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Entries in looping (1)

Fantastic Looptastic HD Review

Perhaps it's because it stirs up long forgotten memories of hours and hours spent playing with Codemasters' Music game on the original Playstation, or because we secretly wanted to grow up to be Fatboy Slim, but from the moment we started creating mixes with Looptastic HD we were hooked.

The awesome sound quality, flexible mixing tools and excellent use of the iPad screen in the app's User Interface (UI) made our jaws drop.

This is an iPad optimised app done right, so we are going to dive in to the detail and tell you why you should go and buy this app for your iPad now!

An Overview

Before we discuss some of the main features of Looptastic HD in detail, here is an overview of the app's features from the App Store:

  • Includes more than 900 high-quality loops arranged in Loop Sets that contain drums, bass, keys and effects for your remixing pleasure. Genres include Trance, Hip Hop, Dubstep, Ambient, Breakbeat, Drum ’n’ Bass, Minimal, Progressive House, and Reggaeton.
  • Record your own loops using the built in microphone or headset.
  • Includes 12 realtime effects with X-Y touch pad control, including Bit Crusher, Multimode Filtering, Flanger, Delay, and Glitchy Repeater.
  • Automatically time-stretches all loops to fit the master tempo.
  • Triple-zone mixer: Crossfade between zones for cues and breakdowns, apply effects to any zone.
  • Unique Scratch Strip lets you retrigger a loop from anywhere in the waveform.
  • Import your own loops in AIFF, WAV, or OGG format using an easy Web interface.
  • Capture and export your performances to Mac or PC as 16-bit stereo AIFF files.
  • Import audio loops from compatible applications via Sonoma Wireworks AudioCopy and Paste.
  • Share your mix/remix/performance with the world via SoundCloud!

The Sounds

Looptastic HD comes supplied with a selection of Loops but many more (over 900) are available as a FREE download from within the app via the Loop Store button on the front screen. These Loop Sets cover several different genres, as listed below.

Armed with a ton of great sounding samples you can add as many as you like from just one Loop Set or really mix things up and select samples from different genres to include in your track (you can see this being demonstrated in the video above).

Each Loop Set has a mixture of types, colour coded so that the grey ones represent rhythm or percussion, the red are usually vocal samples (sometimes special effects), the blue loops are keyboard or synth parts and the green loops are bass parts.

You quickly become used to seeing these coloured loops and associate them with their function, which makes putting your own mixes together a lot easier.

We have to say again that the loops sound for the most part really, really good and enhance the experience and professional feel of the mixes that you can create.

Roll Your Own

There is the danger of course that using the supplied loops often enough can make your tracks sound familiar or a bit samey, and you will probably be able to tell when you hear a Looptastic created track somewhere else.

You are not limited to the loops provided with the app though. You can record your own samples using the built-in mic or the headset mic. This lets you incorporate completely unique and original elements into your track and is a very useful feature to have when you need it.

Alternatively, if you have an existing loop or set of audio samples in AIFF, WAV or OGG formats then you can import these into Looptastic via the Wi-Fi web browser interface. This is no small feature, this allows you to import virtually anything into the app and use it in your mixes, just think about it, the creative possibilities are endless.

We think this might turn out to be one of those sleeper features that someone is going to utilise to create a track in a way that we haven't thought about yet.

Audio Paste

Another sonic tool available to you is Audio Paste. This lets you record audio in one of the other 28 apps that support Sonoma Wireworks Audio Copy and Paste and then use that audio as one of your loops. Very nice!

Some of the apps that have Audio Copy support include Instantdrummer, DopplerPad, ThumbJam, PianoStudio and retro speech synthesis favourite Vox 3000.

Again, this adds a whole host of other soundscapes that you can introduce to your Loopstastic HD mixes.

The UI

The careful thought and attention to detail that Sound Trends have put in to the User Interface for Looptastic HD is evident as soon as you start using it. The app builds upon the foundation of Sound Trends' previous apps for the iPhone/iPod Touch, most resembling Looptastic Producer.

Our experience with the iPhone versions of these type of apps were, to be honest, a bit frustrating due to the limited screen size, especially when your mixes and performances got a bit frantic.

With Looptastic HD all the parts of the interface, that on the iPhone are split out on to separate screens, can now be found altogether on the main screen. Of course the UI has been optimised for the iPad's larger display and the elements look nice, sharp and very attractive.

The control layout makes sense too, with the 'Mix Zone' area at the top of the iPad screen being the main canvas for adding, removing and mixing the loops for your track, whilst the X-Y touch pad control takes centre stage in the lower part of the screen. The touch pad is flanked on the left by the Loop Sets and on the right by the Live Effects (more on both of these below).

At the very top of the screen is a waveform representation of the loop you currently have selected. It may not be immediately obvious what you should do with this Scratchstrip but try sliding your finger from about half way along the waveform back to the left. Yes, you are now scratching, stuttering and stabbing like a Vinyl DJ only with more accuracy and control, starting from anywhere in the loop.

It is hard to explain this but if you watch the video at the end of this post you will see all of these UI elements in action.

Multi-touch and Zones

Dragging a loop or clip and dropping it onto one of the three mix areas (Left, Centre and Right) starts them playing, but you can drag up to five loops at once with multi-touch.  This means whole sections of a song can easily be introduced to your mix at once.

Where you drop the loops is important. The nearer your loop is to the top of the screen the louder it is played in the mix. This can be changed on the fly at any time by dragging the loop up or down.

Which of the three mix areas you drop it onto is also important but likewise can be changed by moving it left or right at any time. The central area is always played but just below the mix area is a Crossfader control so you can play just the left and centre, just the right and centre, or a mix of the three anywhere in-between.

All of the above affords you an amazing amount of control over your track and sometimes you have to remind yourself you are doing this on an iPad!

Live Effects

To the right of the central X-Y touch pad is the Effects panel. This allows you to apply professional sounding filters to the mix as a whole or, more impressively, just one or two of the Mix Zones.

This is fundamental to creating professional sounding mixes affecting, for example, the vocals and synth parts whilst leaving the drums, percussion and bass parts untouched and 'clean'.

It is a very impressive feature that is demonstrated nicely in the video at the end of this post.

Expand Your Horizons

In addition to all of this, if you are fortunate enough to have two iPads, or you can borrow a friend's (this also works with an iPhone/ iPod Touch) you can hook them up via Bluetooth and the second device becomes an extension of yours, giving you a much bigger canvas to play on.

In the latest version of Looptastic HD, version 1.6, Sound Trends introduced BPM syncing between the two iPads to keep your mixes sounding awesome and allowing even more flexibility when introducing loops of different tempos.

If you want to know more about how the BPM Syncing works, take a moment to watch SoundTrends' video below:

Exporting and Sharing your mixes - We want to hear yours!

Looptastic HD records everything you do in the app when you start a new mix. You can save a track and play it back, which is just like watching a video of everything that you did during the mix session and you can skip backwards and forwards along the timeline too if you want.

You cannot edit what you have done directly in the app but you can export your mix in its entirety as a high quality 16 bit stereo AIFF to a computer via wi-fi for editing or conversion.

You can also send your track directly to SoundCloud, a free music hosting and sharing service that has a nice looking interface and more recently (beta) HTML 5 support for iOS devices (unfortunately not on embedded tracks, so you will only see them on SoundCloud's website with iOS devices). SoundCloud is fast becoming the site of choice for independent artists and established record labels to share new music and even ordinary members of the public like us to share our musical creations with the world.

We have an iPad Creative page on SoundCloud and if you want to share your track with us visit our page and click on the Send a track button, we would love to hear what you can do with Looptastic HD.

There's More

There is so much more to this app that we don't have room to cover. Really, the best way to find out is to get the app and explore it for yourself.  The more you play with it and experiment with the sounds and mixing them together the more you will appreciate the power of this app.

It is easy to get caught up in this app and lose hours without realising it, especially if you have harboured secret DJ fantasies for many years.

Yes we know you aren't going to be replacing the professional DJ at an Ibiza nightclub, so please don't scoff at us for being so impressed by an iPad app if you are 'in the trade' as a professional sound master, but for the rest of us who love to create something new with quite a bit of help getting started, Sound Trends have designed and built a real winner here in Looptastic HD.

In Comparison to Groovemaker

As you can tell, we loved Looptastic HD. We also loved playing with Groovemaker for iPad when we reviewed it a few months ago.

If there is one thing we think may put people off about Looptastic HD, it is the price, but it shouldn't. When you compare it to other loop mixing apps like Groovemaker (Free initial download) for example, Looptastic HD initially feels a bit pricey at $14.99 (£8.99).

But add into the Groovemaker price the different Packs, all but one at $9.99 (£5.99) each, it soon adds up and with Looptastic all the loops come as a free download once you have paid out initially.

The two apps do not compare directly either, the Groovemaker for iPad UI is completely different and the approach to the mix sessions is also different to Looptastic.  We think Looptastic is probably more immediately accessible, but both apps have deeper controls and flexibility in their approach that is only found when spending more time with them.

Groovemaker probably has the edge as far as creating a custom version of your mix goes because it allows you to record different grooves and allows you to stitch them together before exporting.

Looptastic is more flexible or expandable due to the Audio Paste and Loop import options, which Groovemaker does not have, so there are unique features in both apps and which one you go for depends on what you want to do with the app and the interface you prefer.

Final Thoughts

If you are at all interested in creating catchy rythmic sounds with your iPad that can then be shared with the world or just saved on your computer for when you want to revel in your own musical genius, then go and get Looptastic HD.

The video below offers an insight into what you can do with Looptastic HD and what some of the controls we mentioned above look like in action.

Remember to let us know when you upload your track to SoundCloud and we will give it a listen.

Looptastic HD 1.6.1 is available in the app store now for $14.99 (£8.99). 

As always, we want to know what you think of Looptastic HD, so let us know in the comments below.

This demonstration video shows how the interface works and how deep you can go with this amazing app.