Music app review – Auria by WaveMachine Labs

Auria’s standard insert plug-ins.

If that wasn’t already enough, Auria also includes a very useable mixer automation system. Automation data can be created in two ways. First, if you enable automation writing for a channel (via the W button towards the top of each channel), any Mixer control movements that you then make during playback will be recorded. This includes changes within the Channel Strip effects for the channel. You can write-enable multiple channels if you want to record all your fader movements while mixing.

Auria features a very well-specified automation system.

Second, providing you zoom in far enough, an automation drop-down menu appears in each channel within the Edit window also. This displays the automation data as standard envelopes along the timeline and you can both create and edit automation data using the touchscreen from here. Tapping and holding will either grab an existing control point or create a new one. This works well enough but it is one of the few areas where the touchscreen interface is perhaps less intuitive than using a mouse on a desktop as, for detailed movements, your finger rather obscures your view while moving the control points. That said, the functionality is impressive and does become easier with just a little practice.

Quart from a pint pot

In tablet computer terms, the iPad’s screen is top-of-the-range for size and resolution but, in recording studio terms, Apple’s device represents a very compact piece of equipment. Trying to squeeze the functionality of a professional-level DAW into something that small is very much like trying to get a quart out of a pint pot. While these were, therefore, probably obvious design decisions, the inclusion of the channel freeze function (which can free up CPU resources), track bouncing (ditto) and the ability to use Subgroup channels (so, where appropriate, you can apply effects at the group level rather than at the level of all the individual channels, keeping CPU loads down) are all features that help make this possible.

Usefully, Auria also includes a compact Performance Meter feature as part of the Mixer window. This can be enabled from the Settings option of the main Menu and, once switched on (it is shown is some of the earlier Mix window screen shots), tapping it cycles through meters showing CPU, disk, battery, memory and free space information. If you start adding lots of insert effects (and, in my testing, the big hits were the convolution reverb and ReTune) then, of course, you can soon rack up the CPU usage – although Auria is generally polite enough to tell you when things are getting critical – but what is genuinely surprising is quite how many tracks and effects you can get running at once and still experience smooth operation.

As a bit of icing on the cake, if you have two iPads running Auria, the app has a feature called AuriaLink that allows you to link two instances of Auria together via Bluetooth. The projects on each iPad will play in sync. In theory, therefore, you could have a project with 96 audio tracks running together although how practical that might be is difficult to judge given that there may well be a small amount of latency involved in the Bluetooth connection. Still, it is nice to have the option and this would mean the processing load could be shared between the two devices.

On the move

There are numerous stages in a projects evolution when you might need to get audio in or out of your DAW and Auria’s file management options provide enough flexibility to do the most obvious tasks; backing up projects, importing or exporting audio to/from the iPad to a desktop computer, moving audio to/from other apps or using SoundCloud and DropBox to move materials via virtual storage are all well catered for.

iTunes File Sharing provides one easy way to get audio in and out of Auria.

Typical tasks such as copying some drum loops into Auria proved to be a straightforward two-stage process. First, iTunes File Sharing was used to move the required loops to the Auria Documents and, after then syncing, within Auria, these can be imported into the current project via the Menu > Import Audio option. Multiple files can be imported in a single operation. This all worked a treat and, if you like to build drum parts from loops, is very easy to do.

Audio import into Auria is very straightforward.

Auria also supports AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) that is a common standard (although, for a ‘standard’, it actually shows some variations!) for major desktop DAWs and allows you to import/export complete mix projects to/from Auria and whatever desktop DAW you might use. So, if you are working on a mix in (for example) Cubase or Logic, and you want to keep working on it while away from your home base then, in principle, you can simply move it over to Auria and take your iPad with you. I didn’t get an opportunity to fully test this during my review but I can see this being very appealing to musicians/producers/mix engineers who spend a lot of time on the move and want to work on mixes in their hotel rooms or while in transit.

What, no MIDI?

Earlier, I made a comparison between Auria and a hardware-based digital audio multi-tracker as made by the likes of Zoom or Tascam. I think this is a more accurate comparison than with Cubase, Logic or other major DAWs because Auria, like the majority of hardware-based recorders, doesn’t provide MIDI support or access to virtual instruments. At present, while it is undoubtedly an impressive piece of recording/mixing software, Auria is an audio-only recording environment. If you want synths, then you need to record their audio outputs into Auria or create the parts elsewhere and import them into Auria.

That said, Auria does support Korg’s WIST connectivity (see the iMS-20 review for a discussion of this) so, if you have a WIST-compatible music app, you can sync its playback on a second iPad to Auria. WaveMachine Labs have, however, already stated on their website that they hope to bring MIDI and/or virtual instrument support into Auria at some stage. Even if this was in the form of a drum sample playback device and a single decent virtual synth, it would make an already impressive DAW even better and open up Auria’s appeal even further.

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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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