And…..Done. Final Blog Post

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It’s hard to believe I’ve been running my blog for 6 years now, even more difficult to believe that I’ve done 282 posts in that time period.  But, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and I’ve decided that now is a good time for me to step away from the blog and focus on other avenues for sharing my views on creativity and audio production.

It’s been really enjoyable talking to everyone and sharing your views on how you approach all the struggles and joys of writing music.  I can’t thank everyone enough for all the insightful comments, indepth replies, and most especially for all the donations you’ve made to help make all this possible.

As a way of saying thanks one final time, I’ve collected all of the best blog posts into one document, which you can download here:

BEST BITS OF THE BLOG (Zip File)

The zip file contains both PDF and epub versions of the document so you can view it on any of your devices.  I’ve made a few changes here in there in the text to update my recommendations on gear, and make it easier to read all of the posts front to back.

Thanks again everyone!
Tarekith

Ad Infinitum – Follow Up Questions

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Well, it’s been a bit more than a week since I released my latest album and the accompanying video walkthrough of the Live Projects for it, and I’m super pleased with the way it’s been received so far. All that work putting together the walkthrough wasn’t a waste of time, though I’ve been getting a few questions from producers about some of the things I didn’t cover in the video. I figured it would be good to collect them all here so other musicians who might be curious about these can read them too!

So, without further adieu, here’s some follow up questions I was asked about making “Ad Infinitum” (rephrased for clarity/brevity):

1. What settings from the Groove Pool did you use for the songs on the albums?

I actually didn’t use Grooves at all on this album, instead I just set the Swing parameter on Push 2 to roughly 7% when I was recording new parts. The Groove Pool in Live is a nice idea, but I find it a bit cumbersome to use myself. A little bit of swing here and there when using things like Note Repeat goes a long way towards making things a bit more human sounding I find.

2. What sample-rate and bit depth did you for this album?

I actually spent a couple days before I started trying out various sample rates to see which I should use for the rest of the album. Namely I wanted to see if running at 96kHz was something I wanted to use. Every couple if years I start telling myself that perhaps now is when I’ll be able to notice an increase in sound quality, so I like to spend some time revisiting the idea before larger projects.

But, as in the past, I still ended up preferring the 44.1kHz versions of my songs once everything was down-sampled to that setting for release online. In a couple cases the 96kHz raw versions sound a tiny bit more open on their own, but once you add in a pass of sample-rate conversion to get the standard 16/44.1kHz wav files most online aggregators like CDBaby.com want, then I preferred the regular 44.1kHz versions.

In the end I decided that for my music (and the way I write it at least), sticking with 24bit/44.1kHz files while working was the best way forward.

3. In the past you’ve said you almost never use MIDI and prefer working with audio files directly in Live, however in the video it looks like you’re using a lot of MIDI clips. What changed your mind?

It’s true, normally I prefer working with audio as soon as possible when writing my songs. On this album though, every one of the songs was written from the ground up with Push, which largely was created to control the built in instruments in Live via MIDI. So while in a few instances I resampled the MIDI tracks to audio if I needed more CPU power, overall it was just easier to keep things as MIDI after I recorded them with Push.

Even audio loops from my own sample library were typically imported into the new Simpler for further tweaking.

4. You seem to have a lot of nice gear available to use in your studio, why did you decide use only Live?

Actually the initial plan when I started working on the album was only to use Live as a DAW for writing the songs, and everything else was fair game if I thought it should be used on the album. But once I started diving in with Push and exploring some more of the Ableton Live Packs, I just found a workflow that seemed to fit me really well so I ended up ultimately using mostly the Ableton instruments for most of the writing.

There’s a little bit of other things still scattered throughout here and there though. In one track I used Absynth 5 for one sound, and I think Synplant might have been in one song as well. Plus I have a lot of audio loops I’ve made with other gear that got chucked into Simpler for the album. A few were from the new electribe, and there’s a lot of MicroTonic drum loops from the Patternarium website on there too.

So while the actual hosts of the audio loops were Simpler or Sampler, there’s a few years of other gear as the source material too.

5. For awhile there you were heavily into the iPad for music making, did you use it for this album at all?

I’ve been using Auria a lot the last few weeks for the album, though not for the actual writing per se. Where Auria really came in handy, was letting me take all rough mixes of the songs as I was close to finishing them, and play around with the track order while not in the studio. I’d load them up on the iPad at the end of the day, and go sit outside to listen to what I had done and play with track spacing and track order (it’s meant to be listened to as a continuous album).

Also, because I was going to be using Pro-L to master it on the laptop, I could use Pro-L in Auria to get a rough idea how it might sound on different headphones once it was done. Useful for gut-based mix checks as I work. It was really handy for letting me listen to everything with a fresh perspective out of the studio.

6. Will you do your next album with Live and Push 2 again?

At this point I haven’t decided what the next album will be, or even when I’ll start it, so it’s hard to say. Given how complex this album was though, I think in the short term I’m going to rachet things back and focus on my Novation Circuit which is arriving any day now 🙂
Hope that clears things up for people, if you have any other questions by all means put them in the comments!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Emotional Triggers

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One of the upsides of moving to Europe, was that I finally got a chance to upgrade my battered iPhone5.  It had been having increasing issues after 2 and half years of constant use and abuse, but with an overseas trip coming up, it didn’t make sense for me to sign a new 2-year carrier contract in the US in order to get a new phone.  So, at long last I was finally able to get an iPhone6, something an iOS musician like myself can appreciate for numerous reasons.

One of the more unexpected reasons I’ve discovered, is just how much better the camera is on the iPhone6 compared to my iPhone5.  Given that I’m in a brand new country for only a few weeks now, I’ve of course been out walking and taking a lot of pictures.  It surprised me how great they look once I get back to the computer to look at them.  (this blog post pertains to music, bear with me)

In fact I was discussing this with a friend of mine who’s into photography, and I mentioned I doubt I’ll ever buy a point and shoot camera again. How I think for my needs, the iPhone6 camera is all I’ll likely need ever again.  Convenient since it’s almost always with me too.

Of course my photography friend was aghast.

He sent me numerous links to articles pointing out the flaws in the sensor, the lack of details compared to higher end cameras, endless comparisons with “real” cameras, etc.  I replied that none of that mattered to me, I just like looking at pictures to remind me of certain times in my life, as a way of triggering a memory.  Of course, he then reminded me that this is why the majority of people are ok with low quality MP3s when it comes to listening to music.  Even though it might make a mastering engineer like myself cringe to read that people are tossing their CDs after ripping them to 128kbps MP3s.

Obviously, the analogy is spot on, and we agreed to disagree having reminded ourselves that not everyone needs accuracy or the best available detail to get enjoyment out of different forms of media.  It’s a good reminder that often the people most wrapped up in the creation of an artform are the only ones who really care about details of the medium used.  So while musicians might debate ad naseum the best algorithm for dithering, or photographers might debate…. well whatever it is they debate, it’s important to remember yet again that it’s the message that truly matters.

Of course we should take pride in capturing our message as clearly and transparently as possible, so the medium doesn’t detract from it. But at the end of the day that aspect of our craft pales in significance to how well we actual convey emotion or express an idea.  As always, it’s those things that trigger the greatest emotions in most people, not how well it was actually recorded.

A good reminder for us all I think.

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Speaking of my move to Luxembourg, it’s been a few weeks since my last update so I figured another one was due.  We got word last week that our sea shipment (which has all my studio gear) would arrive in European customs on March 10th, which meant another 3-7 days until it was delivered to our new home.  Woo hoo, great news, as this was some what earlier than we had expected.  Unfortunately, yesterday they revised that date to be March 26th at the earliest.  My 40th birthday is March 29th, and I was really hoping that we could be done with all the move stuff by then.

Drat.

Oh well, not much I can do about it, so I just remind myself that at least I still have the laptop, my iPad, and the electribe.  Once we get out of this noisy hotel and into our new quiet apartment, I can finally dive in and get some proper music making done.  Good thing too, as I’ve been asked if I would be interested in doing a live set in a few months, opening for one of my mastering clients who’ll be on tour in Europe then.  Should be fun and at the very least now I have proper incentive to dig in and get the new electribe set done.  I’ll of course post more details once I get them.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a fun Luxembourg fact.  Did you know that clothes dryers in Europe don’t actually dry your clothes?  In the interest of energy savings, they use less heat and don’t use forced air to dry your clothes in 30 minutes or less like we’re used to in the states.  That means you can literally run them with the motor spinning for 5 or 6 hours, and your clothes will still be wet.  Energy saving at it’s finest  😉

Hopefully in a couple weeks I’ll have more positive news about the studio opening, and maybe, just maybe by then my underwear will be dry too.

Until then, peace and beats,
Tarekith

Electribe 5 Days In

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Well, it’s been a busy week getting everything prepped for the big move still, but I’ve been trying to get as much time on the Electribe as possible. Overall it’s been a super fun experience, and I’m really starting to feel like the new Electribe could be my new main instrument for some time to come. Given all the gear I’ve been through this year trying to find “the one”, that’s a great feeling.

Now that I’ve had more time to get deeper into the synthesis options, I’m getting more and more confident that there’s a lot of sound design capabilities. The Mod section in particular really adds a lot of animation to your sounds, especially when you start adding in motion sequencing too. One of the few downsides of the Mod section is that a lot of the BPM synced LFO are also key sync so the cycle starts with each note on. Not a huge deal since there’s unsynced LFOs that can run freely, and happily the rate on these goes super low for really long evolving sounds.

One of the few frustrations I’ve been having is with editing my sequences after I’ve recorded something. The Electribe has a Step Editor for this exact task, which allows you to change a note’s pitch, velocity, or the gate time (note length). Unfortunately it seems that because you can’t have a note longer than one step, really long chords and the like are recorded as tied notes. This makes it hard to see which step has the actual note trigger, and which ones are tied. I still need to dive into this a little more, but for now it’s just been easier to delete the part and just record it again. More to come on this.

I’m still exploring the basics of Pattern creation at the moment, so I haven’t had a chance to do much from a live performance standpoint. I’ve been experimenting a little with how to do transitions from one pattern to the next, mainly using master effect delays. If you set a really long decay time for the delays (and use the same delay for both patterns), you can do a decent bit of blending to smooth out the transitions. Unfortunately the Hold button on the Touch Pad doesn’t seem to work when you switch patterns, so you need to keep your finger on the trackpad to keep the delay effect on and at the same level. Still, better than nothing and at least it’s s starting point.

In happier news, it was recently discovered that you can connect an iPad or iPhone to the Electribe via the camera connection kit, and the Electribe will show up on the iPad and a MIDI source and destination. This means you can sequence your iPad apps from the Electribe, or use an iOS MIDI app to enter notes on the Electribe instead of the Trigger Pad. ThumbJam and Genome users should be happy with this!

Especially when you realize you can then route the audio from the iPad into the Electribe, either directly through untouched, or to be effected by the Electribe effects. Since each part on the Electribe can host its own Audio Input OSC, that means in theory you could have 16 different effects processing the audio input signal in parallel, all at once. Sweet. I starting to think the Electribe and my iPad running Gadget could be a pretty awesome live combo!

I’m still trying to get a video review and some audio examples done asap, so hopefully I’ll have some more info soon. Stay tuned!

Tarekith

iOS8 Anti-Rant

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Given how much talk is going on in the iOS music community about iOS8, I wanted to share my thoughts on the situation.

When I first switched to an OSX based computer from Windows, one of the first things I learned is that if you want things to go easy in Apple land, you stay current.  Apple has no qualms about abandoning standards, ports, OS’s, whatever if they think they have a new and better way of doing things.  It’s just the way they are, their main attraction to consumers is being cutting edge, and that means not looking behind too much, which is unfortunate for a lot of people.

I learned the hard way when I bought my parents an iMac years ago so they could surf the web and FaceTime with us.  It was a nice closed system, it worked, and we agreed not to update anything.  Except then you get cut out of the Apple ecosystem eventually.  You need a newer OS than your hardware supports just to sync, or to do something like FaceTime.  You wait too long, you get left behind, and no one at Apple will care.

So I update right away when OS updates come out, not because I’m an Apple lemming, but because that’s how their whole ecosystem is set to work.  Look, here’s the newest way we’re doing things, everyone get onboard.  You too with the iPod Touch, you have to stand in back though.  Apps are expected to be kept current, and Apple is going to adjust the OS however they want to make things better.  You don’t have to agree with it, that’s just how it’s worked so far.

This has happened to me a lot over the years, both on the laptop and on iOS devices all the way back to the first iPhone.  Each time, I’d say that a few apps probably have issues, but in general it goes very smoothly.  The few apps that do have hiccups, usually get an update in a few weeks and then it’s like nothing happened.  Ironically iOS8 was the first time I’ve noticed more than 1 or 2 issues, and they are all related to Audiobus, not the actual iOS8 update.

I don’t make all my money from using my iPad to make music, but I do use it a lot for writing songs that I sell to supplement my income.  Never have I run into a situation where I didn’t have some other apps I could turn to that got the job done.  Any time you rely on too strict of a configuration of gear to get work done, you’re setting yourself up for a disaster eventually IMO.  There’s THOUSANDS of apps available for writing music, don’t blame the tools if you’re calling yourself a craftsman.

I DO make all my money running a business that relies on OSX software (Audiofile’s Triumph) for me to function and make money.  So I know all about wanting things to work right in order to feed my family.  But it’s also taught me that you have to really focus on the developers who KNOW how important it is that they are on that update bus just like Apple wants them to be.  One of my best friends writes iOS music apps, and I see with each of these iOS updates how much prep work they put in to make sure their user base has the least wait possible.  Good developers know what’s going on, they’re not (usually) surprised by OS updates.

It’s taught me to focus on a lean set up that uses software from developers I know are in it for the long haul.  Many like the people on this forum, you can tell by the way that they interact with their user base that everyone is on the same page.  You find the right group of people making software you like, those that have a great record for staying current and fixing bugs fast, and you don’t have to worry about many of these issues.

At least not for long 🙂

People have been freaking out as if things are the end of the world, but the fact is there’s enough that IS working that you can figure it out if you need to get a job done.  We’re making music with a computer, which means there’s actually a LOT of things that are integral to how we express ourselves that are out of our control (and always will be).  You need to be flexible to deal with hiccups when they come, because we are never the intended user base for the way these devices are designed.

Things like this will happen, adapt, move on (and support those developers that want to support you).  It’s critical to being a 21st century musician IMO.

(first posted on the Audiobus forums I admit)

Tarekith

My Top Ten iOS Apps

Since one of the more frequent questions I get asked is for iOS music app recommendations, I figured it was time to list my favorites as of Summer 2014. I’m not saying that these are the “best” iOS apps out there, just that these are the ones I find myself reach for again and again. With that, and in no particular order, here we go!

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1. Auria.

Easily my most used iOS app, Auria is not cheap for an iOS app but is an absolute steal given how powerful it is. Intuitive and fluid audio editing and mixing, the included plug-ins sound great, and there’s great export options if you want to finalize your mix on the desktop. But considering you can also use all of the Fabfilter plug-ins ported to iOS in Auria (available via IAP), you may not even want to use the desktop again. If you work mainly with audio and not MIDI, this is the iOS DAW you want.

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2. Audiobus.

I’ll admit I rarely use Audiobus these days, preferring instead to access my effects and synths in Auria via Inter-App Audio (IAA). But Audiobus was the app that made me realize the potential of iOS music making, allowing you to finally route and record your apps and effects among each other. A game-changer, everyone should own this just in case.

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3. DM1.

Probably one of my favorite drum apps currently, DM1 comes stock with some great samples of all the classic drum machines, as well as some acoustic kits and even some more unique percussion instruments. Simple to use, a fun randomize function, and great iCloud support. One of the more versatile electronic drum machines out there.

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4. Alchemy Mobile.

While it’s nowhere near as comprehensive as the desktop version, Alchemy Mobile is still one of the synths I reach for more than any other on the iPad. Great sounds, just enough tweakability to personalize the presets for your songs, and a very handy 4 track recorder. One of the best balances between power and ease of use on the iOS platform I feel. The additional preset packs aren’t cheap, but all of the ones I’ve purchased have been well worth it if you want more sounds.

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5. Figure.

My go to when I have the iPhone with me and not the iPad. I like simpler apps on the smaller screen, though Figure has a lot more power and versatility than it first appears. Lots of possibilities for tweaking the (few) included presets, and if you’re a Reason owner you can import your songs into that app on the desktop later. Great sounding, easy to use, and perfectly adapted to the touchscreen.

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6. Nave.

Waldorf’s first foray into iOS is a powerhouse, and considering it takes up almost 300+MB of your RAM on the iPad, you’re going to know it if you have a lot of apps open at once 🙂 I found the interface a little confusing at first, but once I got to grips with it I realized just how capable this synth is. If it was a little easier on the CPU and RAM this would probably be one of the only synths I need. Still, in terms of matching what’s available on the desktop, Nave is definitely one to try.

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7. Gadget.

Korg made a huge splash with this app when it was released, and for good reason! The synths sound and look amazing, the sequencer is extremely well done and easy to use for simple grooves or full songs, and there’s promised updates on the way shortly. If you only own one app on your iPad, this is the one I would recommend. Even if it only works in portrait mode, which is very annoying.

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8. iElectribe.

The Korg ER-1 was one of my first drum machines, and this app only improves on that concept. All the sound and interface of the original drum machine, with greater export and copy/paste functionality. You can even re-skin it if that’s your thing. Fun to use when you need some artificial sounding electronic drum, it’s in second place for iOS percussion right behind DM1 for me.

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9. Traktor DJ.

There’s quite a few DJ apps out there on the iOS platform these days, but Traktor is the one I use more than any other. Decent effects and layout, ongoing support and updates from NI, and support of all the new NI DJ Hardware as well. Unless you’re dead set on trying to mimic operating a real turntable on your iPad/iPhone, Traktor should be the first DJ app you try.

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10. Sunrizer.

One of the first iOS synths I ever bought, it’s still one of my favorites. I love the way it looks on the iPad, and the sound quality and features still rival newer competitor synth apps today. Based loosely on the Roland JP series of synths, but it’s capable of much more than you’d expect. Fun randomizer, a comprehensive arp/sequencer, and well thought MIDI functionality make this a no-brainer for me to recommend.

Well, that’s the short and quick version, though as always I’m happy to answer any questions people might have about any of these. And of course, I’d love to hear what else other people are using too. Feel free to drop any questions or comments in the comments, thanks!

Welcome To The New Blog!

Woo hoo, welcome to the new blog location.  Sorry if you got multiple notifications for this blog post the last day or so, still working out a couple last minute bugs with notifications.  Ummm, that’s all I have, but more soon!

(Strymon Timeline review…..)

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iOS Mastering Apps Comparison


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As a full-time mastering engineer who likes to make music on an iPad in my spare time, it’s no surprise I have an interest in the recent flux of mastering related iOS apps coming out these days. Add to that how many people I see on various forums lately asking which of the options is better, and I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at a few of the more popular mastering apps and see how they compare. I’ll be looking at the following apps in this review:

Audio Mastering by iMusicAlbum $12.99

Final Touch by Positive Grid, Inc. $12.99

Auria with Fabfilter in app purchases $49.00 + IAP’s

This isn’t a full review of each app, those are already online if you want to learn more about the specifics of how each of them work.  Rather, I wanted to see what things (good and bad) stood out in each app, and how they directly compare to each other in terms of functionality and sound quality. For this comparison I am listening to each app with my iPad Air connected to a Lynx Hilo DAC via the Apple Camera Connection Kit, an Emotiva XPA-2 amplifier, and finally my Tyler Acoustic D2x monitors.  Custom room treatments by GIK Acoustics USA.

I’m using a few songs I wrote entirely on the iPad for testing purposes, in a variety of genres.  Most have a good bit of low frequency information useful for testing dynamics processors, and they were made on the iPad and thus keep with the iOS theme.  Audio Mastering and Final Touch both can function as Audiobus and Inter-App Audio effects, as well as load files via Audioshare, Audio Copy, etc.  Auria is a dedicated DAW in it’s own right, and functions as an IAA host, as well as Audiobus Output. For all three apps I used iTunes file-sharing to import my songs however, and it was quick and painless in each case.

Because Audio Mastering and Final Touch both are similar all-in-one mastering solutions (ala Ozone on the desktop), I’m going to focus on the comparing them first, then discuss how the Auria method of iOS mastering differs.  Let’s get to it then…

Being all in one solutions, Audio Mastering and Final Touch both share a lot of features, though more differences than I expected too. Both allow you to insert various mastering related processors into your signal chain, though in Audio Mastering’s case, the order of effects is fixed. It still largely makes sense except for putting the reverb in front of the compressor, but then again I personally have never understood the need for a reverb in 99.999% of all mastering. Regardless, point for Final Touch for allowing your to freely change the order of processors, as well as for having two EQs available.

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Navigating in both apps is basically through tabs for each type of processor, with navigating done via dedicated transport buttons and a waveform you can scroll with your finger. Final Touch has the waveform visible at all times, while there’s a dedicated tab you need to go to in Audio Mastering in order to change the playback position precisely. Almost another point for Final Touch, but it has this weird fade-in it does each time the playhead is moved or playback begins. Makes it difficult when you’re trying to narrow in on a problematic transient I found.

One big difference in the apps is that aside from just audio processing, Audio Mastering can also apply user defined fade-in and fade-outs, convert file types before saving, as well as loop portions of the waveform if needed. So for more detailed and precise audio problem-solving, I find that Audio Mastering has the lead here.

Alright alright, but how do they sound is all anyone wants to know, right?

EQ

Of the two, I preferred the sound of Audio Mastering’s EQ to the one in Final Touch. Sweeping the mids you can hear that it’s a very smooth and natural sound, there’s very little phasey-ness happening around the active band. It does what you want and stays out of the way. The Final Touch EQ isn’t bad at all, but it can get a bit harsh the more you boost it,  it definitely imprints it’s own sound with more than a few dB’s boost. Opening the Q helps some, but I still preferred the sound of the Audio Mastering EQ for most uses.

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However I have to point out that Final Touch EQ can also be used in mid-side mode, in fact almost all of the Final Touch processors can run in M/S mode, and that’s a huge bonus. I use M/S processing a lot in my mastering work, it can work wonders when you learn to think from an M/S perspective!  Also of note is the fact that every EQ band can be set to multiple types ala low pass, high pass, peak, shelf, etc.  If you just need a few small EQ tweaks in your track, Final Touch definitely has more options in how you use it.

The built-in analyzer in both EQs work fine, though in Final Touch they are definitely smoother and better reacting, as are all the meters in Final Touch. The interface overall is generally smoother in Final Touch if I’m honest, everything moves fluidly and it’s very easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. Audio Mastering looks and feels more like a piece of lab equipment, precise and designed for a very specific and functional purpose.  🙂

Moving on…

Compression.

Both Final Touch and Audio Mastering are set up by default to work as multi-band compressors, though Audio Mastering can also be set to single-band, which is likely how I would use it for most of my mastering work. You’d be surprised at how little multi-band compression is actually used in professional mastering, but I digress…

In it’s single band mode, I thought Audio Mastering sounded very good and would likely be my first choice between both apps if that were it.   Transparent and works exactly like you’d expect, this is not a colored compression.  However in multi-band mode, I preferred Final Touch for both it’s sound and ease of use. Although strangely, there’s no way to see your actual gain reduction when using compression in Final Touch, which seems like an odd thing to remove from a compressor!  Maybe I’m missing something…

The compressor display in Audio Mastering is slightly confusing, and working with multiple bands feels like it takes a lot of tapping to get things done. One thing that’s true across Audio Mastering though, it’s much easier to nail precise settings thanks to the large faders for almost every parameter.

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Final Touch’s multi-band compressor is pretty easy to figure out, and overall sounds decent for what it is.  Though as I mentioned, I thought dialing in precise setting with the little dials a bit fiddly at times. To sum up, for compression I’d normally reach for Audio Mastering in single-band mode, but if I needed multi-band compression (and I rarely do) then Final Touch would get the nod.

Reverb.

Hands down Final Touch wins this one, unfortunately it’s not even close. Having a lot of reverb experience from their guitar apps pays off it seems, the reverbs are much more realistic and better sounding than those in Audio Mastering. In fact, Audio Mastering’s reverb is the most perplexing thing about the app for me. It’s more like an echo pre-delay sort of thing than a true reverb. It gives space without muddying things up, but it’s still a very artificial sound to my ears.

Considering this is the least important tool in the mastering chain (IMVHO), not really a big deal either way.

Spatial Tools.

Of the two, Audio Mastering gives you slightly more control over adjusting your spatial parameters for things like stereo spread or making the low end more mono-compatible, with multiple user-defined processing bands available. There’s also a built-in harmonic exciter (which I thought sounded pretty good in small doses), something Final Touch doesn’t have.

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However I personally find Final Touch a little easier to use, and the metering a bit more helpful in actually setting the parameters. Final Touch also has simple tools for checking mono compatibility, flipping channel phase, and swapping left and right channels.  While I would probably choose Final Touch for the interface alone, either one is more than good enough for the tiny tweaks processors like this usually handle in mastering.

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Limiting.

It’s hard not to associate loudness with the term mastering, as it’s what most people attribute the mastering process to. While this is handled typically by peak limiters in the studio, both apps here call these processors Maximizers.

Both limiters sounded more than good enough for transparent limiting of a few dBs, and they both surprised me by how far they could be pushed before distorting (handy for you Beatport producers 🙂 ).

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This time it’s Final Touch that gets more control over the limiting parameters, including one of the most comprehensive dithering sections I’ve seen in almost any app, iOS or otherwise. Struck me as odd that they simplified in so many other areas (I.E. no compressor gain reduction), but choose to offer a huge range of choices here.

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However, despite having a lessor degree of control, I found that when pushed hard I preferred the sound of the maximizer in Audio Mastering more than Final Touch by a little bit. It was easier to retain transients and if I was called on to make things stupid loud it would go a bit further than Final Touch before starting to distort.  This is only in extreme cases, like I said for light to normal limiting duties, either app works just fine in this regard.
The more I think about it, the harder it becomes for me to say that one is better than the other. The basic mastering tools in each are more than capable for self-mastering your own releases. They each have additional tools that are slightly different from each other too, things like harmonic exciters and additional EQs.

Overall I found that Final Touch was easier to navigate in, and also simpler to figure out the controls for the devices. That doesn’t mean that Audio Mastering was difficult, just that with the flat display (which I prefer normally) and the single color interface, it can take a few seconds to find what you’re looking for. In it’s favor, you typically have finer-control over those parameters once you do.

In terms of sound quality it’s a toss up depending on what type of processing you use the most. For EQ and limiting, as well as it’s single-band compressor mode, I’m personally favoring the sound of Audio Mastering. For reverb, spatial tools, and the multi-band compressor I’d lean more towards Final Touch.

Both apps are on sale at the moment for $12.99, so if you’re serious about mastering your iOS tunes it would be well worth having both in your arsenal. At the very least it’s a small investment to make to try both and see which you prefer yourself, considering how important this step of the production process is.

Which brings us to….

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Auria

While not a dedicated mastering app in it’s own right, there’s enough professional tools available for it that Auria can fill that role easily. As a stand-alone DAW, it has all the editing and exporting options you could ask for, and the built in EQ, compressors, and limiter are all made by PSP Audioware, well-respected plug-in manufacturers in their own right.

The real power comes when you consider that you can also purchase all of the Fabfilter plug-ins to use in Auria, and for MUCH cheaper than their desktop counterparts. This gives you access to Pro-Q, Pro-C, Pro-MB, and Pro-L, some of the best plug-ins ever made and in use in professional mastering studios around the world.

These are identical to their desktop versions, and since there’s plenty of reviews of those online, I won’t get into the features. Suffice to say these are already some of the best software mastering tools you can buy, so there’s no worry about quality.

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The downside is of course the higher cost, you’re looking at $50 for Auria and on average about $30 for each of the Fabfilter plug-ins (Pro-L and Pro-MB are $40 each). It’s a sizable investment, and quite a bit more than the alternatives I compared above if you only want them for mastering. However you get a lot more flexibility with the Fabfilter plug-ins than with the alternatives too. Dozens of EQ or compression bands if you need, different limiting algorithms, upward compression and expansion, comprehensive metering and spectral analysis, etc.

But I think for some producers, some of that complexity could be overwhelming. There’s a lot of ways to alter your audio, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, not always for the better. And of course you can only use those plug-ins in Auria too, they’re not Audiobus or IAA compatible.

For me it’s an easy choice, I know my way around EQs and compressors, and Pro-L is hands down the best limiter made if you were to ask me. I’ve already mastered a few projects for people using the iPad and these tools, and they impressed me just as much as they do on the desktop. If you want the very best and you know how to use them, it’s hard to beat the options this method of iOS mastering offers.

I have to admit though, I was pleasantly surprised at how well done both of the other alternatives are. The gap in sound quality and functionality was much smaller than I expected it would be with the tools I use daily in my mastering business. So while I’m content to continue using Auria for my iOS mastering, I’m actually really glad I spent time with Audio Mastering and Final Touch too. I came away much more impressed than I thought I would be.

For 95% of all producers out there, these are all you need for mastering your own music. All the tools you need are included, they both have decent presets to get you started, and they both sound really good until pushed much harder than you probably need to. I’m pretty awed with the power and sound-quality of the tools we have at our disposal on the iOS platform, and I never thought I’d say that about something like iOS mastering tools as well!

Hopefully this helped clear up some of the differences and similarities between the mastering tools I’ve talked about here. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments or on the forum where you saw this posted. Happy to answer any questions if I can!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Wind Swept – New Tarekith Track

WindSwept

Wind Swept <- Right Click to Download

A lot of my recent work has been shorter songs with weird sounds, abrupt changes in the song structure, and a bit more “out there” overall.  So for this one I wanted to create a more flowing, almost trance-like song that drifted along a bit more serenely.

The basis for this song was an acoustic guitar jam I had one night using the looper built into the Flashback X4 pedal.  I liked how it turned out, and luckily I had recorded it at the time too.   I used Auria on the iPad Air again as my main DAW, along with the included Fabfilter EQ and Compressor for mixing duties, and Pro-L for the mastering.

The drums were from DrumJam and DM1, and Alchemy handled the couple of synth tracks.  Everything else was my Taylor 814ce heavily processed with my new pedals, the Xotic EP Booster, Boss Multi-Overtone, Boss Tera Echo, the aforementioned Flashback, and the TC Hall Of Fame.

It flows and builds slowly to a discordant peak, then tapers off to nothingness.  Enjoy!

The Tarekith Update

Well I know it’s been a bit light on blog posts here lately, so I thought I’d do sort of a general update on a what’s been happening here in the studio. I’m in sort of a bit of flux in a lot of areas right now, so my apologies if this comes off as a little rambling! 🙂

For starters, I wanted to thank everyone wishing me luck with my shoulder surgery earlier this year. Things have been progressing great, I almost have full range of motion back and the physical therapist has me weight training already. Still fiending to get on the bike, but I know I’m almost halfway there now so trying to be patient 🙂

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My plan while recovering from surgery was to renew my focus on learning guitar, especially with the new Taylor acoustic I bought. Happily that has been going very well, I’ve been practicing almost daily and already starting to notice huge improvements. I’ve ditched the pick all together at this point, and am now focusing a lot on fingerpicking. Not so much traditional fingerpicking, but definitely learning as many techniques as I can to add my own style and feel to it.

Because I’ve been enjoying the guitar so much, I’m starting to consider putting together a new live set using it as my main instrument. Quite a jump from hardware groove boxes! I’m still mentally toying with different options, but in the mean time I decided it was time to start playing around with some dedicated guitar pedals. My Boss Tera Echo is still a dream to play, and I just ordered a TC Hall Of Fame reverb pedal, and an Xotic EP booster to get the Taylor’s signal a little more usable.  Thinking about the TC Flashback x4 as well.

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When I haven’t been working on the guitar, I’ve been thinking about where I want to focus next when it comes to studio and live work. I’m still happy working on the iPad for tracks now and then, but I want get back into more of a hardware workflow too. Not just for writing tracks but for performing them too.

Strangely, for some reason I’ve really been giving serious thought to Maschine Studio. Crazy, I know 🙂 But it looks like the newest software updates have solved a lot of my previous complaints about Maschine. And it’s hard not to appreciate how much more hardware-like the new display will make the controller feel. As much as I love Push and Live, I have to admit the Live library really doesn’t do much for me when it comes to finding sound ideas to use when creating tracks. That was one area I really liked about Maschine when I tried it previously.

But, we’ll see, nothing is decided yet. I still might go with more traditional hardware too 🙂

The mastering business was a bit slower than normal to start the year, but with me being out for surgery anyway it worked out.   Things have ramped up a lot since then though, and 2014 is already looking to be a great year.   And it certainly is fun listening to those Tyler D2x’s every day!  🙂

Last but certainly not least, I  broke my right hand in three places last week.  Yes, right when the shoulder was starting to feel better, I decided it would be a good idea to hit the refrigerator in a rare display of frustration.  Stupid I know, and now I get to pay for it.  Oh well, no guitar for a bit I’m guessing, so I’ve decided to just spend my time focusing on music theory again.   I was doing a little every day as part of my guitar practices anyway, now I can sped more time on it 🙂

Well, that’s about it, and not terribly exciting I’m afraid.  Hopefully the hand heals up fast and I can get back to writing again soon!