Developer apeSoft will be familiar to many iOS musicians through their various iOS music apps. These include iDensity, Stria and iPulsaret (all UK£5.99) plus the rather wonderful (and, to me, quite intimidating to program!) iVCS3 synth-meets-audio effect. If you have encountered any of these apps then you will know that apeSoft don’t really do ‘conventional’. Indeed, the iVCS3 – as a virtual recreation of a classic hardware synth from days gone by – is perhaps as conventional as it gets and, even then, they picked a very distinctive synth to model in software.
Their most recent release is apeFilter and it appeared on the App Store just over a week ago. At one level, apeFilter can be described as an EQ effect and, as every DAW app that you care to think of includes some EQ options, and there are a number of very decent iOS audio effects apps that cover EQ, you can be forgiven for perhaps thinking ‘so what?’ when reading about another EQ app.
However, do bear in mind apeSoft’s track record here; this is a developer that doesn’t really do ‘standard’ and, once you dig in, you soon realise that apeFilter is anything but another ‘me too!’ EQ option. Indeed, while I’m not sure I’m fully qualified to comment on some of the app’s more technical details (I have no idea what a Spectral Grid compiler is, for example), given that you can create an EQ curve with up to 36 peak filters, and that you get very precise control over the settings for each of those filters in terms of gain, frequency and bandwidth, I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to label apeFilter as ‘most surgical EQ currently available for iOS’.
Whether you need to be creative with your EQ or very precisely corrective (to get rid of some unwanted problem frequencies), apeFilter would appear to have the tools to get the job done.
apeFilter is a universal app, is priced at UK£4.99 and, at just a 13MB download, ought to squeeze onto even the most chock-full iOS device. The app can work as a stand-alone processor either applied to a pre-recorded audio file or a ‘live’ audio input. It also has its own recording facility of you want to capture the results of any processing.
Equally, however, it included both Audiobus and IAA support so if you want to use it to process audio from other iOS apps, or as part of a wider music production workflow, then it can easily be done. iOS8 support is also provided. I had no problems using apeFilter in any of these modes and it worked nicely as an IAA effect plugin within Cubasis. The only problem I encountered occasionally was a loss of communication between Cubasis and apeFilter when used in IAA mode and left unattended for a short while. I quick unload/reload for apeFilter within Cubasis restored communication.
You also get AudioCopy and Dropbox support, MidiBus support and, while the focus is very much on EQ, stereo delay, reverb and compression/expansion are also included as post-EQ effects. The level of control offered by these three additional effects is fairly modest but they do produced very respectable results.
As the app is universal, the screen layouts are somewhat different between the iPhone/iPod and when used on an iPad. The screenshots shown here are from the iPad where the bulk of the controls are held in a single screen. On the iPhone, things are spread out over a number of different screens, but you get the same control set overall.
On the iPad, the main screen is split into 5 horizontal strips. At the top we get the usual key controls, presets selection, toggle to switch the accelerometer response on/off (apeFilter’s various parameters can be placed under MIDI control and also made to respond to vertical/horizontal rotation of your iOS device; there is a MIDI learn mode to assist with the configuration required) and access to the Settings menu.
Immediately beneath this is a strip dominated by several rotary controls. These include an input selection switch (live source such as Audiobus or pre-recorded source) and master input and output gain, dry/wet and pan controls. The Center Freq, Q and Gain controls are filter-specific in that as select any of the (up to) 36 peak filters you might have added in the large panel at the base of the screen, these three controls will switch to the settings for that specific filter (EQ band); very neat.
The next strip down from the top provides access to the three additional effects (tap on any of these and further controls appear in a pop-up panel), the internal record option and a further volume control. Beneath this is a live frequency display (if you are using a ‘live’ audio source) or a waveform display (if you are processing pre-recorded audio) so you can get a visual sense of what is happening and, for a live source, what your EQ settings are doing to the audio (just in case you don’t trust your ears) or the ability to identify where a problematic frequency might lie.
Of course, the real business of apeFilter takes place in the final panel. You can, of course, load one of the presets and these come in various flavours giving you a hi-shelf, hipass and lowpass (for example) starting points or you can get various geometic/harmonic patterns. Equally, though, you can just create your own arrangements of peak filters by double tapping on the display to create a filter (EQ band) and then, with it selected (the currently selected filter has a thin white line drawn around it), by sliding up or down to change the gain, left/right to change the frequency or pinching with two fingers to change the Q (bandwidth). Or you can simply select a specific filter and you’re the rotary controls towards the top of the display as described earlier.
However you go about it, what’s impressive is just how precise you can get in terms of defining very narrow peak/notch EQ and this is great if you need to get in and cut some problematic frequency out of your audio.
While apeFilter has an excellent toolset for correct EQ tasks, it also provides plenty of creative options. As mentioned earlier, you can link almost any of the controls to MIDI to automate then. However, the app also includes other options. For example, in the top-most strip is the ‘Link’ button. This locks the relative positions of your various filters together but allows you to move them all left/right (changing their centre frequency) or up/down (changing their gain). For some fairly dramatic EQ sweeps, this can create all sorts of interesting effects.
In addition, you also get the Snapshots Pad. This allows you to select any four EQ presets (ones supplied with the app or ones you have created yourself) and then use the pad to blend the EQ between their various settings as you would with any synth XY controller pad. You can define which four EQ presets are used within the Presets Manager. By default, the first four presets listed in any preset bank are used but you can easily re-order presets as required. Again, the Snapshots Pad provides you with some excellent creative options for ‘playing’ with EQ settings… although do be careful if with anything that applies lots of positive gain as you can easily make things VERY LOUD.
While apeFilter is, on one hand, ‘just an EQ app’, I think it could find itself a home in many iOS musician’s app collections. As a corrective tool, it is undoubtedly the most surgical stand –alone EQ I’ve used for iOS (there are IAPs within Auria that are perhaps the obvious comparison); for very precise EQ tweaks, this is a powerful option.
However, apeFilter also offers some interesting creative options – and I’m sure I’ve only just scratched the surface of what is possible here – that might well appeal to the more experimental music producer or sound designer types. There are plenty of options here to explore.
In general the app behaved very solidly in my own testing and it comes straight of the bat with iOS8, Audobus and IAA support. It might be that your EQ needs are, themselves, more routine and, if so, the EQ in your DAW, or one of the more conventional EQ apps such as AUFX:PeakQ, Level.24 or Master FX are perhaps more than sufficient and deliver great results. However, if you want something both less conventional, and with even greater control, apeSoft’s apeFilter is a pretty good bet.
And, at UK£4.99, it packs a heck of a lot of features in for a very modest price. Perhaps not an essential tool for everyone but certainly a tool everyone could make good use of, both correctively and creatively.