collection of options that can lead to some of the most creative synth sounds imagined. Thor is godlike.
Kind of getting ahead of myself here, so ill expand in the order of the interface screens next.

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The functions and parameters that all make up Thor being numerous and complex, are thoughtfully contained in 3 main screens with collapsible and expandable sections. It might seem at a glance like there’s too many hoops to go through in order to make an adjustment, but what’s the alternative? Ive seen some complaints about this. When you think about it and understand how much stuff there is packed into Thor, those complaints boil down to being just nit picky, and painfully trivial. If everything were visible without consolidating, the interface would be a big mess full of tiny buttons, knobs and itty bitty text. What Propellerhead did to keep everything neat, clean and accessible works out nicely.

First is the “Keyboard” screen.
Pretty strait forward and self explanatory. This is where the performing is done. Select Mono or Polyphonic with adjustable portamento. There are 2 assignable rotary knobs and buttons. Adjustable pitch bend, modulation, and strum sliders reside on this screen. The Strum slider is fairly unique to synths & works as you might think. Hold a key or keys and strum away or tap “Hit” for a stab. It all can make for some unique play styles when applied together during recording or performance.
Also on this screen is the “Assist” function which is used to select scales and keys.
It all comes together smashingly for a very satisfying experience.

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Next we have the “Knobs” screen. This is where the magic happens. As I mentioned previously, you have 3 slots to apply any combination of the 6 oscillator types. 3 filter slots for the 4 available filter types, a “Shaper” unit with 9 shapes, a mixer, and all the routing. Plus there are 3 envelops and 2 LFOs.

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You might think it could get pretty crowded with all of these tools, and if it weren’t for the “Expand” function to help control space it would be.
Each piece has additional options for waveforms, speeds, types, in the form of drop down menus neatly contained within each unit. The sound designing capabilities are astronomical. Nothing has been diluted or compromised here at all.
With so many synthesis types available to combine with one another it could seem like Thor is a student of many but master of nothing. That would be an error. Each type can be controlled in great detail. The WaveTable for example is loaded up with many wavetable types for you to select from. No you can’t make your own wavetable, but there’s plenty to choose from. The 4 filter types Comb, LoPass Ladder, State Variable and Formant can be used in any combination (like the oscillators) in 3 separate slots. How you combine and route each of these will offer some sonic dimension that few synths can approach. Thor’s FX units are Delay and Chorus, and pretty darn good to boot.
All of your Thor creations can be moved to or from the Reason version of Thor.
The over used “playground” description seriously applies to Thor in the most sincere ways. This is really not just a playground but more like the Disneyland of sonic realms.

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The 3rd and final screen is called “Routing”. Here we have a comprehensive matrix for some massive routing and modulation options. Tweak signal flow and directions of each parameter with fine adjustments to just about anywhere. Its a relentless range of depth and possibilities. You can be as complex or simple as you wish with your routing. Additionally a micro keyboard is always available on the bottom of the “Knobs, and Routing” screens for you to audition your creations.

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In addition to the matrix on this Routing screen is a 16 step sequencer. One of the more detailed I’ve seen in a synth allowing fantastic control over each note, 2 curves, velocity, gate, and step durations. Select the order, skip notes, change direction, and speeds etc its all there. Super slow 16/4 to light speed 1/64 speeds.

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Thor is a class act. This synth is ridiculously rich with features and capabilities. Obviously I’ve left out a lot in order to keep this all at a decent length. Check out the Propellerhead Software site for more details.
Thor supports Audiobus Input, MIDI, and background audio. It works great with my iRig Keys. There doesn’t appear to be any ACP support, and no built in recording. That will be a disappointment to those who still prefer to do things that way.

To sum it all up I’d have to say that Thor on iPad is a monumental addition to the ever increasing library of pro quality options being delivered to iOS. Thor is complete, playable, and insanely deep. Creating synth sounds with loads of character and life are just the beginning. -(*edit) In case I’m not making myself clear, the resulting sounds can be amazing. Ive been enjoying the strong sonic capabilities Thor puts in my hands. Making thick, evolving pads that breath are my favorites, but any types can be made and sound great. You get out of it, what you put into it.- With over 1000 patches built in there’s plenty of inspiring sounds to mess with, but building from the ground up is where its at. The tools are there, its up to you to make it however you like. Experiment and have fun with it. The only thing that bugs me is there’s no way to share custom patches by email, and the color scheme of GUI is drab to me. Then again I am color blind, so maybe its delightful to others?
This is the kind of synth that will keep you hooked and coming back over and over to design sounds like no other. Its behaved well for me on my iPads 3&4 with no stability issues at all. Its recommended for iPad 2 and up. Sorry iPad 1 owners.
It is a legend born from Reason and having this on our iPads is a dream come true. Synth lovers rejoice! At the time I wrote this Thor is selling for $14.99 (USD) and that’s a bargain for what you’re getting here.

Thor is available in iTunes HERE

Couple extra screen shots:

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The Must Have iOS Music Apps In My Process

Updated July 24 2013

A few additions and deletions to consider in this updated list. I’ve added some really impressive new apps, as well as removing a couple I’m tired of waiting for updates.
A couple of the most notable additions is Waldorfs Nave, Nave is special, and very powerful with tremendous sonic crafting options. “Audio Mastering” app which I find to be an extremely useful, and quality mastering option. If you are using something like Cubasis then it is absolutely essential.
Thor Polysonic Synthesizer, AUFX:Space ( a fantastic stand alone reverb ), and now that Audiobus is supported MorphWiz and SampleWiz are added.

A while ago I made a similar list of iOS music apps that I generally considered “Must Have” iOS Music Apps. It got a bit long & messy. It was more of a wide look at the apps I thought had a fairly universal appeal for anyone interested in making music this way. I’m making this new list to reflect a more current collection of iOS music apps, but most specific to what is used in my own process rather than a list of options or just simply great apps. There are so many great apps.
This is a response of sorts to the questions I am asked most often about my music process.”Hey, David! What music apps do you use and recommend?” And “Why?”

First. I only require that these have Audiobus support now, or at least AudioCopy/Paste until they can be updated with Audiobus. Any music app failing to have, or a plan to soon have those basic functions, are simply not installed. At least not until they do. I am always open to revisiting other excellent music apps when they are completed with these basic supports. The reason this is so important to me is because I have always been committed to the wire-free creative experience that iOS offers.
I enjoy that freedom most and it adds to my inspiration. Wires don’t appeal to me and I feel are no longer necessary in this day and age. If I wanted wires I’d use a laptop.
iTunes File Share is dreadful and not part of my process. The rare times ill use File Share is just to move projects for storage on my computer. Lastly, I only occasionally use Virtual MIDI and own no other hardware.

What I used previously versus what I use today is very different. So much has changed. The amazing growth and development in iOS music apps available today has advanced very quickly. It is a very exciting time for me as I’m sure it is for countless others who are equally (if not more) enthusiastic about this unique platform for music production.

So for what ever its worth, here is my list of apps I consider “Must Haves” and use in my process to make music. The ones I just can’t live without.

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iDAW

Auria – The single most complete iDAW for mixing, editing & mastering from cradle to grave.

Meteor- The next best thing to Auria for professional quality. Now with up to 24 tracks via IAP. Good automation and fantastic MIDI controls. Instruments, and solid FX, but paying extra for an EQ is offensive. Still great iDAW.

Synthesizers

PPG WaveGenerator, PPG WaveMapper, Animoog, Addictive Synth, Sunrizer Synth, Magellan Synth, NLogPro, Nave, Thor, CrystalSynth XT

Sequencers

iPolySix, SynergyStudio, Cubasis

Samplers

Samplr, CsGrain, SampleWiz

Granular/Synth

GrainScience, iPulsaret, iDensity, GrainBender, Stria.

Drum and Percussion

DM1-The Drum Machine, DrumJam, Stochastic, MoDrum. GlitchBreaks

Instruments

ThumbJam, Guitarism, OMGuitar, Gelileo Organ, MorphWiz

Virtual MIDI

Gestrument, MusixPro, ArpeggionomePro, Chordion.

FX

EchoPad, Filtatron, Turnado, AUFX:Space

Miscellaneous

Impaktor, AirVox

Tie It All Together, Edit, Master Etc.

Audiobus, AudioShare, Twisted Wave, Audio Mastering.

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There you have it. A list of the iOS music apps I must have in my process. This is by no means a declaration of any kind. Everyone has a unique process with apps they prefer. I hope that answers the question some of you have asked. I’m sure this will all change tomorrow. 🙂