SoundTower have released another app dedicated to controlling some of Dave Smith's excellent synthesizers. This time up is the DSI Evolver, an impressively powerful synth with a cramped matrix interface. The interface is so cumbersome that you can often find these for less-than-half their retail price on Craigslist. This app should make editing patches a breeze, so if you did snag an Evolver for cheap you're in business!
Evolver Editor iTunes Description:
Evolver Sound Editor is a fully-featured Editor and Sound Development tool created specifically for Dave Smith Instruments Evolver synthesizer. It requires the DSI Evolver synthesizer.
Evolver Sound Editor provides the ultimate editing and sound development experience by displaying all Evolver Program parameters in a single, intuitive, graphical interface. The interface resembles the look and feel of the real synthesizer while streamlining your workflow and allowing you to view the complete details of any Program at a glance and to edit any parameter using your iPad. It allows you to see how the factory Programs are put together or to freely experiment to see what you can create.
- Real time editing of all Evolver parameters
- Program Bank manager
- Load/Save of Program Banks
- Transmitting and receiving of Program Bank data
- Sequencer editor
- Resizable on-screen keyboard
- Direct USB/MIDI connection with Apple iPad Camera Adapter
- Wireless connection possible using MIDI network
- Magnified editing panels
Longtime reader Steve Raizen, aka Frozen Lonesome, was at the Matlock Festival of Music, Art, and Nature outside of Winnipeg in Manitoba. There he evangelized at a workshop on The Wonderful World of iOS Music Apps. The workshop was recorded with a look at his devices, along with a direct audio feed (in mono).
Well done Steve, on spreading the good word!
Miselu has wanted to bring a highly portable keyboard to music apps for a very long time. Initially they had planned to release Neiro, an Android-based device with an attached keyboard. They just couldn't make it happen on Google's platform. A year ago they announced the C.24 for iPad and this month it is finally shipping out to Kickstarters!
Miselu sent me one of the first finished models to review. This is quite a brave move; they know what I'm like!
One of the key selling points for the C.24 over other small format keyboards is the ability to use it as a case. Almost as soon as they settled on a design Apple flipped things up for them by releasing the iPad Air, with an entirely different form factor. The iPad Air can make use of the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) that the C.24 runs on, but it simply was not designed for the newer iPad in any other regard. Besides not being able to use it as a case, the iPad Air continuously falls out of the little cradle. This happened so often on my lap that it got to the point of being unusable. The loss of grip was caused occasionally by simply playing on the keys, but most often it dropped when I was manipulating on-screen controls.
Prose and Cons
Primary Use Case
The iPad cradle is the first, and only major, design flaw on the C.24. It is wide enough to easily accommodate iPads of any size, but by making the cradle so large it is not a very secure fit for any of them. Even the bulky iPad 3 slipped out on me once while it was on my lap. I would not trust this thing on your lap in a bus, but possibly a train. Perhaps most importantly it does seem to be safe enough for bathroom use on the older generation iPads.
Another major point that C.24 claims over other keyboards is wireless connectivity via Bluetooth LE. I consider myself to be fairly picky when it comes to latency and I've been thoroughly impressed by the C.24's performance. Bluetooth LE is fast enough that you never feel like there is any hesitation between when you press a key and when you hear a sound. Playing on the C.24 feels just as fluid as a wired keyboard. You can hammer on it as fast as you can play and the keyboard keeps spitting out the data.
The keys themselves are micro keys, but with extra-long key lengths. I hate micro keys. My hands aren't particularly large, yet I have a hard time with micro keys. Miselu's got that figured out here. Just adding some length, and maintaining the relative depth of the black keys, solves it. If I put the C.24 on top of my Akai MPK61, with both sets of white keys lined up, I notice that the tips of the black keys line up perfectly on both keyboards. This little touch makes all of the difference. I was able to quickly adapt to playing on this keyboard, with perfect accuracy.
They also deserve a lot of credit for the battery life. You'll have to charge your iPad five or six times before needing to charge this. Seriously. I got this Friday, charged it that night, have been playing with it for 15-20 hours and it is at 40% battery. I have 3 devices I already need to worry about charging every single night. It's nice to know the keyboard isn't one of them. If you forget to charge it you'll still be able to play on it for several days of heavy usage!
The viewing angle is fixed, but works out surprisingly well. I tried a variety of positions, and the only one that didn't suit the fixed angle was from a reclined sofa. It's a damn shame about the iPad Air not working well in the little slit that's meant to be a cradle for the device. Even on a flat table the iPad Air would pop out and crash; far too often for my nerves. I managed a work around by wedging the Smart Cover into the slit behind the iPad Air, to fill in the gap. This has worked out well, without any teeth-gritting iPad Air flopping. This trick may just be enough for me to buy one of these for myself.
The model I received was shipped in loosely wrapped bubble packaging. This presents a unique opportunity to comment on the build quality, because UPS did not handle this one with care. The keys became bent in a manner that I have not been able to warp back into shape. This is only noticable when the keyboard is in it's closed position. The keys all look more or less even when it is opened to its playing position; as you can see in the first picture of this article.
Unfortunately because the keys bend up when it is closed, this unit does not function well as a case. I cannot comment on how well it works as a case at all.
The entire frame is plastic, but it is that rugged plastic that almost feels like metal. The back of this - the bit meant to be protecting your iPad when in Case Mode - could probably take a small drop.
Correction: Miselu informs me that the bottom pan is aluminum... no wonder it almost feels like metal!
The keys themselves are somewhat flimsy. This is a necessary caveat to their retractable movement and function. The key action is unlike anything else I've played with. It's not strongly bouncy, as with semi-weighted, nor offering any real resistance as you press down. It is kind of like playing on plastic feathers. Although I was able to adapt quickly to playing on them, the narrow keys are a bit cramped. Playing for long periods started to mildly cramp my wrists. The keyboard supports polyphonic aftertouch, using optical sensors. Lasers are shining light onto little mirrors on the undersides of all the keys. This takes a little getting used to. You have to play with it using a very light touch; versus more traditional keyboard aftertouch that lets you grind it a bit more.
Holy shit, that got expensive!
Despite the numerous grievances illustrated here, my impression of the C.24 has been positive. The viewing angle is perfect from so many different angles that it feels like a genuinely mobile add-on. The lack of wires and huge battery life also help to retain your mobility in music making. I'm definitely hanging onto this unit long enough to record this week's Let's Play! Since the iPad Air is my primary device the physically incompatibility is my only reservation about getting one for myself.
The retail price of the C.24 is $230, available for order in October. Kickstarter backers who picked this up for $100 got an amazing deal, especially if they still use older generation iPads.
LiquidSonics, makers of VST/AU plugins, have brought their convolution reverb to iOS in a new Universal app.
Mobile Convolution brings some new ideas to shaping convolution reverb, with Inter-App Audio and Audiobus, but I cannot find a demo of it anywhere.
Mobile Convolution iTunes Description:
LiquidSonics Mobile Convolution is a true-stereo reverb processor for use with Audiobus and Inter-App Audio hosts. It allows the IR to be stretched, cropped and envelopes applied to shape the sound of the reverb in a very natural and musical way. A collection of impulse responses is provided, and external impulse responses can be added via Open-In... support in apps like Mail, Safari and Dropbox, or downloaded directly from within the app.