Jubal Flute review – Embertone port their beautiful virtual wooden flute instrument to iOS

Download from iTunes App StoreAs I reported a few months ago, Embertone – with collaboration from Blue Mangoo (a developer well know to iOS musicians through their iFretless apps) – released a  virtual saxophone instrument for iOS – Sensual Sax – as a port of one of their desktop virtual instrument products. Creating realistic sounding solo instruments from samples can be quite a challenge but, within some stylistic limits, Sensual Sax does a great job and can be used to create some very authentic sounding performances.

Embertone’s background is in desktop virtual instruments and they have a line of titles available. A good number of these share a couple of characteristics; they are keenly priced and perhaps best described as ‘niche’ in terms of the instrument selections. On the back of the success with Sensual Sax, the Embertone/Blue Mangoo partnership are now back with a second iOS offering; Jubal Flute.

As the graphics within the screenshots suggest, this is an ‘ethnic’ flute rather than an orchestral one. The original instrument sampled here was apparently discovered unloved at the back on a music store and is made of light-weight hemlock. It also has a magical sound….  and if you think Celtic music – and a similar vibe (if slightly different tone) to various Irish whistles, then you won’t be a million miles away from what’s on offer here.

Jubal Flute – the sound of a traditional wooden flute instrument in an app.

In app form, Jubal Flute is universal, requires iOS9.0 or later and it a 36MB download. The app can run stand-alone but also offers IAA, Audiobus and – yay!- Audio Unit v3 (AUv3) support. MIDI in/out is also included. The app is launched at UK£9.99/US$9.99. In iOS music app terms that’s perhaps a touch beyond the ‘casual purchase’ category but, as this is very much a niche (virtual) instrument, with probably something of a specialist audience in mind, if the sound suits your music, then I suspect the price point won’t prove too much of a barrier. Incidentally, the desktop version is priced at US$15. I’ve embedded the demo video for the desktop version below and, as far as I can tell, you are getting the same samples and pretty much the same sound/options in the iOS version.

Dance to my tune

The app’s controls themselves are fairly simple. A Settings button top-left allows you to configure the MIDI in/out. Otherwise, what you see on the main screen is what you get. A virtual keyboard is provided at the base of the screen and this includes a pitch-bend wheel. There is also a double keyboard option and, when you open this up, it’s like you have two versions of the instrument available as, even in the legato mode, you can play each keyboard independently.

Jubal Flute is simple to use…. but does sound very effective.

I’m not sure if the original instrument allows you to bend notes but you an here with the virtual version and it works. Used with an external MIDI keyboard, Jubal Flute responds to pitch bend as you might expect – all good and great for adding additional expression.

As hinted at above, you can choose between legato or poly mode. Chords are possible in poly mode but, obviously for a flute/whistle style instrument, single note melodic playing is more realistic and I have to say the legato mode does work very well indeed with, in the main, very smooth transitions between notes. This is not something that you find in all sample-based virtual instruments under iOS and the results here are very pleasing on the ear.

Aside from a few MIDI settings shown above, all the controls are contained on the main screen.

I suspect this is enhanced further by the round robin sampling which means you have multiple samples per note available with the software picking (at random) which sample to play each time a note is triggered. You can turn this option off and, while this may save a little bit of RAM/CPU resource, I’d be inclined to leave it on and forget about it; the extra realism is well worth the effort.

There is a dual keyboard option if you need it.

The only other controls are for the built-in reverb effect. You can adjust the size of the virtual reverberant space and the amount of reverb applied….  or just dial both back to zero and use your favourite 3rd-party iOS reverb/delay. Anyway, the built-in reverb is actually very good indeed and, with a few slowly played, legato notes in a melody, really does add some great ambience to the sound.

Feeling flutey

And the sound itself? Well, I have to say it is really rather good. I have Irish connections within my family and have spent many a happy night sat in Irish pubs listening to traditional Irish music with low D whistles or Irish pipes (think Davy Spillane/Moving Hearts). This is not exactly the sound of either of these instruments…  but is can certainly to that style of music. As with Sensual Sax, once you have adjusted to the playing style required, you can coax some remarkably evocative phrases out of Jubal Flute.

The app worked smoothly as an AU plugin within both Cubasis….

Indeed, the app’s blurb gets all mystical on us with talk of elves and Bilbo Baggins….  well, you get the general idea. OK, so musically, that means this is a niche instrument but, within that niche, Jubal Flute can sound very impressive. Apply the right amount of reverb and some delay and you really can get the ‘misty morning in the forest’ mood with just a few notes.

Technically, I tested the app standalone and via AU (with both Cubasis and AUM as my hosts) and with an external keyboard hooked up to my iPad. During testing, I has no issues with any of this and the app was a pleasure to use. Multiple AU instances also worked well.

… and with AUM, including multiple instances.

In summary

All that aside, I’m not sure there is much else to say. At UK£9.99/US$9.99, I suspect you would want to be genuinely interested in the styles of music that Jubal Flute suits in order to take a punt. However, within those styles, for slow, moody, flowing solos, Jubal Flute is very impressive and capable of some pretty realistic performances. Dropped over some gentle, evolving, pad sounds, you to easily create some music to meditate to….  or get more playful and uptempo and play a bit Pied Piper.

I believe that there is some desktop-style sample handling going on behind the scenes here in order to generate these realistic results. That’s perhaps easier to imagine with this kind of instrument based around a single sound and a single articulation (and therefore a fairly modest sample base)….  but as with Sensual Sax, it works very well.

Anyway, if ethnic/Celtic musical moods  are something you like to explore you are keen to explore, then as with Sensual Sax, Jubal Flute is well worth auditioning. It is easy to use and does it’s ‘thing’ (albeit a fairly narrow sort of thing) very well indeed. Check out the desktop demo video below to get a sense of the sound and then hit the App Store download button to find out more.

Jubal Flute

Download from iTunes App Store

 

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    Comments

    1. I was expecting a massive elephant footprint when you said “sampled”. It’s really rather tiny which is good from my perspective.

      Ozric Tentacles and Simon Posford (Shpongle) are two names that spring to mind incorporating real flute playing in synth music.

    2. Bilbo Baggins was always a suspicious character, but that aside this flute sounds wonderful. I queried the price point and got the following in return –

      “While sensual sax is a great instrument and a lot of fun, we see it as a (useful) novelty item. Jubal Flute is a great sounding instrument, and a useful professional tool. This is the price point that we think can sustain us so that we can continue making more great VIs for iOS! Hope that helps explain our thought process with the pricing.’

    3. Robert Goldberg says:

      At the price of Sensual Sax it would be irresistible. At twice the price, I’ll manage to resist till I find out more, listen to some demos, read more reviews. 5 bx is an impulse buy, 10 is not.

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