I’ve reviewed a number of iOS music apps from Klevgränd Produktion here on the blog over the last year or two – Vandelay, Squashit, Svep, Roverb, Enkl, Weeel, Korvpressor, PressIt and Esspresso. A number of these are also available in an AU plugin format for these working on an OSX desktop system and Klevgränd took a pretty bold step a few months ago when the also added AU support under iOS; it was great to see… and, in every case, I’ve been hugely impressed with the creative possibilities that these apps provide. In addition, the novel – and very streamlined – user interfaces are ideal for the AU format.
After a few months of relative quiet, Klevgränd recently launched a new app – Jussi, a sort of vocal synthersizer – and it was delivered in formats for desktop (AU, VST) and iOS (standalone and AU). Klevgränd’s aim wasn’t to provide a realistic ‘singer in an app’ but more to provide a virtual instrument that can be ‘played’ to create some fun vocal sounds and, to that end, as I discussed when reviewing the app, Jussi hit the spot.
Klevgränd and not putting their feet up just yet though and, hot on the heels of Jussi comes a further release. This time it’s Tines, a stripped back virtual electric piano with a ‘Jussi-style’ minimalistic UI and, as with Jussi, AU support from the off under iOS. Also as with Jussi, Tines is launched for both desktop and iOS at the same time, with a launch price on the App Store for just UK£3.99/US$4.99 (this in an introductory offer apparently). The app is universal, requires iOS9.1 and is a 32MB download. The desktop version is launched at a modest US$12.99.
More KISS please
As mentioned, Tines will run on both iPad and iPhone and, when run as a stand-alone app on my large-format iPad Pro test system, the minimalist control set almost seems a little lost on the large screen :-) Don’t expect Tines to replace, for example, something like IKM’s iLectric or the electric pianos found in Korg’s Module; that’s not what this app is about. What you get here is a single electric piano instrument and a number of controls that allow you to tweak the basic sound. Fortunately, however, that basic sound is actually rather pleasing on the ear…. and, as even a brief tinkle with an external keyboard will demonstrate, responds rather nicely to MIDI velocity to give the sound both volume dynamics but also a tonal response.
In terms of the control set, what you see on the single screen is exactly what you get. Phase adjusts the phase (surprise!) between the left and right channels to adjust the stereo nature of the sound, while the ‘Wobble’ Depth/Speed XY control applies tremolo style effect (and is very nice indeed). The Decay control is actually more of a ‘sustain’ control as that seems to be the part of the ADSR envelope it actually controls, while the Air control adds a rather nice (and suitably subtle) reverb to the sound. Volume does… well, go on, guess :-)
Which leaves the Low, Mid and High controls…. and, no, these are not really EQ (doh!) although they can be used to change the tonal character of the sound. In fact, this is actually a three-band distortion effect so you can add some analog-style ‘warmth’ to different frequencies to change the character (tone) of the sound. This is really very effective and, rather wonderfully, the distortion responds very smoothly to playing dynamics; hit your external keyboard harder (higher MIDI velocities) and you get more distortion. It really does add a great deal of character to the sound.
Klevgränd have most certainly kept things simple but, fortunately, there is nothing stupid about the design; Tines is compact, to the point, and sounds rather good with it. Oh, and if you want to tweak these various controls via MIDI, then the useful PDF manual (available via Klevgränd’s website) lists all the MIDI CC numbers required. That said, a MIDI Learn feature would be a nice addition as opposed to having to work out how to configure specific CC values on your hardware controller (which can often be a bit of a pain).
Are you missing me?
In testing, I had no problems using Tines as either a stand-alone app or via my usual AU host apps – Cubasis and AUM – including (yay!) multiple instances of the app. I also had no issues getting the app to respond to an external MIDI keyboard, although there are no MIDI settings available within the app itself. In short, Tines just worked, end of story.
Well, almost…. because what I have not mentioned at all as yet is two iOS stalwarts; Audiobus and IAA. The reason is pretty simple; like Jussi, Tines doesn’t include support for either technology. Klevgränd make this very clear within the App Store description and even clearer in the PDF manual where there is a comment about seeing AU as the future for iOS music technology and politely asking users to let them know if they think they are wrong in this view.
Personally, I don’t think they are wrong – AU (or a similar plugin format) is absolutely the way we should be going – but some iOS musicians might not feel that Audiobus and IAA are quite ready to be discarded just yet, especially if they have an established workflow build on those technologies. Still, if you are told upfront about the available formats as Klevgränd have done most clearly in this case, you can, of course, make your own informed purchase decision. However, from a developers point of view – and particularly one that is familiar with the AU format on the desktop – I can easily see where Klevgränd are coming from here.
I also think it perhaps hints at another trend we might see in the progress towards AU taking over from Audiobus and IAA; that that process is perhaps most likely to manifest itself in new releases than in updates to some old favourites. Apps being designed and launched now can be developed with the AUv3 format firmly at the front of the process. Retro-fitting it to an existing app is obviously possible but, when users are probably expecting it to be done for free, and especially if the app itself has a deep/complex user interface (not ideal for the relatively small AU windows some hosts offer), this is going to be a lot of work for developers with little by way of reward. We shall see…. but I, for one, would not be surprised to see IAA and Audiobus support gradually tail off in some other new releases….
Tines is most certainly not the only electric piano app you might want in your collection but, if you have already embraced the AU format, and you want a KISS-style e-piano that you just load up and get playing with, then Klevgränd have just the thing for you. The sound is very usable and there is enough by way of character and dynamics to eep things interesting.
No, there are not hoards of effects included but then most of us iOS musicians now have a good collection of addition effects – reverbs, delays, modulation, etc. – that we can easily add (and some of them, like Klevgränd’s own audio effects apps, also available as AU plugins) if required. Simple, to the point, and rather sweet sounding, Tines is most certainly well worth a look and a listen. Check out the video demo below and then hit the download button to find out more or grab it at the discounted launch price :-)