The Fairlight app: An interview with Peter Vogel

When the Fairlight app was announced people fell into two camps. Those who couldn’t wait to get hold of it and those who saw it as a step backwards into retro nostalgia. Whichever camp you’re in it is still a very significant step, and along with Korg’s apps it starts to show that instinstrument makers are starting to take mobile very seriously.

So I was glad to be able to ask Peter Vogel, one of the founders of Fairlight a few questions about the app and about what his views are on iOS and mobile music.

PS: What first made you think of creating the fairlight app?
PV: It started off as a promotional device for the CMI-30A, but once we got started we realised this was not just a toy – we could do a fairly comprehensive replication of the CMI. When we plugged the output into a decent sound system we were astonished at how good the sound was, and decided to develop it as a comlpete instrument.

PS: What made you choose iOS as a platform for the app?
PV: We thought that the app store would take care of the marketing and distribution of the app. We knew there was a large customer base already trained in multi-touch interaction waiting for an app like this.

PS: What were the limitations you found in working with iOS?
PV: Doing serious work with Core Audio on iOS is very, very hard and pretty much uncharted territory. Doing anything realtime was a challenge. Also, as expected, processor performance is only just adequate in iPhone 3GS. anything less is not usable as a serious tool. Also, screen real estate on the phone made acceptable usability a serious challenge.

PS: Do you see the app remaining as an emulation of the hardware or do you have plans to develop it in a different direction?
PV: We’ll see how it goes and what the customer base suggests or asks for.  It will be interoperable with the CMI-30A, so you can compose on the train or at the beach then transfer your work to the ‘real’ system which has serious horsepower.  If the economics adds up (that is code for ‘if we make a profit on this one’) we’ll bring develop more sound editing and compositional add-ons.

PS: Now that fairlight have made the jump to a mobile platform do you think that other classic hardware manufacturers will do the same and do you think that’s a positive step for music making?
PV: A lot of the classic hardware manufacturers already have brought out mobile apps. The Fairlight app is quite different from anything else I’ve seen as it’s designed to emulate the original user experience, taking the user back to a time before the mouse was available, let alone touch screens. The Fairlight app’s been described as part adventure game, part musical instrument, and part history lesson.

PS: There’s been some criticism of the price that the app will go on sale for. What would you say to people who say it is too expensive?
PV: I’d say do the sums! How much effort can a developer invest in an app that sells for a couple of dollars? Even positioned towards the high end of the app pricing scale, it’s a discretionary spend. People spend more than $50 on a meal and a movie.  

PS: Now that you’ve chosen a mobile platform, what do you think of mobile music, where it is going, and what the challenges are?
PV: I love the thought that someone can have a compositional tool in their pocket and pull it out wherever they are, at any time the creative juices start to flow. Not to mention that it’s something everyone can afford. The Fairlight app already supports the ability to share compositions with other users, so I expect people will be emailing around sequence files which others can ‘remix’.  One of the demo pieces that comes with the app contains far more music than it plays out of the box.  Users can get in and restructure the song bar-by-bar if they want, and of course change the sounds played too.  I anticipate the remix culture will lap this up and do amazing things with it.

Thanks Peter, I’m looking forward to seeing the Fairlight app when it lands and finding out what impact it has on other manufacturers. Mobile music just gets better and better.

15 thoughts on “The Fairlight app: An interview with Peter Vogel”

  1. nice to hear from another dev : “Doing serious work with Core Audio on iOS is very, very hard and pretty much uncharted territory. Doing anything realtime was a challenge.”


  2. unfortunately there aren't enough synth nerds. This is more of a niche app than say, beatmaker…

    Personally, I won't buy it at this price, but I don't blame them for it. I hope they've done their math correctly.


  3. So an iPhone is slower than a pair of zilog z80s? Does the ios UI rendering eat that much CPU? I'm fer sure buying this when it hits the app store. Don't listen to the haters!


  4. Cool interview, very interesting, you should do more of these in the future IMO. I probably produce more typos in a single sentence than you do in your full blog, but I noticed a typo at the end of the first answer (“comlpete instrument”). Wish I could afford a 50 bucks restaurant + movie, or an app in the same price range (though I realize I spent more than this for Ampkit in the end), but I'll probably pass on this one sadly…


  5. As an Australian, can confirm it's way easy to spend $50 on a movie and a meal over here (yes, can be done cheaper. Can also be done more expensively. Point is, it's not that hard and you wouldn't have go out of your way to do it). Out of my price range for what it is. Something like BM2 would be the kind of app I'd pay that much for. Maybe if there was a lite or a browser demo that I could try first…?



  6. That was a great interview, i love interview's with dev's. Nice choice of questions btw. I'm definently going to buy it, I've always though the fairlight was cool and wanted to try it, this is as close as I will get most likely.

    Vst/AU would be great also, but I think a standalone osx version for the mac app store wouldn't be a bad idea, considering it already has the sequencer in it, and the fair light concept is built around the idea of standalone sampling music machine. Also, they already did the core audio heavy lifting. Windows people would complain, but hey I want dblue glitch for my OS, so tough luck. : )


  7. For $50 price of a dinner and movie. Well they got a point but I stopped going to movies a long time ago due to the price.

    If $50 is the price it will make them app wise like the Fairlight of old (only rich rockstars with contracts could use them).

    I guess that is why I have affection for Korg and Akai who took the tech and brought it street level at a entry price point I could use.


  8. The thing is, if Fairlight doesn't sell the app for 5 to 10 bucks, someone else will make a version thats even better and hit that price point, then take all the steam away. Premium pricing doesn't work in the mobile market. Also, the idea that we want the old interface rather than something modern is pretty arrogant.


  9. The target audience is people like me: people who spent our young adulthood constantly dreaming of owning a fairlight and not having the $20000+ to buy one. $50 ain't shit to have this on my iPad and iPhone. I just hope it has the ios4.3 tcp midi capability.

    Even as a kid, if I had spent less on junk food and other stuff, I could have saved enough to buy a real fairlight.


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