Regular readers will recall that, way back in 2013, I reviewed Secret Base Design’s Apollo MIDI over Bluetooth app when it was first launched and I also took a look at the Mac OSX version when that appeared a few weeks later.
For those who have not tried Apollo yet, the iOS app allows you to transmit MIDI data in realtime between two iOS devices and, if you are an iOS musician who owns more than one iOS device, given the pocket money price, Apollo is no-brainer; it’s a brilliant concept and an excellent utility app to have available. Being able to share the load between multiple devices is a neat trick and I’ve had no problems using Apollo between any of my Bluetooth capable iOS hardware.
However, the option I’ve perhaps used most regularly is between my OSX and iOS systems. For example, Apollo is great if I want to use my master MIDI keyboard (generally connected to my iMac via USB) to play an virtual instrument on my iPad. Apollo on the Mac is a free download from the Apple App Store and, providing you also have the iOS app, this allows similar connectivity between an iOS device and your OSX computer.
This obviously has some real potential for those iOS musicians who like to integrate their iPad/iPhone music technology with their desktop technology. While you can make such a MIDI data connection through hardware or via WiFi, to be able to do it via Bluetooth offers the potential of greater speed (meaning a more responsive system) and a few less cables to worry about.
The obvious applications here are for sending MIDI data from an iPad to your desktop DAW (for example, I use apps like Chordion to play MIDI parts into my desktop synths) or to send MIDI data from a DAW (or your MIDI keyboard connected to your desktop system) to a synth running on your iPad.
Anyway, Patrick Madden from Secret Base Design launched Apollo 2 just a few weeks ago. While the basic premise remains the same, the new version produced a revamp of some key features including scale options for the keyboard, a dual keyboard option on the iPad at least) and improved MIDI routing options.
However, hot on the heels of v.2, comes v.2.2, which arrived just before the week-end. This also brings new features – which I’ll get to in a second – but also brings something of a re-branding; Apollo MIDI over Bluetooth is now called Apollo MIDI Controller. The change of name is justified because, as well as sending MIDI note data, the app now includes configurable pads – accessed via the Pads button located top-left of the keyboard display – and these can be configured to send notes, chords or MIDI Program Change or MIDI Continuous Controller data. There are ten banks of ten pads available for each keyboard (and two keyboards on the iPad so do the math(s)) :-)
Having given the new version a quick workout this morning, as before, I had few problems hooking up two iOS devices. Configuring the new pads is a breeze and I was able to use all the various options with ease, sending MIDI data via Bluetooth to my iMac and triggering (for example) Kontakt including some CC data for adjusting various parameters in the instrument I was playing.
Apollo is an excellent concept and it is great to see Patrick moving the app forward. Patrick had previously acknowledged that MIDI over Bluetooth, while having considerable potential, was still something of a work in progress. However, progress within iOS itself has certainly improved things and this latest Apollo update seem to exploit those improvements…. and Apollo now definitely deserves the change in title/status as a MIDI ‘controller’ app. Apollo MIDI Controller is now a pretty decent all-round MIDI control surface….
OK, while Apollo might not be the prettiest software you will ever use, it is a very useful little utility, whether you use multiple iOS devices or like to integrate your iOS and OSX music technology. If either apply to you, then hit the download button below and get along to the iTunes App Store ASAP to find out more…. Well worth a look.