New apps constantly challenge what we think is possible on a tablet. Liam O’Mullane tests this latest option for mastering…
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Minimum system requirements
iPad 2 or later, iOS 7
Final Touch is a fully-featured audio mastering workstation for the iPad and iPad mini. From balancing EQ and dynamics, to dither shaping and truncating, it has everything for mastering on the move. Positive Grid has a background geared towards apps for guitarists with their previous BIAS and JamUp apps, so this mastering tool is an ambitious venture.
The influence of iZotope’s Ozone mastering software is obvious and the resulting GUI is clear and functional. Sadly, this doesn’t translate to touch control as well as we hoped. Sausage fingers coupled with using an iPad mini make it fiddly at times. The feel of individual parameter controls can be frustratingly slow as they’re set at a high resolution – great for fine tuning, but slow for making broad strokes. A slider response setting could fix this.
A waveform display allows scrubbing of the track being processed, but that’s where its functionality ends – no zoom or editing functions here. At your disposal you have a pre and post EQ; reverb and multiband dynamics, each capable of M/S or L/R processing independently; plus a stereo width tool and maximising limiter to finish.
Tools in use
For our tests we wired up our iPad 2 in the studio via an Apogee One and the Camera Connection Kit. Positive Grid offers a DAC option, JamUp Plug HD. We didn’t have one but imagine it would still be an improvement over using the iPad’s built-in converters.
Each device in the app’s processing chain has independent input and output level adjustment. This allows for proper gain staging and device order can be routed simply by dragging units across the bar at the base of the app.
With the EQs, we found a similarity in character to Ozone’s, so much so, that we decided to test this using the same EQ settings for the same source audio in each program. The results sounded almost identical with small cuts and boosts, meaning smaller adjustments provide a high level of quality and clarity. But when more extreme settings are used on any of these devices, the app’s limitations become evident and audio begins to break-up.
The reverb is surprisingly rich and sounds great in small amounts. Three switches toggle between room, hall and plate. Pre-delay, decay, reflect, room size and a large filter window enable you to customise its sound to taste.
For dynamics, the multi-band device offers four frequency bands, each with attack, threshold, release, ratio and gain controls. Here you can set a switch to control all bands simultaneously for use as a more simple compressor too. Every band can be compressed, expanded, soloed, muted or bypassed independently. Maximizer is effective in very small doses but is the quickest to break-up given that limiting can be a very CPU intensive process in today’s demand for loudness. It offers threshold, release, ceiling and one character flavour.
The stereo widening tool is a relatively simple process and here the software works very well. It’s more of a width control utility than an enhancement tool. The imager uses a single band but with a handy sweepable mono filter to keep those bass frequencies in place. The Mono/Stereo toggle switch helps to check mono compatibility quickly and pan width and phase flip toggles are there as expected.
An iPad solution
Correcting extreme flaws in a mix isn’t possible here as over exertion will almost always create artefacts or unpleasantries with Final Touch as with any processor intensive audio. But the reality is that no iPad audio apps can rival their desktop counterparts yet. So for half the cost of a decent pizza this app is great value for money as each device is worth the cost alone. It won’t perform miracles for an unbalanced mix, but it can provide usable results in the right hands.