Smite Matter has been a big name in the world of iOS music production for quite some time now, releasing one of the first complete albums made with iOS apps in late 2011, Technopolis Lost, and review apps on his blog ever since. David produces everything on his iPad, using his computer solely as a storage unit for musical ideas. I got another chance to talk with David regarding the revolutionary Auria DAW, and how it’s changed making music for him on iOS. Be sure to follow @SmiteMatter and like his Facebook page to keep up with his music and reviews!
Which do you prefer, Auria or Cubasis?
It is no secret that I am a beta tester for Auria. To be perfectly clear, everything I base the following opinions on is with consideration only to the available production capabilities of the app – I obviously cannot share any testing experiences. That said; Auria is in a category of it’s own as it offers the very best environment and tools to make high quality productions. In my opinion, with regard to making electronic music, it is currently the only legitimate app for fully mastering a song. It has by far the best FX, and plug ins, plus it has full automation. It’s GUI however has been something of a sore spot for many users, myself included. “The most annoying issues I ever have, are related to moving within the tracks and regions, like dragging or zooming, and such. Sometimes it doesn’t respond right away to touch or gesture input. Those are mostly not a problem using it with iPads 3 & 4. I find it is especially better on my iPad 4. Really these are nit picky complaints that have no effect on the sound at all.
Auria is powerful and pushes device resources to their limits especially when using its plug ins and FX, making it difficult to use on iPad 2. I don’t know if it can be made any more efficient or not? It’s easy to avoid problems. Limiting the number of simultaneous Audiobus inputs, and taking advantage of track freeze is key to avoiding low memory, low CPU warnings and crashes. The only times I ever run into those issues are when I forget to close a background app, try to run too many inputs, or fail to freeze tracks with plug ins assigned. Wave Machine Labs is really showing (as seen in recent updates) that they’re listening to users and making solid improvements; like the touch/drag duplicate region bypassing the need for a drop down, and touch controlled TimeStretch.
Cubasis on the other hand, is much different and great in an entirely different way. The GUI is silky smooth, responsive and much more enjoyable to work in. It’s Audiobus integration is very good, and I’ve found it to be the most intuitive and reliable of all that I’ve sampled. It’s problem is that the FX plug ins are subpar and cheap sounding at best. I assume that was a decision made to ensure it would be efficient and/or less demanding on system resources making it more suitable for use on any of the iPads. No Automation, and no serious tools to master anything are a big drawback for me. Steinberg is showing signs that they are listening to end users by recently adding a four band “StudioEQ”, and Limiter. If I weren’t already spoiled by Aurias FabFilter ProQ and ProL, these additions to Cubasis would be more impressive. Unfortunately, I don’t feel very impressed by either. It’s a good step in the right direction for sure. There are however existing apps that do pretty much the same things Cubasis does but at half the price. Take away the complaints from both and combine the elements that make them good, then we have the perfect iDAW. Why no one can get all the good stuff into one app to begin with, is bewildering to me. But I am no developer, so there may be very good reasons. If Cubasis had the high end FX, PlugIns, and Automation etc like those in Auria it would be the end all be all. Visa Versa, if Auria had the fluid GUI, Audiobus integration, MIDI, and so on it would be the killer. In the end I’m optimistic for both to cross the finish line, but I’ll be using whichever has the best sonic capabilities. Today, that app is Auria.
Technopolis Lost was made before Auria was released, what were you DAW app(s) were using for automation and FX? How has Auria has changed your process?
Ha ha, yep, in iOS terms it was a lifetime ago. I used StudioHD a lot. Probably at least half of Technopolis Lost was made in that app. It had (has) automation capabilities. Nothing like Auria, but StudioHD could automate. Everything that I wanted to automate went through StudioHD. Whatever I didn’t make in Studio HD I would do in Multitrack DAW, and a little bit was done with NanoStudio. My biggest troubles were dealing with the poor reverbs. They didn’t have enough depth, swirl or warmth for my tastes, and the tails were thin and short. I often treat reverb as if its an instrument more than an effect. Most had been, and some still are pretty low quality, very basic, but it was unavoidable because of the demands reverb puts on device resources. It’s the most power hungry effect so lowering the quality was necessary. Not so much anymore. I tried to compensate by recording multiple layers of reverb (in some cases reverb, chorus, delay and or a filter) on some parts, layering it on over and over until I felt it was good. Then to widen the sound further I’d run the same part in multiple tracks with alternating levels, pans, and one dry one simultaneously. Occasionally, certain parts were offset in the tracks a tiny bit. Sometimes a single part of a song would be in 3 or 4 tracks with various differences. It was all very tedious and laborious. When Auria came along, it changed my music world. Everything can be automated in very fine detail. Its different quality reverbs are very nice. The convolution reverb with all the extra I.R.s (impulse recordings) of every imaginable reverb type makes it very versatile. Plus there’re multiple different reverb plug ins available with great, unique sounds. In the past I re-recorded parts and used so many FX from numerous apps before I even started really arranging much. Now it’s much easier, and I don’t have to layer FX or resample nearly as often. It has the high quality FX to get me any sound I want. Arrange, mix, tweak, automate and master, all in one place. It has replaced more steps than apps.
Since Auria doesn’t have it yet, what apps are you using for MIDI sequencing? BeatMaker 2? Genome?
Neither of those to be honest. I haven’t spent enough time with Genome to say anything about it. BeatMaker 2 isn’t my cup of tea in general. Good app, sure enough, just doesn’t do it for me. I really don’t do much work with MIDI to be honest. Yet. Weird, I know. I’ve just haven’t felt much need for it. In the past it was even more rare that I would take advantage of any MIDI. Now, I am starting using it more and more. Still not very much though. When I do actually use Virtual MIDI its almost always with Cubasis. It has been the most comfortable and intuitive for me personally. Gotta love that Cubasis interface too, they did a nice job making it highly intuitive. Everything seems to just connect on their own. It has been the most comfortable for my MIDI experiments. I am expecting to receive a portable MIDI controller/keyboard for my birthday, so I presume that’s when I’ll start looking closer at the whole thing.
What do you think at this point is missing on iOS for your production process? an app? a feature in an app?
I think I have everything I need, and then some. All the needed features exist now. What bugs me is when a new app that does something innovative or is just plain cool launches missing features making it difficult incorporate into my process. It is my general opinion that no music app (other than midi controllers) should be sold without support for Audiobus or at least AudioCopy/Paste. Those are features I’m very bored of not seeing launched in new apps or apps coming “soon.” All too often “soon” means “maybe”. I won’t buy anything that isn’t ready for me to use anymore. I’d certainly appreciate a complete iDAW. By complete I mean having the combination of all the strengths from what the current ones have without the weaknesses, wrapped into one app. The holy grail of iOS music production. Someday, right?
See also – Auria vs Cubasis iPad DAWs comparison