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Entries in audio (15)

iPad at NAMM 2013 - Behringer

Continuing our quick look at some of the iPad related announcements at this year's Winter NAMM we have a couple of products from Behringer to mention.

iStudio iS202

This seems very much like Behringer's version of the already available iO Dock by Alesis, with a lower price tag.  Comparing the two, they have very similar specs and input/output options.  Have a look at the images below for a visual comparison.

The other connections for the iO Dock are on the sides as shown below:

Current prices for the Alesis iO Dock seem to be around £139+, with prices for Behringer's iS202 not generally available, but B&H have them listed at the moment for $149.99 (about £95).  If the Behringer is generally available for under £100, we think it has a good chance of success.

Check out the specs for the iStudio (iS202) at Behringer's site and the video below for a brief preview.

iX16 Digital Mixer

The iX16 digital mixer has been specifically designed to integrate with your iPad as the controller.  The iX16 has 16 audio inputs (hence its name we guess).  The controller app can control the sound mix over WiFi, so you can stroll around the venue with your iPad and stand exactly where you need to be to get the perfect mix, while the iX16 sits on the sound desk responding to your input.

It's all a bit clever really and not our area of expertise to be honest, but we have done our fair share of show and concert setups between us.  The iX16 and accompanying software is definitely on our wishlist.

For the full details check out the iX16 page and be sure to take a look at the video below for a brief look at the iX16 and the iStudio iS202 from musicianews.com (if you are watching this on your iPad, the video stops at around 3:32 but will carry on playing with a blank screen until 8:09).

A superb GarageBand drum kit tutorial video

Sure, this GarageBand tutorial video from iPad Music is a little on the short side, but if you've found the drum kit section of GarageBand a little daunting (we certainly have!), then this could be for you. I was able to play along to the basic beat demonstrated on the video after only a couple of viewings.

Source: iPad Music

Further Reading: GarageBand Posts

Alesis iO Dock Video Overview

Still no joy here on a review copy of Alesis' iO Dock, but we found a nice overview video from B&H. Look out for the interesting little tip about latency and the direct monitor switch when using GarageBand.

Stereolizer - Let's Radio like it's 1984

One of my abiding memories of growing up is my Dad's Hi-Fi systems. One of them was a big, chrome, all-in-one unit with a tuner, twin tape deck, lots of buttons and orange backlit EV meters. I used to sit staring at those EV meters bouncing back and forth whilst trying to tape record the Sunday night Top 40 show here in the UK. It was great fun trying to pause the tape just before the DJ started talking again in between songs.

So when I saw the new app Stereolizer by French developers Lesmobilizers (French language site) I was immediately taken down nostalgia lane. As you can see from the screenshot below, they have taken great care in recreating the look of the old 80's Hi-Fi.

Channels

Stereolizer is like a lot of other iOS apps that allow you to 'tune-in' to numerous Internet radio streams, in this case over 10,000 of them, although this one has been designed exclusively for iPad.

You see the stations in an alphabetical list but you are also able to search through them or Sort by Country.

Each station can be previewed from this list, useful to audition the station if you are not entirely familiar with it.

You can use one of the 30 (3 sets of 10) Presets to save your favourite stations but you can't choose which of the 3 banks of Presets you save to.

Not the end of the world, but as I suggested to Lesmobilizers, it would be useful to have all my Rock Channels, Jazz/Classical, etc. grouped together. They said they would consider it for a future version, so you never know.

Controls 

The controls, such as the Preset buttons, Tape transport and Power buttons all make a satisfying clunk when used, very evocative of the real thing.

The Treble and Bass controls are just for show, sadly, but it would be great if they did shape the sound. The volume button works though and is independent of the system volume, so you have a dual-level volume control.

There are also Blue backlit EV meters which bounce around a lot when something is being played or recorded but I don't think they are actually responding to the audio. It all adds to the retro feel of the app though.

Tape Recorder

The animated tape recorder is brilliant. It allows you to 'tape' whatever you are listening to at the time, for as long as you have space available, so you can record whole shows, interviews, etc. It looks exactly like the real thing as it spins during recording and playback, even down to the handwritten font used for writing the name of your recording on the front of the tape. I found myself repeatedly pressing the eject button to replay the eye candy tape eject effect.

When you do press Eject you are brought to a list of recordings from where you can play, rename, reorder or delete each one. Once you start playing a track, it continues on to the next one automatically so you could use this as a playlist of sorts.

As an added bonus, you can also record from the iPad microphone or compatible external microphone, for example the iPhone headset mic worked fine, if a little thin sounding. There is even an animated headphone plug that is inserted into the 'Phones' jack when you plug in your headset which is a nice touch.

Stereolizer headphone jack animation capture

Social Sharing

There is the ability built-in to share what you are listening to on Twitter or Facebook, but unfortunately this bit lets the app down. When I tested these it posts the radio station being listened to Ok (no song info, which is probably not available on the streams anyway). But you cannot edit the tweet before it goes and the tweet was in the French language. Facebook wasn't in French but not phrased how I would have posted it, and it is heavily dressed with links to the app, which was a bit much I thought.

Overall

Although the retro styling is a little gimmicky, it is also a fun way to wrap up a very good, internet radio listening app. You can use the app in the background to listen to your radio whilst browsing the net, Twitter, reading a book or whatever and you can use it as a voice recorder, something which the iPad (unlike the iPhone) does not have by default.

If, like me, you sometimes work at a desk with your iPad docked next to you, it is great fun to leave Stereolizer running for some 80s Hi-Fi on your desktop.

At $1.99 (£1.19) in the app store Stereolizer is a recommended app and a wonderful trip down memory lane, or even a history lesson for those of you not as aged as us. Be sure to check out the video below for an overview of the app in action:

iPad and MIDI - Create Digital Music goes deep

We found this really interesting video on YouTube and wanted to make sure you had seen it. Peter Kirn from Create Digital Music (CDM) demonstrates music creation on the iPad via the Camera Connection Kit and various external hardware devices.

If you want to get your audio/MIDI geek on, this video is backed up by a brilliantly in-depth column over at CDM. There are a lot more videos and some great commentary on the vagaries of using the iPad and MIDI devices/software in that article, which we highly recommend reading.

iPad StudioDock Looks Promising

Imagine your iPad being the centre of your studio recording or live performance experience, with all the audio and video connectors you need, including XLR, MIDI, USB MIDI, 1/4" in and out, Guitar-direct input straight out of your amp or effects unit and even Composite video out!

Enter the StudioDock from Alesis which is sat waiting for Apple approval, announced yesterday at NAMM. Here are a few product shots to whet your appetite showing the iPad docked and in place, with views of the multitude of interfaces included.

 

The StudioDock includes a power supply so it will charge your iPad whilst it is docked which is useful, but it is the shear range of connection options within the dock that impresses us and our brains are now spinning with all the things we could do with this thing including stuff we hadn't considered before with the video out. 

There has been no announcement at the time of publishing this post about pricing though, we have scoured the Internet looking for any resellers offering pre-orders but we haven't found anything yet.

We are guessing it is going to be fairly pricey as it is aimed at the professional level but we would love to get our hands on one and run it through its paces. 

You can read a detailed explanation of the StudioDock over at Alesis' website - the key features are listed below:
  • The world’s first pro audio dock for iPad
  • Connect microphones and instruments including guitar, studio monitors, PA speakers, headphones, and MIDI controllers
  • Universal device works with virtually every audio and MIDI app in the App Store; Core MIDI compliant
  • Perform, craft, create and play back music in virtually any conceivable manner or location
  • Video output for connection to TVs and projectors
  • Inputs: two combo XLR-1/4" for use with audio gear, instruments, and computer audio
  • Input channel gain controls and switchable phantom power for use with condenser microphones
  • Guitar-direct switch for use with amplifier- and effects-modeling app
  • Outputs: pair 1/4" and 1/4" headphone with separate volume controls
  • Control: MIDI In, MIDI Out, USB MIDI, and assignable 1/4-inch footswitch input

iRig Mic - Vocalists are not left out of the iPad revolution

This year's CES has understandably had a lot of focus on tablet devices and of course our favourite, iPad. Whilst not iPad exclusive, IK Multimedia have announced the new iRig Mic hardware for iOS devices and VocaLive software which is basically an AmpliTube for vocalists and audio recordings.

The samples, especially the chorus effects, sound amazing and if the samples provided are anything like those for Amplitube, the real thing will sound very similar (depending on your musical talents).

A big advantage is that the vocal processors will be available through AmpliTube in-app purchase, so if you have already spent out on the Recorder in AmpliTube, you can add just the vocal effects and record everything in that app.

Think about that, no need for another recording app with Audio Copy/Paste, you can record a whole song in one app! Things just got a bit more interesting in the audio effects/simulation app race.

The iRig Mic isn't out yet, it is slated for a Spring 2011 launch, but you can pre-order it now at $59.99 (~£42) with new VocaLive app plus AmpliTube Free included.

Here is the iPad in action with IK Multimedia's new iRig Mic, VocaLive app and some talented musicians. Be sure to let us know what you think of it in the comments below:

AmpliTube for iPad - Review

We let you know how much we liked IK Multimedia's iRig hardware as a general iPad input device a few weeks ago, but of course it was primarily designed to partner with their own software for (mainly) guitarists AmpliTube for iPad (and separate iPhone version).

We have been testing AmpliTube for iPad for a while now and we have been hoping on an upgrade to version 2.0 (as the iPhone version has been recently) before posting our review.

As version 2 of the app has not turned up yet we thought we would let you know what we think of version 1.0.2 of AmpliTube for iPad so far anyway.

This is one of only a few guitar effects / amp simulation apps specifically made for the iPad, so what did we think of it? Read on to find out.

The Premise - Analogue Amplitude

amp_and_pedal.jpg

Any guitarist will tell you that as much as they love their amp and the special relationship it has to their 'sound', the biggest bugbear is carrying that hulking great box around to band practice, gigs or anywhere else they may wish to take it.

If their amp doesn't have a headphone jack then another major problem is that getting that great sound usually involves cranking the amp up to levels far too loud to be compatible with sleeping kids upstairs, tolerant but deafened spouses and elderly (or litigious) neighbours.

The Digital advantage

The first thing that you will notice is that AmpliTube for iPad weighs a lot less than a guitar amp! Seriously though, the advantage of any audio app should be that it means you have to carry less equipment with you especially if that means you can play your guitar, amplified with effects, in places where you would not have bothered taking a real amplifier.

IK Multimedia have a software/hardware solution in the iRig and AmpliTube that could in theory replace a physical amplifier for example when recording demos, rehearsals, private practice and even plugged directly into a house PA.

iRig_into_ipad-small.jpgThe User Interface

One thing that has always impressed us about IK Multimedia's apps on our Macs, iPhones or iPads, is the attention to detail in the User Interface (UI) and AmpliTube for iPad is no exception.

The effects pedals are drawn beautifully, as are the amps, with all the knobs and switches replicated in exact detail. Other UI elements are also well drawn and for the most part their function and mode of operation is clear.

AmpliTube for iPad operates only in landscape orientation and this allows you to see four effects at once next to each other, compared to one at a time, up to a maximum of only three pedals, on the iPhone.

Most of the time we were able to adjust amp and pedal settings by directly 'turning' the control knobs on the screen without any problem.

What does it sound like

Arguably, the quality and authenticity of the sound is of utmost importance for any app trying to simulate a real guitar amp and effects. It is probably best to acknowledge that any digital version of an amp is not really going to sound like the real thing exactly.

Bearing this in mind, we were really blown away by the sounds we got from AmpliTube for iPad.

The default settings need a bit of tweaking to get the best out of them, but as mentioned above the controls are accurate and responsive on the iPad's touchscreen and they shape the sound as we would expect their real world equivalents to.

We used an Epiphone Les Paul for most of our testing and the double humbuckers push too hard to get a clean sound from the Clean amp without some serious tweaking of the default settings. With a Strat type of guitar the default was fine.

ipadgui02.jpg

As you would expect, switching to the Crunch amp gave a nice punchy rhythm sound with the Les Paul Humbuckers which was hardened up with a quick adjustment of the tone controls on the guitar.

The Lead amp gave us a sound we preferred over the Crunch amp to be honest and the Metal amp really does give a nice high-gain setup which, when combined with the Overdrive pedal covered most of the Rock/Metal styles easily. However, you will probably always need to include the Noise filter as one of your four pedal choices to control feedback and hiss.

The Bass amp was actually quite a surprise and gave us a nice, warm, bass sound generally which was fairly easily shaped using the tone controls. A definite bonus.

Cabs and Mics

Each of the amp sounds is further enhanced, or shaped, by a selection of five different Cabinets along with a choice of Dynamic or Condensor microphones, which can drastically change the tone of your sound.

We found most of them useable and it is worth running through the Cabs and Mics to see how they affect your tone.

Amplitube-ipad-03_main.jpg

Pedal Effects

A few of the eleven effects pedals we really liked. The standout ones for us were Chorus, Flanger, Phazer, Delay and a lovely sounding, infinitely controllable Distortion pedal.

We were not so impressed by the Fuzz pedal (we found it hard to get anything but  a badly broken sound), which was actually a bit of a disappointment but this might be our ageing ears.

The Wah too seemed a bit gimmicky. You can adjust your Wah snap in manual mode via the accelerometer, by tipping the iPad which makes for a fun demo to friends. In practice though, we found it very difficult to hold the iPad, tip it backwards and forwards, and play a lick on our guitar, obviously not the intended use.

The Auto-Wah settings failed to impress as well, being either too harsh or not effective enough for our tastes.

We found the Octave pedal a little heavy handed too, but it was useable with some careful tweaking.

Other Key Features

Some of the other features included with AmpliTube for iPad are the adjustable Metronome, bypass Tuner and the useable-but-slightly-clunky song or backing tracks Wi-Fi import function. This last feature lets you practice by adjusting the track's volume so that you can play over the top with your AmpliTube driven sound.

We look forward to the iPad catching up with the iPhone's new 'slow-downer' function so that we might have half a chance of playing along with real guitarists playing at half speed.

There are also 36 presets, some of which are pre-populated but overwriteable, but unfortunately in this version you cannot rename the numbered squares so you will have to write down or remember what is saved to each preset (this has been changed in the iPhone version 2.0).

ipadgui04.jpg

Conclusions

We can highly recommend AmpliTube for iPad to any guitarist looking for an app written and optimised for the iPad and its relatively large touchscreen. There is no doubt in our minds that IK Multimedia have set the bar for other app developers in the guitar amp/effects arena.

The range of sounds and effects that you can achieve for less than a quarter of the cost of just one decent effects pedal is truly amazing. For just $19.99 (£11.99) for the full version you really cannot moan about the price, but if you do think that is too much (really, it is not) then you can get a FREE lite version with a reduced number of effects (Stompboxes) and just one Amp and Cabinet, with other Amps and Cabs available a la carte style via in-app purchase.

Further Info and Specs

If you have never seen or heard AmpliTube in action, the video below gives you an overview of the UI and sounds that are available. If you are still not sure we would recommend downloading the lite version and give it a proper run through, there is nothing to lose and it sold us straight away on the full version. We have listed the full specs for AmpliTube for iPad below this video.

  

The Specs

AmpliTube for iPad is available in two versions (there are three versions on the iPhone):

  • Free - includes 3 stompboxes (Delay, Noise Filter & Distortion once registered), 1 amplifier (Lead) and speaker cabinet as well as both microphones (dynamic & condenser). New stompboxes and amp/speaker cabinets can be added through in-app purchases.
  • Full - £11.99 ($19.99) - everything available via in-app purchase in the free version all in one package. So that's 11 stompboxes (delay, fuzz, distortion, overdrive, wah, envelope filter, chorus, flanger, phaser, octave, noise filter), 5 amplifier/cabinets and the two microphones

Other key features of AmpliTube for iPad include:

  • 36 preset slots
  • Built-in Tuner and Metronome
  • Import songs via wi-fi and playback for practice
  • Low-latency as good as the Mac/PC system

Altec Lansing introduces the Octiv Stage speaker system for iPad


The Altec Lansing Orbit speaker is an iPad Creative office favourite. For such a small speaker it packs quite a punch. Being the Altec Lansing fans that we are the Octiv Stage speaker system for iPad is almost a no-brainer. We love the horizontal and vertical frame positions - just perfect for the impressive Aweditorum music discovery app or BBC iPlayer HD video streams. Equipped with a remote control, audio line-in and full range balanced speakers the Octiv Stage is just about as good as it gets at this price range.

The Octiv Stage priced at $149.95 and is available now from Altec Lansing, the Apple Store and other quality audio equipment resellers.

 

iRig + iPad = Guitarist (Musician) Heaven

The Problem

Amp simulation apps have existed for a while on iOS, but the problem has always been getting the guitar signal into the device and hearing the subsequently amplified output.

Using the built in microphone, or the headset mic, has always meant not being able to hear the output if you were using an acoustic guitar. For electric guitar, not hearing an output at all is a problem, as plugging a device with audio input into the headphone jack mutes the built-in speaker.

The Solution

So the only way to do this effectively without a USB 'hack' is through a hardware device such as the iRig from IK Multimedia. This handles the audio input and importantly provides an audio output or monitor via a standard 1/8" headphone jack.

Plug your headphones into this output for quiet practice without disturbing anyone else, or connect it to speakers, a sound system, a guitar amp or even a PA system for full-on live sound.

We had no problems at all connecting a guitar straight away and after confirming the warning about turning down the volume before we start, especially with headphones connected, we were off and rocking (well, we made noise with our guitar).

iRig_into_ipad_small.jpg

Using iRig with Apps

The iRig was recognised as an input device by every app we tried without fail. This included iPad specific apps Amplitube for iPad (look out for our review soon), StompBox and StudioTrack (read our full StudioTrack review here).

We also tried iRig with a number of iPhone audio apps including:

A Few Issues

For the most part there were no issues with iRig and the above apps, the only problem we did have was with AmpKit by Agile Partners and Peavey. The main issue here was high pitched feedback at anything but extremely low input levels.

This is not a review of AmpKit, that is for a future post, but the extremely high gain Peavey amps simulated in AmpKit are a particular challenge to iRig, and Agile Partners recommend, of course, their partner Peavey's AmpKit Link audio interface.

This is a hardware device designed for exactly the same purpose as iRig, but with active (battery powered) circuitry designed to eliminate the feedback inherent with the unpowered versions like iRig.

We hope to get a review to you soon for both the AmpKit link and AmpKit app, but we have been holding out for an iPad specific version, which is apparently in the works.

Sidenote: Feedback Warning - Follow the Instructions

As we mentioned above, feedback with these kinds of devices can be a problem due to impedance issues. The scant instructions give just the essentials for setting up the iRig, but they do warn that using a 1/8" to 1/4" adapter on the headphone output will cause audio feedback.

Well, we wondered about this and as we only had the 1/8" to 1/4" adapter available to us, we tried it anyway.

We had no feedback issues with this adapter when connecting to a home cinema surround sound amplifier, but once we connected the iRig to our guitar amp (clean channel, no effects, middled tone controls across the board) and engaged a high gain amp model in the software, specifically the Metal amp, we had an immediate problem with piercing audio feedback screeching out from our amp speaker at any volume setting.

Our recommendation is to take heed of the instructions and get a cable matching IK Multimedia's suggestion. We are guessing that similar feedback will be experienced with a PA system too (although we have not been able to test this).

IMG_0209.PNG

As you can see in the above instructions, the cable setup recommended is an 1/8" stereo connector from the headphone socket out to a twin RCA (using the left one to connect to the amplifier/PA) or 1/8" to 2 x 1/4" Mono jacks.

We obtained one of the latter cables from eBay for about £4 (pictured below) and since using this new cable we almost never received feedback when using the iRig connected to the guitar amp, except in the situation mentioned above with the AmpKit app.

photo.JPG

Not Just For Guitars

Whilst the primary purpose of iRig is to get a guitar input into your iDevice and a monitor out, you can also use it to input other audio signals. We successfully recorded audio from a Bass guitar and a passive vocal microphone (although audio hiss was an issue) as well as an Acousto/Electric guitar from both its 1/4" and XLR output. IK Multimedia's website also makes mention of line level input from Keyboards, Synthesizers and mixers and we have no reason to doubt it works with these audio sources too.

We have had a great time using and testing the iRig interface and we can recommend it wholeheartedly for iPad musicians or anyone wanting to get sound into their iDevice whilst monitoring the output simultaneously.

iRig is available from most music stores and online retailers for around £25 ($39.99).

StudioTrack for iPad - Should You Buy It?

icon-studiotrack-512px.pngDid you ever mess around with one of those cassette (remember those?) based multitrack recorders? We did, and we loved it. The iPad Creative team have even been known to record a few songs that should probably never see the light of day again.

If you never experienced the joys of trying to use a cassette tape to do multitrack recording then you missed out on a lot of fun!

So that you understand why digital multitrack recorders are so impressive, we will quickly explain what the 'old way' was like - feel free to skip to the next section if you have been there and done that, or simply don't care to hear why it is so amazing to see apps like StudioTrack being crammed into your iPad.

Multitrack Recording - the 'old way'

The problem with cassette tapes, apart from mechanical failure, was the quality. On a normal tape player, you would have two sides, with each 'side' of the tape split into a Left and Right channel for your stereo sound, so that is where the four tracks came from.

The special heads on the fourtrack recorders could play and record to all four tracks on the tape at once, if needed. You could also record onto tracks 1, 2 & 3 (perhaps drums and bass guitar), 'bounce' or combine those three tracks down onto the fourth spare track and then record over tracks 1-3 with your other song parts, such as rhythm/lead guitar, keyboards, lead and backing vocals, etc.

Bouncing tracks degraded the quality of the sound though, so the audio got very messy, very quickly. This was all in addition to other perils such as stretched tape making everything sound all warbly, tape being chewed up in the mechanism or worst case scenario snapping completely.

Digital Multitrack Recording - the 'new way'

So we come to the iPad as a portable and importantly digital version of a multitrack recorder via the StudioTrack app from Sonoma Wire Works.

First up, the obligatory features list:

  • Multitrack Recording - 8 tracks plus bounce

  • Re-arrangeable tracks with FX Bypass, Reverb Send, Pan, Gain, Mute, Solo, Record Arm and Track Icon

  • TrackFX - Tempo-synced Delay, Compressor, Parametric EQ and Reverb Send on every track

  • Calibrated Meters - accurately monitor record and playback levels

  • Calibrated Faders - accurately adjust playback level of each track

  • MasterFX - sweeten the sound of your recordings with a compressor-limiter and a 4-band parametric EQ

  • Output Compressor-Limiter - automatically fattens sound of the output mix

  • Master Channel with Reverb Return and Stereo Output meters

  • Metronome - select tempo by number or tapping. Includes pro drum recordings.

  • Bounce - mix song to track 1 and 2 of a new song to record as many tracks as you want

  • Mix - Save the mix as a stereo file

  • AudioPaste - allows pasting audio from AudioCopy compatible apps like InstantDrummer and DopplerPad

  • WiFi sync mix or individual tracks to a computer and import into any software that imports WAV files

  • Slide-to-Record - prevents over-writing your tracks

  • Latency Compensation - accurate to within 1ms

  • Recording Quality - 16 bit, 44.1 kHz

  • Supports both portrait and landscape iPad views

StudioTrack is in the app store for $39.99 (£23.99), we will come back to the price later.

What we liked

There is a lot to like about StudioTrack. It really is the digital equivalent of the multitrack recorders we mentioned at the outset, with the notable limitation of only recording one track at a time.

Here is what stood out to us:

User Interface

It has to be said, StudioTrack is lovely to look at and a lot of thought and care has obviously gone into creating an authentic app, based on world real world mixers and recorders. That is not to say that it is all about the looks, the user elements are accurate and responsive to the touch as they need to be and we were confident about making adjustments using the onscreen controls quickly whilst recording, reviewing and mixing tracks.

If you have used any sort of analog (real world) or digital multitrack recorder many of the controls will be familiar to you, with Pan, Gain and Master FX send controls per track, also Mute and Solo buttons for each track.

We found the sliders to be just as accurate and responsive too, really adding to the authentic and professional feel of StudioTrack.

New tracks are added with a single touch and the new track is armed for recording automatically, assuming (probably correctly) that you want to record something else by adding a new track. Tracks can be reordered simply by dragging the track's left or right.

The app works in either Portrait or Landscape orientation, but you will find that in Landscape mode you will not see the level sliders on the individual tracks, so if you are reviewing and mixing then you may prefer to be in Portrait mode.

studiotrack-mixer-portrait-sml.jpg

 

studiotrack-fxselect4eq-portrait_sml.jpgAudio Effects

Each track of your audio has two slots which can hold several of four different effects applied. Some of the effects take both available slots so they can only be used on their own. The four effects are:

  • Compressor (1 slot)
  • 1-band parametric EQ (1 slot)
  • 4-band parametric EQ (2 slots)
  • Twin Delay (2 slots)

In addition to these individual track effects there is a Master Reverb. Each track has a green Reverb knob which adjusts how much of the total Reverb that track receives. This gives you a great deal of control over how your song sounds, letting you give the vocals, for example, more reverb than your guitar, or the lead guitar a little more Reverb than the rhythm guitar.  This is also where the Mute and Solo buttons come in as you listen back to your track and adjust the effects accordingly.

The EQs are, as they should be, really powerful and we were able to rescue some pretty ropey sounding vocals recorded with the iPad's microphone via the 4-band EQ.

Extra Bounce

studiotrack-bounce-portrait_sml.jpg

We talked about bouncing tracks at the top of this post, and although quality will always be compromised when bouncing tracks, in the digital world the compression effect of bouncing tracks is nowhere near as bad as it used to be on tape based recorders.

StudioTrack allows you to bounce several tracks down to another empty track in the same song, or even to another song altogether, something that would be very difficult to do with tape based recorders.

Audio Paste

This is a really great feature and is an excellent 'ace up the sleeve' for Sonoma Wire Works. This sets StudioTrack apart from other multitrack apps as you can create audio, perhaps a drum groove or a synth riff/melody, in another supported app and then incorporate it into your multitrack recording.

There is a growing list of apps which play nice with StudioTrack, and there is an up to date list of them at Sonoma's site. These include FourTrack for iPhone and InstantDrummer (also by Sonoma Wire Works), DopplerPad, MorphWiz, ThumbJam and Looptastic HD (read our review of Looptastic HD here).

There is a Developer SDK for Audio copy/paste available from the same webpage too, so there may be many more apps in future that support this functionality, let's hope so.

Audio Export

Getting the audio off the iPad involves Wi-Fi sync. You can create a mixdown of your track to a stereo wav file or export individual tracks to your computer (on the same wi-fi network) for editing in a DAW.  It is a fairly simple affair, hit the Wifi Sync button, an IP address is displayed, you type that in to a browser on your computer and you get a screen a little bit like the one below.

As you can see, each track is downloadable separately, and also a Mixdown track if you have created one. This only copies them to your computer of course, the originals are left on your iPad for further editing.

StudioTrack wifi-sync.png

So those are the features of StudioTrack that stood out to us and we enjoyed using. Below, we discuss some of the areas that we were not so happy with or that we wish were included in the app.

 

What we think could be better

Lack of Inline monitoring

One of the main problems we had with StudioTrack was the lack of inline monitoring when recording. There is a monitor in the form of a coloured meter which jumps from green through yellow to red, and this tells you how 'hot' your input sound is and when it may be clipping or distorted. This works well as it is being very clear and emulates professional mixers.

But we were trying to record a guitar signal from a Multi-FX unit and it was difficult to tell what it sounded like when we changed the patch to something else or were pushing it a bit with a high gain setting.

Hearing what you are playing is particularly important if, like us, you are using distortion and delay effects that have a bearing on what you play depending on how the delay fades and rises.

This is something we think will be addressed very soon because it is in the new version of Sonoma's iPhone multitrack app FourTrack, but it is also something we would like to have seen in a professional level app from the outset, especially as it does work in some of the cheaper multitrack apps we have seen.

Lack of waveform

A bit of a wishlist one really, but we were thinking here about GarageBand on the Mac which shows the audio waveform so that punch-in recording can be done more easily and quick edits and cuts can be done visibly. This would also help with arranging parts.

There are cheaper apps that do offer waveform based editing though, most notably MultiTrack DAW at just $5.99. We hope to look at this app in a bit more depth in future.

It may not be something that is on the development roadmap for StudioTrack, but for the way we work it would make navigating around the song and editing it easier, which brings us on to our next point.

The scroll wheel

Using the scroll wheel to scrub backwards and forwards through the track is ok and we acknowledge there is a time readout, but if we had a waveform to navigate the whole song by it would be faster and easier in our opinion to pick out the audio section we wanted, such as when the chorus kicks in or a second guitar part is introduced.

On long tracks you can scrub along the progress bar but we found this to be a bit fiddly when trying to do things in a hurry, for example at a rehearsal when someone wants to re-record a part while they are 'in the groove'.

We found that even with a combination of flicking the scroll wheel and using the time scrubber we ended up in the wrong part of the song or overshooting the insertion point and it was frustrating to use.

One track at a time recording

This one is really a limitation of the iPad itself, so we are not levelling this at StudioTrack necessarily, but even with the humble tape based Four Track we could record several instruments at once, even recording a whole band during a rehearsal at the same time, so we would like to see some enterprising developer work this one out for the iPad to become a true mobile studio.

Price

This is a thorny issue. At $39.99 (£23.99) StudioTrack is one of the more expensive iPad apps, even for an audio/music creation app, which tend to be more expensive. As such it attracts greater scrutiny and the price for many is an immediate turn off.

However, when you consider that our humble little tape based four track cost around £250 more than 15 years ago and this is an app that records in digital quality with a whole host of other features and effects that you would not find in the older units. Some features can be found on digital multitrack recorder units costing 8-10 times StudioTrack's asking price.

We did a quick Amazon search and found several books about Home Recording costing as much as, or more than, StudioTrack.

When you put it into perspective, the price does not seem that bad at all really, especially given Sonoma Wire Works' audio heritage and the resources they can put into future development of the app.

So yes, we think that the price is a barrier to entry, and that if StudioTrack was, say, $10 less then perhaps more people would be tempted to buy it. But Developers have to tread a very fine line between offering value for money and devaluing their time, effort and the product by offering such a complex app at a rockbottom price.

They also have to make a profit usually and StudioTrack has to be at the top end of development cost. As an end user though, this isn't really our concern is it? It is the perceived value to us and features that the app offers which affect our purchasing decisions.

Should you buy it?

StudioTrack is an amazing feat when you consider what has been achieved on a first generation device (although the foundations were laid with FourTrack on the iPhone). If the above points are addressed in a future update, then it would be a no-brainer.

We know there is an update on its way for StudioTrack, just from reading the comments in the forums and around the web from Sonoma employees, so we think that future versions of this app will keep getting better.

As it is at the moment, we have to say we would highly recommend StudioTrack to those who are after the nearest thing to a professional solution for the iPad and who can afford it.

However, if price is more important to you than the look and feel of the app and you can do without some of the more unique features such as the track FX and Audio Copy/Paste, then there are cheaper alternatives, and you may want to wait for the next version of the app and iOS 4 on the iPad.

Ok, that's what we think, over to you, let us know what you like/don't like about StudioTrack and the recording experience in the comments, we look forward to seeing what you have to say.

If you still haven't decided to buy the app yet, we encourage you to check out the site and watch the video below for an overview of what StudioTrack can do.

Horizons - an Audio/Visual Landscape for iPad

Horizons is described as an 'interactive sound toy' for your iPad (and other iOS devices) combining mostly ethereal sounds with highly configurable shapes in a 3D space. It is 'an exploration of sound and colour' according to the app store description.

Playing with the shape and editing it is quite engrossing, and the audio feedback when using the buttons is quite satisfying but you may want to turn the sound down a bit as the audio loops can be a tad monotonous. A quick press of the randomise button changes both the sound and the colours being used though so it is fairly easy to mix things up and keep them interesting.

As well as being able to stretch and shrink the shape using multi-touch, it can be affected by movement of the device, but your shape will float in the environment space independently too, a bit like a large whale gently moving through the water.  We found it can be quite a restful experience using Horizons.

We think this may well be good fun for children learning about geometric shapes and 3D vectors, manipulating the shape in real time and seeing the effect of adding and subtracting points, or just as a simple distraction to play with.

It is also useful for creating wallpapers with the built-in screenshot feature, although we found the images captured with the app itself to be a bit pixelated. We actually got smoother looking results using the device's own screenshot feature (pressing the Home key and Power button at the same time).

Overall, it is a good, fun, app that provides an interesting experiment in interactively blending audio and visuals, and we are looking forward to the Mac version which is coming soon according to the site.

If you like what you see in the video Horizons is a Universal app and you will find it in the app store now for $1.19 (59p).

How to get Audio into your iPad

There is nothing more certain than Apple Geeks trying to use Apple kit for things it is not meant to be used for.

We have experimented a little bit with Apple's Camera Connection Kit (CCK) and audio input to the iPad. The potential is certainly there for fairly clean audio input, with audio output from the headphone socket for monitoring.

You may have heard of OctoPod, now named StudioMini, an iPhone multitrack recording app with built in drum samples. There is an iPad optimised version now, StudioMini XL, with 7 recordable tracks (compared to the iPhone version's 3). We have used the iPhone version and it is a nice app and the drum samples are useful to have to hand for formulating song ideas or recording a whole song without worrying about recording a drum setup.

The developer of StudioMini/XL is himself a professional musician with a wealth of recording experience and he has been experimenting with different ways of recording to the iPad and iPhone using StudioMini, but the principles can be applied to any audio recording app on the iOS devices.

Thankfully for us, he has recorded a series of videos and posted them to YouTube to share his research, including one on using the iRig (not recommended without some sort of amp modeliing). In the video below he is demonstrating how you can use the CCK with a Griffin iMic, a mixer and an assortment of cables to record audio, in this case a guitar, on your iPad.

We found the whole series really interesting, as will anyone else grappling with the best way to record instruments and vocals on their iPad, but if you have tried anything else and it works for you, do let us know about it in the comments.

The iPad - Even Babies Can Use It

Children and toddlers, even Babies, love the iPad and other touch screen devices. The touch interface is entirely natural to them because they use their sense of touch (and mostly taste with Babies) to explore the works from birth onwards.

It is no surprise then that a number of iPad apps are appearing that appeal to this natural exploration but also that are visually stimulating using the large screen of the iPad.

Interactive Alphabet for iPad is one such app recently released by Piieka Street. Using gorgeous visuals and soothing sounds to create a very comforting and relaxing learning environment for pre-school children (and Parents too).

Each letter of the alphabet has its own page which fills the iPad screen. The letter is also spoken in a nice soft voice with some bubbly background music, which can be changed.

 

Something Special

The most engaging feature for children though is the interactive element of each page. There are different ways of interacting with each letter. Some animations are triggered by touch with accompanying sounds, some offer a creative element, for example the letter Q (Quill) becomes a drawing page and the X (Xylophone) lets little ones create music.

It is a lovely way to use your iPad to occupy any young ones and help them learn their letters. Don't worry about them hogging your iPad, you can play with the app once they have gone to bed!

For its launch price of £1.79 ($2.99) up until 16th September, you can't go wrong and would probably be hard pushed to find anything in printed form that could match the fun and interactivity of this app at anywhere near that price point.

A very good preview of the app is provided in the video below, giving you an idea of the interactivity within the app.  

As always, let us know what you think, especially if you have the app yourself, in the comments below.

 

5 Apps We Cannot Wait To See on the iPad - Part 4

With the US launch of the iPad now less than a week away, we take a look at some of the apps we know are coming to the iPad, or that we really want to see hit the platform when it launches.

Some of this is wishful thinking, some of it is just us getting excited about the ways we can hopefully use our iPads. Between now and launch day we will post one app from each core area of the creative sphere. Part 4 of 5 is...

Music - FourTrack

What developers have been able to achieve with the iPhone OS has really impressed us, and the functionality that Sonoma Wire Works have squeezed out of a device like the iPhone as far as audio recording and processing has rarely been bettered in our opinion.

If you are not familiar with what it does, FourTrack emulates the old cassette tape 4-Tracks like the ones that Fostex used to make, and that many bands and musicians used to record their creations on to.  From Sonoma Wire Works' website:

FourTrack multitrack audio recorder is a songwriting and practice tool for singers, guitar players, piano players, and others who want to capture musical ideas and record songs on the iPhone and iPod touch.

With this software on your iPhone and the right sort of external equipment you can even record a 'hit record', as indie band 'The '88' demonstrate in the video below (it is actually this video which made us buy the app for our iPhones).

However, this is not a review of FourTrack for the iPhone, what we want is a bigger and better version of this software, or something very much like it, for the iPad.  In fact what we really want is GarageBand for the iPad, or maybe even a cut down version much like the iPhoto / Aperture-mini we suggested for Photo editing in yesterday's post

Perhaps then we could have 6 or maybe even 8 tracks without needing to 'bounce down' tracks (always a compromise)?  Maybe we could have editable waveforms for recorded tracks instead of needing to export the tracks via wi-fi back to our Macs?  What about a raft of per-track audio effects that can be applied on-the-fly with the extra processing power the iPad affords, just like we can in GarageBand?  There are many possible ways this type of audio recording software could be developed that excite us greatly.  

We think there may be some hardware limitations on what can be input to the iPad, as there are with the iPhone, but the ingenious developers have worked around these things before to bring us solutions like FourTrack.

There was no official word from Sonoma Wire Works about iPad development when we asked them, but we have a feeling we will see something from them very soon, and we cannot wait!

Don't forget to check back tomorrow for Part 5 of our Top 5 apps we cannot wait to see on the iPad. If you haven't already, make sure you don't miss it by subscribing to our RSS feed or follow us on Twitter.