Some good news, some bad news for iPhone/iPod Touch owners. (For everyone who doesn’t care, we’ll be consolidating iPhone news from here on out so you can safely ignore it.)
Good news: iZotope’s mobile version of iDrum is here (seen above). It’s a nifty $5
toy, though some restrictions, including the lack of audio export, may keep it from being more than that.I Correction: you can exchange both samples and project files with the desktop iDrum, and use ringtone bounce (including, apparently, on iPod touch) to export audio. That could make this very useful as a mobile addition to your workflow.
I do also think it’s inspiring in the way that it uses touch interfaces, something that could bode well for what touch-enabled computer music apps might look like.
Better news: BtBx is a fun-looking US$3.99 beat machine with drum sounds and (at last!) real-time synthesizers from the creator of PSP Rhythm. Unfortunately, it doesn’t let you use your own samples, and it can’t quite stand up to the cooler PSP Rhythm – even if hacking a PSP is kind of a pain. But it is a good sign.
But bad news for Apple owners, good news for owners of other gadgets: the generative music studio Mixtikl will hit those platforms first because of Apple is tying its developers’ hands with technical and legal restrictions. It’s not a deal killer for everyone – we’ve seen developers write special client apps to get around file exchange issues, and obviously a number of developers aren’t concerned with legal terms because they’re releasing apps anyway. (Jobs is justifiably proud of their 60 million-download count.) But there’s no question that part of why the iPhone is more a mobile toy and less a mobile computer is in fine print and legalese, not silicon. That could be mobile carriers’ fault – but either way, it could also demonstrate that shrinking computers and not more powerful mobiles are the future for mobile music creation.
iDrum is In
iZotope have released their first app for iPhone, a mobile counterpart to the iDrum drum machine. (Thanks to Richard Lawler for the tip!)
iDrum for iPhone/iPod touch comes in two editions, each costing US$4.99 – a “Hip Hop” and “Club” version. (If you buy both, bizarrely, you get two apps; Richard speculates this may be due to how Apple sandboxes their apps.)
- An elegant interface, showing what touch-enabled apps in general can do
- Ring tone creation
- Some sound design names we enjoy (Goldbaby, Matt Simmers, Art Gillespie, Sable Gray)
- Round-trip work with the iDrum desktop app
- Can’t export audio of your creations directly, but you can use the ringtone bounce
- Ring tone creation requires a sync app on the desktop
Update/correction: I’m, fairly I think, called out by iDrum developer Art Gillespie on two points:
1. I missed the most important feature here, which is that the mobile iDrum works with round-trip co
mpatibility with the desktop iDrum. As Art points out in comments:
“you can do full round-trip editing of beats–including sending samples back and forth–with iDrum (desktop) for Windows/Mac.”
This obviously would fundamentally change the workflow of using the mobile app. If you’re not an iDrum user, you might stick to the rival drum machine for iPhone, Intua Beatmaker. But if you are an iDrum desktop fan, this could be a real killer app.
2. His experience with Apple developer relations has been positive, meaning me blurring the description of iDrum with some other criticisms of Apple’s platform and developer relations is unfair.
In my defense, there’s actually no explicit mention of the ability to share project files between desktop and mobile iDrum. So, let’s say that right now, as that’s very, very cool. (In fact, it’s cool enough that this is worthy of a separate aside!)
As for developer relations, I think that’s fair – and it’s absolutely in keeping with what we’ve been hearing. Some people are happy, some are unhappy, and some are simultaneously happy and unhappy. That’s what one would expect on any developer platform. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out some of the weaknesses alongside the strengths. It would be far easier to do so if Apple hadn’t placed an NDA over everything having to do with development, so that does mean I’m often ranting in the dark. But without violating an NDA, I think we can very safely say Art is happy, and there are a number of happy developers putting out great apps. There are other developers who are less happy, which has the side effect of ensuring we’ll have mobile apps on other platforms (and the jailbroken Apple platform) to look forward to, alongside these apps.
BtBx (“BeatBox”), From PSP Rhythm’s Creator
Louis Iturzaeta and Billy, the talented developers of the way-awesome PSP Rhythm on Sony’s gaming handheld, has launched their first iPhone / iPod Touch app, using a modified version of their RHYTHM engine.
- Real-time synths, with some great, acid-style sounds
- Fairly impressive features in a compact space
- Pattern-auto save, online docs
- Real-time sound modification via their engine
- No custom samples
- No audio export
- Kinda silly-looking interface (I prefer PSP Rhythm’s look – but Louie promises there’s a new skin coming soon)
At this absurdly low price, I can’t complain. Don’t let the baby toy interface fool you: the underlying sound engine means this could be a seriously fun soundmaker.
That said, I have to say, I’d choose the PSP app over this. I’ll add a major caveat, though: hacking a PSP is a pain. (More on that soon. Short version: buy a used unit on which someone has done the hard work for you.) It’s too bad Sony doesn’t have some outlet for homebrew developers like this to sell through the Sony PSP store. I think they could do great, iPhone-killing work.
Full specs from Billy:
Hey Peter and team, the drum machine/synthesizer BtBx that Billy and I (from PSP Rhythm) created is now available in the app store!
Below is are the features/specs of the app. It was written with a modified version of our RHYTHM audio engine. Our plan is to create a synth application and a full studio application as well as release "Lite" versions of each app.
BtBx is available for $3.99 and the "Lite" version will be available for $0.99 when it is released.
BtBx ("BeatBox") is a music sequencer for the iPhone or iPod Touch.
BtBx gives you instant access to the world of electronic music with big drum sounds and acid-style synthesizers.
- 8 drum sounds
- 2 instrument sounds
- 2 real-time synthesizers
- 16 step drum machine style sequencer
- 16 patterns
- Keyboard with +/- 3 Octave Range
- Realtime Mutes
- Tempo Adjustment (40-240 BPM)
- Low Pass Filter with cutoff frequency and filter resonance
- Auto-saves patterns so no data is lost
- Instruction manual is built into the application
BtBx utilizes a custom audio engine and sequencer which enables you to:
- Program song melodies with any sound
- Play any drum or instrument sound forward or in reverse on any pattern step
- Modify a Low Pass Filter on each sound (12 total LFPs running at the same time!)
- Add accent notes on the synthesizers
- Add Distortion to any sound
- Add Delay to any sound
Mixtikl Bails on Apple for Now
One of the most exciting upcoming iPhone apps is delayed for the forseeable future. That’s Apple’s loss, but a gain for Windows Mobile and Symbian as they gain the developers’ focus. The tool is Mixtikl, a mobile edition of an innovative music creation platform with:
- a generative music engine
- synths and samplers
- effects network
Is the problem that the iPhone isn’t powerful enough? Absolutely not. The problem is what happens after you add in other restrictions. Bottom line:
We were (and still are) very excited by the potential of our software running on these Apple devices, and we love Apple products and all our other software products run on Mac OS X (and Windows XP of course).
So, we have decided not to press ahead with development until Apple can:
- relax a number of (as we see it) overly restrictive terms in the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement
- allow apps to share/exchange data/files between themselves and an attached PC/Mac
The developers can’t talk about specifics because of the NDA covering the agreement, but they do point back to some of the issues I’ve discussed here.
Of course, this isn’t the end of the road for Mixtikl, necessarily. If Apple could relax or even better clarify the terms of their agreement, this app could be back. But this further illustrates the problems with the NDA. It’ll be even harder for developers to share these restrictions with one another, and for those issues to be addressed, if no one can even talk about it.
We have some wonderful mobile toys at the moment, but I do look forward to the day when cool mobile platforms don’t come with gag orders attached (cough, Apple) or require elaborate hacking (ahem, DS and PSP) just to use. Windows Mobile and Symbian remain valid and should have better hardware behind them soon. As for Linux platforms, basically, we’re just waiting for more to actually ship.
It’s well worth reading the full story: