Tuesday, December 1, 2015

MiniReview: Patterning

Posted by Mikers On August - 22 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

screen480x480 (4)You only need to check out Olympia Noise Co’s existing catalogue of music apps to know the talented team’s latest release, Patterning, is not going to be your typical beat maker. It’s the developer’s fresh approach to design and useability, combined with professional features that has made it so damn hard for me to put Patterning down over the past week I’ve been playing with it.

Billed as a ‘drum machine’, Patterning certainly fits that description, as it lets you build grooves quicker and easier than you can say ‘Amen break’, however it’s the unique ‘circular’ user interface that invites a level of exploration and experimentation that I haven’t seen in a groovebox before.

I’m sure there are better comparisons, but I liken the main interface to being able to peel back layers of an onion, with each layer being a new sound and pattern. As you move back and forth between the layers you gradually build a groove by adding beats by simply touching where and when you want the sound to play. And the volume of each beat is determined by how big you draw the line with your finger.

You can have a total of 8 percussive sounds per drum kit, but thanks to some basic sound editing features, there is no reason why you couldn’t also incorporate musical riffs as part of a groove, such as a bass line. There’s course and fine tuning available, plus adjusting the attack, hold and decay of each sampled sound. And while there is a comprehensive library of existing sounds inspired by classic drums machines through to traditional acoustic sounding drums, plus a collection of custom sounds from indy producers and musicians, you also have the ability to import your own sampled sounds via cloud storage and AudioShare.

Completed patterns can then be placed in a specific order within the song mode, where they play as part of the timeline for things like live performances.

Patterning also features a decent mixer and effects section. Parts can be soloed, muted, panned, and each has independent reverb and delay sends. The FX section offers control over the reverb and delay settings, plus there is an handy distortion and a 3-band EQ for the overall mix.

Last but not least, naturally Patterning talks to other iOS music apps with support for Audiobus, Inter-App Audio, and MIDI.

While there is an on-board tutorial to get you started, plus help section to explain each and every function, one of the joys for me was exploring the various features and learning as I went.

I honestly didn’t think the world needed another drum machine app, but Patterning has proved me wrong. It is highly addictive and extremely intuitive, yet powerful enough to appeal to serious beat makers, and easily one of the most refreshingly unique music apps so far this year.

Patterning : Drum Machine (AppStore Link) Patterning : Drum Machine
Developer: Olympia Noise Co.
Rated: 4+
Price: $9.99 Download Here

MiniReview – Cyclop

Posted by Mikers On July - 7 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

screen480x480German based developer of all things innovative sounding, Sugar Bytes, continues the platform porting of its highly respected desktop audio mincing software to the iOS space. The low frequency, speaker popping, bass synth, Cyclop, is the latest arrival for iPad.

At its core, Cyclop for iPad is pound for pound a replica of its older brother for desktop pcs, released a few years back. It’s a monophonic bass synth, meaning only one note is playable at a time, and although gritty basslines are not the sole function for this synth engine, that’s definitely where it’s subby pounding heart is at.

The Cyclop plug-in has already seen plenty of coverage since it was first released, such as the great overview by the soundtestroom here, so I’m not going to delve too much into the inner workings, for the sake of repeating what has already been reported and reviewed elsewhere online.

But at the very least, for those that still aren’t too sure what Cyclop is, here’s a brief overview of the key features.

At the top left of the app, is the first of four unique dials, the wobble knob, which is a controllable parameter allowing Cyclop to generate complex LFO modulations. Of the 12 available slots here, up to 16 different waveforms can be selected, one in each slot.

At the bottom left side are the two main sound makers, which are both packed with 6 synth engines each, including Saw Regiment, Analog Sync, FM, Transformer, Spectromat, and Phase Stressor. Further tweaking of each synth can be made with a series of colourfully labelled knobs such as Syncfreak, Stab, and Digitize. My favourite it the transformer synth, which is combo of a granular synth and wavetable synth, which has some cool vocal samples you can mess around with.

On the opposite side, also at the bottom of the screen, are two filters and a routing section. The router can send the two synths to independent filters, or plus there’s parallel or series mode. There are 10 filter types to choose from, plus the usual cutoff, resonance, and wet/dry mix controls. A unique feature in the filter section is the ‘vowel’ option, which can give bass sounds that ‘mouthing’ style bass effect.

screen480x480 (2)Another key sound shaping component is the distortion knob next to the sub-oscillator, with its 9 different modes, which can really drive new character into a sound. Playing with the sub-osc and bass controls let you dial in additional lows, and the stereo knob, as it sounds, adds a widening effect.

Naturally, modulation is the main drawcard of Cyclop, and the centre of the screen offers access to a customisable envelop, LFO and step sequencer as sources for synths and filters. The same area is where you assign modulation targets for the wobble and sound knobs.

For anyone already familiar with Sugar Bytes previous products, you’ll know they excel at pattern-based effects sequencing, check out Effectrix if you need a refresher. So they’ve been kind enough to pack this same functionality into Cyclop. The dial in the top right corner, in combination with the effects sequencer section in the middle of the screen, allow you to add a variety of programmable effects, ranging from phasing, chorus and looping, to vinyl effects and classic delays and reverbs.

And like all of the key knobs and parameters in Cyclop, these can all be automated for finite control over your sound.

As I said, this was merely a brief overview of the key features of Cyclops, and I haven’t even touched on the excellent preset browser and the cool arcade game style patch preview option.

screen480x480 (1)Most importantly for iOS users are the features that have been included with the iPad version of Cyclop. These include a wonderfully slick touch user interface, and  full MIDI support for using external controllers. You can also access audio from your devices music library. iTunes File sharing is available for importing/exporting files, and last but not least the all important Inter-App Audio and Audiobus support for talking with other music making/recording apps.

If a bass line is serious business for you, from cranking EDM to gritty dubstep, there isn’t a better iPad app for creating truly original, sub-ulicious sounds, with almost limitless possibilities, that Cyclop.

Cyclop iPad Edition (AppStore Link) Cyclop iPad Edition
Developer: Sugar Bytes GmbH

Rated: 4+
Price: $14.99 Download Here

Mini Review – BIAS FX

Posted by Mikers On May - 7 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

positive-grid-bias-fx-pedalsAdding to Positive Grid’s growing collection of stellar apps aimed at guitarists, comes what fans may call a natural evolution of their guitar amp simulator offerings, but none the less, it once again raises the bar on what can now be done with just a trusty guitar in one hand and an iPad in the other.

Released just a few days ago, BIAS FX, is a one-stop-shop for creating your own customised, signature virtual guitar rigs to die for. It includes a dozen amps, more than 2 dozen effect pedals, and for the first time, a handful of professional rack processors, and heaps more. Some of these features have been available in varying degrees across Positive Grid’s previous offerings. Jamup Pro – with its combination of amp heads and stomp boxes, then followed by BIAS with its near surgically precise customisation of tweakable amp head settings.

What the new BIAS FX iPad app does is consolidate many of those features into Positive Grid’s now familiar user-friendly interface for both editing and performance scenarios, while introducing some much wanted new features as well.

Arguably the app’s best sound-worthy new addition includes the dual signal ability, adding the option for a second amp head for an even chunkier/fatter/ballsier/sweeter sound as both amps run in parallel. You can also control the mix of those two amp outputs. Think of it as the equivalent of having your guitar running through two separate guitar stack simultaneously.

BIAS FX doesn’t offer the same option to tear the back off the amp head and tweak the amp’s inner workings, like its predecessor, however if you happen to also own the original BIAS app, you will have the option to slickly switch between the two apps and have that same customisation options, enabling you to still fondle with every last setting of your amp’s pre and post amps, transformer, tone stack and more.

As the name suggests, the new BIAS FX, focuses on delivering a performance environment, where your amp and stomp boxes are right at your finger tips. Any given performance  settings allows you to pick an amp head, and then string any number offer effects pedals before or after the amp, including noise gates, boosters, overdrive, distortion, fuzz, equalizers, tremolo, phaser, flanger, chorus, octaver, compressors, delays and spring and plate reverbs. It’s like JampUp Pro on steroids! Introducing the handful of new studio FX processors adds an extra level of quality for recording options too.

Saved patches can be viewed in either the pedalboard view, which I’d say work best in the home/studio environment, and then there is the familiar Live View mode which appeared in JamUp Pro, and is ideal for those guitarists waiting to use this app live on stage, thanks to its simple user interface.

Of course,  Positive Grid has continued their cloud-based community feature in BIAS FX, enabling users to both upload and download unique guitar rig settings. So whether you’re struggling to come up with a decent sound, or want to share your killer rig with the world, this social-friendly feature is a fantastic option that sets this apart from any other app.

MIDI Learn is something also worth noting, and for those with all the right gear, you will appreciate the added support for this hardware feature.

Last and by no means least, Positive Grid is going down the cross-platform path with BIAS FX, so later this year expect a PC and Mac version BIAS FX, in the form of a plug in for DAWs. So iOS users can expect an even bigger community, as this app goes cross-platform and the users base grows even bigger.

I must confess, I’m not a seasoned guitarist, but a hack drummer and well-oiled professional studio engineer, so I got a good friend (and excellent guitarist) over to test drive BIAS FX, where we recently spent a rainy weekend going through many of the sounds, patches, and unique features of BIAS FX and he came away suitably blown away with the features, while I can commend the impressive sound quality Positive Grid have delivered with their latest offering.

Yes, to get the utmost out of BIAS FX, you probably should also own BIAS, but it is not essential. The new app itself still offers  great sounding amps, ample collection of stomp box effects, and unique cloud-based features. And if that’s all you need, bravo, you’re set! What are you waiting for?

Here’s a rundown on the Key Features –

– Extremely intuitive operation
– Unrivalled, component-level simulation, analog-like sound quality
– 12 classic BIAS amps, import any amp models from BIAS AMP
– 25 high-quality effect pedals with brand new sound-processing algorithms
– 5 ultra-professional rack processors that sound like high-end analog gear
– Full integration with BIAS AMP gives you unprecedented control over designing your own fully customized amps
– Dual signal path and dual amp processing
– Brand new splitter switches between and combines dual signal paths, adjusting the level and frequency range for each path to give you more tone-shaping possibilities
– Live View mode lets you recall any preset with a single tap and toggle on/off any single effect or category of effects
– Pedalboard View shows all the effects and amps in the currently loaded preset at once
– Global Settings optimizes BIAS FX’s output to sound the best in any environment—including sending to a mixer, amp head or combo or stack power amp—by letting you EQ and selectively deactivate the app’s preamp, tone stack, power amp and cab separately for each destination.
– Full MIDI compatible

Grab all the latest details on BIAS FX here – http://www.positivegrid.com/bias-fx

BIAS FX (AppStore Link) BIAS FX
Developer: Positive Grid Inc
Rated: 4+
Price: $9.99 Download Here

Mini review – midimux and audiomux

Posted by Mikers On April - 28 - 2015 1 COMMENT

midimux-running-under-iosLaunched within just a few weeks of each other, these specularly bland looking apps are set to change your music making world for the better if you’ve battled with the chore of getting your iOS music apps to talk to your desktop computer.

In short, these aptly titled apps allow you to send either MIDI or audio between your iPad or iPhone and a computer using the standard USB lightening cable or 30-pin cable you’d use for syncing, etc. So you can pack away your MIDI and audio interfaces, things just got a whole lot easier.

The hardest thing you’ll need to do is download the small server software on your computer which needs to run in the background for these apps to talk to your computer. Currently this is available for Mac and PC operating systems.

midimux offers transmission of MIDI data between iPad music apps and your computer. So for example, you might like to use your favourite MIDI sequencing software on your computer to command any number of synth apps residing on your iPad. No problem at all. And visa versa, you can use something like Genome MIDI Sequencer on your iPad to control the software sound modules and MIDI hardware connected to your computer. No problem either.

The magic happens by creating mirrors of the connected MIDI devices and custom virtual ports. I don’t pretend to even start knowing how that is even possible, but it works, and the end result is a smoother experience for anyone who likes working in MIDI across both platforms.

screen480x480 (3)Unsurprisingly, audiomux offers much the same tasty treats only, it’s designed to transmit audio between your iPad and computer with much the same ease.

Built on the foundation of audiobus, audiomux lets you can fire up as many as 16 iOS music making apps simultaneously, and send their independent audio signals to a waiting DAW on your computer. And no surprise, you can do the same thing in verse, and send the audio sources from your computer to an audio recording app on your iPad.

Note, Audiomux only currently supports Mac. Hopefully Windows gets some love in the future.

My experience so far has been good, with no latency issues, and music apps not playing nicely with either midimux or audiomux.

Whether you need one or both of these apps, they are cheaper to buy as a bundle for $9.99

midimux (AppStore Link) midimux
Developer: Christian Blomert

Rated: 9+
Price: $6.99 Download Here

studiomux (AppStore Link) studiomux
Developer: Christian Blomert

Rated: 4+
Price: $9.99 Download Here


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: $19.99 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 Amp for iPhone (AppStore Link) BIAS Amp for iPhone
Developer: Positive Grid Inc
Rated: 4+
Price: $4.99 Download Here

Mini review – Effectrix

Posted by Mikers On February - 27 - 2014 1 COMMENT

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: $9.99 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
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