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Mini Review – Egoist for iPad

Posted by Mikers On December - 20 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

The talented crew at Sugar Bytes, have ported yet another one of their fine audio mincing desktop apps across to the iOS world. Introducing Egoist for iPad.

For those unfamiliar with it, Egoist’s main drawcard is being able to slice ‘n dice an existing piece of audio into a maximum of 16 chunks, and then sequence them to playback in any order you like. The sources of audio include dozens of on board drum loops and sampled grooves, to anything currently loaded in your iPad’s music library.

Egoist’s other key features include a programmable synth bass and drum machine, plus one of the coolest looking multi effects sections I’ve ever seen.

So let’s take a look at each section individually.

screen480x480 (2)The app’s hero, The Slicer, is where I’d expect users to spend most of their creative time, as this is where you place up to 16 markers throughout the chosen piece of audio, and then fine tune how you want each sample to playback.

Having placed all the slice markers where you want them, you have further control of the overall pitch of the sample, which is useful when needing to get musical parts in the same key. You can also adjust the overall sensitivity which will determine how many of the slices are detected based on their volume. There is also an adjustment for the length and envelope of the slices, which together essentially act like a gate over when the slice cuts off.

Just under the audio waves section is where you arrange the order that the slices will play in. This simple interface uses a series of intuitive sliders that represent the order in which the slices will play. There are 16 sliders, each with 16 possible positions, so for example, by placing the first slider on 7, the next slider on 3, and the next slider on 12, you will hear those numbered samples played in that order. So the idea is, once you’ve assigned a slice on each of the 16 faders, you have completed one pattern. Further tweaking of the each slice is available just below the sliders, these include the individual pitch, attack, decay, and volume.

Once you’ve created a handful of patterns, these can then be turned into full tracks by arranging the patterns into parts, for example an intro, verse, bridge, chorus and outro, and then finally you can arrange these parts, to create a song.

Once you’ve got all the slices in the order you wish, there is some additional overall tweaking you can do to the pattern, including muting some slices, getting them to play in reverse, plus you can make the whole pattern play backwards, or have it play the slices in a random order, which can often present some pleasant surprises.

To the right of the slice area, is a series of copying, pasting, and randomising functions, simplifying the process of making new variations of existing patterns. There are also some direction keys which allow you to move the slices all to the left or right, and up and down, which again can provide some interesting new beats and musical grooves.

screen480x480 (3)Moving onto the Bass/Beat area, we find a familiar working 16 step sequencer style drum machine featuring 32 kits of Kick, Snare and Hi Hats. These can all be mixed and matched to suit your own taste, plus the volume and pitch of each part is adjustable too. As well as inventing your own drum grooves, you can use the randomiser or + and – keys which cycles through a few dozen of premade patterns.

The Synth Bass area is definitely one of more unique takes I’ve come across, starting with the fact there is no on screen keyboard to enter notes. Notes are entered on a single line, and like the other elements, you have a maximum of 16 possible notes per pattern.

Tapping in an empty area on the top line, brings up the option for how long you want to the bass note to play for, and also if you want it to pitch up or down. Once you’ve entered all the bass notes for a pattern, you can change the tunning of each note on the line below it. The tunning options go one octave above and also below the root note (which something you can also set manually). And in addition to the fine tuning of each note, under this line, you can make each note play an octave higher or lower. As with the Slicer and the Drums, to the right you have access to copy and paste features, and two types of randomising, one offers random bass lines, and the other randomises the notes it plays. I found this frequently produced a great bass line, with minor tweaks here and there, without the need to program one manually from scratch.

There are over a dozen built in synth bass patches, with options to adjust the wave and filter type, the cut-off, resonance, modulation, LFO rate, and note decay. The editing isn’t as in depth as some full-fledged synth apps, but there’s enough to play with, to get some nice fat sounds. And any patches you happen to come up with yourself can be saved as a user patch.

screen480x480 (4)The other key component of Egoist is the Multi Effects area, which is one of the most unique visual takes I’ve come across for editing and applying effects. It’s one of my favourite areas of Egoist to mess around with. The effects include a high pass filter, delay, reverb, lo-fi, chorus, tape stop effect, and a looper.

If you’re familiar with Sugar Bytes application, Effectrix, the way this section works is similar. At the bottom of the screen is a grid, where you can apply any of the 7 effects to the 16 parts of a pattern. Each of the effects can be edited by either using your finger within the effect, or for more precise adjustments there are vertical and horizontal sliders. As with most other areas, there is copy and paste, and randomising options here too.

One thing to note about the effects is that they are global, so although you can choose to send the drums, bass, or slicer through them, it’s the same effect across everything.

The final section is simply called Egoist, and it offers access to some global settings and options. Here you can adjust the overall tempo, the clock source, audio and MIDI settings. You can bounce down and share your finished work through the Audiocopy feature. You can choose between clock and note for how the slicer playbacks samples. You can also fine tune the slicer, the synth bass and over all master mix. There is also a handy compressor limiter to give the overall mix some extra punch. You’ll find a handy link to the online operation manual here too.

screen480x480 (5)While I didn’t get into any of the MIDI options, I do believe it’s possible to assign incoming control commands to things like the synth bass’ filters and the volume controls.

And of course, there is the all-important support for Audiobus 2 and Inter-App Audio, so Egoist will play nicely with other supported music making and recording apps.

In the end, like its desktop PC big brother, Egoist offers surprisingly in-depth audio editing and processing features in a way that is not only intuitive, but also a fun way to create interesting new beats and grooves.

Egoist is available from here –

Egoist (AppStore Link) Egoist
Developer: Sugar Bytes GmbH
Rated: 4+
Price: $29.99 Download Here

BIAS for iPhone

Posted by Mikers On February - 27 - 2014 1 COMMENT

unnamedIt’s only been a few months since Positive Grid unleashed its impressive guitar amp modeler and designer iPad app, BIAS, to the world of strummers and shredders. And now you can carry the mighty power of the app around in your back (or front) pocket, thanks to the launch of the iPhone and iPod Touch version.

Any fears of this being a ‘lite’ version of the iPad app can be removed as the iPhone version offers access to every single feature found in the original. Due to the difference in screen sizes, some changes have been made to the user interface to accommodate the host of options, menus and settings, but that’s about where the differences end.

The iPhone version, looks the same, sounds as good (if not better), and if that’s not enough, it is half the price of the original.

You have the access to the same 36 authentic amp models, spread across different musical genres, from clean and blues, through to crunch and metal, and then some amps designed for bass and acoustic guitars as well.

However the real magic happens when you go virtually ‘inside’ any given amp head, where almost unlimited customisation and tweaking of the preamp, EQ, poweramp, transformer, cabinet type, and more are at your fingertips.

You get the same icing on the cake, with cross compatibility with Positive Grid’s Jamup Pro app, enabling you to switch seamlessly between the two apps for even more functionality. Plus access to the pioneering Tone Cloud feature, which is incorporated into the app, offering access to an online community of users who share their unique amps freely, and can leave comments for each other.

For guitarist always on the go, this is definitely the app to own. While you may not always have your iPad handy, your iPhone is usually never far away should the amp modelling mode suddenly strike you!

Read on for the full details –


BIAS is an Amp Designer, Modeler and Processor. It’s warm, accurate and more versatile than any other modeler, processor in hardware or software ever created.

BIAS starts with stunning replications of 36 of the most sought-after vintage and modern amps in rock ‘n’ roll history and then lets you customize them to respond perfectly to your unique touch and feel. Swap out the tubes, preamp, transformer, tone stacks, cab and mic—even change the tube’s bias—to create your dream amp and distinctive signature sound. Tap once to open your BIAS amp in JamUp and add awesome multi-effects.

Close your eyes, and you’ll swear you’re hearing the real thing. With BIAS, you own a complete virtual collection of the most coveted and unique guitar amps of all time—some dating as far back as the 1940s. Every amp model is meticulously engineered to respond to your playing with immediacy, sensitivity and realism that make you not only sound better but also play better. And BIAS sounds great on bass guitar, too.

But BIAS doesn’t stop there. Create totally new sounds by designing your custom dream amp. It’s as easy as tap and drag. Using BIAS’ highly intuitive and lightning-fast interface, it’s child’s play to instantly swap out colorful tube preamps, lush distortion circuits, classic tone stacks, boutique power stages, custom-built transformers and cabs loaded with specially matched speakers. The result is a depth and range of tones not possible using traditional guitar amps or other modelers. Whether you’re a classic rocker, metalhead, jazz player, bluesman or singer-songwriter—and whether you understand how amplifier electronics work or not—you’ll be dialing in killer, exclusive tones in a heartbeat.

BIAS integrates seamlessly with Positive Grid’s free JamUp XT and optional JamUp Pro XT guitar multi-effects apps, expanding BIAS into a powerful and completely unified professional guitar system for live use, recording and jamming. Simply tap the JamUp icon on BIAS’ upper bar to open your current BIAS amp setup directly in either JamUp XT or JamUp Pro XT. JamUp XT adds 1 amp and 6 effects to your BIAS rigs. JamUp Pro XT adds fully 6 amps and 16 stomp-box and premium rack effects – including distortion, compression, tape delay, tremolo and spring reverb. Both JamUp XT and JamUp Pro XT include Jam player, 8-track recorder and phrase sampler, tuner and metronome, effectively turning BIAS into a recording studio and top-of-the-line practice utility.

BIAS works with GarageBand and other audio apps using iOS 7’s Inter-App Audio and Audiobus. Whether recording, songwriting, or honing your chops—at home or on the road—BIAS places unequaled tone at your fingertips.

• The most complete, accurate, and versatile amp modeling available in the world
• 36 amp models included with the introductory release
• Factory categories organize amps by music genre and sonic impact: clean, blues, twang, crunch, metal, acoustic and bass
• Fully customizable preamps, tone stacks, power amps, transformers, cabinets and mic selection and placement—mix and match!
• Customize the look and feel of your own amp panel, change name, tolex, panel and knobs.
• Works the way guitarists think: tweak gain and overdrive, swap out tubes and transformers, change the cabinet and mic position, and shape the tone with different tone stacks and two 8-band equalizers
• Included noise gate and room simulator
• Create a virtually unlimited number of custom amps
• Quick preset to recall each of your 8 favorite settings in turn with just one tap
• Seamless integration with JamUp XT and JamUp Pro XT, open and save your amp models inside JamUp with one tap
• Works with GarageBand and other audio apps via Inter-App Audio and Audiobus.
• Designed for iOS 7, requires iPhone 4S, iPos touch 5th gen or newer

Head to www.positivegrid.com for the latest on BIAS

BIAS - Guitar and Bass Amp Designer and Modeler for iPhone (AppStore Link) BIAS - Guitar and Bass Amp Designer and Modeler for iPhone
Developer: Positive Grid Inc
Rated: 4+
Price: $4.99 Download Here

Mini review – Effectrix

Posted by Mikers On February - 27 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

screen480x480It’s no secret now that the ‘other’ highly popular platform for developers of audio editing and music creation tools for Mac and PC, is now iOS, as more and more ‘made for computer’ software finds its way into Apple’s App Store. The success of the iPad has cemented iOS as the logical platform to add to a developer’s portfolios.

And no developer knows this more than Berlin based, Sugar Bytes, as their impressive library of audio mincing tools steadily makes its way onto the iOS platform.

The latest German made gem to make the leap onto iPad, is the company’s intuitive audio manipulation tool, Effectrix, offering over a dozen both familiar and unique audio treatments to spice up your loops and live performances.

While you can play around with the app’s included loops (which are actually pretty sweet), or bring your own audio into the app from your iTunes library, as well as using the AudioPaste option to grab sounds from other apps, the killer feature for many with be utilising Effectrix with AudioBus so its effects can be used on an audio single from one app, and then recorded on another. This is what excites me most anyway. I will point out at this stage there still some kinks to iron out with this later features, but I’ve been advised the team is working on it, along with some other compatibility options with other apps, and aim to have a more seamless experience with other apps and overall functionality when the next update arrives.

While I am yet to try out the original computer based version of Effectrix, my first experience with it on iPad felt like it was always designed for the touch screen environment. From the user interface to the logical controls for editing sounds via the touch screen, it just feels like this is the way it was always meant to be used, rather with a mouse and keyboard.

I must admit, there is not a lot in the way of instructions/tutorials to assist if you’re new to the audio manipulation world on this grand scale (I mean this is some of the deepest and customisable audio mashing I’ve seen all in the one app), but thanks to over 200 presets that Sugar Bytes has included, it doesn’t take long to see what they’ve done, and how they’ve come up with the effects, and how easy it is to tailor your own unique tweaks.

While I can see the main use for this app in my studio during post production duties, Effectix is geared up for live performance too, and thanks to MIDI trigger support, which allows you to assign presets to notes on a keyboard, you could easily incorporate the app into a live performance, for some improvising music mashing.

If there was only one thing I take away from Effectrix that many apps fail to get right it’s that you get an incredible amount of flexibility and creative power, yet it remains highly accessible, whereas some apps may have a killer list of features but if it’s takes a bachelor’s degree in computing to get your head around, which is not the case here.

While there is no demo version currently available for iPad, if you are keen to see what it can do, grab a demo copy of the computer version from Sugar Byte’s website. You’ll be inspired, I assure you.

Read on for a full list of the app’s features.



Effectrix is a professional multi-effect sequencer for the iPad.

The game-changing tool for creative and effective music production is now available on the App Store: scatter 14 intelligent effects across a sequencer matrix and create unheard-of sound patterns and cheeky loop collages.

A playful workflow, refined algorithms and carefully parameterised effects lead to outstanding results – fast! The effects, each exceeding conventional wisdom, cover a wide spectrum from classy standards to scandalising splatter sprees.

This iOS port faithfully recreates the desktop engine, today’s de-facto standard of finest audio manipulation.

– quickly create variations and mutations for productive sound design
– 20 fine audio samples installed
– 230 factory presets (100 global, ca. 9 per effect)
– 14 high-quality effects
– redesigned GUI for a smooth iOS workflow

– manipulate each individual effect with up to eight parameters
– two modulator tracks per effect
– Seamless iOS integration: full MIDI, IAA, Audiobus
– save your own presets & use them on your desktop version of Effectrix

Effectrix (AppStore Link) Effectrix
Developer: Sugar Bytes GmbH
Rated: 4+
Price: $17.99 Download Here

Mini Review : BIAS

Posted by Mikers On December - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS


BIAS_1_HomeBIAS is a brand new app from Positive Grid, the creators of the JamUp Pro series of guitar amp apps and the JamUp Plug audio interface for guitars.

Building on the already richly featured Jam Up apps which include a range of mix and matchable virtual guitar amp heads, speaker cabinets, and effects pedals (not to mention multitrack recording and jamming modes as well), comes Positive Grids grounding breaking new iOS app, BIAS, which takes guitar amp modelling to a whole new level of customisation and possibilities. Not only can you personalise the external look of each amp, but more importantly, you can tweak a wide range of tonal settings inside the amp in a way that hasn’t be possible until now.

If you’ve played around with any guitar amp apps in the past, you’ll be instantly familiar with BIAS’ main home screen. In the centre of the screen is the selected amp head, below this are some signal I/O settings and user defined presets, and at the top of the screen are nine categories or styles of sounds, each with four factory presets. The styles range from clean and glassy, to blues, crunch, plus there’s a group of settings for acoustic and bass guitars as well.

Pulling up any one of these 36 different amps, you have the familiar options of shaping your guitar sound by adjusting the EQ, gain, presence and master controls on the front of the amp.

Where BIAS treads new ground, is by allowing you to go virtually inside the selected amp head and tweak an unprecedented amount of tonal settings, from the preamp and power amp stages to the tone stack and even the type of power transformer.

One of the much talked about feature of BIAS’ deep customisation is the ability to switch between various tubes, which affect the gain and harmonic tone of the amp, just like they do on real guitar amps.

BIAS_1_PreampThe preamp stage features, 12AX7, 12AT7, and 12AU7 tubes, which can be customised in two groups of pairs. The tubes have their own gain, distortion, and hi/low frequency cut controls, plus you can adjust the number of tube stages, and there are pre and post EQ stage for even further tone shaping. And last but not least, you can alter the amount of harmonics, by adjusting the bias from hot to cold. For those a little overwhelmed by the number of possible settings, or just not sure where to even start, there are a handful of factory presets to get you up and running. And naturally you’re able to save and recall any customised settings you manage to come up with of your own.

Moving left of the preamp, is the tone stack stage. Here you’ll find a collection of more than a dozen styles of EQ, which have been inspired by classic eras in music history, from early 50’s tweed amps, and the British invasion sound of the late 50s, through to the unmistakable tones of bands like Van Halen and ACDC. And just like with the preamp, you can tweak any of these existing presets to come up with you own sounds, and save these for later use.

Then to the left of the tone stack, is arguably the most crucial stage, the power amp. This also has switchable tubes, including 6L6GB, 6V6GT, EL84, and EL34. Here you can also choose the way the power amp processes the signal, whether it’s a single ended, split load, push pull or even solid state type of amp. Other controls include the usual distortion, gain, tonal adjustments, and again the bias can be set between hot and cold.

The other key aspect of tonal customisation involves the transformer stage. There are three transformer types, which are identified simply as British, American, and fat style, each offering slight tonal differences. The other main option in this stage is the choose between solid state or tube rectifier, with GZ34 and 5Y3GT tubes to pick from. You can adjust the compression of the signal here as well. And as with all the amp and tone stack stages, here there are a few presets to get you started, and you can save and recall any of your own personal settings.

BIAS_5_CabThere’s also a cabinet section, featuring twenty different boxes with varying speaker arrays, from single 12s, up to 8 x 10s. Here you can also choose the exact mic placement in front of the grill, as well as using either a Shure SM57, or AKG C414.

The final tonal adjustment you can make, is the option of two eight band EQs that can be literally dropped anywhere along the signal path in between any of the aforementioned amps, transformer, tone stack, and cabinet. Whether you need these or not after all the tone shaping already on tap, it’s still nice to have them available anyway.

Of course, what’s a killer sounding guitar amp you’ve just created, without an equally unique look to go with it? So head to the custom panel area where you can name your amp, and customise the grillcloth, panel, the knobs and even use a photo as a background.

There are two other key features of BIAS that are sure to secure its success.

The first, and not so unexpected feature being, that any amp you create in BIAS can be opened up and instantly ready to use in Positive Grid’s free JamUp XT or JamUp Pro XT guitar multi-effects apps. A JamUp icon is present at the top of the screen at all times in BIAS, so at any time you can fire up your customised amp by tapping the icon, thereby giving you access to all of recording and jamming features of JamUp, with your newly customised amp.

The second, and more surprising new feature that BIAS offers is called ToneCloud. This social sharing platform is build right into the app, and is designed to let users not only share their custom creations with others simply by uploading them, but also lets you download unlimited new virtual amps created by others from all over the world. And it’s a free service.

Users are invited to preview one another’s uploaded presets before deciding to download them, plus you can leave comments and ‘like’ a particular sound. Presets are filed into familiar genres, plus there is a ‘latest’ and ‘popular’ section, which is determined by the amount of ‘likes’ a preset gets from users. You can even share a patch on Facebook.

BIAS_9_JAMUP_IntegrationToneCloud is ideal for those still new to BIAS and are keen to build an instant library of great sounds, as well as seasoned amp modelling gurus, who just want to showcase what they have come up with.

But getting back to the roots of this app, BIAS really is an amp tweakers dream come true. Until I’d seen it first hand for myself, I wouldn’t have even considered this depth of virtual amp customisation was possible on iOS, let alone incredibly intuitive for end users to play with. Positive Grid has raised the bar with BIAS, by putting true power and untapped creativity in the hands of guitarists for the first time. Don’t let the initial daunting 30 minutes you first spend with BIAS put you off. Whether you’re a seasoned professional, or even just getting into playing electric guitar for the first time, this is one tool worth having in your musical arsenal.

For the latest info on BIAS, check the official site – http://www.positivegrid.com/bias/

New iPhones arrive for 2013

Posted by Mikers On November - 10 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Apple gave us not one, but two new iPhones this year, which is a first for the company. Both are successors to the iPhone 5, which is now no longer in production. And following Apple’s now familiar roadmap of product releases, 2013 is a ‘tween’ year, meaning these handsets are more of an evolution of the iPhone 5, than the completely revamped model we’ve now come to expect every 24 months.

I know both models have been out for a little while now, so I’ll just go over the main features briefly as a refresher.

HT_iphone_5C-colors_thg-130910_16x9_992To sum up the 5c, it is basically an iPhone 5 with only some minor hardware tweaks on the inside. The biggest change on the outside is the polycarbonate back of the handset which features soft edges, much akin to the old iPhone 3G design, which I actually really liked. This backing also comes in 5 different choices of colours, including green, blue, yellow, red and white. Again, black is not an option. And that’s about the most significant thing about this handset. It’s being priced slightly less than the 5s, and rightly so as it features hardware that is now over 12 months old, which is still obviously fine for the majority of users, however as developer begin harnessing the power of the new A7 processor in the iPhone 5s (and the new iPads), this handset might not be suitable for some uses, and one of those might be CPU intensive music apps.

So with that, it’s onto the 5c’s bigger brother. The iPhone 5s comes in 3 choices of colours. It’s the first time it has appeared in gold, and also the first time black has not been an colour option. The build is once again a combination of aluminum and glass, and this year’s model is virtually identical to its predecessor in dimensions and weight.

apple-iphone-5s-2The key new features include, improved front and back facing cameras plus better two tone flash, new motion sensor, faster RAM, more powerful CPU and GPU, and a finger print scanner integrated into the home button. It’s also worth noting that the antenna has been improved offering faster wireless capabilities.

On the hardware audio front, the device now has a total of 3 microphones. One on the front, the back, as well as the top. These are essentially aimed at improving call quality with better noise reduction options, however capturing sounds in the field with just the handset will benefit from these improvements.

The speakers also sound clear, thanks to the addition of a new magnetic transducer. Again this is mainly aimed at listening to incoming calls, but the speakers also feature noise-cancelling on the audio out signal, which helps clean up back ground sounds on the callers end.

One of the more interesting new audio features comes with the introduction of iOS 7, which launched alongside both handsets. So this is also technically available on older handsets that have been updated as well.

Inter-App Audio is a system level standard developed by Apple, which allows compatible music apps to share audio between them, in much the same way the app Audiobus does. In addition it also features MIDI control of audio rendering. The feature allows sound generating apps such as drums machines, synths, and music workstations to be feed into recording apps. Special audio effects can also be used in this way, so they can be assigned to the auxillary bus of a recording app. As the team at Audiobus has already stated, both apps offer some unique features the other doesn’t. Time will tell whether which one becomes the standard, but it’s great to see Apple acknowledging the popularity of music creation on its devices and putting the resources into creating the new feature.

While the new iPads will no doubt prove more popular with iOS musicians due to the extra screen real estate. iPhones remain more portable, and great for quickly and easily getting down ideas on the spot, anywhere, anytime.

The other significant feature of the new iPhone 5s, that is yet to be fully realised, is the power of the new 64bit A7 processor. Serving up double the power as the previous handset (and the iPhone 5c for that matter), this opens up some serious processing power for developers to utilise. While there aren’t any shining examples of where this has happened just yet, it is surely only a matter of time before some 64bit apps arrive in the App Store that showcase the power of the new A7 chip.

iphone_5s_colors_stacked_apple_16x9I realise it has now been 12 months since Apple introduced the new smaller I/O port on the bottom of its handsets and iPads, but this remains a sticking point for iOS musicians, due to the handful of the dedicated audio hardware and cables that have been released that still support the outdated 30 pin port. Yes, there are adaptors available, but it’s annoying the hardware makers have been slow to support this new port.

In end, I don’t think anyone buys an iPhone purely as a music making device, besides it has far too many other useful functions. However, this year’s two new handsets from Apple are worthy successors, in their own right, and combined with the updated iOS, offer plenty for iOS musicians to be happy about.  It’s a case of watching this space now to see just what developers do with the new found power and operating system features.

Mini review – Synergy Studio

Posted by Mikers On December - 11 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Development studio, 4PocketsAudio has been steadily making a name for itself in the serious iOS music making app world, and by that I don’t mean they take themselves too serious (at least I don’t think they do), but rather that their growing collection of apps are aimed at music makers that are looking for comprehensive features, and expect decent results.

If you aren’t up with 4Pocket’s back catalogue, it’s worth a look as there is something in there for most musicians, from tone generators and spectrum analysers, to virtual guitar amp and effect boards, multitrack DAWs, and music composing and sequencing software. The later genre was initially represented by 4Pocket’s Aurora Sound Studio, which appeared back in 2010.

This app has been joined in the same category by the recently release, Synergy Studio for iPad. And while there are certainly similarities in the look and features of both apps, this new release offers greater musical creativity and advanced options, while at the same time still being accessible to musicians at all levels of experience.

Rather than draw direct comparisons between the apps, here are my initial thoughts on Synergy Studio since I’ve been playing with it for a few weeks now.

Anyone familiar with the grid-based or step-time sequencing, or in fact Yamaha’s ill-fated Tenori-on digital instrument, will already feel right at home with Synergy’s main interface which is mostly made up of rows of dots, with the vertical lines representing beats in a bar, and the horizontal lines representing notes on a scale. By touching a dot it turns blue and becomes active, so if a sound has been assigned and you hit play, you hear it. It’s a highly visual way to create music since you can not only ‘see’ the music gradually coming together as you activate more and more dots, but it encourages experimentation because if a note is off or out of time, simply touch the dot to remove it.

The main idea behind building musical arrangements this way, is you create individual ‘patterns’ or ‘loops’ such as an intro, verse, chorus, solo section, break down, etc. Once these smaller sections have been created, you can easily put them into a longer song format, by playing around with the order of the patterns until you find a combination that works best.

Synergy Studio allows you to create up to 64 unique patterns per song file, and each pattern can be up to 64 notes in length, which is more than enough to let your creative juices flow.

Like Aurora Sound Studio before it, Synergy Studio includes a library of instruments, including 11 drum kits covering most genres of music. The collection of musical sounds are divided into three main categories – analogue synth sounds, sampler instruments, and synth pad sounds. The main difference between them being the way the sounds have been created and the available editing options to not only adjust the existing sounds, but also to create your own new patches.

In addition to over 100 included sounds and patches, 4Pockets will be offering free downloadable instrument packs (the first pack is already available), plus additional sounds will be available as optional in-app purchases. At the moment there doesn’t appear to be any to purchase though.

In addition to entering notes on the grid one by one, there is also a two octave virtual keyboard and a dozen pads you can opt to use for more real time performance based pattern construction.

Two other main features, that I’ve yet to really play with, are the arpeggiator feature which of course if perfect for producing unique and intricate note sequences, and then there’s the controller section where you can quickly and easily automate a wide variety of settings across the instruments, mixer and effects section.

The mixer takes the form of a traditional 16 channel in line mixing board, offering the standard volume, mute, solo, and pan controls, plus 3-band Parametric EQ, and 3 effects sends per channel. I haven’t played a great deal with the effects section, but there is a chorus, tremolo, stereo delay, reverb, resonant filter, and atomiser which are all tweakable and some include a handful of presets, though I haven’t found anywhere that you can save your own custom settings.

Couple of other features of note include MIDI support for controlling external digital sound sources, giving you the option of just using the sequencing features of the app to control other MIDI compatible hardware. Plus there is also support for WIST, should you wish to sync Synergy with other compatible apps on other iOS devices wirelessly, such as 4Pocket’s own Meteor. You can use the app in master mode to control start, stop, and playback speed.

There are some handy exporting and audio copying options for getting your mixes out to services like SoundCloud, Dropbox and into other apps, but’s that’s being coming standard in most music creation apps now anyway.

I really haven’t drilled too much further down into Synergy Studio’s other finer details at this stage, but this about covers most of the key selling points. Which brings me to the price next. 4Pockets Audio hasn’t been shy in the past about putting premium price tags on their music apps, with Aurora Sound Studio HD still hovering around the $40 mark. While the true value of apps can really only be accessed at a personal level by the user, in my opinion, Synergy Studio at $19.99, presents great value for money. It offers an all-in-one music creation environment, that is accessible for budding music makers, yet still houses some powerful features for those looking for additional tools to finely tune their musical masterpieces.

If you’ve downloaded the app, I’d like to hear your thoughts. So feel free to post a comment below.

For the latest on Synergy Studio, hit the official site

Synergy Studio (AppStore Link) Synergy Studio
Developer: Limelight Software
Rated: 4+
Price: $19.99 Download Here

Mini Review – iRig Mix

Posted by Mikers On October - 1 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

For iOS beat mixers, the options for serious music mixing just keep getting better, and IK Multimedia, as usual, are ahead of the game. Following up the release of their iPhone DJ Rig app in March this year, comes the launch of a dedicated iPad version, plus the world’s first mobile mixer aimed at iOS users.

Expanding it’s ever increasing line of music related hardware products for iOS, IK Multimedia’s latest gem is a versatile mobile mixer aimed at DJs, though it could be used for a range of other audio mixing situations, both iOS app related and just general audio mixing duties.

The iRig Mix is both light and portable, making it ideal for on the go mixing almost anywhere, as well as DJ set ups that are tight for space.

On the DJing side of things, the mobile mixer features a full-size standard cross-fader control which allows you to swap and blend the audio between the two main inputs.

There are also two full size volume faders for adjusting and balancing the two main audio input signals. Beside both faders are also a series of 4 LEDs per channel that indicate the amount of level coming from each input.

Also crucial to DJing, are the Cue (or pre-fader) buttons for each channel, which enables tracks to be auditioned through headphones without the audio going out the main output.

Then each channel has independent Bass and Treble controls, plus an input Gain control. There is also a master output volume control as well.

There are several unique switches on the top of the mixers, but I’ll come back to those shortly.

On the back, you’ll find a pair of 3.5mm inputs, and unbalanced RCA stereo outputs. The necessary cabling for connecting 2 stereo audio sources and hooking the mixer up to a sound system are conveniently included with the mixer, which is a nice touch.

As the mixer requires power, there is also an On/Off switch at the back, and rather than a proprietary type of connector, the included power supply utilises a standard Micro-USB plug, which means you could also use a stand alone battery powered product with a Micro-USB connector to juice up the mixer, so long as it can generate at least 2.0A to ensure smooth running of the iRig Mix.

At the front end of the mixer is an extra unbalanced mono audio input with its own volume control, designed for plugging in either a microphone or an instrument. There is also a headphone output, and this is independent to the master output.

Now depending on your main use for the mixer, and the setup that suits you best, there is a great feature that has been included on the mixer that simply lets you select between one and two iOS devices for the audio source.

If you have two independent audio sources, such as two iOS devices, or even just one plus another MP3/CD player, laptop, turntable, or whatever, you plug them into the two individual stereo inputs at the back. If you only have one iOS device, however, there is a switch on the mixer that allows you to send two tracks from the one iOS device to the two channels on the mixer, albeit, in mono though. This is one of the unique features of the mixer, though it only works through IK Multimedia’s own DJ Rig apps as the software has a special setting within it that needs to be selected to enable this feature.

The other unique feature of the iRig Mix of note is the X-Sync option, which some seasoned DJs will no doubt scoff at, but it will be a lifesaver for budding bedroom beat mixers.
When enabled on the mixer, this works in conjunction with the DJ Rig app, and helps to automatically sync the BPM of tracks from different audio sources to the tracks playing from within the app. Naturally it can’t adjust the tempo of an external audio source, but it does change the speed of the tracks being played from within the DJ Rig app. You can easily disable it, but good on IK Multimedia for including it for the rest of us who could some help getting the beats in time.

As for the general build of the iRig Mix, it feels nice and sturdy though I don’t know how well it would hold up week after week in a professional night club environment. It’s clearly not designed for professional set ups, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get professional sounding results from using it. And with the proper care and sensible use, I can’t see why it would cause any problems well beyond the warranty period.

For a full rundown on the specs, check the official site – http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/irigmix/

Mini Review – iRig MIC Cast

Posted by Mikers On August - 11 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

IK Multimedia continues to introduce both useful and innovative products aimed at iOS music makers and music lovers, with the recent release of a quality built portable microphone, called the iRig MIC Cast.

While the packaging suggests that the iRig MIC Cast is ideally suited to voice recordings, such as podcasts, lectures, and interviews, it is equally suited to field recording of sound effects, and also for simple musical recordings.

Also included with the iRig MIC Cast is an adjustable stand, designed to accommodate an iPhone or iPod Touch. It’s a great addition, as it keeps your device in a secure position while recording, so it won’t pick up any unwanted sound from holding it in your hand. The stand actually comes in handy as somewhere to place your device in general everyday use.

The microphone itself is simple in design, featuring a chrome and black two tone look, which gives is a slightly classic high end microphone feel.
There is a handy gain switch on the front side that gives you the option of LO and HI, with LO being suited to normal close range audio signals, and HI which boosts the input signal for low level sound sources.
The polar pattern of the microphone is unidirectional/cardioid, which means you get a pretty clean signal from directly in front, and much of the background noise is ignored. When compared to the built in microphone on the iPhone, there is notably more background noise on recordings than with the iRig MIC Cast.
The fact you can swivel the microphone around 360 degrees means you can hone in on exactly what you want to record.
The frequency response is between 100Hz and 15kHz, which is more than enough for general purpose use, and even covers most musical instruments, except perhaps those that produce a very low frequency.
The other significant feature of the iRig MIC Cast is that it offers a stereo headphone output on the side of the microphone. Since it needs to be plugged into the iPhone’s headphone port to operate, this means you still have access to the audio output, which in some scenarios, such as multitrack recording, you’ll want to be able to hear the playback of other tracks as you record fresh ones.
IK Multimedia promotes two of its own apps as supported by the microphone, including iRig Recorder and VocaLive, which are available in free lite versions and fully featured paid versions, though you can expect the microphone to work with just about any audio recording app that accepts a mic as an input source.
I’ve been testing the microphone out for a few weeks now, across a variety of scenarios and it definite improvement over the built-in mic on my iPhone, and the cheap detachable microphone I bought off eBay awhile back for recording interviews.
If there was just one feature I’d like to see added in any updates to the iRig MIC Cast, that is the ability to do stereo recordings, which would just make it all that more useful, especially for music recordings.

The iRig MIC Cast retails for – $39.99

For more details, check the official site http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/irigmiccast/

iRig Recorder (AppStore Link) iRig Recorder
Developer: IK Multimedia US, LLC
Rated: 4+
Price: $3.99 Download Here
VocaLive (AppStore Link) VocaLive
Developer: IK Multimedia US, LLC
Rated: 4+
Price: $19.99 Download Here


Mini review – iPlay Piano

Posted by Mikers On August - 6 - 2012 2 COMMENTS

Hong Kong based, Dream Cheeky, has been dreaming up innovative and quirky gadgets for a few years now, which include everything from missile launchers for inter-office battles, to coffee cup warmers and mini fridges, all USB powered.

While the company has already dabbled in musical products, with its USB roll up drum kit and piano, their latest two products are Bluetooth ready, and aimed at iOS music makers.

I should point out right from the start, Dream Cheeky are out to take on the might of Line 6, Akai, and others who are focused on professional musicians, however, their new products are certainly worth a mention.


Today, I’m taking a look at Dream Cheeky’s iPlay Piano, which is a Bluetooth enabled touch keyboard designed to work exclusively with the freely available, Sound System for Piano, universal iOS app.


First to the keyboard. I don’t really know the ‘thinking’ behind it, but the iPlay Piano features a fold-up design, and when opened out it presents a full size, 3-octave keyboard.

I must admit, it is convenient to be able to fold it in half and store it away. So that probably answers my question on the design.

On the left hand side underneath is the battery compartment, which houses a removable, rechargeable battery, and to compensate for this added thickness, a series of thin guides lock into place along the under carriage of the keyboard, so that it sits nicely flat on a table. It’s actually pretty clever how it works.

They keys on the keyboard don’t physically move, and instead are touch sensitive, though not velocity sensitive unfortunately. And these are probably going to be the biggest turn off for professional users, as it’s hard to get any real ‘feel’ when playing.

Still, I’m happy to say, you can still tinker away and get a reasonable sounding performance.

As I said, it connects via Bluetooth, which is pretty unique in itself for any musical instrument designed for iOS devices. Pairing is done the usual way, and no password is required, it simply connects, and you’re away.

There isn’t a great deal more to say about the keyboard itself, other than the build quality isn’t exactly up to professional standards, but it’s also surprisingly durable for what is essentially a musical toy.


The free app, Sound System for Piano, works exclusively with the keyboard and in fact won’t even load up unless it detects the keyboard is paired and ready to go.

This 124MB app isn’t exactly bursting with features, but the developers have told me they have new features planned for future updates.

At present, the app offers 6 different sounds to play via the keyboard, including Grand Piano, Accordion, Violin, xylophone, Trumpet, and Rock Organ. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the sampled sounds of these instruments, which could explain why the download is over 100MB.

There are just two modes, Free Play and Learning mode. In Free Play, you have the chance to jam away to your heart’s content on any of the built in sounds. In addition, you can also access any song from your device’s iTunes library, and not only play along to it, but also record the performance. Once done, you can listen back to it, and adjust the individual volume of both elements.

This features works well, and is a great way to add your own musical personal touch to some of your favourite artist’s recordings.

There is no editing options unfortunately, so if you make a mistake, you need to start over.

The other mode is the Learning mode, which displays the notes you’re meant to play for two included songs. Don’t get excited though, they’re very old classics, including London Bridge is falling down and Ode to Joy. In this mode, the notes fall down the screen and line up with the keys you’re supposed to play on the real keyboard. It has a similar look, albeit simplified version of Guitar Hero on PlayStation/Xbox 360. The idea here is OK, but I actually found it tricky to watch the screen and also be watching where my fingers were meant to be on the keyboard. A better selection of songs would have also made this mode much more appealing.

You are also awarded a score for your performance here too, so you can see if you getting any better at playing these songs after a bit of practise.

As mentioned, this app is set to include some ‘yet to be announced’ features in the future, which I’m looking forward to hearing more about.


At US$99, iPlay Piano isn’t exactly cheap. It’s also not a replacement for a professional MIDI/USB keyboard controller. It does feature some clever tech that I hope makes its way into more professional gear at some point.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the keyboard performed, sans its lack of velocity touch and natural feel, but if you’re looking for something you can quickly whip out of your backpack, and have it connected to your iPhone wirelessly, in a matter of seconds, to jam, then this is well worth considering.


More info – http://www.dreamcheeky.com/iplay-piano

Dream Cheeky Sound System for Piano (AppStore Link) Dream Cheeky Sound System for Piano
Developer: Dream Cheeky Ltd.
Rated: 4+
Price: Free Download Here

Review – Line 6 Mobile Keys 49

Posted by Mikers On July - 15 - 2012 2 COMMENTS

Ever since the iOS platform started proving itself as a viable option for professional music makers, the virtual instrument and audio recording apps have been popping up thick and fast. In fact, it’s safe to say, nobody could have predicted just how quickly it has grown, and how popular it has become.
While the software side of things has been nothing short of inspiring, the hardware/peripheral side of iOS making music has been a little slow to grow a decent range of options on the market.

Of course, the earliest and still the most popular solution for hooking up a keyboard to an iOS device, is to use a standard issue USB music keyboard in combination with an Apple camera connector kit, which usually does the trick, but it can depend on how much power the keyboard draws as to whether it will work or not.

This brings me to the keyboard I’ve been road testing for the past few weeks, which is one of the first professional quality, purpose built keyboard controller for iOS devices.
Creator of the infamous POD guitar amp simulator, Line 6, has steadily been growing its range of iOS music peripherals, with the latest additions being the Mobile Keys 25 and Mobile Keys 49.
I’ve been playing with the larger of the two, which as the name suggests, offers 49 keys in total, or 4 octaves. Both of Line 6’s Mobile Keys controllers offer exactly the same features and functionality, with the 25 keys model being more conveniently sized for music making on the go.

The thing that struck me when first taking the keyboard out of the box, was how sturdy it feels. It’s pretty chunky, but in a good way, and the overall design is simple but also stylish.
To the left of the main keyboard area on the front, is a full size spring-loaded Pitch and standard Modulation wheels, and just above these are Volume and Pan controls, and then just above these are octave up and down buttons, and a Shift button which is used for accessing advanced settings including MIDI channel and program changes. Once again, these wheels, dials and buttons all feel like they’re built to last.

On the rear of the keyboard are ¼-inch jack inputs for Sustain and Expression pedals which are assignable via MIDI. There is a USB port so the keyboard can be used with a Mac or PC as a MIDI controller, and last but by no means least there is the all-important Mobile port, which allows you to connect the keyboard directly to an iOS device, using the included cable.
Aside from this last unique I/O port, the other big selling point of the Line 6 Mobile Keys controllers, are that they have been specially designed to draw minimum power when connected to an iOS device. Obviously the big advantage straight away is, that you don’t need to worry about powering the keyboard, which means you can go completely mobile with this set up even when no AC power is available, but also you can expect to get decent battery life still from you iOS device, as they keyboard has been designed to draw less than 100mA. This is also a bonus for laptop users that have low powered USB ports.

So that’s the features and ports explained, now back to the keyboard itself. Now I’m no virtuoso on the piano, but I’ve owned a handful of synths and MIDI controllers over the years, so I know what to expect from them.

Like most half decent controllers these days, the Mobile Keys 49 offers full-size, velocity-sensitive keys. They’re not weighted, but they still feel good under the fingers, and there is zero lag between hitting the keys and hearing the sounds in an app. One feature worth noting is the ability to adjust the Velocity Curve in the advanced settings, so you can customise the response of the keys to the way you like to play.

Essentially, there’s not really much more to the physical aspects of the Mobile Keys 49 that I haven’t covered.
I’ve had the keyboard running with GarageBand, NanoStudio, SampleTank, iMS-20, Animoog, and Arctic Keys, and it performed flawlessly on all occasions. Some needed a slight tweak in the setting, but that’s about all. I could have tried more apps, but given the keyboard’s full support for CoreMIDI, I’m assuming I’d enjoy the same success with all other apps offering the same support.

Out of interest, I also fired the keyboard up with my Mac via USB, and it worked like a charm with the virtual instruments I had loaded in Pro Tools.

The bottom line is, if you require a single keyboard that you can easily switch between your iOS device and your computer MIDI studio, that isn’t a power hog, the Line 6 keyboards are a quality, take anywhere solution.


The suggested retail price for Mobile Keys 25 is US$149.99, and Mobile Keys 49 is US$199.99.
For more details on both keyboards, head to the Line 6 website – http://line6.com/mobilekeys/

 Thanks to MusicLink Australia for providing the Line 6 Mobile Keys 49 to review.


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