Some first impressions of the Artiphon Instrument 1

I promised that I would write about the Artiphon Instrument 1. I thought I’d start with some photos of what it used to look like as a prototype. Of course, it’s quite different now and doesn’t have a bay for an iPhone, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. However, it is essentially the same instrument.

The version that shipped from Artiphon’s Kickstarter campaign is a nice evolution of the original, and, on first impressions, is pretty easy to use.

What’s shipped may not look as beautiful as the original, but the shipped version is still rather lovely anyway. But more than that it works and works really well.

When I unpacked it and got it out of its box the first thing I noted is that it is really well presented. The packaging is protective and works and you’ll probably want to keep hold of the box just in case.

The instrument itself feels the right weight. It’s smaller than I’d had in my mind. It’s around the size of a ukulele or maybe slightly bigger. I’ve got the black one. The surface of the device is smooth and it feels nice to handle. Of course the most important thing is how it works and handles as an instrument and I’ll be coming on to that in just a moment.

What struck me first off was that it does actually feel like an instrument and not like a piece of digital technology that you’re going to have to learn how to use and isn’t immediately obvious. That might sound like a subtle distinction, but in my view it is an important one. It means that you feel, or at least I felt, like I could pick this instrument up straight away and get going with it, and that is exactly what I did.

So let’s move on to hooking it up to a device and getting going.


The app that Artiphon have created to go along with their device is great for getting started, but if you’re a seasoned iOS music pro you’re going to get bored of these sounds very soon.

The app is very good for setting up how the instrument works though.

It gives you all the options for setting the tuning and layout of the instrument. Which is very useful in getting the thing to work how you want to.

Inside the app you can play with some basic instrument settings, although the sounds aren’t going set the world on fire, but the main thing is that you can set up MIDI here, and that’s where, for me, this instrument is going to be really useful. MIDI is very easy in the Artiphon app so you won’t have any issues I wouldn’t think.

After getting some sounds out of the thing I spent most of my time experimenting with playing with it and that’s what I’ll be sharing next.

What the ArtiPhon Instrument 1 is like to use:

I have to say, that even after just a brief time of playing with this instrument I can say that it’s a joy to use. It really is an instrument. I’m not much of a guitarist, but it does work well when you play it in guitar mode. In piano or keys mode it’s even more interesting and useful. I found that I could play and experiment with how the device worked with a variety of apps and sounds for ages as it was such a novel way of interfacing with apps.

I think that I’ve only scratched the surface with this instrument and it’s going to take a lot more interaction to get to a point where I can talk about where I think it really excels. However, I think it’ll be a lot of fun getting there.

Artiphon brings version 1.1 of their app and new INSTRUMENT 1 firmware

The 1.1 update brings new functionality and improved playability to the INSTRUMENT 1 firmware and Artiphon software for iOS. String Flip The String Flip feature uses the INSTRUMENT 1’s built-in accelerometer to automatically switch between lefty and righty tunings based on how the instrument is held. With this update, String Flip becomes a global setting,…


AmpliTube Orange review and comparison

Whilst I still enjoy playing a bit of guitar now and then I’m nowhere near as competent as my friend Paul who offered to take a look at IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube Orange app and compare it against other apps and hardware to see which he thought came out best. Here’s what he decided …

How to get the sound of an Orange guitar amplifier without actually owning one….

With the release of AmpliTube’s Orange apps, I thought it would be interesting to compare the sounds with those produced by some other Orange emulators. Sadly I don’t own a real Orange amp but have always enjoyed the distinctive edgy crunch that characterises this established British manufacturer.

The following comments are of course totally subjective and reflect my personal opinion and taste.

The contenders are:

  1. AmpliTube Orange as endorsed by the real Orange company.
  2. JamUp Pro‘s OR30
  3. Bias “British Rock 50”
  4. Tech 21 Oxford (Sansamp). This is a hardware guitar pedal with analog electronics

Audio was sent through the iPad via a Roland Duo Ex interface.

Clean sounds:

My personal favourite was the AmpliTube AD30 with a full bodied “rounded” sound, whereas the the OR50 seemed a little too “thin” despite attempts to manipulate the eq section. The Tiny Terror is an excellent value amp head in real life, but has just a single tone control which is duplicated here. It didn’t hit the spot for me (but see my comments on the over-driven sounds below). The Jam-up and Bias emulations sounded fine, but perhaps lacked the character of a real amp.

The Oxford pedal stood up well against the digital emulations with a warm, less brittle (digital?) sound. It has a very flexible (and sensitive) tone stack and a little tweaking leads to a huge range of sounds.

Over-driven sounds:

This is more up my street. Crank up the gain and immediately the AmpliTube models start spitting out that British crunch complete with authentic hiss and noise. All the models demonstrated a distinctive harmonic distortion mostly noticeable on the high strings and I believe this is a characteristic of the real hardware.

I did an A/B comparison between the Rockerverb 50 and the Oxford and managed to get the tone suprisingly close… picture the opening riff for T.Rex’s 20th Century Boy. Fantastic! Again I found the AD30 had a rounder tone and I was able to dial in more bottom end (which is the sort of sound I go for). This time the Tiny Terror’s tone control did actually produce a useful range of sounds and I found myself thinking that maybe I should invest in the real thing! The Thunderverb channel A produced an interesting “raspy” drive which could cut through in the right sort of mix but was not entirely to my taste and the OR50 was my least favourite. Prior to the AmpliTube offering, I had always enjoyed JamUp’s “Orange” amp but was suprised to find it rather thin and lacking in character when compared to the others. There was also a lack of tone variation and quite a
strong compression component to the sound.

But still, I have had it sounding great in a mix so it can’t be all bad! I only played with the basic Bias model and didn’t dig in and fiddle with the internal components; it was similar to the JamUp model but with less compression and more background hiss. It might be that something as simple as changing the position of the simulated microphone would bring the two models closer sonically. The Tech 21 sounds fantastic when cranked up and has a character control the allows radical re-modelling of the sound. And there is that harmonic distorion that I mentioned earlier…

Some conclusions:

AmpliTube offers a fantastic suite of Orange models and in my opinion outguns the Jamup version. Although interestingly this exercise has proved to me the quality of the Tech 21 Oxford and what can be done in the old fashioned analog domain. But you have to remember the Oxford will set you back £159 whereas the AmpliTube Orange is just £10.49. And of course a real Tiny Terror costs a whole load more….

Amplitube Orange on the app store ($14.99 / £10.49)

Video: AmpliTube for iOS Multi-track Recording

Video description: “Simultaneous multi-track recording now available in AmpliTube for iOS – use your iRig Pro Duo or class compliant USB audio interface to record up to 8 channels of audio at the same time.” Video published by IK Multimedia. AmpliTube on the app store:

IK updates the Amplitube line of apps

It looks like IK have updated most if not all of their AmpliTube range of iOS apps. Here’s what’s new: Studio section offers DAW-style cut/copy paste, normalize, punch in/out recording and more (available via in-app purchase) “Cab Room” feature that allows 3D miking of cabinets with up to two mics (available via in-app purchase) 16…

My impressions of Oscilab

I thought I’d jot down a couple of notes about Oscilab, and as I wrote this it turned into  more of a rant about interfaces and how our music reacts to them. Anyway, as a result I thought it might be best to split this post up into a few headings.

Some (slightly rambling) thoughts generally about interfaces
I have to admit that I was really looking forward to Oscilab when it first got teased, and let’s face it, cross platform apps and anything that works well on Android is few and far between to say the least. So Oscilab looked like it was going to be really amazing. The videos showed it doing some really interesting things and producing really amazing sounds, so it had to be great, yes?

Well, that’s what I was expecting. When I opened up the app it made no sense to me at all. I didn’t get it, and these days, I really like to be able to dig in to an app very quickly and start making some sounds with it. Let’s face it, we all tend to be busy, in fact that’s one of the reasons we (and certainly I) like mobile apps for making music.

However, I persevered, and if I’m honest, it didn’t take very long at all to get into this app when I’d got my head around how it worked, or perhaps I should say, how I had to work to make it work for me. Whichever way you look at it, it worked for me, but the interesting thing for me, was how.

It’s probably true to say that my usual way of sequencing or composing or writing follows a fairly standard format. I like piano rolls, I like step sequencers and that sort of thing, so Oscilab’s approach to sequencing was very different. Although, as I said before in many ways, that’s very refreshing. In fact, I often feel that a change of interface can be a good way to try different musical directions. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always good to try, and that’s how I felt about Oscilab.

Actual impressions of Oscilab
So, my impressions of the app itself. Well, as I said above, I actually found the app a very interesting way to work. In fact the workflow is nothing like what I’m used to. I wondered if I’d get used to setting pitch through Oscilab’s interface, but it didn’t take long at all. In fact, I quite like it now. It’s a different way of looking at things, a different way of achieve self expression but without having to know about all the usual stuff that we can get hung up on, especially if you come from a traditional western musical background.

On reflection, using the Oscilab interface is actually very easy. I expect that a few people reading this will wonder what all the fuss is about, but for others it might make sense. So, if you have been put off when seeing the Oscilab interface and thought it didn’t make sense for you, then think again.

I’ve found that the app has made me rethink how I respond to different interfaces and how I think about music making. I’ve really enjoyed using it and I expect it’ll become more and more a part of my workflow.

Hopefully I’ll get a track out made using Oscilab in the not too distant future. Anyway, I think it’s a very different app, but perhaps not in the way you’d think. So, if you haven’t tried it out, I think you should seriously give it some thought.

Oscilab is on the app store. Click below:

Digital DJ Tips reviews the PDJ Handheld

A great and full review of this handheld unit from Digital DJ Tips.

Some first impressions of Auria

Opening up this app for the first time gives you some idea of what a step forward it is. I started by playing the demo track that’s included with the app. It isn’t a bad track, it isn’t particularly to my taste, but that’s not the point. The point is how the track demonstrates Auria, and I think it does it quite well, to start with anyway.

Just messing about with the controls in Auria’s mixer starts to give you a view on how complex the app is and the depth of control it gives you. But really this is just the start, there is so much more in this app and my guess is that the developers have a great deal more planned for it as well.

So to give you my first impressions, this app is going to be a major change in how we view mobile music production. It raises the bar significantly, and I hope that this will be a good thing.

Auria - WaveMachine Labs, Inc.

The Modern DJ on vjay for iPad

The Modern DJ posts video and links to reviews on the new vjay app from Algoriddim. Find it all here.

GuitarJack 2, pictures, thoughts, amazement …

I thought I’d post up some more shots of the GuitarJack 2 and how it works with FourTrack. I have to say that the software / hardware integration is very slick indeed and a big improvement on the first version.

But what really strikes you is the quality of the GuitarJack 2. Not just the external build quality, but the sound quality through the device. I can’t remember where I read it, but I remember that someone had written that they thought that there was something wrong with the guitarjack when they plugged in their guitar because there was no noise, but it wasn’t broken, just noiseless. Well I found that too. The line in is great too, it works very well to have a stereo in for the iPhone or iPad.

My main planned use of this is recording iDevice to iDevice, but perhaps more of that another day. You could plug anything into the GuitarJack 2 and get great sound out of it I’m sure. The quality is amazing and completely configurable within FourTrack too, which is very handy.

I’ll admit that I wanted to be impressed with the GuitarJack 2, but it has exceeded my expectations quite easily. Very nice job Sonoma, excellent job.

What I would have liked to see come inside the box was a case for the device itself, or perhaps a case for it and an iPhone to make it even more secure. Perhaps that will come in the future.

You can find out more about the GuitarJack 2 including where to buy it via the Sonoma site. Clip to Evernote

What I’ve been playing with: TNR-i

I had some time to spare and was looking at the apps on my iPhone trying to decide what to play with that I hadn’t used in ages. So picked TNR-i. I think it has been ages since I last used this app, and of course there was something in there that I’d started ages ago (not bad in fact), and I ended up jamming along with it.

I know that the Tenori-on grid concept has been done a lot on the app store, but I think that the original TNR-i albeit not the first grid sequence app has a lot going for it.

One thing that really struck me about it was that with certain settings I didn’t even have to look at the screen to use the app and jam along with the layer that I’d previously created. I really liked that, not that I’m advocating using music apps whilst driving or anything, but I liked that I didn’t have to be glued to the screen to be happily engaged in making some music.

I think I’ll have to try a few other apps to see if it’s possible elsewhere.

TNR-i - US - Yamaha Corporation of America Clip to Evernote

RealBeat review

I’ve been playing with this for a while now and I’m really loving the somplicity of the design, and the ease of use of this sampler sequencer.

If you don’t know the app the idea is really straightforward. RealBeat is a sampler for taking sounds from anywhere and making them into drum patterns, or any other kind of pattern for that matter. Creating a sample is easy. All you do is press the record button and wait for the sound. If you’re sampling a drum type sound then make the sound and the app will record what it thinks you’re trying to record. If it’s a lower level sound just push the button to record. You can edit the samples really easily in the app and undo changes too.

Pattern editing is a breeze and anyone who’s ever edited a drum pattern will be immediately at home here. The app can audio copy individual patterns and has some nice real time FX processing too.

The only thing I’d like to see is a session record function on this. That’d be excellent. Even without it this is a really nice polished app.

RealBeat - joerg piringer

Want to know about uLoops? Try this

This is a great run down and review of uLoops for Android, which is a great music app for Android. Clip to Evernote