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JamUp Pro packs a punch

Posted by Mikers On November - 18 - 2011 1 COMMENT

As we reported earlier this year, Positive Grid’s JamUp Lite came as a welcome addition to the growing collection of virtual guitar amp apps. While this FREE version has continued to have updated features added throughout the year, Positive Grid recently launched a PRO version featuring a bunch more amps and stomp boxes for even more creative performances. There are now 6 hybrid amp models with 6 matched convolution speaker emulation, along with 14 studio-grade stomp boxes, racks ,and processors.

Mix and matching these, in numerous combinations, offers an almost unlimited range of guitar sounds for every style of music. The interface is easy to use, with each amp and stomp box featuring familiar ‘lifelike’ looking dials and controls for adjusting the sound. The interface also features a configurable signal path that allows you to slide the stomp boxes and amp around in the order you want the sound processed. It’s intuitive, and instant as you hear the changes to the sound as soon as you move something. On top of that, there is a ‘preset’, or performance mode where you have quick access to 4 banks of saved configurations, making it easy to change to a completely different sound with one button press.

If that was the only feature in JamUp Pro, I’d still say you were getting you money’s worth, but there’s a couple of other really handy modes for guitarists.

‘Jam mode’ is a simple to use music player, that can access songs in your iTunes and let you play along to them on your guitar. But the great feature of this player is it allows you to adjust the speed and the tuning of the song. This is ideal for slowing songs down to learn difficult riffs and solos, and also learning songs that are in different keys. You can also set loop points on sections of the songs you need to go over and over.

Then we come to the ‘sampler mode’, which is effectively a phrase sampler for creating a groove by overdubbing musical performances on top of each other to build a full arrangement. Like other products, both software and hardware varieties, you can choose how many bars you want the groove to loop, and recordings can be saved for later to load up or export. There’s a metronome and auto quantization to help keep performances nice and tight. If you’re into jamming and improvising on your own, this is a really great tool for getting down creative ideas.

The final feature of note, which I know is included with most guitar apps, is a chromatic tuner. Most people probably say, once you’ve seen one guitar tuner app you’ve seen them all, but this one is really is slick, and makes it easy to see when your tuning is spot on. One feature that could improve this is options for different tunings.

 

Unlike the financial model most of the other premium guitar apps follow, the $20 upfront cost for JamUp Pro is all you pay for all the features, where as other apps offer a cheaper upfront cost, and then in-app purchases to ‘unlock’ the various features and extra sounds. There is a FREE version of JamUp (called ‘lite’) that offers all of the features of the Pro version, only with less amps and stomp boxes. This at least allows you to enjoy the other modes, and then decide if the sounds are to your liking, before spending up on the Pro version.

Grab JamUp Pro now –

Review – iRiffPort

Posted by Mikers On October - 31 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

While electronic music makers have been the main focus for iOS app developers since the dawn of the App Store, the other music category getting some attention is apps for guitarists by way of amp simulators and other music tools aimed at shredders, pluckers, and strummers.

There are countless virtual guitar apps, allowing you to ‘strum’ the display, which are fun for about 30 seconds, but what is more interesting are the growing number of apps designed to play a ‘real’ guitar through, which offer virtual amps, cabinets, stomp boxes, tuners, metronomes, recording options, and more.

POCKETLABWORKS, Inc. is the brainchild of Kevin Robertson, whose interest in audio and signal processing has seen him work with amp legends, Bob Gallien and Richard Krueger, on their industry leading, professional bass guitar amplification products.
After realising the potential that smart mobile devices offered for musicians, Kevin founded POCKETLABWORKS, Inc. and set about creating a series of music apps which to date include PocketAmp, PocketGK, PocketSing, and PocketRap.

The company’s latest product is also its first hardware release. The iRiffPort Digital Audio Guitar Connection is a single cable, which simplifies the requirements for hooking an electric guitar, bass guitar, or even an acoustic guitar fitted with a pickup, to an iOS device. But more on the hardware in a moment.

Out of all of POCKETLABWORKS’ apps, I’ve spent the most time playing around with PocketAmp so far. This app is actually more than a year old now, but updates have appeared almost monthly since it launched. My first impression of the app was how clean looking the interface is, and also the decision not to go with the graphics of actual stomp boxes and traditional ‘knobs’ for tweaking the sounds. Instead, the app uses familiar looking faders for ALL the parameters and settings, along with clear labels for the various titles. It may not look as ‘authentic’ as some apps, in this respect, but dealing with faders is much more fluid, plus you can see much easier at a glance what the settings are too.

The app provides 4 main amp heads, themed after styles of music, and there are also 4 cabinets to pick from. From there, you can customise EQ, gain, delay, reverb, chorus, flanger, rotary, and tremolo settings. And then of course save presets of all your favourite configurations.

The app has always had a basic music player for jamming along with songs in your iTunes library, but the latest update adds some welcome features to this area, including the ability to alter the pitch and speed of songs, as well as setting loop points for practising certain sections.

Overall, the quality of the sound from the app is excellent. Overdriving the sound for a lead solo provides amazing sustain, and there is plenty of dynamic range when playing rhythm style riffs, both clean and dirty. As with other guitar apps, there is a noticeable noise gate that kicks in when the audio signal drops below a certain volume, and just at this point you can sometimes detect low level noise like hiss, though it’s only there momentarily before the gate takes over, and it’s really only detectable on the heavily overdriven sounds. (Update: I’ve since learnt that this ‘gate’ effect is adjustable, so by turning it all the way down to ‘0’ in the FX section, this means the gate doesn’t come into effect)

But now onto the main area of interest in this feature. The cable…….

When first unravelling the iRiffPort, it feels like a  good length cable at 1.83 metres, and is about as thick at your average guitar cable, but it feels a little lighter.

One end of the cable plugs straight into the output of an electric guitar, while the other end features the standard 30-pin connector, making it compatible with all current and recent models of iOS devices, including the iPad, iPhones, and iPod Touches (4G). This type of connection has one clear advantage over other audio interfaces that use the headphone port on iOS devices, as it is a digital connection rather than an analogue one, since these can suffer from added and unwanted noise. In addition, the guitar jack input features a Hi-Z Low Noise Guitar Preamp with Soft Clipping for improved signal. It’s also worth noting that the 30-pin end of the cable is slightly recessed, which gives it a better chance of connecting to devices with thicker protective cases/covers.

This custom cable also features, not one, but two audio outputs for monitoring the audio signal of the guitar when using it with a supported app. At the guitar jack end of the cable there is a stereo 3.5mm ‘headphone’ output, which you can control the volume with the up/down controls on the iOS device itself. At the 30-pin end of the cable is another stereo 3.5mm ‘line out’ which is designed to send the signal to a mixer or your DAW input. The additional audio cables required for this are not supplied with the iRiffPort product, though they can be bought for just a few dollars, if you don’t already have some spares lying around.

The jury here is still out on the cable’s white finish. I mean, it’s just so bright! I guess at least the cable is dead easy to pick out of a spaghetti pile of other audio cables. It’s just not, well, all that rock and roll, if you know what I mean. Just using it in a home/studio environment (which it is mainly designed for) most users won’t be too fussed with the colour.

I did have issues trying the iRiffPort cable out on an iPod Touch that is still running v4.0 iOS, where it wasn’t supported. But POCKETLABWORKS do say you need v.4.3 or later. Other than that hiccup, it was recognised in my iPhone and iPad, which are running v4.3 and v5. respectively.

As far as compatible apps go, there is overwhelming support for the iRiffPort by almost every guitar app available, starting with POCKETLABWORKS’s own PocketAmp and PocketGK, and then GarageBand, AmpKit, GuitarTone, JamUp Pro, iShred LIVE and others. The only app I have in my library that isn’t currently supported is IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube, which only works with analogue guitar interfaces like this company’s own iRig product.

Given the wide app support for the iRiffPort Digital Audio Guitar Connection, and the high quality sound it produces, this is a must for guitarists working in the app world. The initial outlay of US$100 may seem a little steep to some, but it’s an investment you won’t regret if you are planning on using it on a regular basis.

For details on where to buy it, check here – http://www.pocketlabworks.com/iRiffPort-Buy-Now.html

And for details on all POCKETLABWORKS’ products, check here – http://www.pocketlabworks.com/index.html

Training Metronome

Posted by Mikers On October - 7 - 2011 1 COMMENT

There is certainly no shortage of metronome apps to choose from, ranging for classic tick tockers, through to modern digital stylised takes on this trusty time keeper. Most do just that, keep a steady reliable beat at whatever time signature and tempo you choose. The developers of Training Metronome, MinuX, have thrown a few extra useful features into their debut app.

Sure it covers the essentials, with 5 different time signatures and an adjustable tempo up to 800 bpm, plus you can hear the count offs in 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th notes.

A TAP button allows you to tap along in time to an existing piece of music to determine what tempo it is being played at, and another handy feature is the ability to save tempos you use regularly into one of the available presets. It looks like there is only 5, but the list is scrollable, so you can store more than just 5.

Where the app draws in name from are two unique features designed to improve your ability to stay in time when there is no beat to play along to.

The first of these is called Accelerator. This mode allows you to enter in a starting tempo, and a tempo you want to reach, then enter in the bars you want to take to travel between the two tempos. So for example if you want to improve the speed of playing drum rudiments or scales on an instrument, you might enter in 100 bpm as the starting tempo, and 150 as the finishing tempo, and set the tempo to gradually increase from one to the other across 32 bars. As each new bar commences, the tempo automatically increases a little each time.

The other unique mode is called Trainer. This is designed to get you used to playing at a constant tempo without needing to rely on the metronome all the time. It does this by letting you choose to mute the metronome for a certain number of bars, requiring you to stay in time by yourself, so that when the count comes back in, you should still be in time with it. The mode lets you set how many bars you want to mute the sound for, and also how frequently you want the mute the bars. You might want to start off playing along to 2 bars of counts, then mute the following 2, to see how you go, then progressively extend the muted bars, until you’re playing 16 bars by yourself, and still right on the count, when it comes back in. It really makes you think about whether you’re speeding up or slowing down, without even knowing you are.

One final feature, is the alarm mode. This is ideal for people who like to practise a range of different scales or rudiments without stopping. You can set an alarm for a certain amount of bars, and it will tell you when it’s time to move onto the next exercise you want to practise. So as a drummer, your daily practise routine might be to play 64 bars of singles, then the same in doubles, then triplets, and paradiddles, etc, etc. Well instead of needing to count them out in your head, you’ll get a precount in when the next change is due.

Finally, there are 6 different sounds that you can assign to the main beats and accents.

There’s a free ‘lite’ version of Training Metronome for iPhone and iPod Touch, if you want to give it a try out first, otherwise this is a dollar well spent.

Grab Training Metronome now –

Mini review – Rhythm Studio

Posted by Mikers On August - 13 - 2011 1 COMMENT

Rhythm Studio Review –

Having spent some time now tweaking away happily on Pulse Code Inc’s latest gem, Rhythm Studio, I can honestly say they have nailed the interface, as this is one of the most intuitive  music making apps of late. If Retronyms’ new TableTop app is any indication, I think these both show that this is the way forward for multi-synth apps.

As something of a natural expansion on Pulse Code Inc’s previous apps, Digital Bass Line  DB-303 and BtBx, Rhythm Studio brings updated versions of those classic retro looking and sounding instruments into an all-in-one musical workspace, and adds a sample-based synth with 32 sounds, a versatile KOAS style control surface, and a mixer sections with dual effects sends…And there are new instruments on the way, such as the recently announced DR-9 drum machine.

Due to the familiar retro design of the instruments, they should take you no time to feel your way around, thanks to classic looking switches, dials and faders, and clear labelling of almost every control. I realise there are some really interestingly designed synth apps that go out of their way to come up with a unique interface, that eventually makes sense once you’ve spent some time with them, but Rhythm Studio is a refreshing throw back that’s is reminiscent of operating classic analog electronic music gear.

Navigating the workspace is as easy as pinching the display to zoom in and out, and swiping to move to different instruments. I have an original iPad and I did note the screen was a little unresponsive at times, and required several ‘slide’ actions before it would carry out the action, so I’m not sure if that’s to do with the UI or the iPad CPU. It’s not a major issue in any case.

The bundled instruments manage to capture the familiar sounds and nuances of the classic machines they have been inspired by. Tweaking the parameters of the TB-3 for example, provides much the same tonal qualities as a Roland TB-303, while the sounds and UI of the DR-8 are dead ringers for the Roland TR-808.

The Control Pad, with it’s X/Y axis, has been simplified for easy use, whereby you can choose to use it with any one of the instruments, and select from a range of different scales to play along in. There’s also a handy record button to allow you to capture performances.

Aside from creating melodies and grooves using the Control Pad, patterns can be constructed old schools style, in step time mode, and then eventually made into songs by stringing patterns into a desired order. In this day and age of drop and drag time line editing, I feel this isn’t the most intuitive way to write music these days, but that’s not to say there isn’t a place for it.

And finally, songs can be imported and exported through iTunes, to get your works of art on and off the app.

As far as future features, Core MIDI support is an obvious no brainer, but also a more flexible timeline based song creation mode. A way to share tunes with friends either through SoundCloud or the usual social media streams would also be nice. AudioCopy/AudioPaste support for the Sample Tone instrument would be useful too.

I know the team behind Rhythm Studio are committed to continuing development, so new features and improvements are expected, especially if the app is a hit. So please support it. At just .99c, you are getting a bargain whichever way you look at it.

For a full run down the app head here – http://www.pulsecodeinc.com/rhythm-studio/

Have you tried Rhythm Studio? I’d really like to hear your thoughts, so leave your comments below. 

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