20 Brief Reviews of iPad Apps for Music Production

I posted this screenshot up on my Facebook page a while back hoping to have the time to actually try all these apps soon. Well I’ve just got back from travelling about and plently of bus, train and plane trips means I’ve had time to give each of them a good look over. I thought some quick reviews might help folks decide where to spend their iOS cash.

touchAble – For controlling Able Live, if you have Live get this app. It has this bouncy ball thing that you assign to automate any parameter you want, yeah it’s pretty cool.

touchOSC – A customizable control surface for MIDI and OSC. Very useful, heaps of pre-made templates online, cool looking GUI.

nanoloop – One of the original chip-tune programs for Gameboy on iOS, how can you not love it. Interface takes a little getting used to.

SoundPrism – Really cool MIDI controller app that organises notes on a grid in such a way that makes it easy to put together chords. I quickly come up with ideas that I would never stumble across on a keyboard. You can a free version to test it out then buy the ‘pro’ version to get MIDI output.

sampletoy – A fun sample mangler for iPhone.

Beatmaker – Now superseded by Beatmaker II. I just got Beatmaker II and it’s great, seriously powerful sampler/sequencer app (an MPC in the iPad basically). I can really see myself using this on the regular, especially for quick ideas, chopping samples, and putting together drum kits. I wish this is what iMaschine was…

Filtatron – The idea of having a virtual Moog filter in my iPad didn’t really excite me at first, the whole point of a Moog filter is it’s analog, right? Well the other factor is that it’s hands-on, and after playing with this app I loved it. The interface is a pleasure to use, and just begs you to freak it out, something you just don’t do the same clicking around on a screen. It actually makes me want to buy one of these Alesis IODock things so I can incorporate it into my studio workflow easily.

Alchemy – One of my favourite VSTs as an iOS app, what could go wrong? Well the fact that it is just a glorified ROMpler, and the ‘pro’ version is a glorified ROMpler that also controls the VST… whoo hoo. I suppose it’s good if you’re into their presets, but I was pretty disappointed by this much hyped app.

MultiTrack – A pretty serious DAW-like app. Pretty impressive really, you could easily record and mix a jam session, and get it sounding pretty decent using the built-in EQ and compressor. I bought it to paste in tracks using audio copy from other apps, but haven’t really used it that much, Beatmaker II is more my thing. Still, it’s a quality app and will probably come in handy one day.

GriidPro – Another app to control Ableton Live. Also awesome, though I’d probably give the edge to touchAble because I like it’s GUI and it’s got a few really cool features. Griid is better for for clip-triggering duties, and I’ll probably use it in my live setup.

iMaschine – I was really excited about this, because I’d really love to use my iPad to make drum kits and simple loops, that I can later import into Maschine and flesh out into a whole track. iMaschine is useless to me, because there is no ADSR envelope, and no filter per pad. It really is pretty shit, though I hold some hope that they’ll make it less shit in the future.

Polychord – Similar idea to SoundPrism, in that it’s an alternative interface for creating chord progressions. It’s got a totally different interface however, and is equally awesome.

CrystalSynthXT – An iOS version of the popular freeware VST Crystal. I love the idea of being able to create synth patches on the go, then import them into the VST plugin later and get to work on a track. This isn’t some cut-down peice of shit like Alchemy, it’s a proper synth and I can actually use it how I described. The interface is a little fiddly at times, but all-in-all a great app.

Animoog –  An excellent synth for iPad. Not only does it sound great, it has an excellent interface, and a range of features that make it quite unique. Moog have really taken advantage of the touchscreen, and made an instrument designed for the iPad, not just copied the standard virtual analog software synth paradigm.

iMS20 – A great app that recreates the legendary MS20, plus adds a sequencer and drum machine. As a veteran of Korg’s DS-10 for Nintendo DS (check out my EP made entirly on the DS-10), I was expecting a lot from this app, probably too much. I was a little disappointed that there is only 1 synth + 6  drum parts, as opposed to the DS-10’s 2 synths + 4 drum parts, which seriously limits your ability to make a whole track inside the app. I really enjoyed the limitations of the DS-10, which is why I made an EP with it, and I don’t know why but iMS20 doesn’t excite me enough to try a similar project… maybe I don’t have the patience, or maybe I’m just spoilt for choice. Still one of the best apps, especially if you think of it more as a kick ass drum synth/sequencer.

iElectribe – I was hoping for some deeper synth capabilities (hmmm recurring theme?), but the iElectribe is still tonnes of fun. The fact that you can sequence the effect type and all the parameters makes it more versatile than it looks from first inspection, I even took it into glitch territory by freaking FX parameters. Not a lot to it, but lots of fun for what it is.

SoundyThingie – An app that translates drawn lines into music. Pretty weird but very fun. I’m not sure if it’s that ‘useful’, but that’s not always the point. Could probably use it for making some riser and fx/glitch stuff.

TweakyBeat – A really simple drum machine synth, but lots of fun to play with.

TNR-i – After being burnt a couple of times, I was half expecting another cut-down app to cash in on some hardware hype. But after a quick play, I was pleasantly surprised and realised that some serious effort had gone into this app. You’ve really got to read through the manual to get the most from it, there is a lot there and I’m excited to explore this one some more.

iKaossilator – Ther’s no way to import your own sounds (as far as I can tell), which is a shame. But I put my aversion towards presets away for a minute and really enjoyed playing with this app.

I think I’ve covered most of the popular iOS apps for music production, and a few that get less coverage. Anyone have any other suggestions? I’m looking forward to giving this a go next: Sunrizer Synth. Shit got real the other day when I realised I can have Beatmaker II playing in the background, load up another synth like Animoog or Sunrizer, play, record and audiocopy/paste. I think that’s a pretty cool combo. You can also can use core MIDI to use Soundprism/Polychord to control Animoog. Pretty fucking amazing how powerful some of these apps are, but I think the best bit is that you come up with stuff that you wouldn’t sitting in front of your PC with a MIDI keyboard. Plus you can do it sitting at the beach.

2 Responses to 20 Brief Reviews of iPad Apps for Music Production

  1. Dope mini reviews, I’m going to check out a couple now.

    I was also really disappointed by iMaschine. It’s really just a toy rather than a particularly useful bit of kit.

    I had the original Beatmaker for iPhone. Now I’m on the iPad I might check out Beatmaker 2

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