Music app review – Auria by WaveMachine Labs

Hardware matters

Clearly, if you are going to use Auria, you have to get audio both in and out of the iPad. Auria works quite happily with the iPads own mic/headphone outputs and, if you are just sketching a few ideas out, this is a very convenient – and perfectly adequate – way to go. However, if you want to make high-quality recordings, then some sort of 3rd-party audio interface is going to be required.

Usefully, WaveMachine Labs have a list of devices they have tested for compatibility with Auria on their website and users are also posted their own experiences on that front via the forum pages. These include the Alesis IO Dock, units from the Focusrite Scarlett range, Apogee Jam and the Sonoma Wire Works Guitar Jack amongst a good number of others. All these connect to the iPad digitally through the dock connector (either directly or via the camera connection kit) but other devices that use the iPad’s own audio connections should also work.

Good looks

While there are a number of additional windows that pop open for particular tasks, Auria is essentially built around two main views; the Mix window page and the Edit window. As shown in the various screen shots, the implementation of the virtual mixer follows a fairly traditional styling. From bottom to top, each of the standard audio channels include mute and solo buttons, a fader, pan knob, two aux send level knobs, a subgroup setting, buttons for engaging automation read and write, a record arming button and, at the top, an FX button. Tapping the latter opens up a panel for the channel strip effects section including EQ and compression – more on this below.

If you rotate the iPad into portrait orientation, the mixer flips around. You see fewer tracks at once, but the fader throws are longer – great for making more detailed moves when automating levels in your mix.

Auria’s other main view is the Edit window. This shows a familiar (well, familiar to anyone who has used a mainstream DAW) timeline-based view of the audio waveforms arranged by track. You can access key track level controls from here (mute, solo, FX, automation) and the usual iOS swipe, pinch and spread gestures allow you to move horizontally or vertically through the track view and to zoom in and out. Standard editing tasks that you might execute with a mouse or key commands on a desktop DAW are also achieved entirely through touch control.

The main Menu provides access to all the key project management functions.

Whether in the Mix or Edit window views, a number of controls stay permanently available along the top of the screen. These include the buttons to switch between these two views, undo/redo buttons, access to the Menu, Edit and Process drip-down menu options (the latter two only appear in the Edit window as they apply to waveform editing tasks), buttons for track grouping and setting locators and a fairly standard set of transport controls. On the far right, tapping the Transport Option button allows you to specify the time format for the timeline. For musical projects, bars/beats is the obvious choice but sample, SMPTE and min/sec options are also available.

What is striking about the overall appearance of Auria is that, despite there being plenty going on on what is, in comparison to most laptop and desktop screens, still a fairly modest screen area, the interface doesn’t seem too cluttered and, unless you have fingers the size of jumbo sausages, the controls are easy enough to operate without tripping over yourself. What’s more, in going for a very traditional ‘virtual’ mixer, the working environment feels immediately familiar. Indeed, having created a blank project to begin my own testing, it wasn’t until I’d recorded half a dozen tracks and began to explore the editing functions, that I even opened the PDF manual to check how something was done. I suspect that anyone who has worked with a half-decent hardware recording setup or one of the mainstream desktop DAWs will find the initial learning curve with Auria almost non-existent. That is a big plus as new users ought to be able to get straight down to work and WaveMachine Labs deserve a pat on the back for that.

That said, once you begin to dig in a little further, you also discover that there is plenty of depth to the app. In this regard, the manual – which is accessible directly from within the app – is excellent and explains the key features and functions in a clear and concise manner. The manual includes useful discussions on maximising the iPads CPU/RAM resources and working with external audio interface hardware.

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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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