Sunday, 12 December 2010

2011 wish list

It has been a great year for mobile music, especially since the arrival of the iPad. So this isn't in anyway me being greedy or whining, just some stuff I'd like to see in the New Year.

  • An iDevice with a USB port!
  • Or CCK support for the iPhone
  • Support for more than 1 stereo input/output, or a "standard" for streaming audio to another iDevice whilst simultaneously playing a different stream locally. Some DJ apps have this already.
  • A central "sandbox" file system. It is driving me crazy having all these awesome apps but the only way to access common audio is to copy and paste it using (the excellent BTW) Audio Copy/Paste, filling my device with endless copies of the same audio! Make it so I have to confirm any changes or deletion to avoid rogue apps deleting my swag, but for the love of Steve, please let apps use the same data files!
  • An FX/recording app with a built-in web browser so I can get my favourite TAB websites open at the same time as recording and playing my guitar.
  • Amplitube and iShred to recognise my USB audio devices.
  • MIDI support for knob control, pedals etc.
  • Better iPad compatibility with MIDI devices that currently "use too much power" despite being powered by batteries or mains.
  • CoreMIDI support for (deep breath) TouchOSC (ignore the irony - I just don't have time for PD mapping!), Pianist Pro, Pocket Organ, Pro Keys, BS-16i, Ellatron, iVoxel, iGOG, iMS-20, Xenon, Beatmaker, NanoStudio, DXi Piano.
  • More app support for midi file in/out.
  • Option for background audio in all apps. ThumJam does this brilliantly for backing loops.s
App specific:
  • VoiceBand - MIDI out. I've been hugely impressed by the speed and accuracy of VoiceBand's pitch and volume detection, now I'd like to use that with my own sounds. Plugging a guitar into it has to be experienced to be believed!
  • BS-16i - a sequencer with MIDI support and ACP. I was amazed to hear BS-16i in action with some of my soundfonts and MIDI tracks. To be able to edit and create these would be fab.
  • DXi piano - DX/TX patch support. It looks like it almost has something like this with the SYSEX-like patch export and import. Must be close, surely?
Apps I'd love:
  • FM7/FM8 from Native Instruments. I would pay quite a bit for that if it was a proper port.
  • If my wish for a file system came true, then a fully featured sample editor to trim and tweak my samples and loops would be cool.
  • More Korg legacy stuff! iMS-20 is fantastic.
  • A magic bean that lets iOS run VST plug-ins :o)

Switching off my Loox :o(

My beloved Loox 720 sits on my bedside table. It has to be plugged in at all times because in those pre-WinMo 5 days if the device ran out of batteries it lost everything and reset itself. As the battery only lasts about 3 hours that is a bit critical.

But what a great device. Even now the specs look good: twice the screen resolution of my iPhone 3GS, more RAM than my 3GS and as much storage as I could stuff in via BOTH SD and CF cards. USB host port. It found a home in my car as an amazing GPS unit too. All that from 5 years ago.

It took me through some great music making times: Griff, Pocket Stompbox and MeTeoR to name but a few.

Then it was superceded (but not yet turned off) by my WinMo 5 phone, the Glofiish x500. Lower screen res, sure, but it had a phone and built in GPS. My favourite apps had a new home. Then along came the iPod touch. Within a few months even the Glofiish found itself on rare use for Griff and Stompbox sessions. So I turned it off (knowing it won't lose all its stuff).

So now the Loox just sits there, LED glowing but screen covered in a thin layer of dust. It still works brilliantly. Still has an amazing screen. But it simply doesn't get used. It just takes space and power.

Today I'm going to pull the plug...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Initial experiments with iOS4.2 and MIDI/Audio

Getting late but a few people have asked for an update.

First, compatibility with the Novation Remote (25 and 49 tested) and the Behringer UMA25S plugged into my iPad via CCK:

* Behringer: Powered from batteries the iPad recognises and uses the MIDI input from the keyboard perfectly but doesn't enable audio from the UMA25S (says it uses too much power). Powered from PSU the iPad recognises and uses BOTH the MIDI and audio in/out. Fantastic!

* Novation: The iPad always fails to enable the MIDI, complaining about power usage, regardless of whether I use batteries, PSU, USB or any combination. Same goes for both my Remote 25 and 49. Gutted as the keyboards on these are both excellent.

So concentrating on the UMA25S then, I did some app testing.

* MIDI in was perfect on the apps that supported MIDI. Hope for lots of updates soon!
* These guitar apps worked fantastically (such a great sound quality and low noise compared to my iRig): Stompbox (the best IMHO), Ampkit, RiotFX, Amps & Cabs, EffectorLite.
* These guitar apps failed to recognise there was USB audio in: AmpliTube, iShred Live.
* These apps used the USB audio-in perfectly: Filtatron, Improvox
* These apps required me to plug headphones into the iPad but did recognise the USB audio in: Voiceband (which takes on a whole new meaning when used with a guitar and a low noise input!)

That's it for now. Will update as and when I get around to it.

Finally, iOS4.2 is out

Man that was a long wait.

Time to head off home and join the hoards of people updating to iOS 4.2

I already know the camera connection kit is a bit picky about which midi devices and sound devices it works with and seems to cry about a lack of power at every possible turn. Perhaps the final release will be more forgiving?

I assume the iPhone isn't getting CCK compatibility but I'll know for sure in a few hours.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Tickling the plastics

Still waiting for iOS4.2 and rumoured deadlines come and go with all the build-up and let down that comes with it. However a recent ebay session of loft clearing gave me the funds to get a 25 key keyboard as mentioned in my previous post. After intense deliberation and a few failed bids I narrowed my choice right down. I was intent on getting a battery controlled solution, not just for iPad fun but also with an eye on Rock Band 3 with its Pro mode supporting MIDI keyboards. I also decided expression pedal input was a requirement for what I do.

With the Novation X-station running just outside my budget I was looking at the Novation Remote 25, Remote 25SL and the Behringer UMA25S. I had some concerns over the rather fancy nature of the 25SL as it looks heavily dependent on computer-side software for configuration. I already know about the Remote 25 because I have (and love) a Remote 49 as my main keyboard - loads of controls, great keyboard and full MIDI in/out/thru.

The Behringer is an interesting little option - light, easy on batteries and has a built-in USB audio interface. Reviews say its keyboard is quirky, due to half-height action, but are generally
favourable. It only has 8 knobs too, versus a whole host of controls on the Remote 25 & 25SL. An additional fun element, especially with Rock Band 3 in mind, is the guitar lugs and included strap, bringing it rather close to the official RB3 "keytar" controller.

Anyway, I ended up buying BOTH the UMA25S and the Remote 25 and am expecting them to arrive this week. I don't intend to keep both, as that's a bit over my budget, so I shall try them both for a short while before deciding which one to keep. I don't know how useful the Behringer's audio interface will be with the iPad but it would (I think) allow me to mix the iPad's audio with the audio from my iPhone using its line in and direct monitoring. It may offer me a more satisfactory way to get my guitar into the iPad too, as I have to say I haven't been hugely impressed with the iRig hardware thus far - too much noise and feedback despite taking the suggested precautions.

Once I've had a good play I will post my thoughts.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

iOS 4.2 and USB Midi

Finally after months of waiting iOS 4.2 for iPad is due to arrive sometime this month. Speculation went nuts after some news stories mistook Apple's suggestion that the DST alarm problem (which affected me too) would go away after November 7th to be a launch date for 4.2 rather than just being the date that the US changes its clocks!

Ever since hearing that Core MIDI would be in iOS 4.2 I've been waiting to see whether or not that would mean MIDI over USB via the Camera Connection Kit. I have a few MIDI controllers and some USB MIDI controllers too, so MIDI is a big part of what I like to mess around with. Hooking these up to the iPad would be fantastic.

Whilst NDAs seem to block anyone from saying anything, MooCow music put out a video on YouTube that got me all excited. Not only does it show MIDI happily going over USB but that video is an X Station 25. Why is that important? Well the X Station is not class-compliant, and also it has a built in USB audio interface. So that bodes well for compatibility of other devices. I would be keen to know from MooCow if the iPad in the video had its audio in/out taken over by the X Station.

So now (for me) the hunt is on for a 25 key controller keyboard. Mine are all 49 key and not portable in any way. It'll have to be compatible with the iPad and ideally battery powered, to avoid having to use a USB splitter cable and some form of external power source such as the Duracell PPS2.

There's a fair few to choose from, but nothing yet stands out as "perfect" to me, and of course compatibility cannot be guaranteed. I'd welcome any comments from anyone who has tried and succeeded with any of these mentioned (or any other 25 key controllers). So far I'm looking at:

Novation Xiosynth
M-audio Axiom
Novation SL25 MK1
M-audio oxygen
Akai MPK25
Alesis Photon X25
Novation Nocturn 25
Novation x-station
Novation SL25 Compact
Novation SL25 Mk 2

Of these, the only battery powered ones are the Novation Xiosynth, X Station, SL 25 MK1 and the Alesis Photon X25. Any other suggestions?

Looking forward to some awesome times over Xmas. The list of fantastic iOS music apps just keeps on growing, and MIDI support will be mind blowing.

Monday, 20 September 2010

StompBox is on the way.

I can't wait! StompBox on PPC was awesome and this just looks fantastic - the closest thing to a full guitar rig I have yet seen on iOS.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

While my guitar gently bleeps

What a great time for mobile guitarists! Barely a week goes by without another iOS app for axe ministers and right now the fight for FX king is well and truly on. Although only just now overtaking the benchmark set a few years ago by Pocket PC based Pocket Stompbox, iOS apps have rapidly gone from simple delay and distortion to fully fledged stomp box, amp and cab simulators. I've tried just about all of them and at the moment my top two are Riot FX and the recently released Amplitube iRig. IRig is considerably pricier, but worth the money IMHO. IK Multimedia have just released the iPad version, which is a separate app also priced at $20, which is a little disappointing for those who have already forked out the same for the iPhone version. A universal app would be much more welcomed I'm sure, but you can run the iPhone version on the iPad in Zoom-o-vision of course. As iRig comes with what I think is a great fun Wah Wah simulator I'll be trying to think of a way to latch my iPhone onto me whilst playing - maybe one of those sports armband case things on my foot :)

Recently a "dream come true" arrived in the shape of iShred Live, a live input version of THE BEST guitar sim on any device. I've wanted this from the moment the original iShred came out. Unfortunately the competition is so fierce that iShred Live is not yet a front-runner in the live FX stakes. I hope it will become one.

Still to come is Ampkit, with accompanying hardware to rival IK's hardware/software combo. Interestingly the Ampkit hardware is battery powered which the makers claim will provide less crosstalk and feedback. As I'm not flush enough to buy both I'll be looking for reviews keenly to see which is best for my meagre buck (or should I say pound?!)

Mentions should also go out to the various other apps that have graced my iDevices in the search for FX heaven - stompvox, effectorlite, amps&cabs and GuitarFx deluxe.

Links and pics to come.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Shiny new iPad is busy syncing as I write. So much for willpower...

Friday, 7 May 2010

iWay robbery!

The UK price of a $499 iPad? $633 at current exchange rate. Thanks Steve, love you too.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Born again: the FULL Rebirth on you iPhone

Not a typo. You read that correctly. Go now!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

I wanna be slated

The iPad is out (in the US anyway), and will be here in the UK next month. No word on pricing yet, which is a tad worrying. My guesstimate is over £400 for the base model.

I still have gear lust for it. It looks lovely and, taken as a "giant iPod Touch", it seems to run very slick indeed. I have to say few of the apps have really astounded me yet. Perhaps the most impressive native app in my mind is Korg's iElectribe. Most of my fave synths have yet to be updated, but I'm sure they would be much more usable with larger on-screen "keys".

But apart from the unknown price, and the delays, some cracks are starting to appear. Weak wifi is a concern for me (my access is borderline at best) and I recently heard over at PalmSounds that the dock connector doesn't support audio-in, which buggers up my beloved stereo recording Macally iVoice Pro 3.

This has made me sit up and consider my usage requirements. In all honesty, my music making is better served by my PC, with its multiple soundcards (one internal, one USB) and professional level audio software (Cubase VST and VirtualDJ). The reason I do more with my iPhone is simple: it is there, on my desk or in my pocket, and is "instant on". My PC is a hulking beast that takes about a week to finish booting up.

Going full circle this points me back towards portable Windows based devices. I lusted after the Viliv S5 before getting my iPhone, and then kept a watchful eye over the myriad tablet/slate devices that were rushed to announcement a short while before everyone knew Apple was likely to announce a slate/tablet. Most of these run either Android or a Linux variant, but the HP slate has really caught my eye. It's a PC. It runs PC software. It's compatible with PC peripherals. It's portable and multi-touch. It's expandable. It runs Flash on websites (Hobnox?). It's allegedly going to be competitively priced with the iPad. I work with Windows all day and like it. I could run the Windows-only work apps I need on the HP slate. The only kick in the plums is the screen resolution - 1024x600 is also what puts me of most netbooks. It does have HDMI output though.

Hmm, am I breaking up with the iPad before we even go on our first date?

Thursday, 8 April 2010

iPhone OS 4.0

Lots announced. My personal take:

* Folders. Finally!
* Multitasking. A little bit of a fudge by the looks of it, but highly welcome. Probably as good as it was going to get.
* Background audio. Cool!
* Bluetooth keyboard. Ooooh. Potentially thus Bluetooth gamepad?

Definitely did not see explicit reference to shared files between apps though. Why? What is so bad about having sound files that can be used by a bunch of different apps?

Thursday, 28 January 2010

iPad, will uPad?

Had to laugh at the Apple press launch yesterday - quite literally the iPad is a giant iPod Touch. They could have even named it the iPod XL or something. Many were hoping for a touch-screen laptop minus the keyboard, like the Windows based tablets on show, which would be nice for business users and those wanting to integrate with their work. I can't say I'm overly surprised at what it turned out to be, and I doubt it will be that sucessful in its first version.

However, I really really really want one! Sure there's no GPS on the base model, no front mounted camera that would allow for awesome Skype video calls and no standard USB ports for adding storage, cameras, game controllers, midi devices etc. If there's one thing we have learned from Apple in recent years, it's "expect to be underwhelmed and the device to be underspecced compared to what others have been doing for years."

So why do I want one? Web browsing at a higher resolution would be great. My iPhone is already my main browser these days, so a bigger version has to be cool. No flash though (d'oh!). Being able to use my many apps without re-buying them would be great too, although I'm not that convinced about pixel-doubling meaning games will simply "just work" (not least of which due to the placement of on-screen controls that were designed for a 3" device not a 10" one). Video will also be amazing - BBC iPlayer, YouTube HD etc. Bring it on!

Mainly I look forward to music apps. Full width virtual keys, more stuff on screen, more multiple touches (is that one true, about the 10 finger multi-touch?). That's going to be awesome.

It's far from perfect, far from business-like, far from a Windows tablet killer, looks like it'll slip off your lap and smash into a thousand tiny pieces and far from pocketable. I love it :o)