Dubstation 2 review – Audio Damage continue to impress with their growing iOS AU app range

Download from iTunes App StoreI’ve recently reviewed Rough Rider 2, Grind Distortion and Eos 2 by Audio Damage. The developer has been producing desktop music software/plugins for some time….  and building a good reputation for well-featured software sold at (for the desktop market at least) competitive prices. All three of the above iOS apps represent ports of desktop plugins to iOS.

And, a couple of weeks ago, they released a further such port in Dubstation 2. As I’ve been peddling wildly on various other work fronts since the app was released – and my ‘review to do’ queue has consequently been growing – with a brief interlude this week on an ongoing music project, I thought I’d better play a bit of review catch-up. So just what is Dubstation 2 all about?

Dubstation 2 – Audio Damage deliver another top-notch iOS music app as an AU plugin.

Slight delay

There are various suggestions as to where the term ‘dub’ comes from in music but one characteristic of that musical influence is creative use of delays….   so perhaps it should come as no great surprise that Dubstation 2 is a delay effect. The iOS version apparently brings exactly the same features as the desktop version both in terms of controls and sound. That is likely to be a very good thing as the desktop plugin sounds very good indeed and has gained itself some very positive reviews (for example, check out the video review embedded below).

Both desktop and iOS software are now based on ‘v.2’ but the original desktop version of Dubstation was around for a long time and proved to be very popular. When it appeared on the desktop, v.2 added a number of new features as well as technical improvements. Those are now all also present in the iOS app.

The app runs as a stand-alone processor and offers IAA support but I suspect most folks will probably be most impressed that it is also supplied as an AUv3 so you can run it within a suitable host such as Cubasis, AUM, Audiobus, etc. as required…  and, yes, you could run multiple instances if you wished…

The app can be run stand-alone…. but with IAA and AU support it will slot into your workflow with ease.

Dubstation 2 is a universal app and requires iOS9.3 or later. Like all Audio Damage’s iOS offerings to date, it is modestly priced….  this time around just UK£4.99/US$4.99. It requires iOS9.3 or later and is a tiny 7MB download.

Perfect echo

The control set for the iOS version of Dubstation 2 matches that of the desktop version. As shown in the various screenshots, the UI is split into three areas and, while there are more controls here that you might find on your average stomp-box delay effect, it’s not so complex that a few minutes use – and a quick skim of the PDF manual from the Audio Damage website if required – wouldn’t leave you pretty comfortable.

In the left-side section you get an input level control and both high and low cut knobs. The latter two allow you to roll off some of the high-end and low-end of the processed signal so you can tonally change the character of the delays. These are not set up as low-pass and high-pass though; they are set to focus on specific frequency ranges in a way that attempts to emulate classic analog or tape-based delay units.

The left-side panel controls….

The Saturation control applies a fairly mild, but very pleasing on the ear, distortion to the delayed signal. Set this to zero and you get a nice clean delay that’s perfect for conventional delay duties. However, crank the Saturation towards the right and things start to

There is a nice ‘dual mode’ – see the switch located far-right – that allows you to set two separate delay times for some really nice trippy effects….  and the Saturation control allows you to warm things up in a rather nice ‘analog’ sounding way. This is very cool and, on vocals, somewhat addictive. Like the EQ controls, it just helps to separate the delays from the actual source audio a little more.

One of the newer features added in v.2 of Dubstation was the LFO option. The left panel also includes LFO Rate and LFO Depth knobs. These allow you to introduce some subtle (or not so subtle) pitch and timing variations to the delays. Again, this is a characteristic of older hardware delays (in particular tape-based delays) and can also add some additional analog vibe to the sound.

The right-side panel provides conventional Mix (wet/dry) and Output Level knobs. However, there are also two switches. Ping-pong does exactly what you would expect and, when on, your delays will alternate between the left and right side of the stereo field. You also get the Mode switch and this changes the contents of the central panel as, in Dual mode, you get an extra control allowing independent setting of both left and right delay times.

…. and the right-side panel….

As well as the Delay Time knob (or knobs), the central section provides a Tempo Sync switch (when off, the Delay Time is set in msec with values up to 1 second) and a x2 Tempo switch. This extends the maximum delay time to 2 seconds. It’s also worth noting that, like old analog delays, each repeat has somewhat less high-frequency content than the one before it…. which was one of the characteristics that gave them their warm, musical, character.

The Feedback knob does exactly what you would expect and higher values ‘feed back’ more of the signal into the delay line and therefore produce more repeats. Wind this fully right and the repeats can go on for ever….  until you get a wall of sound….  quite nice for a bit of special effect ear candy occasionally :-)

… and the central panel…. shown in ‘dual’ mode with separate knobs for the left/right delay times.

Of all the controls, the one that perhaps takes the most getting used to is the Reverse switch. Again, this is perhaps more at the ear candy end of the spectrum so it is perhaps to be reserved for occasional use but, if thew delay line has audio in its memory as the switch is flipped, that audio is reversed. To hear the effect more clearly (and get your head around what’s happening), then set a long delay time, start playback, and then flip the switch on and off a few times….  you will soon get the hang of it and chucked into a mix at the end of short phrase, this is very cool :-)

The Loop switch also uses whatever audio is currently ‘in memory’. What you then get is the last phrase captured by the delay line being endlessly repeated. Again, this is something to be switched on/off to create spot effects….  and, again, it works great at the end of a sung phrase to add a little something extra.

The central panel also includes access to the Preset system. Dubstation 2 ships with a few example presets but you can, of course, create your own. Presets can, apparently, also be ported between the iOS app and the desktop version.

Use without delay

In use, I had no problems with Dubstation 2. I did most of my testing with the app running via AU within Cubasis but it also worked happily within Audiobus 3 and stand-alone. I tried it with vocals (as a send effect) and also on various instruments (both as an insert and send) and technically it worked great in all cases.

The app offers a preset system that works well within the AU plugin.

However, what’s perhaps more impressive (and more important?) is that is sounded great also. While it perhaps doesn’t have the really far out there madness of some delay-based effects I’ve used, Dubstation 2 can get very trippy indeed. Apply it to a really simple drum beat, but set suitably different tempo-sync’ed delay times left and right, and you can create some wonderful rhythmic effects. Equally though, for a conventional vocal treatment, it also works very well indeed and the options to colour the delay line in terms of tone and saturation are very effective. The control set give you plenty of control…  but without things being so complex that you can lose the will to live….  In that respect, it’s a very good piece of design.

Trippy drum beats anyone? It does vocals with ease but Dubstation 2 is also great when applied to other audio sources…..

Tested alongside my usual AU delay app of choice – Numerical Audio’s excellent RP-1 – I have to say I’d be struggling to say one was ‘better’ than the other. They offer slightly different things. Both can do conventional delay treatments with ease….  but perhaps Dubstation 2 can be pushed just a little further in the ‘special effects’ arena when required? Either way, both are similarly priced and both represent unbelievable value for money….. Pay your money and take your choice….  or just get both :-)

In summary

Dubstation 2 is brilliant addition to the Audio Damage iOS music app catalogue and, for almost any iOS music maker, would make a brilliant addition to your app collection. Like all Audio Damage’s iOS offerings to date, it is modestly priced….  this time around just UK£4.99/US$4.99. How you can buy such a well-featured, software-based, delay effect for so little money is beyond me. This is yet another – crystal clear – example that the App Store pricing model is unfathomable. It works very much in the favour of the purchaser in the short term….  but whether it provides a sustainable model for developers in the long term (especially developers of niche apps) is another matter.

Anyway, economics aside, Dubstation 2 comes highly recommended.  Check out the desktop demo video below (the iOS version is pretty much identical)….  and then hit the App Store download button to find out more.

Dubstation 2 delay

Download from iTunes App Store

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