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Sunday, February 17, 2019

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

[app 549091858]

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/

[app 428498084] [app 410619243]

 

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

[appext 534114827]

Review – Line 6 Mobile Keys 49

Posted by Mikers On July - 15 - 2012 3 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.

 

Review: Numark iDJ Pro Controller

Posted by Mikers On June - 27 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

In a first for PromusicAPPS, we’re delighted to present our inaugural ‘contributor review’ from Steve, who is as passionate about all things music on iOS as we are. So read on for his take on Numark’s new iPad friendly DJ controller. 

 

I recently had the pleasure of taking the new Numark iDJ Pro for a spin: literally. I was extremely excited at the prospect of taking nothing but the controller and my iPad to a set and still being able to express myself rather than just mixing one track to the next. I was however quite sceptical as Numark’s first attempt at an iPad based controller, the iDJ, was well… a toy. BUT by appearances alone it’s clear that this isn’t the case with the iDJ Pro, with Numark claiming that it is the first iPad based controller to offer professional features and controls… Sounds good to me!

 

If you’re familiar with Numark controllers, or any CD deck for that matter, there’ll be no uncertainty with the layout. It’s got two touch-sensitive platters that are used for cueing and scratching effects, but also for looping in and out with the option of ½ and 2X loop length. The rest is pretty much as you’d expect with the pitch fader and bend controls etc, so I wouldn’t exactly describe it as feature rich, but definitely sufficient. To be fair though, if you’re paying this sort of money, a traditional controller wouldn’t have much more features.

 

Now to the interesting bit… With the iPad firmly planted in the centre of the controller, it adds an element of uncertainty. As you’d expect the iPad is the control centre of the unit, including the music library. You’re app of choice is down to you and there’s no shortage of options, however I would highly recommend the partnered Algoriddim djay app. In normal circumstances this wouldn’t be my preferred choice but both app and controller seem really in sync and well coordinated and just that much easier to use.

 

One of the most unique features, excluding the iPad of course, is the Airplay compatibility, which I think subtly indicates Numark’s intentions. Imagine going to a house party and seeing the iDJ Pro pumping out tunes wirelessly to you’re compatible speakers, with no wires or setting up required. This combined with its robust, brushed aluminium casing should stop even the drunkest of idiots from harming you’re controller. In contrast to this, however, the iDJ Pro does contain balanced XLR outputs for secure and feedback free connections to PA systems. Although in all honesty, I wouldn’t DJ a venue any larger than a bar with it.

 

So you’ve got to look at the Numark iDJ Pro for what it is, it’s not a top of the range, feature rich Numark Controller, and it was never going to be at £350. But it is great fun and really convenient, and is the perfect setup for a home or bar. If you already have an iPad then I would highly recommend it, but for the price of both iPad and controller combined then I would invest in something better.

Guest Contributor – Steve

 

Check the official website for full specs – http://www.numark.com/product/idjpro

App Review – David Ellefson Rock Shop

Posted by Mikers On April - 10 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

IN THE BEGINNING….
Pocketlabworks ought to know a thing or two about killer bass sounds. I mean its founder and president, Kevin Robertson, has had a lifelong passion for all things audio, not to mention he previously worked for amp legends Bob Gallien and Richard Krueger, on designing their world famous bass amp products.
Set up only a few years ago to develop music software and hardware products for smartphones, tablets and the likes, Pocketlabworks already has an impressive portfolio of iOS titles, which naturally include electric guitar and bass amp apps, plus some titles aimed at vocalists too.
Not content with developing just software, the company has also released the iRiffPort digital audio guitar connection, which allows you to plug your guitar directly into an iOS device.

AND NOW….
Formally unveiled earlier this year at NAMM 2012, Pocketlabworks’ latest product is a custom branded bass and guitar amp app, which they’ve created in partnership with founding member and bass player of metal legends Megadeth, David Ellefson.
Launched today, the David Ellefson Rock Shop (DERS) app, is a universal iOS app featuring a series of virtual amps and speaker cabinets to play through and customise the sounds, along with a versatile music player, and handful of other features fans of Megadeth will enjoy.

ALL FIRED UP…
On firing up the DERS app for the first time, you’re greeted by a short personal video message from David. I won’t spoil it by giving anything away, but it’s a nice touch, although you can choose to skip it, which no doubt some will do after a few weeks of using the app.
Within a few seconds of the app loading, you’re then greeted by a splash page promoting Pocketlabworks’ iRiffPort. You can click a link to order one, and also click a button to disable this message.
Then depending if you’re using an iPhone/iPod Touch or an iPad, you’ll see slightly different versions of the app’s main interface. I’ve only experienced the app on iPad so far, so any visual descriptions I offer will relate to the experience on this device. There are no differences as far as features go between devices, there are just slight differences in the interface layouts to allow for the different screen sizes.

FRONT & CENTRE…
If you’ve already played with Pocketlabworks’ PocketAmp and PocketGK apps, the user interface of DERS will be instantly familiar, with main amp controls on the left side, and cabinets located on the right side.
As I’ve mentioned about these apps in the past, while the adjustable controls don’t look like traditional ‘knobs and dials’ on guitar amps, the fact they are clearly labelled large sliders, make them not only easier to see, but quicker to access.

THE FIRST SOUND YOU HEAR….
In the lead up to the launch of this app I’ve been fortunate enough to talk at length with both Kevin at Pocketlabworks, as well as David about his involvement with the app (and you’ll be able to catch my interview with him here in the near future).
It became clear to me early on, that this app was never intended to be some cheap branding/promotional exercise, where David had little input.
From the very first conversations about developing the app, David and Kevin have worked together closely on the features that David wanted in this app, but more importantly the sounds that the app produces.
Anyone familiar with David’s bass guitar sound, and indeed Megadeth’s sound, will know that over years he has developed a distinctly unique signature sound, and it was a priority for everyone involved that this was readily available within the app.
So the very first time you load the app, with your bass guitar connected, the default setting has been specially configured to sound like David’s signature tone, which is a clean, tight overall sound designed for playing punchy bass lines with a pick.
This signature tone actually has all the EQ set flat, and no other effects enabled. I mainly wanted to mention this, as this setting is not saved in the presets area, and each time you fire the app up, it recalls the last settings you were using, and not the signature tone settings. I actually went ahead and made a custom preset with these settings and called it ‘Junior’s Bass Sound’ (of course) just so I can quickly recall it whenever.

TIME TO CUSTOMISE…
Of course, David understands that we all like our own sounds, so all the amp settings are tweakable and you can save an unlimited number of custom user presets.
The bass amp section features adjustable 3 band EQ, plus Brite and Limiter effects which act similar to their function on Harke amps, which David uses on stage.
There’s also a modulation section including adjustable Chorus and Flange effects. The rate, depth, and slapback of these can be modified. There’s also a handy gate feature to help keep some of the wilder sounds you might come up with under control.
As far as cabinets go, you can choose between a 4 x 10” or 1 x 15” speaker box, which again, help you to sculpt your ideal sound even further.

As part of the app, David also wanted to include some classic sounding guitar amps. so also available are 3 fairly classic sounds including Clean, British, and Metal amps. The amps feature adjustable volume, overdrive gain, and 2 band EQ, plus similar Chorus and Flange effects, with the addition of a Reverb to help fatten solos. There’s also a noise gate feature, and a selection of two cabinets, one classic and one more modern sounding.
Now I’m not much of a guitarist (or bass player for that matter), but as an experienced sound engineer, the thing that stood out about the overall selection of amps on offer here is how full bodied they sound, from super clean, warm bass tones through to dark, heavily distorted power chords. The amps all respond well to different styles of playing too, and whether you’re just practising along to a song or even recording some demo tracks, the selection of quality sounds are going to be well up for the task.

WHATS IN A RIFF?..
The second key ingredient to the overall sound of this app is Pocketlabworks iRiffPort. Yes, you can use other interface products with the app, but from my experience with some of the analog solutions, you simply can’t beat the superior sound you get through a digital connection, like that offered from the iRiffPort. It’s a quality built product that not only features a headphone output, but also a line output that isn’t affected by changes to the headphone volume. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m still not so sold on it being white, but for what it’s worth, I guess it does make it easier to see in pile of black cables.
This is probably a good time to mention that iRiffPort also works perfectly with the Dave Mustaine Rock Prodigy app, who of course is also of Megadeth fame. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can find more details out by clicking here.
PLAY TIME…
Amps and cabinets aside, another excellent feature of the DERS app is the integrated music player, which provides access to the music stored on your iOS device. You have the option of selecting from single tracks or existing playlists to jam along to. The player also supports album art.
What really stands out on the player though is the Song Trainer feature.
In this mode, you can not only adjust the balance of the mix between your guitar and the song you’re playing along to, but you can change the speed of the song, without it affecting the original key. This feature is ideal for slowing songs down to work out and practise technically difficult performances.
But there’s more. You can also adjust the pitch of a song without it affecting the tempo, which saves having to re-tune your guitar to play along to a song that was recorded in a different key. David has already pointed out how handy this feature is if you plan on playing along to Megadeth’s 1986 hit album, Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?, as it was recorded slightly lower than standard guitar tuning.
The other key feature of the Song Trainer, is the ability to manually set up a section of a song into a loop, allowing you to go over the specific section of a song repeatedly. Again, this is ideal for learning tricky solos and technically challenging parts of songs.
Whether you make use of these ‘training’ features often or not, it’s still nice to have them available.

GETTING SOCIAL…
Anyone that follows the latest things David is up to will know, like many artists, he has embraced social media in a big way. He has a dedicated Youtube channel called Rock Shop which features everything from behind the scenes footage of Megadeth on the road, through to music industry advice for young bands, and bass guitar workshops.
The Youtube channel is conveniently available directly from within the app, and provided you have net access (obviously), you can flick through the list of videos available and watch them without leaving the app (they actually appear when the cabinet is located).
In addition to the online videos, The Deck social area of the app also provides external links to David’s Facebook page, his official website, his twitter feed, and Google +. Each of these load-up through the iOS device’s web browser, which takes you out of the app when accessing them. OK, this is all content you can access without the app, but to have them all neatly integrated, really helps give the app a more personal touch. It’s something I’m sure fans will get as much use out of as they do the amps and music player.
THE VERDICT…
Sure, there are already some great guitar apps out there for iOS devices, and some even include more features than what’s on offer here. (If you’re listening Kevin/David, how about an integrated guitar tuner and recording function sometime in the next update?) But none, offer the same charm and personality you get from the DERS app. Every aspect of this app has David Ellefson stamped all over it, from the look and feel, and his all-important signature sound, through to the way you can reach out to him via social media. Nothing feels out of the place or forced, and it all just works harmoniously together.
As I understand it, this is just the start too, as both Kevin and David aim to continue development on the app, bringing improvements and new features over time. Bring it on I say.

The David Ellefson Rock Shop app is available now for US$9.99. It is compatible with all models of iPad, iPhone 4/4S, and iPod touch 4th generation. For the best sounding result, it is recommended to be used along with Pocketlabworks’ iRiffport.

The official page – http://www.pocketlabworks.com/David-Ellefson-Rock-Shop.html

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Mini Review – Beat Slice

Posted by Mikers On February - 17 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

If you enjoy chopping up songs for the purpose of remixes and general musical tomfoolery, it doesn’t get much easier than with this new universal iOS app, appropriately named Beat Slicer.

The user-friendly interface is set up like a grid of blocks which you can predefine as 2, 3, 4, or 8 beats to a bar of music. So in other words the higher the number, the more editing you can do.

The first thing you need to do is load in an existing track from your device’s music library. This is then automatically analysed for its tempo, so that any effects you put on the track are in time with the beat of the music.

Basic navigation controls at the bottom of the screen let you stop and start the track, as well as skip back and forward.

The app comes with five main effects, plus there are three additional effects available as in-app purchases.

The included effects are –

Reverse – as as the name suggests plays the track backwards for the chosen length of the beat.

Low n High – offers the option to either slow down or speed up the track, which also changes the pitch dramatically as well. It cleverly keeps the track in time though.

Slicer – cuts a section of the track up into 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, or 16 parts. Simply by tapping on this effect cycles through the different options.

Lo-Fi – lets you filter out the crisp high frequencies, giving the track that classic low quality sound. This can be dialled in gradually, which is a great feature, rather than just On or Off.

Finally there is Mute It – Which as the name suggests, allows you to briefly mute the track, and like the Slicer, you can cycle through a number of different timings to get different effects.

So that’s the basic effects you get to play with, but there is also Electrify, Crusher, and Spinner available for 99 cents each as in-app purchases, which I haven’t had a chance to play with. I also note there only looks like there is space for one more effect on the screen, so I’m thinking you can’t use all eight at one time. Though you can reconfigure the order of all the effects at any time, which is handy.

So the rest of the interface is fairly straight forward. At the lower right of the screen, you have A, B, C, and D, which allow you to set up a unique effects patterns on each of these, making for a total of four. And to the right of the transport controls is where you choose the number of beats you want to effect in each bar, with the highest being eight beats per bar, which is effectively like chopping the song into quarter notes. As I said before, the higher the number, the more you get to play with the track, as the song is divided into more sections.

So how well does it work, and more importantly how does it sound? It is very intuitive to use, and it really encourages a lot of experimentation. I’m also pleased to say the effects themselves sound great too.

You basically hit play to start the preloaded track, and then a guide bar moves across the screen in time to the beat. Then by touching on the line of  a certain area, places an effect at that beat of the bar, which will continue to appear in every bar as the song plays until you remove it. There’s a real temptation to just go crazy and put an effect on every beat, but I got some great sounding results by using the effects sparingly and keeping one of the patterns free of effects, so you could switch between patterns on the fly.

There are a few features I’d really like to see added in the future, with the main one being able to save or export the tracks with the effects, and also a handy ‘bypass’ button for quickly killing all effects without having to change to an empty pattern. But also something else I’d like to see is the option to be able to have different timings in the different patterns, because at the moment once you choose the timing for each bar, you can’t for example have one pattern with four sections and another pattern with eight section in the bar.

As it is though, Beat Slice is a competent music remixing tool that any DJ or music producer would find useful, if not in the studio or live, but just for inspiration and coming up with new ideas for remixes.

Beat Slice is currently US$2.99

Grab Beat Slice now –

Review: iRig MIDI Interface

Posted by Mikers On November - 20 - 2011 2 COMMENTS

The iOS family of devices have enjoyed no shortage of outstanding apps aimed at creating music through on-board sounds. I mean the collection of music workstations, standalone synths, and retro beatbox apps are truly amazing. Since a big part of the electronic music world has traditionally involved MIDI as a means of communicating, it was only a matter of time before hardware solutions arrived that enable iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touchs to be talk to MIDI enabled devices.

IK Multimedia has certainly been at the forefront of music and hardware products for iOS musicians, with products such as their iRig guitar interface and iRig Mic, and although they weren’t first to market with a MIDI solution, they’ve recently joined the likes of Line6, iConnect, and Yamaha, and released their own dedicated product, predictably called – iRig MIDI.

This small, light-weight box, features a standard 30-pin connector on one end that plugs into a supported iOS device, and then it has three ports on the other end labelled MIDI IN, THU, and OUT. Because of the small size of the product, these are not the standard 5-pin DIN ports used for MIDI, but instead are RTS (ring/tip/sleeve) sockets. Included with the iRig interface are 2 special cables that plug into these ports and have the 5-pin male plugs on the other end.

Other features on the iRig MIDI interface, include indicator lights that let you know when MIDI IN/OUT information is being passed through the device, plus the interface also features a handy Micro USB port, which is designed to charge/power the iOS device while in use, as the interface will drain some of the power while it’s connected and being used.

Now, naturally since standard MIDI offers two way communication, the iRig MIDI interface can be use in a variety of situations, including being able to use any type of MIDI controller, from synth keyboards to electronic drum kits, and even a piece of MIDI software running on a computer, to be able to control a virtual instrument within an iOS app, provided it supports Standard Core MIDI.  Simply connect the external device to the MIDI IN on the iRig MIDI interface and it will be able to talk to a music app, such as IK Multimedia’s SampleTank for iOS.

The other option, by utilising the MIDI OUT, on the interface allows you to send MIDI information from an app, to an external MIDI device, like a synth, sound module, or sampler which would enable the app to ‘play’ the other devices, effectively acting as a MIDI sequencer. There aren’t a great deal of options as far as apps go, but Genome MIDI Sequencer is certainly one worth looking into. IK Multimedia has also released a basic FREE app called iRig MIDI Recorder, which you can grab the details about here.

In use, there really isn’t a great deal to say about the iRig MIDI interface, other than that it just works as advertised. You simply connect it up, load up a supported app with Standard Core MIDI, and it just works. Most importantly, there is  no noticeable delay between playing external devices and hearing the sound played back within the app. I haven’t experienced a huge drain on my iPad’s battery while using the iRig MIDI for an hour at a time, and am yet to try it on an iPhone/iPod Touch, though I assume the result will be similar.

 

For more details on IK Multimedia’s superior sounding SampleTank for iOS, click here.

For more details on IK Multimedia’s iRig MIDI interface, click here.

Here’s a video trailer

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