AUFX:PeakQ review – Jonatan Liljedahl back with the third AUFX series app

Download from iTunes App Storeaufxpeakq logoIf you are a bit of an iPad music old-hand (and, in iOS terms, that probably means anyone who has been with us more that a few months), then Jonatan Liljedahl will need no introduction. Jonatan is the person behind the excellent AUFX series of iOS audio effects apps. I’ve reviewed both AUFX:Space (a reverb effect) and AUFX:Dub (a delay effect) previously on the blog and, with Audiobus and inter-app audio (IAA) support as standard, both come highly recommended.

Jonatan is now back with the third app in the series; AUFX:PeakQ (UK£2.49). As the name suggests, this is an EQ effect and what you are getting is a four band EQ, with a low and high shelf and two fully parametric bands sat between them. As before, you can use the app within Audiobus or a suitable IAA host such as Cubasis or Auria.

Take a peek

The interface of AUFX:PeakQ follows the general AUFX style. As such, all the key controls are contained within a single, very straightforward screen with most of the controls appearing as horizontal sliders. The key addition here is the provision of an EQ graph at the top of the display that shows the EQ curve created by settings applied in the four-bands.

AUFX:PeakQ follows the same styling as the other AUFX series apps.

AUFX:PeakQ follows the same styling as the other AUFX series apps and, as shown here, works happily within Audiobus.

As with the other apps in the series, there are also input and output meters, and on/off switch and a bypass button. In addition, AUFX:PeakQ features a look-ahead Limiter to help prevent clipping. This can be toggled on/off via the main menu. There is also a very useful DSP reading (located bottom-right) that give an indication of the loading the app is placing on your iPad’s processing resources. During my testing, this fluctuated between about 3 and 6% on my iPad Air. Incidentally, Jonatan tells me that there will be a realtime spectrum analyser display introduced in v.1.1.

On the shelf

The main menu provides access to all the additional features including the presets, MIDI control and the Limiter.

The main menu provides access to all the additional features including the presets, MIDI control and the Limiter.

The high and low shelf bands each feature two sliders, allowing you to set the gain (over a range of +/- 24dB) and the frequency at which the shelf occurs (note that the shelf will actually start at a slightly different frequency; the frequency set actually marks the point at which half the total gain is applied).

These controls allow you to easily set some smooth and fairly gentle shelving EQ but there isn’t – in the current version at least – any facility for changing the type of slope on the shelf. Some shelving EQs in desktop DAW software do provide this and it is nice to have the option.

Dial a freak

The two parametric bands feature gain, frequency and Q (the width of the band of frequencies around the centre frequency to which the gain is applied). This set of controls is typical of a parametric EQ (software or hardware) and allows you to go from broad, gentle treatments through to quite precise and radical boosts or cuts.

This kind of EQ can be very effective for both creative and corrective uses. In the case of the latter, being able to home in on a narrow, problematic, frequency in a sound and carve out just as much of it as you need can be very useful. AUFX:PeakQ allows you to do that pretty well although the ability to use even larger Q values (giving you a narrower frequency range) would always be welcome in this context.

Control freak

AUFX:PeakQ includes a useful set of presets to get you started covering a range of applications. Even if there is nothing here that exactly matches your needs, the presets provide a suitable position from which to tweak further.

If you want to be able to control the EQ settings in realtime or to automate changes via your DAW, then the app includes a ‘MIDI Learn’ feature. This allows you to switch on/off any of the app’s parameters for MIDI control and to associate a particular MIDI controller or CC number with an EQ control. This works in a very straightforward fashion.

If you wish to, AUFX:PeakQ can also act as a basic audio recorder. This allows you to record any incoming audio signal with the EQ applied. You could then move that audio recording into another audio app for further use. That said, I suspect most users would find it easier to go down the Audiobus or IAA route.

Feeling peaky

There is not a huge amount to say about AUFX:PeakQ in use other than it performed flawlessly both in the Audiobus Effect slot and as an IAA plugin. It is also worth saying that – to my ears at least – it sounds pretty smooth.

AUFX:PeakQ worked flawlessly within Audiobus during my own testing.

AUFX:PeakQ worked flawlessly within Audiobus during my own testing.

I did most of my testing within Cubasis and, like Auria, it has its own EQ options. The Cubasis Studio EQ is a similar four-band affair to AUFX:PeakQ and offers a similar level of control. However, it does not (as yet) include the ability to automate the EQ parameters nor a preset system. The latter is a workflow issue as it means you have to set up Studio EQ from scratch everytime you insert a new instance. With AUFX:PeakQ you can just load a preset, whether one of the included ones or something you have created for yourself.

Can I have more please?

This comparison does, however, raise a further issue. Let’s imagine I prefer the sound and control offered by AUFX:PeakQ over the standard EQ options included in my DAW. Because of the way iOS only allows you to have one instance of any app running at the same time (whether via Audiobus or IAA), I can, of course, only apply AUFX:PeakQ to one audio signal. However, the EQ plugin included within my DAW can be used as many times as I might like (within the limits imposed by the total processing workload).

The IAA support also seems to be very well implemented.

The IAA support also seems to be very well implemented.

With apps like AUFX:Dub or AUFX:Space this is perhaps less of a limitation as these effects are just as likely to be used as ‘global’ send effects rather than as inserts on individual tracks. Several tracks can therefore share the global reverb or delay processing offered by a single instance of either of these apps when used in this way. EQ is, by contrast, more likely to be used as an insert style effect. If you like the control and sound that AUFX:PeakQ offers, you will need to pick which track gets the luxury of that one instance. This is not a criticism of the app in any way – Jonatan is simply having to work within the constraints imposed by the OS – but it does of course mean that there is no easy way to use AUFX:PeakQ for all your EQ needs.

While I was mulling over the pros and cons of this, I did wonder whether I’d be prepared to pay twice or even three times for the ability to use AUFX:PeakQ in a single project. At UK£2.49 a time, it’s not such a big ask if you really like what the effect does. So could an app developer release the same app under different names so that users could buy multiple copies? Could we have AUFX:PeakQ 1, AUFX:PeakQ 2, AUFX:PeakQ 3, etc…? Identical apps, different names, purchased separately and able to all run at the same time on a single iOS device. I’ve no idea if such a thing is possible (technically or financially) or whether it would appeal to music app developers. However, I could imagine lots of users thinking that they might like multiple instances of apps like AUFX:PeakQ (and I’d happily pay to be able to run two instances of Thor) given that the unit cost is actually pretty low.

The included presets make good starting points for your EQ tweaking.

The included presets make good starting points for your EQ tweaking.

In summary

Like the other AUFX series apps, AUFX:PeakQ is simple to use, does a fabulous job and is sensibly priced. While the limitations of iOS mean that you are currently limited to only running a single instance of the app at any one time, it is most certainly worth having available for when you need to EQ an audio signal that, of itself, doesn’t match AUFX:PeakQ’s ability to do so. Sat in the Audiobus Effects slot, it gives you plenty of EQ control over any audio source in your Input slot and, as a one-off IAA plugin in your DAW, you can apply it to your most important (or problematic) track.

As I mentioned earlier, Jonatan is hoping to add a realtime spectrum analyser display to AUFX:PeakQ in the v.1.1 update. That would give the app a distinct advantage over the EQs built into most iOS DAWs as the ability to see where any problematic frequencies lie makes it much easier to dial in corrective control. Fingers crossed that possibility works out as it would be an excellent addition and some users would see this as worth the price of entry on its own.

As AUFX:PeakQ is less likely to be used as a send effect than AUFX:Dub or AUFX:Space, some potential users might see it as a less essential purchase. However, at UK£2.49 it is still an absolute steal and well worth having installed for any iOS recording enthusiast. As for all the AUFX series, AUFX:PeakQ comes highly recommended.

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    1. Of note here is that Jonatan is also the developer behind Audioshare as well. If we are going to talk about “essential” iOS apps, Audioshare certainly qualifies.

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