Music app review – Auria by WaveMachine Labs

Download from iTunes App StoreEver since it was first announced, the prospect of WaveMachine Lab’s music app Auria has attracted a lot of excited discussion online. Well, now it is here (launched on the iTunes App Store on 17th July) and, even with only a few days of experimentation with the app, I think it is safe to say that Auria is, quite simply, a game-changing app for musicians wanting and willing to embrace the potential of music making on the iPad.

Garageband on the iPad has bought DAW (digital audio workstation) technology to the masses. As well as being accessible to the consumer-level user, in the right hands, it is also a very capable recording tool. It is brilliant… but it’s not (yet, at least) what you might call a ‘professional’ level DAW. In Auria, however, WaveMachine Labs are obviously trying to create just that. Have they succeeded? Let’s find out….  Oh, but a word of warning; this is a biggie so get ready for the long haul. Hopefully, you will think it well worth the effort :-)

Feature presentation

First things first; Auria is a DAW in the traditional sense of the meaning in that it allows you to record, edit and mix audio only. At present, there is no MIDI support or virtual instruments included – if you want synth sounds, then you record then as audio into the app. In essence, you can think of this first release of Auria as something similar to one of the mainstream portable digital multi-track recorders made by the likes of Tascam or Zoom minus the audio inputs (you get to choose your own audio interface) but with the advantage of a sizeable touchscreen interface.

Auria’s Mix view – a virtual 48 track recorder on an iPad. Click on any of the images in the review to see a full-size version.

It provides a maximum of 48 tracks of simultaneous audio playback and, given a suitable external audio interface with an appropriate number of inputs, can record up to 24 tracks at once (these numbers apply to the 2nd and 3rd generations of the iPad; they are reduced on the original version). These numbers are impressive and, frankly, until you see it working, it is actually difficult to believe that it might be possible in a device as compact as the iPad. But it is possible…. as the three demo projects that are available (one comes pre-installed and a couple of others are downloadable from within the app) demonstrate quite clearly. This kind of audio track count means that you could take on serious recording projects and is comparable with what you might attempt on a mainstream desktop DAW (Logic, Cubase, Pro Tools, etc.) or in a quality recording studio.

The virtual mixer is fully featured and, aside from the individual audio tracks, also includes subgroup channels, two aux sends (for global effects like reverb and delay), a master output channel and access to a range of suitable effects including EQ, compression, limiting, modulation, reverb (and, amazingly, a convolution-based reverb) and delay. All these effects are essentially VST plug-ins but specially ported by their manufacturers to work within iOS. There are others already available for purchase via the in-app store to expand the collection. Mixer and effects parameters are also fully automatable.

Auria’s Edit view. As shown in some of the other screen shots, you can zoom in for more detailed work.

And just like a desktop DAW, Auria also features a timeline-based editing environment where you can move, cut, paste, copy, delete and trim your audio, add fades, change the gain and other basic editing tasks all via the touchscreen. And if you have lots of tracks and lots of effects running and the iPad does start to puff a bit, there is also a ‘track freeze’ function (again, as found on mainstream desktop DAWs) so you can free up resources and keep the session developing.

In feature terms at least, Auria is a considerable distance ahead of anything else currently available for multi-track audio recording on an iOS device. So, does it all work?

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    Comments

    1. Boele Gerkes says:

      Great review! It sums up all the goodies and more and I agree 100% with the verdict: “Auria is brilliant, amazing and jaw dropping as it stands”!

      Worth mentioning is dat the retune plugin is not only good for vocals. If you like to make new sounds, just throw something through it: be it drums, guitar or synthesized sounds: you can mess up the input and come to new great samples quite easily with it :-)

      To me outgoing MIDI clock is the biggest missing feature. With that you can sync instruments/FXs outside the iPad and record it in Auria at the same time if wanted. Hopefully this will be added in a near-future update.

      • Thanks for the kind words. Yep, the ability to sync via MIDI clock would be good. Here is hoping that WaveMachine Labs can keep up a good pace of development.

    2. I have the iPad 2, 32 gig. I have 7 gigs free space left. Since I have cubase 5 on my PC, I know the intense CPU drainage that can happen. So I’m wondering if 7 gigs are enough. Something tells me it’s not and it almost seems that a dedicated iPad would be the way to go. It would be very cool to record certain things on the iPad and transfer back and forth to cubase. Any thoughts?

      • I did my testing for the review on a 3rd gen iPad with about 12 gigs of free space. I then downloaded the three free ‘demo’ projects (all with a decent number of tracks/effects included) and created a couple more of my own. I still had plenty of free space available and the iPad didn’t seem to be struggling at all. The only things that really seemed to push the limits were the convolution reverb and the ReTune plug-in, both of which added quite a chunk to the CPU load as displayed in Auria’s performance meters. So, I’m not sure you would need a dedicated iPad – but certainly you would need to plan enough space if you wanted to work on multiple projects without the need to shift them back and forth to a desktop computer just for the purpose of making space. Incidentally, the demo projects – all of which were fully developed pieces – were c. 250MB downloads that then uncompressed to about twice their original size. This might give you a rough guide as to the space required for an ‘average’ project.

        I have not had a chance yet to fully test the ability to transfer back and forth between Auria and something like Cubase but, as and when I do, I’ll add a comment here.

        Hope this helps?

        John

    3. Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he just bought me lunch as I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

    4. I`m really excited bout this app. Only have one question: does it work well with irig pre?

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