The Buyer’s Guide To iOS Music Production

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We couldn’t list every iOS music production app out there, so we’ll list our favourites by type – starting logically with 14 apps that you can use to produce complete tunes. Don’t miss out on our essential guide to iOS music production.

Budget

Ampify Groovebox




Price Free, iOS 10.3, plus IAPs, iPhone/iPad
Supports IAA, AB, Ableton Link

Groovebox is a great-looking app that allows you to layer beats, basses and leads and edit with relative ease. It’s very much the new kid on the block and set to be a great iOS DAW.

We say: “Groovebox looks set to be a big contender for Ampify, and with one or two tweaks, will give Gadget a run for its money.”

Apple Alchemy




Price Free with GarageBand, iOS 10.3, iPhone/iPad

The port of Alchemy was a superb addition to GarageBand in the 2.2 update, bringing Camel Audio’s legendary synth to the iPad.

We say: “With the addition of Alchemy, GarageBand is getting ever closer to Logic in terms of its look and feel, or is that the other way around? Either way, GarageBand is now even better than ever.”

Apple Garageband




Price Free, iOS 10.3, iPhone/iPad
Supports IAA, AB, AU

It’s probably got more people making music than any other app, thanks to its price (now free!) The new version of what is essentially a stripped down Logic, includes Alchemy, plus Beat Sequencer for more dance appeal.

We say: “Apple rules the roost from one end of music production to the other. For the cash, it’s incredible.”

Beatonal




Price Free plus IAPs, iOS 8,iPhone/iPad
Supports Ableton Link

We’ve included a couple of added extra apps that we’ve recently discovered, as they allow you to make full tracks – although perhaps not in the full DAW sense. This one includes a drum machine, bass and chord channels and is described as ‘an accessible music making app’. It looks pretty good for getting scratchpad ideas down and creating chord progressions.

Blocs Wave




Price Free plus IAPs
Supports AB and Ableton Link

Not a traditional DAW in any respect, Blocs Wave is more about experimenting with loops, adding real-time effects and then changing the results by tweaking waveforms.

We say: “Wave editing is Blocs Wave’s real strength, and utilises all that iOS touch power for ease. Open a sample, shorten it, increase and decrease volume – it all just fits.”

ROLI Noise




Price Free plus IAPs, iOS 9.3, iPhone/iPad
Supports AU

Noise can make complete tunes and they sound great, but to really get the best from it you’ll need to pair it with either ROLI’s Blocks or its Seaboard Rise keyboards.

We say: “Noise has some fantastic sounds and beats in it, which you can morph, twist and turn in real time to create some very twisted sonics.”

TF7




Price Free (with IAPs up to £14), iOS 8.1, iPad

If ever a synthesis method could be made easier on an iPad, it would be FM. This was always one of the hardest types to grasp and TF7 makes a great job of making it more accessible.

We say: ”What the iOS platformdoes best. The joy of FM comes to the masses, but without the tedious menus of days gone by. It could do with more preset sounds, but what’s there is great.”

Yonac Inc Magellan




Price £4.99, iOS 8, iPad

The last synth in our Top 16 is a virtual analogue with two independent polyphonic synth engines. You also get a sequencer, chord maker, arpeggiator, comprehensive modulation section and over 300 presets.

We say: “To be honest, there’s not a lot you don’t get. One of the most full-featured and biggest-sounding synths out there. Quite superb.”

Midrange

Moog Animoog




Price £5.99, iOS 8.2, iPhone/iPad

It’s a Moog synth, but not like one you’d recognise. Behind a beautiful front end is a synth powered by an Anistropic Synthesis Engine (or ASE) which allows you to change X/Y parameters to create dramatic sounds with plenty of movement. It’s been around a while, but it still sounds great.

We say: “With excellent touch feedback and those superb sounds, it’s a joy to use.”

Arturia iProphet

Price £9.99, iOS 8, iPad

French company Arturia was one of the first companies to develop plug-ins based on legendary synths and has made the transition to the iOS platform with ease. We could have included all of its offerings, but have limited it to three of the best…

We say: “The Prophet V was a classic synth and iProphet looks destined to become a classic synth app.”

Arturia iMini




Price £9.99, iOS 7, iPad

One of the first synth apps to go out and out for an emulation – and what a great synth to emulate. The Minimoog was the first great analogue synth and the iMini takes its sound and adds all sorts of bells and whistles, including effects and polyphony.

We say: “Purists would argue that the clean sound can’t compete with a real Moog, but the 500-plus presets are excellent, with deep basses, smooth leads and classic 70s-synth sounds.”

Arturia iSEM




Price £9.99, iOS 8, iPad

iSEM is based on the 1970s Oberheim synth – one of the most sought-after pieces of vintage loveliness. Again, Arturia has added polyphony and other features, such as FX and an arpeggiator.

We say: “The 500-plus presets utilise a similar technology to what the company uses in its desktop synths – a modelling rather than sample-based engine – the results are slick, ‘analogue’ and as real as you like. They’re perhaps more sheeny than gritty, but evoke the original.”

Beepstreet Sunrizer




Price £9.99, iOS 8, iPad

Sunrizer is an excellent semi-recreation of the Roland JP-8000 – a beloved synth with an incredible supersaw sound, although this recreation is a lot more sonically flexible.

We say: “We were impressed with the onboard effects, especially the distortions and reverbs, which take the many sounds you get in completely new directions.”

HarmonicDog Multitrack DAW




Price £9.99 plus IAPs, iOS 8.0, iPhone/iPad
Supports IAA, AB

This started off more as a loop-based DAW, but has developed well and now has up to 24 tracks of audio (albeit via IAPs), lots of effects and import and export options.

We say: “Looks great, with lots of options both per track and globally. You can even do a little mastering.”

UVI Beathawk




Price £9.99 plus IAPs, iOS 9, iPhone/iPad

We recently reviewed v2 of Beathawk and were impressed with its slick interface and edit options. It uses Akai-style or traditional keys to play in sounds; there are plenty of those included, or optional packs.

We say: “A great way to get your mobile ideas down and more links to the outside world means they can be easily transferred to your desktop studio, too.”

Akai IMPC Pro




Price £12.99
Supports IAA

Described as ‘a music production powerhouse’, iMPC Pro takes the best bits of MPC pad-based programming and performance features and slots them neatly in the iPad, for up to 64 tracks of audio.

We say: “A great performance tool with over 1,400 samples and room to add your own. Doesn’t support Audiobus as yet, but a very versatile beat and groove creator.”

High end

FL Studio Mobile




Price £13.99, iOS 8, iPhone/iPad
Supports IAA, AB

FL Studio Mobile is a ported version of a bigger and long-standing piece of music software from one of the big guns in music-production technology. That effectively means that it works just as it should and is packed full of well-implemented features.

We say: “It’s arguably more for loop-based composers – within electronic or dance genres – than GarageBand, but for instant rewards, there’s little better.”

Korg ARP Odyssei




Price £14.99, iOS 9.3, iPhone/iPad

Like Arturia, we could have filled these pages with Korg synth apps, as the company has been quick to produce versions of its classic line-up. This, however, is a version of the ARP Odyssey that more than lives up to the name and has a wonderful tearing sound, just like the original.

We say: “Korg (possibly) has more versions of the Odyssey than ARP did, but this has a fantastically true tone.”

Korg iMono/Poly

Price £14.99, iOS 9.3, iPhone/iPad

We’ve chosen two each of Korg’s virtual analogues and digitals in this roundup, and the iMono/Poly shares the rich and vibrant character of the 1981 original which, with its four VCOs, won a lot of fans in those early analogue days.

We say: “We love the design and sound of the Mono/Poly and, as ever, Korg has added modern bells aplenty, including KAOSS Pad functionality and effects to give it a modern twist.”

Korg iM1




Price £14.99, iOS 8, iPad

The original Korg M1 scored most of the late 80s and early 90s with its classic digital synthesis. This version has all of the original sounds, plus a load of optional extra sound packs – and is a definite match for the original.

We say: “Korg has done a fantastic job of recreating possibly the greatest digital synth ever made; it will give you the brash, go-faster stripes that were the digitised synths from this period. It’s not cheap, but iM1 does a lot for your buck. We’d argue it’s even better than the real thing.”

Korg iWavestation




Price £14.99, iOS 9.3, iPhone/iPad

The original Wavestation allowed wave sequencing by cross-fading raw waveforms together. Loads of people loved its sound, but it was one of those classic digital synths that hid a lot behind many screens, so Korg has completely revamped its iUI.

We say: “A fresh design makes you realise just how powerful the original was, and breathes new life into it.”

Music Studio




Price £14.99 plus IAPs, iOS 8
Supports IAA, AB, AU

Again, this is one of those DAWs that’s been around for a while, but also one that has matured to a very decent and fully featured piece of software. Features include 118 instruments, 127 tracks and 100 drum loops.

We say: “Music Studio was looking a little dated, but the last update had Audiobus and AU support. When you dig deep, there is much to admire.”

Propellerhead Thor




Price $14.99, iOS 9.3, iPad

Still one of the best synths ever to grace software, let alone the iPad, Thor was originally a classic Reason synth before being ported over on its own to iOS. A thousand presets and plenty of synth options make it almost essential.

We say: “Everything from analogue to FM to wavetable, resulting in versatile sounds that range from classic to in-your-face EDM staples.”

Cakewalk Z3ta+




Price £19.99, iOS 7, iPad

Z3TA+ was always one of our best plug-in synths for in-the-box music productions and has a superb sound particularly suited to dance. It’s made a smooth transition to iOS but be aware that it hasn’t been updated for a while, so might only run on older devices. Check yours before buying.

We say: “Z3Ta might have an odd name, but it’s a classic soft synth that should become a classic iOS synth.”

Korg Gadget




Price £19.99 plus IAPs, iOS 9.3, iPhone/iPad
Supports IAA, AB, Ableton Link

This certainly reawakened our interest in the iPad as a complete music-making device. It’s packed full of synths and drum machines to make excellent and complete tunes.

We say: “Gadget has set a standard for iOS music making. It’s expensive – as is the Mac version – but you get a lot of Gadgets for your cash.”

Modstep




Price £19.99, iOS 7, iPad
Supports IAA, AB, AU, Ableton Link

Modstep is described as ‘the first MIDI sequencer for the iPad’. It features unlimited Tracks and Scenes and can be used as the central component in a hardware or software setup to sequence, play and modulate.

We say: ”A fantastic app to modulate the hell out of anything – hardware, or software. It also has a great Live feel that Ableton and Launchpad fans will be at home with.”

Waldorf Nave




Price £19.99, iOS 8.0, iPad

Waldorf has a great history in synthesis and has produced some outstanding, unique hardware over the years. This is just one of a several iOS synths the company has designed and features wavetables from the Microwave, Wave and Blofeld synths.

We say: “With synth legend Axel Hartmann behind the scenes, we knew this was going to sound great and we weren’t disappointed. Great Waldorf sounds come to the iPad.”

Intua Beatmaker 3




Price £23.99 plus IAPs iOS 9.3, iPad (iPhone on earlier version)
Supports IAA, AU, Ableton Link

One of the oldest fully formed song makers on iOS has just been updated to version 3, with lots of new features and support.

We say: “It’s developed into a complete music-making package, with instruments, samples and effects. The new version is extensive and we’ll bring you a review soon.”

Steinberg Cubasis LE 2




Price £23.99 plus IAPs, iOS 9, iPad
Supports IAA, AB, AU

Another one of the old guard, Cubasis is one of the few iOS DAWs that looks very much like its older desktop/laptop equivalent. It’s expensive, but very well spec’d. You don’t get a more traditional DAW feel on the iOS platform.

We say: “Excellent-quality DAW, packed full of features, sounds and instruments. It’s almost as powerful and flexible as the real thing.”

WaveMachine Labs Auria Pro




Price £23.99 (or £48.99 with all IAPs), iOS 8, iPad

This was one of the first iOS DAWs out of the blocks and has since retained its status as one of the best and most fully featured out there. Think of it as the Pro Tools of the iOS world, if you like…

We say: “The most ‘pro’ app here – and it’s the ideal choice if you’re in a band and want to record gigs or studio sessions.”

Moog Model 15




Price £28.99, iOS 9.3, iPhone/iPad

It’s a Moog synth, just like one you’d recognise! Yes, why bother going to the expense of buying a full-on Moog Modular system when you can replicate one using Model 15? And it’s just a tad cheaper than the original, too…

We say: “You’ll soon be enjoying those deep Moog sounds with a whole stack of presets. Model 15 is possibly the most involving synth app in our roundup.”

Multitrack Studio




Price £28.99 plus IAPs, iOS 8, iPad
Supports IAA, AB, AU

This is a serious app for music production, one that supports all the latest technologies and offers 16 tracks, effects and lots of editing options. The track count can also be increased to 64 with two IAPs.

We say: “MultitrackStudio is one of the most expensive DAWs, but is packed with power and features.”

Click here for our buyer’s guide for the iPad dance producer


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