Audiobus is so firmly embedded into the workflow of iOS musicians, that it was hardly surprising that when the Audiobus development team announced that they had a new ‘super secret’ app almost ready for launch, the chatter level reached fever pitch very quickly.
There was some very interesting speculation about what the new app might do (indeed, interested developers could do worse than trawl through these discussions to find some app-shaped holes that are in need of filling) but the cat jumped part-way out the bag when Fingerlab released an update to DM1 at the start of the week and, rather than mention that the update was to bring support for the new ‘super secret’ app, happened to mention the app by name in the update details (that line was subsequently removed but it was still a bit of a ‘doh!’ moment).
Anyway, super secret or not, that new app launched today and, if you are (a) a regular Audiobus user and (b) have a suitable second iOS device to use alongside your main iOS music device, is going to be a bit of a no-brainer purchase. Audiobus Remote, launched at UK£3.99 and requiring iOS8.3 or later, is, as the name suggests a ‘remote control’ app for Audiobus… and while you can most certainly continue to use Audiobus without it, in terms of workflow (and providing you have that second device lying around), I suspect lots of users are going to put the new app into the ‘highly desirable’ category. The app is universal and supports both portrait and landscape operation.
At one level, Audiobus Remote is actually very simple and you could think of it almost as an expanded version of the existing Audiobus control strip that appears along the edge of your iOS device when using apps within Auduobus and that allows you to quick-switch between apps and, in most cases, offers a control or two for the apps (for example, basic transport controls for Cubasis).
However, what Audiobus Remote does is transfer that functionality onto the full screen of a second iOS device. Yes, that device does need to support both Bluetooth LE and Apple’s iBeacon technology (iPad 3, Mini, iPhone 4S, iPod Touch 5 or later and running iOS8.3 or later) but, with so many iOS users owning multiple devices (iPad and iPhone or multiple generations of iPad), this means a ready made user-base for the new app. And, by taking the control strip away from your main device (you can swipe it ‘off screen’ as before) it does free up a little space on that main display.
However, while simply moving the control strip to a second screen would have been good, that’s not all Audiobus Remote offers. There is an additional functionality called Remote Triggers that, if developers add this functionality to their own apps (and several have had advanced access to this functionality and have already done this… ah yes…. Fingerlab with DM1 for example), allows then to include buttons/switches within Audiobus Remote on your second iOS device that then provide you with some additional controls for instant access to key functions within the app but without having to bring the app to the foreground on your main device. If you think, you can think of this as the ‘expanded Audiobus control strip’.
While all Audiobus compatible apps should already work with Audiobus Remote at a basic level, there are already a number of apps that have had this higher level of ‘Remote Trigger’ support added. These include DM1, all the Holderness Media effects apps, BIAS FX and JamUp Pro, Loopy HD, Sector and SoundPrism Electro. And you can bet that we will see a flurry of developers adding this support over the coming weeks….
One thing that no user will face with Audiobus Remote is a learning curve; this is an app that is very easy to setup and use. I did my own testing using my iPad Air 1 as my main device (running Audiobus itself and with various iOS music apps inserted into that) and installed Audiobus Remote on my iPhone 5. Providing you have then in close proximity, and Bluetooth enabled on both devices, Audiobus Remote will find Audiobus on your main device and, on first use, prompt you with some suitable instructions. On subsequent starts, the two apps just get on with it….
Depending upon just how many apps you have already running within Audiobus – and which apps they are (that is, do they already have a number of Remote Triggers included) – it can take a few seconds – or a few more seconds – for Audiobus Remote to ‘populate’ itself with all the necessary control strips/panels. There is no user input required here though… just let the new app do its thing….
Equally, if you add a new app into Audiobus on your main device, Audiobus remote automatically detects it is there and creates a new control strip for that app. As this happens, the size (height/width) of each control strip adjusts itself. The more Audiobus apps you add, therefore, the smaller the control strips get. I’ve no idea what the actually limit might be but I happily had a good crop of about 7 or 8 apps running before things began to feel a bit cramped on my iPhone 5 screen. If your second device was also an iPad, then you might get away with a good few more… providing, of course, that your main iOS device hasn’t run out of processing grunt by that stage anyway :-)
And then…. well… you just use it and, as indicated above, it is rather than having a powered-up version of the standard Audiobus control strip with the obvious advantage of much more room to display all the ‘quick access’ controls and app switching buttons. Yes, it does take a little while to break the habit of reaching for the standard Audiobus strip on your main device but, if you simply swipe that away, you do soon get used to going for your ‘remote’ device instead…. and it most certainly brings a smoother workflow as you switch between and control your various apps.
For those apps that already have Remote Trigger support, there is the additional functionality that those offer. So, for example, in DM1, not only to you get the ability to start/stop playback, but now you can also trigger the drum pads…. very cool. For the various Holderness Media apps, you get the options to switch presets and also to adjust a number of other app parameters. In Loopy HD you can trigger individual loops on/off. In Sector you can now trigger individual slices and switch modes….
You get the basic idea here…. providing a developer is willing to add the necessary Remote Trigger functionality, then you can see the (very) obvious potential. Audiobus Remote is good simply as a basic remote and ‘app switching’ app but, with Remote Triggers it will become much more than that…. the app is obviously going to streamline the Audiobus workflow quite considerably.
It will be interesting to see just how quickly developers jump on the Audiobus remote bandwagon. DAW/sequencer transport controls would be obvious inclusions and, as with DM1, drum trigger pads would be great to see for groove box/drum machine apps. Anyway, watch this space, because I suspect adoption with will both wide and rapid….
Where’s the remote?
Of course, Audiobus Remote does require you to use a second (suitably specified) iOS device alongside your main device. If you already own such a device, then the UK£3.99 is not an issue; stump up and explore what it offers. Whether users will feel it’s worth acquiring a second device simply to run Audiobus Remote is another matter – that’s more of a stretch obviously – but it might be another ‘pro’ to add to the debate when you are looking to justify your next upgrade and your current device might then continue to give useful service as a remote control.
I was lucky enough to have access to the pre-release version of Audiobus remote a few days before launch and, in my own testing, on the whole, it behaved very well. Yes, I did get the odd occasion when I launched the app and it didn’t quite pick up all the apps I had running under Audiobus on my main device. Equally, there was the odd occasion when I launched anew Audiobus app and that didn’t get detected. However, a restart of the app concerned usually solved this (occasional) glitch.
Given this is a first release – and given just how many Audiobus compatible app there actually are now available – I have to say I was more than impressed with how robust things already seem. No doubt there will be some maintenance/technical updates to the app over the coming weeks but, even as it stands, it is most certainly good-to-go and ready for some serious use.
As mentioned at the start of this review, if you (a) use Audiobus a lot and (b) own a suitable second iOS device that you can run Audiobus Remote on, then this really is an app that you will want to own and explore. It ought to streamline the workflow of any serious Audiobus junkie and, the more apps you like to run concurrently, the more useful Audiobus Remote is likely to be.
At UK£3.99, this is not an app that is going to break the bank anytime soon…. If you meet the criteria outlined above, then just hit download now and explore a little Audiobus Remote control for yourself. The Audiobus Team have given us iOS musicians yet another very useful utility app…. Check out the videos below from the Audiobus Team and Holderness Media…. but Audiobus Remote comes highly recommended for all serious Audiobus users…..