Music app review – Auria by WaveMachine Labs

Cut and paste

Once you have captured your recordings onto the necessary tracks, Auria then provides plenty of editing options via the Edit window. All the standard functions you might expect are present so you can trim, copy, cut, split, add faded/crossfades and move sections of recordings as you might expect. The only difference to a desktop DAW is, of course, that all this is done with your fingers. This does take a little adjusting to but, 10 minutes into my first project, most of these general tasks already felt comfortable. The ability to zoom in and work up close with a specific section of a waveform makes these processes much easier.

The Edit menu.

If you want to perform operations on several objects at once, the Edit window includes a multi-select tool (located top-left just under the Mixer and Edit buttons). Tap this once and you can then select multiple objects and, if you want to lock a selection, a double tap on the multi-select tool will do the trick.

Located in the same strip as the multi-select tool is the Snap menu. This allows you to move objects along the timeline or between tracks more easily (although you can turn the snap off if you do wish to move things entirely freehand). Do note however, that the Snap menu options are linked to the Transport Options – the latter need to be set to bars/beats if you want the Snap options to be linked to the musical grid. The Process menu provides options for gain adjustment, normalising, DC offset correction, reverse, silence and cross-fades. Again, these are all easy to use and provide good results.

Auria doesn’t perhaps have all the editing bells and whistles that the top-of-the-range desktop DAW versions of Logic, Cubase, Pro Tools, etc. might have but all the most important and commonly used functions are there. You might think of this as the sort of editing feature set that one of the cut-down versions of these desktop DAWs provide and, while this a reasonable comparison, users should also bear in mind that that this can be seen as much as a positive as a negative – no software bloat with features that, 99 days out of 100, you never use and that simply clutter up the working environment. In short, for basic editing of your audio multi-track recordings, Auria has all the essential tools to get the job done.

All mixed up

The Subgroup and Master Channels are located at the right hand side of the mixer.

With up to 48 tracks (24 on the 1st generation iPad), 8 sub-groups, two aux sends and a master stereo channel, Auria packs a lot of mixer into a compact software format. Most of the controls on the mixer channels (pan, fader, mute, solo) are self explanatory but one or two are worth making a few additional comments about. For example, tapping the ‘scribble strip’ area at the bottom of each channel opens up the standard iPad keyboard so you can enter or edit the channel label. This is useful to keep track of what instrument is where in your mix but particularly useful for the subgroup channels as these labels then appear in the pop up menu that is accessed by tapping the subgroup setting for individual channels. The eight subgroups provide plenty of flexibility to group sets of individual tracks together (a drum group, a guitar group, a synth group, a lead vocal group, etc.) so that you can adjust the group level, or apply effects processing at the group level, when mixing.

To keep things tidy and compact, other channel-level processing is not visible by default but a quick tap of the FX button at the top of each channel opens up the Channel Strip window for that channel. This lets you access the expander, EQ and compressor sections and, as shown in the example screen shot, these are actually very well featured and give the user plenty of control. This is quite a busy window but quite an important one as it also contains the four insert effect slots for the channel (located on the right). Tapping one of these displays a list of possible insert effects that are available. These are shown in the screen shot and include delay, modulation and reverb.

Mu Technologies ReTune plug-in – pitch correction on an iPad.

Amazingly, there is also an automatic tuning plug-in included. Mu Technologies ReTune is probably not quite in the same league as Antares Autotune or Celemony’s Melodyne but the company do have a pedigree in vocal processing plug-ins (I reviewed their Mu Voice vocal harmony plug-in for Sound On Sound magazine back in July 2008). As a bundled plug-in here it is nothing short of remarkable and, while it will not turn the totally incompetent singer into a pitch-perfect superstar, for a touch of pitch correction to an already decent vocal – or for some automatic harmony generation – it does a pretty good job. Combine this with the already very flexible EQ and dynamics options and, in an iPad-based DAW, this is seriously impressive stuff.

The Channel Strip plug-in.

The Channel Strip window also includes the SAT button (which adds a little lit of analog/tape-style warmth to a sound) and you can also toggle on a display of the aux and pan controls so, once in this window, you can do pretty much any mixer function on the individual track without going back to the main Mixer window. The final button worth pointing out is the snowflake-shaped Freeze button. Track freezing – which essentially renders the track with all its effects as a new audio file and then uses that in playback, switching off all the effects within the channel to save CPU resources – is now common place in most DAWs. However, given quite how much functionality and the track count MachineWave Labs are packing into the iPad in Auria, it makes good sense to see it implemented here. If you need to revisit a channel to tweak it further, you can, of course, unfreeze it, make your changes, and then freeze the revised version.

The Master Strip plug-in is available for the Subgroup and Master Channels.

The Subgroup and Master channels also feature dedicated channel strip effects although they provide a different configuration of effects than on the standard channels – the PSP Masterstrip – that includes a buss compressor and limiter. Again, this is all very well featured. If you tap the Aux FX button on the Master channel, this allows you to specify which effects are to be inserted in the aux-send loops. The obvious candidates here are reverb and delay. Again, much to my surprise, this list also includes a convolution reverb. A few years ago, this kind of processing was rare even on a desktop DAW environment; they were expensive and CPU hungry. Well, they still are CPU hungry compared to a standard reverb plug-in so you might want to switch to this plug-in just for a final mix, but having access to a quality reverb is a big plus.

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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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