Ever 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 :-)
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.
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.
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?