We have a number of good iOS DAW/recording/sequencing apps available to us. What makes the ‘right’ app for you will, of course, depend upon exactly what that ‘job’ is. The few high-profile examples aside (Cubasis, Garageband for iPad and Auria (audio only at present but MIDI will hopefully be arriving shortly in the ‘Pro’ version), there are a number of other worthy contenders and one of these is MultitrackStudio by developer Giel Bremmers.
As I posted back in April, the app underwent a significant update to v.2.0. This included some new features within the Pro Extension IAP such as time stretching and the ability of the tempo editor to process audio tracks. There were also some nice workflow touches such as being able to create a new song template based upon the current song.
A further update appeared just a couple of weeks ago bringing a very rapid ‘iOS9 ready’ status for the app (good to see). However, progress is obviously rapid at Bremmers Audio Design as a further update – v.2.3.1 – has appeared on the App Store today. As I reported earlier today when looking at the bs-16i update (which is interesting as it make use of the new 3D touch technology supported by newer iOS hardware and iOS9), this latest update for MultitrackStudio is quite a significant one; the app can now act as a host for the new iOS9 Audio Unit (AU) plugin format.
This is, as far as I’m aware, the first of the mainstream iOS DAW/sequencer apps to offer AU hosting capabilities so this is an exciting development. Of course, this new feature is, at present at least, more of academic interest than practical use, as I think we only have one iOS ‘effects’ app – Remaster from Audioforge Labs (an EQ/compression app) – that is currently available with AU capability.
Anyway, I was very keen to give the technology a try…. and, even with just a single app/AU plugin available, I have to say that I did a little jig around my iPad studio room when I saw this working this morning. When you tap on one of the Insert effects slots on an audio track in MultitrackStudio, there is now an additional category of effects available; AU plugins. Yes, sitting within this group was my solitary Remaster app, but it was good to see none-the-less. It loaded into the slot without incident.
Tapping on the effects slot button then opens the effect for editing. However, unlike when you do this with an IAA effects app where you then switch to that app’s standard iOS interface (as the app runs alongside MultitrackStudio), instead, Remaster opened within a custom sub-window within MultitrackStudio itself. The control set looks different (I have not yet had time to explore whether all the features of the app are supported in this format or not) but it appears to be nicely laid out and was easy enough to use.
The other point to note – and this was the bit that got be jumping around – was that I was able to load multiple instances of Remaster into my MultitrackStudio project. While we had all been hoping that the new AU plugin specification would allow this, to see the ‘one instance’ issue bypassed in this way is great and, if it is implemented in our other favourite iOS effects apps in the same fashion, this is going to open up all sorts of workflow efficiencies… and, as the plugin selections and setups will be saved as part of your MultitrackStudio project, reloading the project to start working again is going to become a process more like that found on the desktop; very neat. Incidentally, I was able to use both AU and a single IAAS version of Remaster at the same time within MultitrackStudio.
I’ve no idea just how much work is involved for a developer to add AU support to their apps. However, if it does involve providing an alternative display layout so that the app can ‘work within’ an AU host app, that does suggest -technical issues aside – that, for some apps, it might well involve quite a lot of work. We shall just have to wait and see how quickly (or otherwise) developers can deliver on this if they choose to add AU support.
There are two other things that this brief demo – exciting though it is – doesn’t yet tell us about. First, we are still to see our first MIDI instrument app with AU support; a few of our better-know synth or sample-based instruments as AU plugins would be great to see and it will be interesting to see what, if any, limitations there are in how far the AU technology can take us towards the way these things currently work on the desktop.
Second, while MultitrackStudio is commendably the first iOS DAW/sequencer app with AU hosting support, there has not, as yet, been any indication from other DAW/sequencer developers as to if/when they might also add AU hosting support. This might be a little chicken and egg… as more effects and/or instruments support AU, then that might drive development in the potential host apps (or maybe it works the other way around?).
Anyway, picking the right recording software for your own needs is never easy. MultitrackStudio for iPad is currently priced at UK£22.99 and the Pro Extension IAP is set at UK£14.99 and, if you pick your software based upon rapid development and keeping at the cutting edge of what’s possible under iOS, then MultitrackStudio for iPad certainly ticks that particular box. Giel has regularly updated the app and, gradually, the specification has evolved into something quite impressive. If one of the ‘names’ just doesn’t gel with your own workflow or needs, then MultitrackStudio for iPad is most certainly worth a look.