Mixin’ it up
Mobile music apps may still be a fair way off replicating a desktop setup, but the gap is much smaller than it was just a year ago. Steinberg has toyed with iOS development before now, but Cubasis represents its first fully fledged mobile DAW, and it comes hot on the heels of the latest major release of Cubase, version 7. You might have noticed the price and balked slightly, but that’s not necessarily a fair reaction, as it’s a very capable app and a lot more than ju7st a musical notepad. Further, its price is comparable with that of some other higher-end iOS music apps, developed by companies that don’t have Apple’s vast resources or the cash mountain that allows it to sell Garage Band for a couple of quid.
Cubasis runs on an iPad 2 or later, including the iPad mini, and has polyphony (the number of voices that can sound simultaneously) of 48 voices for the iPAd 2 and mini, and 64 voices for the iPad 3 and 4. If you experience glitches in the sound, it’s possible to manually switch this down to prioritize audio recording over virtual instruments say.
Cubasic For iPad – Mobile Digital Audio Workstation
Cubasis is unusual in that it offers unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, or at least you can keep adding them until your particular model runs out of storage space or processing power. Most mobile DAWs impose a limit of eight tracks, although certainly in Apple’s case this is to ensure a consistent user experience even if it means placing limits on tweak ability. In our tests, we were able to push Cuabsis pretty hard and didn’t notice be imported from your Music app via file sharing from iTunes, and there’s even a Wi-Fi server to drag and drop wirelessly from your Mac. The bundled loops and instruments sound good and will provide backing for most kinds of music.
You can record audio in CD quality through the built-in mic, or through one of the many audio interface peripherals or USB mics of the market – there’s a list on Steinberg’s website. The same goes for MIDI and here there’s a rather nifty pop-up keyboard that can be scaled and has preset buttons that store chords, so it’s simple to sound like a more proficient player than you really are. You can switch the keyboard to pads to better play beats, and these can hold configurable chord setups, too, which is ideal for one-finger playback.
Free sample: Record CD-quality audio and edit it using the built-in Sample editor
Once you’ve recorded or imported material, you can edit it. In the case of audio, there’s a decent Sample editor that pops up when you tap on a clip, and has tools like fades, reverse, normalize and crop, but no stretching. The MIDI Key editor looks remarkably like that in Cubase, and is beautifully designed, letting you drag, lengthen, transpose and otherwise manipulate MIDI parts. A toolbar provides a good set of tools, including transpose, quantize, select, glue and draw, that make working with MIDI a breeze. You can also take snapshots of projects, so if anything goes wrong, you can go back to a saved state.
There’s a mixer that pops up to let you balance your tracks and has a range of features, but no automation. You can assign MIDI tracks in Cubasis to control music apps outside of Cubasis itself, as long as they’re running, by assigning them from a pop-up menu. This was a bit glitch in our tests, but controlling desktop VSTs wirelessly from Cubasis’ keyboard worked well.
Overall, the look and feel of Cubasis is very slick indeed, carefully thought out and easy to get to grips with. The core features are mostly here, certainly for recording, editing and adding some effects, and it all feels user friendly without being toy like. Pinch-to-zoom, in particular, is brilliantly incorporated into the interface. When it comes to mix down, you can export projects as audio, to Dropbox, Sound Cloud and to the Audio Copy system to be pasted into another iOS app.
Into overdrive: send effects to any track from the 11 provided
Cubasis is powerful enough to be a serious mobile music-making tool, but well-designed enough not to scare off less-advanced users. It gives you more control and more tracks than Garage Band for iPad, although something along the lines of the latter’s auto-chord guitars and keyboards wouldn’t go amiss here. Unlike Garage Band, Cubasis can see outside needs a little refining, and Garage Band’s mixer and effect controls are also less advanced. Cubasis manages to pull off the trick of feeling much more professional while not being overly complicated, which is tough to do.
· Mobile digital audio workstation for iPad
· From: App Store
· Info: Steinberg.net
· Needs: iPad 2 or higher including iPad mini iOS 6.0.1
· Pro: Beautifully designed, as many tracks as your iPad will run. Great MIDI editor, good effects, solid online, integration, export projects back to Cubase on your Mac, virtual MIDI
· Con: NO automation, no track freeze, no audio time-stretching
· Verdict: 4/5