Lovely layouts, but it raises the question: will we increasingly see software that simply looks like this, so that the touch controller and soundmaking software are one and the same?

The iPad could have its first killer controller app, if you like the looks of midipad. While just a series of screenshots at this point (also promised for iPhone, but not yet available), midipad promises some intriguing features: it’s pretty, it features lovely control layouts and widgets, and it makes use of MIDI networking to make setup and configuration a cinch (especially on the Mac).

  • It uses network-MIDI: connect and play. With support for the Zeroconf standard (what Apple calls Bonjour), and MIDI over network communication, the midipad can appear as another network device on the Mac. (It sounds as though you still need software to translate the network MIDI data on Windows, though more on that thought in a separate story.)
  • Pre-built layouts and controls: Buttons, trigger pads, sliders, ribbon controllers, rotary knobs, and pre-defined macro “blocks” like transport control combine to form studio, DJ, launching (as in Live), and effects layouts.
  • Submixes/multiple setups It’s a little sketchy in the description, but it sounds as though you can also combine different layouts.

No pricing or availability yet, but you can peruse the site:

http://www.midipad.de/

The inevitable comparison will come to the Lemur, the pioneering multi-touch controller from JazzMutant. Those comparisons are fair, indeed. Certainly, the primary appeal I’ve heard from many Lemur users – unique control widgets available on the Lemur platform – are just software. There’s nothing stopping clever developers from making appealing controllers for the iPad (or other Android, Windows, or Linux pads, if any of those prove worthy). And the Lemur doesn’t support this intelligent use of the Mac’s network MIDI support for zero-configuration setup.

Some of the Lemur’s tradeoffs are reproduced here, too, however. Like the Lemur:

  • You sacrifice the tactile feedback of real hardware for flexibility.
  • It appears you have to create controls in advance, not on the fly.
  • The controls still largely emulate the interface paradigm of conventional hardware, rather than imagine new controls for a screen.
  • It’s just a controller, separate from a screen, rather than your sound-making software itself having this sort of touch interface.

Those aren’t necessarily criticisms: these kinds of controllers are clearly useful, and it’ll be great to see how this gets used. What I’d say is there’s an opportunity to design touch-based musical tools that aren’t just Lemur-style controllers. (Consider what happens if the sound-making software uses touch in place of the mouse – that could inspire an entirely new entire generation of software, not just one or two useful apps. We’re still just missing the appropriate hardware. More on that soon)

Actually, I only have one potential criticism, which is that while this low-contrast, white-background layout looks refreshingly different and pretty, it’d likely be blinding in a darkened performance environment.

But I’m looking forward to seeing how this works – and I imagine we’ll see a number of other similar apps available even from launch day on the iPad, with more to follow. I’m not buying an iPad, but I will be looking for early adopters who can report back. I am genuinely interested to see how the platform evolves and what developers design for it.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in, and yes, Synthtopia beat me to writing this up.

What about JazzMutant and Stantum?

I think this requires a postlude. JazzMutant is in no danger of going out of business, as far as I know. You’ll see one little line at the bottom of the about JazzMutant page:

“Since mid 2007 JazzMutant has become the Music & Media product division of Stantum Technologies.”

That line means everything. Stantum is a vendor in multi-touch technologies to OEMs, including makers of Windows 7-powered touchpads and laptops:
http://www.stantum.com/en/

One of the things I wrote back in 2004 was that I thought, cool as the Lemur was, eventually we’d see the touch display and the software making music, visuals, and the like merge into one and the same device. (Look at it this way: you don’t buy a separate computer to connect your mouse and keyboard to, do you?) Stantum is the sort of company that could enable just that sort of technology. The fact that they’ve stayed in the Lemur business seems to me to be very intelligent, because it means they continue to interface with musicians and DJs – many of whom have remained loyal to the Lemur. Even if you’re not in the market for a Lemur and get an iPad, Stantum remains one to watch. And if you get neither a Lemur nor an iPad but are interested in where touch is going, Stantum is definitely one to watch.

More on Stantum and the rest of the touch landscape soon; the iPad is important, I think, but partly because there is a bigger picture.

  • http://www.nineinchnails.it cloddo

    Comparing an iPad+apps_like_this and a Lemur… well, JazzMutant should think about lowering prices if they want to survive! :P

  • http://Noneatthemoment Ramon Tejada (band)

    So excited to see the possibilites !

    This is a great start to something BIG!

  • http://www.chromedecay.org Joshua Schnable

    This app looks gorgeous, I'll start with that. And I think there's certainly a market for it – TouchOSC requires a certain patience to customize, and doesn't have what appear to be alpha dial/rotary type controls (as seen on the DJ screen).

    How well that all works will be the key. In an idealized, "clean room" sort of setting, probably great. At a live performance, where something can and usually does go wrong, I personally wouldn't want to introduce the iPad into that mix.

    It's funny how this stuff is tempting – it certainly feels like the future compared to say, the Evolution UC-17 controller that's sitting on my desk. It's bulkier, requires cables, and only has one static layout. I also can't read the news, books, or listen to music on it. On the other hand, the one thing it was designed to do, it does rather well.

    This is getting a bit off topic, but I think the real interesting potential with the iPad will be the instruments that people create for it. A drum machine, or little synth, or other things along that line – I think the iPad is *perfect* for that kind of stuff.

  • evan

    One question is what is the number of points that get tracked on the ipad?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yeah, in performance, I have to say, I still like wires. :) It's stunning to me that we still don't have a way to make a physical connection with these things, not on iPad/iPhone and not on Android, either. I'm hopeful at least that as Android gets put on netbooks and tablets with USB ports, *eventually* Google will get around to some hardware interfacing.

    Of course, that means in the meantime devices that run Mac OS, Windows, and (more vanilla) Linux all have some appeal.

    But I will be torture-testing some of the wireless stuff, too. I have a portable wifi adapter that's ready to be my road device if anything truly feels ready.

  • http://www.retrothing.com/ James Grahame

    Ask and ye shall receive, Peter. http://line6.com/midimobilizer/

    As for midipad, it will be unusable without some sort of of stand for the iPad (which is unstable when laid flat on a table because of its silly convex back.)

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Oh, right. Completely forgot about that.

  • http://www.brianscibinico.net Brian

    This looks amazing, but i have to wonder about latency. with a wireless connection and midi, is it safe to assume this will have a noticeable lag?

  • http://www.midipad.de Tobias

    Latency is between 5 and 15msecs (roundtrip!) with the iPhone 3G (not GS), with the higher performance of the 3G or the A4-processor in the iPad it will be even less.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Tobias: that's including wifi connection to the computer, really? That's amazing. :) I just hadn't measured it.

    Since the iPad's A4 (cough) is stunningly similar to similar ARM chips, that also means good things for other devices.

    Anyway, take a look at the controls in these layouts – there's almost nothing that requires low latency.

    Latency on game systems, by contrast, is enormous, often getting into the 150-200 ms range (although that's also why music games need elaborate latency compensation)

  • http://www.PatternMusic.com RichardL@PatternMusi

    @Peter @James Grahame

    Line 6 has stated that they will allow 3rd party software to access their MIDI interface. Hopefully they will just open it up and publish an interface library.

  • http://www.PatternMusic.com RichardL@PatternMusi

    Or maybe not… (this from Line 6's FAQ):

    "Can I use MIDI Mobilizer to control synthesizer applications or play other music apps on my iPhone?

    This is technically possible, but would require software updates to each application in order to communicate with MIDI Mobilizer. Additionally, the developer of the application would need to become a Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer developer in order to be given the development tools, and allow Line 6 to publish their MIDI Mobilizer-enabled version (currently, all applications for a hardware accessory must come from the same publisher)…."

  • http://wfmu.org/playlists/to trent

    I am waiting for iPad DJ LE w/ 2 1/8" stereo outs

  • http://www.stepwisesound.com dave ahl

    Looks like it could be a great controller!

    Sounds like latency is nice and low.

    It will be hard for companies like Jazz Mutant / Stantum to compete with Apple on the hardware cost — Apple's sales volume and the benefit of shared components across product lines must be orders of magnitude higher.

    I think this is a way nicer visual for an audience than someone staring at a laptop — gets away from the old "checking your email" cliche a bit though of course you can do that on an iPad :)

    There's been buzz (but no actual plans) for Reason to go to iPad too. Seems like it would be possible at least:

    http://www.musicradar.com/news/tech/propellerhead

    I am hoping to see Mainstage for iPad as well :)

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Dave:

    Yeah, I just read that post. I'd hardly count that as a glowing endorsement from Ernst, however.

    Stantum is selling to OEMs. There's no question that they could get up to iPad-like volume if they have the right solution.

    Case in point: Synaptics. Almost every laptop on the market (every one I've EVER found) uses a Synaptics touchpad, including – not coincidentally – Apple's. (Yep, Apple has a PC trackpad in their laptops.)

    Another case in point: Wacom, who made a lot of the digitizers in previous tablet PCs along with their own third-party hardware accessories.

    The Lemur isn't competing with iPad on volume and cost, but it was never, ever intended to do that. What it did accomplish was provide Stantum with years of experience dealing with musicians – including some fairly big names who don't care about shelling out an extra $500, $1000, $2000. That's something that's badly needed if products not made by Apple are to compete on design.

  • Adrian

    Sorry to be pedantic, but you really dont want to be "begging the question", you just want to "ask the question".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Adrian: actually, yes, I agree. The Wikipedia article is somewhat poor; see:
    http://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/26/magazine/on-lan

    Of course, the incorrect usage was so common in 1998 (and remains common in 2010) that many of us have tended to ignore it.

    And they say online writing has to mean the end of writing and style. You don't have one copy editor; you have thousands. :)

  • http://www.federicopepe.com Federico

    you won't believe me, but i had already thought of a thing like this one, too… exactly the same one!

    I'm so sad now. :(

  • http://www.synthtopia.com James Lewin

    Peter – good to read your thoughts on this and thanks for the link back to Synthtopia, too.

    The issues you raise here and the ones you raised in your earlier critique of the iPad as a platform for music-making are all valid.

    I hope that you reevaluate your "cup is half empty" view of the iPad as a music platform, though.

    The iPad is too important a digital music platform to dismiss because it's not open enough, because it doesn't have enough ports or because of flaws in Apple's app approval process.

    Your concerns about the iPad need to be balanced with the fact that the iPad is relatively inexpensive, you can order it now and developers are lined up to do interesting things with it.

    I hope to see you come around on this.

    The iPad platform seems like a natural fit for CDM – and your deeper, focused coverage is going to be needed.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Hi James, I'm flattered by the response, but the issues I raise here are not necessarily iPad critiques.

    The midipad, like the Lemur, assumes that what you want is a controller that's separate from the sound source – a set of knobs and faders that control your software. It also largely models those controls on simulating physical hardware (faders, encoders). You gain some things (flexibility, different screens, always having the number of knobs and faders you want). You also lose some things (okay, one big thing: tactile feedback).

    There are two additional opportunities, whether on the iPad or another tablet. One is to make the application an all-in-one soundmaker, too. The other is to have control widgets go beyond traditional faders and knobs in conception.

    I didn't bring up anything in this case regarding the iPad itself. I was just heading off the "JazzMutant had better lower their prices or they're irrelevant" argument. That's a big mistake, because it ignores Stantum's valuable tech portfolio and the fact that they're selling to OEMs. In fact, the more successful the iPad is, the more likely it is that other vendors will "come around" to the idea of including high-quality multi-touch input. Stantum's tech even has some advantages over Apple's.

  • JavaJ

    Looks awesome. I also found a company that is creating an ipad/iphone/ipod convertor to midi- which will let you plug up to 2 devices and convert straight to MIDI (no computer needed). This may be something to use with this package as well.
    http://www.iconnectivity.com/

  • Ulhuru

    I love the idea of using the iPad as a remote controller, of course, and this app looks great. But I'll wait till a few others try it live in a room crowded by smartphone owners and their WiFi and/or Bluetooh on… see how much an Ethernet, or even USB cable, will be missed.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Hmmm… looks like iConnectivity has the issue that the aforementioned Line6 solution does: it only supports some apps. And that's the issue: after years of being able to take for granted common standards (Core MIDI devices, USB), suddenly we have different, parallel proprietary efforts reinventing the wheel. You won't be sure when you buy one of these adapters what apps will work.

    I'm not exactly sure what the fix would be on the iPhone platform, but I'm fairly certain this prospect won't really excite users until there is a fix.

  • Detroiter

    I agree with James. In my opinion, the iPad (or some multitouch tablet… see Wired) is poised to be the next-generation digital turntable. With proper software implementation, it has the capability to store, play, control, manipulate and output 2 channels of audio. So what you need is 2 iPads…and a hardware interface between them to mix the output, amp and cue for your headphones, network the decks and storage, etc. Each iPad could possibly host 2 decks with 4 channels output digitally to the interface. Anyone listening? (Apogee, Korg, Numark, Allen – Heath, Vestax!?) Its interesing to me that Wacom has been mentioned as they absurdly drum on about their Nextbeat when they could provide software to allow DJs to use two Bamboo Fun tablets to control existing industry-leading mixing software using multitouch gestures. Its an inexpensive, accessible, real next-big-thing solution, and they'd increase sales volume. Its all about providing what musicians NEED while innovating and advancing into the future.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Detroiter: But why wouldn't you just put that on *one* tablet?

    There's also the matter of the iPad's file system design – i.e., one that avoids direct user control. Some interesting thoughts on that:
    http://www.evansharp.com/2010/01/file-management-

  • Fugubot

    Thanks for the thoughtful first impressions.

    I'm looking forward to trying this out. When the iPad was announced many enthusiasts were disappointed, focusing on the limitations which Apple imposes. But as the app developers are stepping forward, they're showing there's a lot of promise to the platform even if it has some real limitations.

    I use Novation controllers and Novation already has an iPhone Automap app. If they migrate this to the iPad platform, this will offer a great tool to Novation's loyal customers. The Tenori-on, the Monome, among others could be emulated for much less than the hardware alternatives and could make some developer happy. Propellerheads floated the idea of developing something for the iPad.

    Tech reporters who have actually held the iPad claim the touch interface is stunningly responsive. If more developers follow through, the $500 iPad could be a very affordable and versatile alternative tool to a stack of single-use hardware.

    I've always been a Windows guy but I feel there's palpable excitement building around the iPad. Time will tell.

  • Detroiter

    Sorry, that's Wired issue April 2010, on newsstands now.

    @Peter: 1 10" screen is just enough for adequate control of one deck. See any professional Pioneer CD deck. Plus effects, rudimentary control of a second "minimized" deck in a system as I've described, and more innovative uses of the space dedicated to the maximized deck. Also, 2 tablets would enhance stage presence, besides circumventing the limitations of Apple's (fake) half-duplex multitouch (the promise of multitouch is for multiple touch points to do multiple independent things simultaneously, not one thing at a time.)

    Oh, and about Apple's file fascism… ever heard of Rockbox? Or just have the DJ software manipulate the file system as necessary. ;-)

  • Detroiter

    Sorry for over-sharing here, but practical, functional Futurism is my thing. I've been meaning to mention that the more Apple bastardizes their products with overt protectionism and blatant mainstream pandering, the more they prove they have less and less to offer our niche and the more I want them to 'lose' in the grand scheme of things. Their products are beautiful, but it is for this exact reason I'm hacking out my comments today on a Droid, and not an iPhone…

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Detroiter: oh, I agree, it's possible. It's really a matter of developers building an app that targets the serious DJ and not just the amateur. It is more likely to happen now that there are bigger screens.

    At the same time, think about what you could do with a truly open file system and the ability to work with whatever hardware you want. You could have a tablet with a touch interface but not have to give up your beloved USB gear, like your favorite audio interface.

    To be honest, so far, I think it'll be some months before we see mature applications for any platform – iPad included. The kind of serious DJ app we're describing should take time. (*Should* take time. Time, thought, evolution.) I expect the first apps we'll see will be far more focused on low-hanging fruit.

    And I don't mean that the "serious" app has to be more complex – far from it; I think sometimes it takes more time to come up with a great simple design.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Detroiter: Well, those other platforms aren't standing still.

    And developers, for their part, can do great design on any OS. Right now, clearly iPad has a lot of the momentum. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth paying attention both to what's happening on the Apple platform and what's happening on others.

    As James says above, there's no need to dismiss anything. I'd flip that around and say that includes non-Apple directions, too. I'll go out on a limb and say I don't think the iPad right now is wanting for attention. ;)

  • Mudo

    I send you the info this morning and I'm very glad to share!

    ;)

    Good articles make interfacing advance!

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  • Edward

    Propellarheads needs to port rebirth to the ipad for it's second coming (the rebirth of rebirth), i would imagine the CPU is better then what most pc's ran the original on.

  • http://music-interface.com mat

    Hey, this will be a great App!

    But even if I go on someones nerves, I had to state that the gap to the Lemur still remains. Here is what I call "the gap":

    - no custom interfaces, just some predefined templates

    - no physics

    - no OSC

    - less control items

    That doesn´t make it a bad app! And if you watch the price, it might be fair enough. I am just wondering, that all these apps has no editor (is it really so hard?) Without the possiblity to build my own controls, the main advantage of a touchscreen is lost. In that case I would prefer hardware (for tactile feedback)

    @Peter: On the Lemur you can edit your controls while making music – on the fly. It is working parallel! And that is an important thing while building controls for your special needs.

  • Gavin@FAW

    I think where the iPad will really come into its own is for self contained "groove box" type applications. Kind of like the portable studios hardware, such as MV-8000, where you can create and perform full tracks. Sure there will be restrictions due to processor power, but that can be a good thing.

  • manal

    Wow! this is exiting shit. cant wait for the upgrades when you can customize the pallet to your personal set like the lemurs!

  • Paolo

    One neat function would be having the chance to have keyboard shortcuts mapped. I think something like the Euphonix McControl would make life in the studio a lot easier. What I like of it all is the fact that possibilities are endless.

    I agree that Novation Automap for iPhone is a step forward at this time.

  • 59min

    Yes, yes, yes, ReBirth for iPad please!

    I,ve tried Wacom (incl Cintiq) and Win tablets during the years, but never worked out for me as an interface making music. Iphone has some good and interesting apps for musicmaking and iPad looks really promising. But Ive been dissapointed before.

  • nue

    im a lemur user myself and love my lemur.but i dont dare to take my lemur out for playing gigs my lemur is for my studio only.the ipad would be great to taking out on gigs i would be more compact for playing on crazy venues, for now it looks good as a alternative controller. lets see how the ipad would turn out. is too soon and early to judge to predict the outcome of the ipad.let's see what it brings to the table.it all depends on the developers who makes these apps for the ipad. also 3 party products manufactures if they want to implement something with the ipad too .

  • http://audiofanzine.com Will Zégal

    "eventually we’d see the touch display and the software making music, visuals, and the like merge into one and the same device."

    There something like that with the software Usine from SensoMusic, a modular audio soft (something like between Reaktor and MaxMSP) whose just released 5th version is native multitouch :
    http://www.sensomusic.com/usine/

  • cplr

    Peter, I don't think a single apple product ever "wants" your attention.

  • huebert

    I dumped my Lemur last summer…..

    Saw all the touch things coming and

    got off at the right time….

    then iPad release firmed it.

    Lemur must drop their prices

  • http://www.whormongr.com whormongr

    I like it but personally I want the stability of wired communication, I want to be able to just plug it into my laptop and have it be a "device"

  • http://blacksoultan.bandcamp.com BlackSoultan

    I just started making beats a few months ago out of boredom using a 3G 16GB iPhone. I use the intua beatmaker app, and I gotta say: having been around producers and in recording studios for years, it baffles me how few people are taking this new paradigm seriously. I've tried to explain this to other producers online in other rap music web forums, and people respond to me like I'm speaking in tongues. But for me, what it comes down to is this:

    tactile response is completely unnecessary when it comes to making music, it's just a personal preference to some, especially those who are fond of mpc-style machines.

    To buy a drum machine that can do what just my $20.00 beatmaker app can do on a subpar broken iphone, you'll spend at least 500 bucks.

    To buy a drum machine to do what the ipad can do with the same app design, you'll spend over $2000 for the MPC 5000. A cost benefit analysis makes this a no-brainer.

    Tons – and I mean TONS – of producers will already have an ipad for whatever reason. Beat makers tend to be techies, and the iPad is just going to be popular for no damn reason anyway, so if they already HAVE one, what's stopping them from just going app instead of hardware?

    The idea that the hardware drum machine "hits harder" or "adds more warmth" are the words of people who do not understand sound much at all or understand it way too much. If you want warmth, there are other ways to achieve it, specifically during compression and eq during mixing and summing, which is where having analogue boxes is more important than at the point of drum and sample sequencing.

    Static. My girl bought a honda, and I bought her an iphone. I said "don't get the navigation in the car, they're coming out with a Navigon App that's better." My girl doesn't listen to me. She paid over 1000 bucks for the navigation package. Navigon drops an app for 80 bucks. A year passes by. Navigon adds real-time traffic that craps on Google's traffic, while Honda sends her a brochure to upgrade her maps for $200.00…Same concept here as between software-based drum sequencers versus hardware-based. If my boys who swear by mpc's ever want to upgrade their interface, they'd have to buy ANOTHER MPC. I just have to upgrade the app in order to get added features, which is free 9 times out of ten.

    So who's with me with the idea of an iPAD as an excellent alternative to hardware synths and drum machines?

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  • http://www.piano-lessons-dvd.org/ Dan

    great comparison and review, been looking for one so in depth. Agree with other commentors that think JazzMutant is going to have to drop prices to stay competitive. No chance they'll disappear (as you said) but to stay competitive in the market.

  • http://www.learningtheblues.com/ James

    Awesome review. I haven't used JazzMutant, but I can see how this app would give it a run for it's money running on the ipad plaform.

  • jordan

    Funny Im reading this now, as yesterday I went to the jazzmutant site, and they are discontinuing the lemur as of december 31 2010.

  • Dom

    I think, unforunately, this is ghostware!

    Shame. it was looking good.  BTW i've tested a few wifi based midi pads etc and the latency is pretty bad over wifi…  maybe better with bonjour?

  • Dom

    Previous post JAN 2011!