To iOS or not to iOS?
I have dabbled with iOS apps for a while but up to now i haven't been sold on their ability to form a music making platform and importantly for me integrate into existing set ups. However I'm now a convert after an invitation to collaborate changed all that. It's been a privilege, pleasure and honour to be working with MSXII Sound Design, a company well known for their sample packs especially around classic and retro sounds and instruments. MSXII Sound Design have a fantastic, solid reputation in the world of sample packs and resources working with companies such as Native Instruments, Output, Novation to name a few. But the reason i write this article isn't directly about their sound packs. The opportunity to collaborate introduced me to a wider world of iOS apps and allowed me to take a deep dive into integration with other music apps and also with external gear. This is an area i have stepped in and out of, occasionally using iPad based synths and some general applications. However the leap forward in app design now means that iOS apps have developed enormously in the last couple of years and an evolution that to me had gone unnoticed. Right now MSXII Sound Design are innovators in this area. Having already released two AUv3 effects, Lo-Fly Dirt and Fly Tape i was surprised how well they do actually integrate into a wider set up. For those that don't know AUv3 is a standard that enables iOS based applications to operate as a plug-in to connect with and integrate to other Apps. This not only allows a iPad based setup with say a synth and effect chain, but also to allow external gear to connect in and out of the iPad environment. A host app such as AUM or Audiobus provide the environment to do so although some apps are stand alone too. The first two MSXII Apps are effects providing tape style emulation in the case of Fly Tape and a distortion / colouring using Lo-Fly Dirt. These are great and brings features only previously handled in a DAW or with expensive outboard to the likes of a iPhone. The advancement of hardware support for iOS has also moved on. Mixers such as Roland's Go-Mixer Pro have made it even easier to connect iPads and tablets to external gear. Synthdawg wrote the manuals for these apps and i followed the normal principles of only collaborating where i shared a passion and where i use the gear (in this case apps) in my own studio. Some will say im therefore biased in my view. Well hell yeah, thats absolutely true, i make no apologies here. I have learnt more about these apps and therefore become attached. However rest assured i have also become acted to others too, learning more and realising the integration can be managed very well and the quality and features of widely available apps is growing.
One of Synthdawg principles is to write about the gear i use. I'm now sold on the practicality of interfacing iPad apps to my desktop hardware setups. In fact i often get sidetracked by the experimentation and exploration. More music less writing ! It's how it should be. Now we have Chomplr which takes the innovation even further. This time MSXII have stepped away from pure effects and developed a creative app thats both stand alone and operates when chained within other app hosts. It inspires and motivates a new way of thinking. Chomplr is inspired from the classic rompers from yesteryear this time in a new environment. Samples are chopped, looped and manipulated. Effects can be added and slices adjusted. The creativity seems endless but this is only Version 1 at the time of writing. I know the roadmap will appeal to many and bring more new features along the journey. Couple it with gear such as Teenage Engineerings OP-Z and triggering iPad Chomplr samples while operating the OP-Z synth and drums works in harmony even over bluetooth. Rabbit holes can be exciting and i have to admit I'm now sold on the integration of iOS apps to the desktop hardware setup. So much so i have upgraded my studio a little. No, not with more music gear but from iPad to an iPad Pro. I believe in this platform and especially on the move it keeps the motivation and inspiration alive. Ive used hip-hop samples with classic electronic genres. It worked. I have explored the apps such as AUM and Audiobus which make integration of the tablet apps and external gear possible. Garageband and Beatmaker 3 provide an all in one DAW type of environment and allow other iOS effects to be added. The list is growing and in my experience there are few 'poor' apps out there and the standards ad quality are growing by the day. So what next? Well i know there is more to come, i also know the innovation will continue. I recommend any music producer to give apps a try and to see how your personal journey goes. Test yourself, adventure and explore. It's rewarding. It's great to see companies who are passionate about music and music production committing to the world of iOS and innovating, raising the bar and challenging themselves to give us all something new and different. The question now is will you?