Caustic update – Single Cell Software’s electronic music production app gets some new features

Download from iTunes App Storecaustic logo If you like the ‘all-in-one’ approach to electronic music production, for my money, three iOS apps would be top of my list of contenders; NanoStudio (the original under iOS), Gadget (ultra slick interface) and Caustic (almost an early version of Reason ‘lite’ designed for iOS). I’ve reviewed all three of these apps here on the blog in the past and they all have their particular set of strengths and weaknesses. Yes, there are others (including a particular favourite of mine, the excellent Oscilab) but any one of these three ‘big hitters’, however, is capable of getting some pretty full-on music made.

Korg have maintained a steady flow of updates for gadget (and the OSX version is due soon) but both NanoStudio and Caustic have been pretty notable for the lack of updates over recent times. Indeed, if you are a Caustic fan, then you might have been wondering whether the iOS version had been stuck on a shelf to gather some development dust; the last update was back in September 2014!

Caustic – a sort of ‘Reason-lite’ that can run on your iOS hardware.

All of which makes it great to see the v.3.2.0 update arrive on the App Store today. While this featured a number of welcome bugfixes (some of which I suspect will be related to changes in iOS itself since the previous caustic update), it also adds a number of new features to the app. For example, a new ‘machine’ has been added in the SawSynth, a polyphonic synth instrument. This does sound pretty good :-) Four new effects – Octaver, Vibrato, Tremolo and AutoPan – have also been added.

The new SawSynth machine looks – and sounds – great.

As found in a number of other iOS music apps, Caustic now includes scale options for its keyboard to help you keep all your notes in correct harmonic order while a number of other machine such as the Bassline and PCMSynth have had their feature sets tweaked and improved. The sequencer has also had some modifications to improve the workflow when creating patterns.

The wave editor has been enhanced with stereo support, time stretch and pitch-shift options and BPM detection while the Mixer and transport controls now have better support for MIDI control/mappings. New export options have also been added that offer support for stems and loops….  great if you want to take your Caustic projects and remix/arrange them in a DAW for example.

There are new options for using scales within the app.

All these additions are great to see and, while the app seems to be running well on my iPad Pro/iOS10.2.1 test system, there are no signs yet of some newer iOS music technologies in the app’s feature set. The obvious candidate would be Ableton Link support so you could use that technology to lock Caustic together with other music apps…..   Of course, Caustic is very much an ‘all-in-one’ music production environment so maybe the included export options are going to be good enough for most users?

Caustic’s set of ‘machines’ includes a rather neat modular synth….

If you have not yet given Caustic a try, perhaps the best way to sum it up, as mentioned above, is to describe it as ‘Reason-lite’ for iOS; the rack-based approach is very like early versions of Propellerhead’s Reason and, given the pretty modest UK£9.99/US$9.99 price tag, Caustic packs a heck of a punch. And by the way, Single Cell Software do some of the best video tutorials for their apps of any developer out there….  so newbies can soon get to grips with the many options offered by the app….

The new export options include stem and loop options.

If you want an all-in-one app for electronic music production, and that runs on both iPad and iPhone, then Caustic comes highly recommended… and now, happily, it has now been updated to ensure smoother operation under iOS10. Check out the original Caustic review for further details of the feature set as much of that, and the mode of operation, still applies….  then watch a video or two and hit the download button to find out more.

Caustic

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    Comments

    1. As a relatively recent “convert” to Caustic, it has already become one of my favourite music-production apps on my iPhone. I use Caustic a bit like Figure – mainly, to generate stems and backing tracks for songs (I’m quite well-inclined towards the “folktronica” style of things) – except I find Caustic gives you quite a few more possibilities (tracks, “machines”, etc.).

      I’m particularly pleased to see more options for exporting stems and loops, especially as I often like to transfer material from Caustic into another DAW for further work. Previously, you could only export part or all of a stereo mixdown (meaning lots of faffing around with muting tracks to get individual stems), so I really look forward to exploring what this update brings in that area.

      One cloud on the horizon: I learned via the iPad Musician Facebook group this morning, that Apple is rumoured to be dropping support for 32-bit apps in iOS11. As I understand it: if your app sometimes triggers a “this may slow down your iDevice” dialogue box, it’s 32-bit, and Caustic has done that to me at least once. I’d be pretty unhappy if I have to choose between Caustic (or a few other 32-bit apps) or iOS11 (when it comes) on my iPhone, so hopefully it’ll all be resolved in the end…?

      Great news on the update, anyway :-)

    2. @Tim: I am pretty sure Caustic is 64-bit, otherwise this update would not have been allowed by Apple.

    3. ConfusedKitten says:

      From what I understand since the release of iOS 8 onwards all new submissions to the App Store have to be coded for 64-bit compatibility (even if they were previously 32-bit). This basically means that all those apps that have seemingly been left unattended in the AppStore are there because they have to be recoded for 64-bit by the developers just to be able to update them (even it’s a trivial update) so anything around circa 2014 falls into this category (and there’s a lot of them)! This was based on a conversation with a developer a long time ago so I don’t recall the exact details (don’t quote me on this) but it explains why there seems to be a lot of apps that ceased to receive updates around that time!

      If there is a push via iOS 11 to remove 32 bit apps altogether (which makes complete sense as the platform moves forward) then perhaps Apple with finally remove the aforementioned apps from being visible in the App Store unless the developers update them accordingly (naturally you’d still be able to download them if you’ve purchased them I assume on a previous compatible version of iOS). It’s a shame to loose cherished software, but on the other hand everyone’s wanting the platform to move forward by embracing new technologies (and the shift to 64-bit is a necessity) and who wants to rely on tools that are no longer supported anyway? Anybody who still wants to run them can just keep an old iPad/iPhone for that purpose. It goes without saying that the die hard techies will always find a way!

      Myself I definitely want to see the platform continue to evolve, and embrace new and emerging hardware and software improvements! Plus if we’re ever going to see more RAM installed in future iDevices then the jump to 64 bits is the gateway! Further for the tools we love to continue to evolve around the ever changing technological landscape (that iOS is) then regular maintainance is a key consideration; without which their longevity is limited! At the same time it’s really nice that although iOS is relatively new, we indeed have iOS software ‘classics’ that users feel nostalgic about and will likely keep alternative iDevices around purely to revisit them; and this is kind of touching don’t you think?

      • Thanks for that background information – please don’t misunderstand me: I have no objection to “forward progress” with regard to 64-bit apps, as this will bring numerous benefits. I was just curious whether Caustic is 32-bit, and whether it was at any risk of being “killed off” on iOS as a result. I hope not – I coughed up £8 for the, and am just getting into it!

        • ConfusedKitten says:

          Hey Tim, by no means (I totally appreciate what you’re saying and believe me I feel the same way)! I actually just wanted to help by providing some clarity (as it’s a topic I’m really interested in) and the current state of the App Store is very confusing I find from experience! It’s also certainly disconcerting about the demise of 32-bit apps for a great many users I’m sure! I definitely own some ‘classic’ software which rocks and I wish their respective developers would give them the TLC they deserve (I’ll certainly be sad to see them finally retired if that’s what happens anyway)! However; trying to remain positive (which is tough in these crazy times) and appreciate the bigger picture, it also could be a good thing in that it might prompt their developers to finally update them if they’re still in a position to do so (which would make a great many people very happy)!

          The reason(s) why I say this is that over time I’ve contemplated the problems with iOS software maintenance (through discussions, chatting to support and developers etc) and I’ve discovered that App Store software ceases to be updated and supported for a variety of reasons (some of which can be complex and not so apparent to users like myself). For example sometimes apps are ‘commissioned’ by someone who wants to use something bespoke (but isn’t a developer) and has it made specially via a third party, which then might consequently only ever receive future attention via occasional (unassociated) freelance developers etc.

          Other times a company that makes a specific product ceases to exist, is bought out by a bigger company (like Apple) or disbands etc, or moves into the desktop world, in which case the product is retired, taken in a different direction or the project is taken on by others who may have different agendas or it’s phased out or rebranded (absorbed by larger software), or moved to another platform etc.

          Additionally, many developers produce software for iOS purely for the enjoyment of it (as a hobby), as it’s not a lucrative platform for most, as such they end up juggling low priority unpaid iOS updates with their actual paid careers as programmers (which they rely on to exist) and as such, are only able to give them occasional attention when it’s possible etc (which must be difficult)!

          Finally, the impression is always given online (or assumed) that entities are established companies and teams of developers (use of we as opposed to I) which is taught in industry as it provides an air of professionalism, but the reality is although some iOS projects are handled by major development teams (like Korg and Moog etc) a lot of the time it’s merely individuals taking care of the entire design process in isolation (which is hard going) so the timelines differ immensely!

          All of the above is just what I’ve deemed from the time I’ve been making music on iOS (a few years) but it’s certainly evolved in that time, and it’s taken me ages to better understand the dynamics of the App Store and development process because I think the app stores pretty unique in providing independent developers with a platform to express themselves (its more accessible) which breeds creativity, but has its own unique problems as well (it’s hard to sustain for developers). Anyway excuse me for rambling but I do find it an interesting topic!

          As such, I wanted to say a big thanks for the useful information you provided regarding the potential changes in iOS 11 (and those annoying warnings appearing when starting 32-bit apps) as I was unaware of this but it’s actually intriguing as I always wondered if consequently Apple were going to make some moves in future regarding the uncertain nature of content in the App Store! As such, I do think it will help because its difficult for new users to know what’s still actively supported (over time you get a sense of what is and isn’t) and if the move provides clarification, then it will hopefully improve the experience and make the iOS wilderness easier to navigate! :)

          Suffice to say, as @Devvy mentioned, if Caustic’s been updated recently then it must be compatible with 64-bit now or it wouldn’t have been accepted and published, so rest easy and enjoy he he! :)

        • ConfusedKitten says:

          Sorry Tim, not at all (and my apologies if it came across that way), I wrote a long thoughtful meandering reply that drifted off into the complexities of the dynamics of the AppStore but the sites eaten it for lunch x 2 unfortunately (probably too long… [oops] sorry John… again… my bad!) Anyway, I just wanted to say I really appreciated the information you provided which was very useful and got me thinking probably wayyy to much albeit (re: iOS 11 – I was totally unaware of this news so that’s great to know – kudos) and yes indeed as @Devvy kindly mentioned; you have nothing to worry about with ‘Caustic’ because if it’s been updated recently then Apple certainly wouldn’t have accepted it if it wasn’t fully 64-bit compatible so have fun! :)

          • Hi ConfusedKitten – no problem at all :-) Thanks for all that background info; I know I haven’t given much thought in the past to how apps are created and maintained, so it helps me understand something of what goes on behind the curtain!

    4. I read a few comments on IOS app store about the audio quality on Caustic… saying it’s not so hot but maybe that’s inaccurate? A facebook iOS group I’m in have nothing but good to say about it.

      I’m considering buying but thus far I’m doing nearly everything in Gadget.

      I like trying new apps though and I did buy caustic on android some years ago but found the 8 second delay on key presses affected my timing.

    5. John (Film4Q) says:

      I hadn’t heard of Caustic before but read your original review, then checked out Doug getting oodles of enjoyment from it in Soundtestroom’s extremely positive YouTube video, and decided that it had to be worth a punt.

      (What’s that, John? You wrote a piece last year about not buying so many apps? Must have been away that day. Got my fingers in my ears now. La-la-la. Sorry, can’t hear you. Ker-ching! Purchased. Now what were you saying…?)

      What a lot of app for a tenner! I can’t compare it with Gadget but I bought Tabletop when it was on sale and frequently find it more frustrating than fun.

      Caustic might look kind of retro – though presumably the simple GUI is one way that it keeps CPU usage so admirably low, and a couple of the included skins are rather less 80s in style – but it offers an incredible array of instruments and its simply workflow seems to be conducive to experimentation.

      Plus, as Kevin observes, the Mac and Windows versions are free downloads (I’ll be installing them evening). What’s not to love?

    6. A bit OT, but: with regard to the Mac version of Caustic, does anyone know where I can find the “Caustic folder” (for exchanging patches, samples, projects, mixdowns, etc.)?

      • Finally discovered the answer from a good Google around: the “Caustic” folder in the Mac version, is apparently located within “Documents” (haven’t looked yet myself, but presumably in each user’s home directory).

    7. What I love about Caustic when downloaded years ago is the dev was so friendly always having time to answer questions a friendly way. As does Wolfgang Palm for his own apps. Passionate people (sorry for my use of past/present in english!) Marc

      • ConfusedKitten says:

        That’s great Marc! Well I have to say I’m in love with Wolfgang Palm’s ‘Phonem’ currently and I’d certainly love the opportunity to discuss it with him (if he has a spare moment some time) when I’ve explored it further (as it’s pretty deep) and thus I’ve just retrieved my beloved AKG headphones from storage specially just to get lost in it further this weekend! :)

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