Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Furthur on the Bus

Now I've had a few more weeks with Audiobus, I'm starting to form some workflows and processes that are making sense to me. I'll try to put down a few of my own observations about Audiobus and where/how it works for my circumstances.
First, since I usually include a song plug, here is a piece I made combining many synths with Audiobus into the piece.

In the piece above, I recorded tracks one at a time via Audiobus into Multi-Track DAW. For the synths, I used: Sunrizer, Animoog, Magellan, Samplr, iPolysix, DM1 and PPG Wavemapper. This was almost entirely with Audiobus except for the vocals which were first processed in Hokusai, then pasted into Samplr and then audiobussed into MultiTrack DAW.
So after making a few songs in Audiobus, I've experimented with different target DAWs and combinations of synths. One thing to "unlearn" is your Desktop DAW mentality. Rather than think about having one umbrella app with everything as plugins, start thinking of the combination of your synths as being your palette. So the "equivalent" of Logic is the combination of synths, audiobus and target DAWs.
Remember that Audiobus has 3 areas you can plug apps into. The source(s), the effect(s) and the target for the audio to land in. The target has to be a DAW that accepts audio files. There are many potential targets such as samplers or DAWs - I will focus on the DAWs for now. There are five I've seen written up:
MultiTrack DAW - This was available at launch and is one of the oldest DAWs available for iPods and iPads even before Audiobus. Multi-Track is very good at what it does and it doesn't try to do to much. In fact, it is my favorite as I will come back to in my conclusions. It has some fairly simple effects processing available and little to no automation capabilities. It is lean, simple and well thought out but not feature rich.
Auria - Auria is the kitchen sink of DAWs for the iPad. It provides up to 24 concurrent recording sessions, tons of plugins which are actually converted VSTs from desktop technologies, full automation capabilities and much more. With all this power, comes quite a bit of CPU utilization. In fact, some of its effects have to be turned off when using Audiobus. Its a bit fiddly to set up for Audiobus and I find the product buggy - no show stoppers, but lots of niggling errors. If you need full power and intend to put many effects and processes on your tracks after recording them, this is probably the one to use.
Loopy - Loopy is a weird target and is made by the developers of Audiobus. It is sort of more a live looper that you record into and then trigger the loops manually. This makes it almost more of a live performance tool. I have it but haven't used it much yet. It really doesn't fit my workflow well.
Cubasis - This is Steinberg's "mini Cubase" for the iPad. From what I read, its pretty good interface wise, a bit limited in automation and damned expensive (for an iPad app) - $50. I don't have it so can't comment further but its Audiobus implementation is supposed to be very good.
Meteor - This is the 4pockets DAW - less expensive until you add in all the In app purchases. I also don't have this one.
I have personally used Auria and MultiTrack DAW frequently with Audiobus. I rarely use the "effects" slot of Audiobus - usually just put a synth in the source such as Animoog and record to one of the DAWs. All of the effects are dialed directly into the synth app.
The philosophy behind the highly capable Auria is to get more or less "bare" uneffected audio into the app and to then do the effects processing with the extremely powerful effects available in the app. Many of these are in app purchases and they are costly! This can make some incredible sounds but in my own compositions, I tend to process each track in its source app more or less exactly how I want to hear it. I don't really want or need to apply tons of post processing - maybe just some EQ and Compression.
Because of that, I really prefer the very light DAW provided by MultiTrack DAW. It doesn't do much, but its interface is good and very touch friendly. It provides the light EQ or compression and is reasonably cheap. I may put Auria to use again in some of my pieces, but I am really liking the power of Audiobus when combined with MultiTrack DAW.
Just for some price comparisons - Auria has a list price of $50. I was lucky enough to get it on sale for $25 for the full version. Now there is a "light" version for $25 and the full is back to $50. It comes with many great effects out of the box, but other effects that you buy will cost from $10 to $30 - not at all cheap, but to be fair, you do get what you pay for. Cubasis is also $50. Meteor is $20 and if you add all the in app purchases for effects, it goes to around $64.
MultiTrack DAW lists for $10 for 8 tracks with basic send and effects. For $8, you can unlock another 16 tracks for a total of 24. Pricewise - this is very good. The effects included are very basic and there are no in app purchases but when coupled with Audiobus, don't forget that you can put other apps into the effects bus slot and use them with MultiTrack. This is the combination I see the most potential for.