Mobile music creation on Apple's iOS devices

Archive for May, 2015

 Alchemy Synth is back! 


Alchemy restored — wonders and miracles in the App Store.  

These past few days has been an exciting time for many iOS musicians. We’ve had a couple of very special, new apps hit the App Store, and a near miracle occurred with the return of Alchemy Synth.  

As it was a tragedy, I will mention Alchemy Synth first. Hooray — Alchemy has returned to the App Store. This has been my favorite music creation app, a real go-to app for me over the last three years. Well, the app developers, Camel Audio, shuttered their doors (went under and closed shop a few months back), and the app was pulled from the App Store.  Well, however news had surfaced that Apple bought them and that by June or July there would be some answers for the app owners.


This is a big deal for many fans of this synth app because without an entry in the App Store, restoring previous in app purchases was very difficult if not impossible for some. And heck just getting the app on say, a new device, was near impossible as well. But today there is an App Store update and the update info states that it is all about restoring the previous IAPs. I am doing exactly that on my iPad-mini retina where just five days ago I had deleted Alchemy to get back badly needed storage space. It was the advent of a new app, or a couple of them actually, that allowed me to feel comfortable with deleting Alchemy from one of my iDevices.


New apps and loads of new sounds 

Korg made a surprise released of the iM1 synth workstation app just days after KV331 Audio released their highly anticipated Synthmaster app.  

Synthmaster for iPad is similar to Alchemy in many regards; they both come from existing desktop software synths, both offer a synth player app, not a true synth, for iOS. Both are initially free with available pro upgrades and IAPs for sound packs. I do like Synthmaster quite a bit In the short time I have played with it, even though the app had a bit of trouble at launch and needs some fixes and a new UI. However, the sounds are brill.

Just as I was getting used to Synthmaster; Korg released the iM1 synth workstation app. Again, an app that comes from the desktop, but even better in that they emulate the real hardware from the widely sold Korg M1 synth workstation. This app offers a couple of inexpensive sound packs (emulating the memory cards that were used in the hardware…back in the day). With the IAPs there are more than 1,800 instrument sounds. Now, many sounds throughout the cards are a bit redundant, but they are very good, high quality sounds. But it gets even better.



Korg’s iM1 offer some unique performance options including built in Kaos pads, a chord player, multi-layered sounds, tweakable parameters, and more. But maybe the neatest trick is that iM1 is available as a new instrument from within Korg’s fantastic Gadget app. It is a great, and for me, a needed addition to Gadget.

Each of these apps in their unique way, provide for me an inspiring music making environment. Once the inspiration turns to perspiration, with both Gadget and Alchemy, as examples, I can easily take the music, and the MIDI data files out and get those into a DAW (desktop or iPad) for further recording, mixing, and mastering.

Paving the way

For iOS musicians, the ability to create full sounding renderings from our compositions, has become a bit easier, and the quality of generated sounds is really top notch. As one further example of my view that iOS is a serious music production platform let us consider this from the desktop world.  A recent poll of desktop music software users rated the 50 best desktop software synthesizer plug-ins and three of those I recognized as having a version on iOS. And they are: 
Arturia-SEM – #21. I have the iOS iSem app and am quite fond of it.

Z3TA+ – #14. I do not own the iOS app, but it is a high-rated, and much loved synth.

SynthMaster – #2. Synthmaster, the synth is number two for desktop users, that is cool news. For iOS we have the Synthmaster player app, a player of preset sounds…fantastic sounds that someone else designed and tweaked…I love it, since I don’t have much time for that stuff.


* I should also mention that #30 on the list is the Fab Filter Twin 2 synth which is coming to iOS as a part of the future Auria Pro upgrade.

The thing that really strikes me here is seeing iOS get even more seasoned software developers porting their work over…it is a growing trend. There are rumors in the air of even more coming.  Also to mention is how some apps have gone the other way, porting from iOS to the desktop as a plug-in.  Again this is nothing new, several iOS music apps also exist in a similar form on the desktop, such as Nano Studio, Sunvox, Crystal Synth; all very good software music tools. But the difference it seems is that larger music software developer shops are coming on board to iOS in larger numbers (admittedly, KV331 Audio is not a big firm, but they are not a 1 or 2 person shop either…or they have a lot of other resources).  But these are known entities, and it feels really good to see these quality apps coming and knowing there is a big bright future for iOS music making.

There’s been a lot of app news and fun things happening recently, but the most important question is: what does this do for my music?   Well, I hope to answer that soon with some groovy new tunes. 

Be seeing you 
– Bourne 28May15 



Aid to Nepal from iOS musicians 

On Tuesday May 12, 2015 Nepal suffered its second major earthquake in less than three weeks.  To help out the people of Nepal, iOS record label, Apptronica, has released a community collaboration effort to help raise awareness and funds. 

“Dreaming Together (For the People of Nepal)” is a really cool album and and so it’s worth a donation anyway, but Apptronica has set this up to help and — well we all should help.  Please read their press release (link below) and then buy the download, for a donation of your choice (via the second link).  

Press release:
Album link:

Please share these links and help spread the word

Many thanks,

— Bourne 


App demo — Beatwave 

Good day, 

My first Instructional app demo is up on YouTube.  I used a really cool app called “Explain Everything” to make the bulk of the video.  

Beatwave, version 2.5 from developer Collect3, is a pattern based sequencer that can be used to make a wide variety of tunes…from EDM to Jazz.  It’s a Free universal app requiring iOS 7 and up and is a 77.2 MB download.  Even though it is a sequencer it does not have MIDI, however it is Audiobus and Inter App Audio comparable.  Various in-app purchases (IAP) are available and the video demo uses the full Pro upgrade ($9.99 at this time).  

The quality of the sampled sounds are darn good and it’s a fun and now fully functional music making app.  This app has a long history and sat dormant for a while as iOS music making gained large strides.  Last summer (2014) the app received a huge upgrade to 2.0 with other enhancements and fixes is now up to 2.5 (I used the Beta build, version for the app demo). 

As it is a free app, it’s worth a look, especially if you are interested in similar apps such as Auxy or Medly, which are also pattern based sequencers…and all are free on the App Store. 

I had to split the video due to the size, according to a pop up message when I tried to upload to YouTube from my iPad.  Anyway, here they are: 

Beatwave part-1 
Beatwave part-2 

Be seeing you

— Bourne 06May15