Sector update – Jonatan Liljedahl brings new features to his brilliant slice sequencer

Download from iTunes App Storesector logoI reviewed Jonatan Liljedahl’s Sector when it was first released back in February. Sector is a bit of a difficult app to classify and describe but, in essence, it takes an audio loop, slices it (into ‘sectors’) and then allows you to reassemble and manipulate those sectors (slices) in various ingenious ways. If you are the kind of person that either likes to mangle their audio loops or who just wants to extract the absolute creative maximum from every audio loop in your collection, Sector is going to be right up your street.

I have to admit that, once I had got my head around the underlying concept of the app (and it’s deep, so this does take a little time), I was absolutely blown away by what was possible. Sector manages to be fun, relatively easy to use and almost endlessly creative…  and it really can make even the most tired of drum loops spring back into life. At UK£5.99 it is unbelievable value for money for anyone with a more experimental streak to their music making and, if a VST or AU version was available, I’d be flexing my credit card in a heartbeat.

If you are not familiar with the app, then please take a moment to wizz over to the original review of Sector for some context….  I’ll wait here….  Done? OK, let’s move on….

New dog, new tricks

It has barely been six weeks since the original – already brilliant – release but Jonatan is back with a significant update. And, yes, the update does include the usual array of minor tweaks and fixes that you might expect in a very new product. However, there are also a whole raft of new features. This is not just some tidying up; Sector has some very useful new tricks up its sleeve.

Sector's main interface - play spot the changes and see what you notice.....

Sector’s main interface – play spot the changes and see what you notice…..

Where to start? Well, in my original review I’d wondered whether it might be possible to display all the different configuration memory buttons – for the Map and Sequence memories – on a single screen. In the original version, you had to switch between the Map and Seq tabs (located top-left) to see these different memory slots. When setting up the contents of the slots this was not such an issue but, when ‘playing’ the slots to vary how Sector processes your audio loop, it didn’t make for the most fluent of workflows. This has now been rectified and, located bottom-left, you now have instant access to all the sets of memory slots. And, even better, the Warp tab now also has its own set of four memory slots; excellent.

The SND menu provides access to the new micro-fade feature to smooth out the playback of slices.

The SND menu provides access to the new micro-fade feature to smooth out the playback of slices.

Algorithms for slicing a loop can be quite sophisticated things, looking for transients to make sure the slices playback smoothly when reassembled. However, this process is not foolproof and can result in the occasional click or pop at slice boundaries on playback. Jonatan has now added a very neat micro-fade feature that can be applied at the start and end of each slice to reduce the likelihood of such audio irritations. By default, these fades are set to 1ms but, if you wish, you can adjust this value via the SND menu.

And talking of the SND menu, that’s also new. In fact, the original menu has ben split into two, with access to the SND (sound) and PRJ (project) menus now both located top-right. The SND menu gives you access to the individual loops/samples, the import options, access recordings, tempo and sector settings while the PRJ menu allows you to load/save full projects, configure the MIDI options and access the new, built-in user guide.

There are a number of these features that are also new and this includes the ability to record your Sector performances and, if you wish, load those back into the app for further mashing. Recordings can also be exported via AudioShare or AudioCopy. Note that there are also a number of new loops included within the app to serve as starting points for new users. There are some really cool things amongst this lot although you can, of course, load your own loops into the app also.

Small but welcome

There are a number of other minor workflow improvements also. In my original review, I did comment that it would be very useful to be able to audition individual slices without having to just listen to Sector while it was in playback mode. This feature is now included and it works brilliantly; you just tap on an individual sector to hear it playback. This is really useful when you are setting up your maps or sequences and is a significant improvement.

The menu system has been restructured and Sector now also includes a master output level fader.

The menu system has been restructured and Sector now also includes a master output level fader.

Perhaps more modest, but equally welcome, located top-right is a new master output level fader and small oscilloscope display. The latter is fun to watch but the former is, obviously, quite useful for controlling the signal level Sector is passing on to other apps or to your monitoring system.

Oh, and the warp options now include some additional choices for mangling individual sectors (slices) of your loop.

Like clockwork

There are a number of other new features to go alongside those described above. However, the absolute highlight – for me at least – in that Sector now supports MIDI clock sync. The documentation implies that the support is provided to sending MIDI clock sync to other apps. This is obviously useful but what i suspect most users really would like is the ability to sync Sector’s playback and tempo to something like their DAW app of choice. I gave this a try with Cubasis using Sector as an IAA instrument on a Cubasis MIDI track. I have to admit that I did a little jig around my studio room when – ta-dah! – Sector locked to the Cubasis transport controls and tempo; this really is a big step forward in terms of integrating the app into a wider recording workflow.

All Sector's memory slots are now ever-present lower-left and, even more wonderfully, MIDI Clock sync means Cubasis and Sector will work beautifully together.

All Sector’s memory slots are now ever-present lower-left and, even more wonderfully, MIDI Clock sync means Cubasis and Sector will work beautifully together.

The next hour or so was a bit of a blur as I experimented with adding some Sector magic to a few Cubasis projects and checked that the app would follow whatever tempo was set in Cubasis. Everything seemed to work well – as  big Sector fan, I’m one happy bunny :-)

In summary

From day 1, Sector has been a bit of a triumph. While it will not be for everyone – you need to like the beat-mangling/electronica music styles Sector falls so naturally into to really benefit from the app – but for those within its target audience, it really is a fabulous tool.

With this update, Jonatan has taken a great concept and just made it better. The new features bring some significant workflow improvements and the obvious potential the app has for creative loop manipulations is now just that much easier to capitalise upon. If you are an electronic music maker who can think of something more creative than Sector for a price as modest as UK£5.99, then please do let me know because I’ll want that also. For everyone else with an experimental music making streak, just hit the download button and enjoy.


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    1. Chris Catalano says:

      This thing is amazing, even though I am so far completely mind boggled by it. Just frigging nuts, and brilliant, and face meltingly WOW! I think it could very well be the high Watermark of iOS Music production to date. From the design, to the ridiculous level of mathematics that must have gone into the development, to the astonishing things it can do to both sound and even one’s sense of time, it is a breakthrough achievement. NOW, I just have to start to tame it a tiny bit, because the music must come first, and something this fantastic can make you lose track of that…

      • Hi Chris…. I guess that’s a ‘like’ for Sector from you then? :-) If you are into getting creative by mangling the odd loop or three it really is a brilliant tool…. best wishes, John

    2. For me the key improvement is the micro fade,I now find I can transform non percussive material in a very interesting way .The previous versions clicks and pops were too distracting.
      Up there with Samplr and Sliver for me….

      • Hi Steve…. Sector really is a very creative tool. Still getting my head around both Samplr and Sliver but we really do have some fabulous software appearing under iOS don’t we? Perfect? No…. but brilliant no-the-less…. Best wishes, John

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