OpEd: The AudioShare SDK by Jonatan Liljedahl

Following the release of the AudioCopy app earlier this week, there were members of the community crying foul at some of the features which were similar to those found in AudioShare. AudioShare has been a long loved tool among iOS musicians, since its release in July 2012. I invited developer Jonatan Liljedahl to write an OpEd stating the case for developers to support AudioShare in their apps, and how his SDK will benefit users in the continuously expanding inter-app audio options.

The AudioShare SDK - How and why?

by Jonatan Liljedahl, Kymatica

We already have two standards for Audio Copy and Paste, and with iOS7 one of them broke and was replaced with a new version. So why support yet another way of getting audio in and out between apps?

Firstly, AudioShare's main purpose is not to replace the existing AudioCopyPaste standards. The reason I made AudioShare was that there was a gap that was asking to be filled - iOS musicians needed a central librarian to store and manage their sounds, with various ways to get audio in and out of the library. AudioShare delivers that, and I'm happy to see it growing into the standard file manager for iOS musicians or anyone that need to manage soundfiles on their iOS device. It is also a recorder, and an Inter-App Audio host, and some people refer to it as the swiss-army knife of iOS audio.

So, for all these AudioShare users, copying and pasting to transfer audio between other apps and AudioShare works fine, albeit a bit cumbersome. But this can easily be improved! By implementing the AudioShare SDK in your app, your users will be able to export or import to and from AudioShare with a single tap of a button, and the user can keep working directly with their central sound library.

But this is not the only reason. AudioShare SDK also supports any kind of audio file, including MP3 and MIDI files. It also supports any format, for example 24bit/48k, instead of being limited to the CD-standard of 16bit/44k1. And it works for iOS 5, 6 and 7!

The SDK is extremely easy to incorporate in your own code, here's what is needed to export a file into AudioShare:

[[AudioShare sharedInstance] addSoundFromPath:thePathToYourFile withName:@"My Sound"];
That's a single line of code! Importing from AudioShare is a tiny bit more complex, but should still take only a couple of minutes:

1. First, declare a new URL type for your app with the scheme yourAppName.audioshare

2. Then, in your app delegates openURL handler method, call checkPendingImport:withBlock: to handle the actual import. The supplied block will be called with a path to the imported file, living inside your apps temporary directory.

3. Finally, to initiate the import from your app, simply call [[AudioShare sharedInstance] initiateSoundImport];

AudioShare SDK is free and open source, and can be found here:
Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!


Korg Volca Bass TB-303 Acid Sound & Comparison

There is a lot of excitement about the Volca's coming to the West, but I've been seeing a lot of misinformation in forums about the Volca Bass. So I put together a video to demonstrate the Acid capabilities of Korg's $150 analog monosynth, while comparing it to a TT-303, as well as providing some tips! I even run it through a Sunsine Audio Vanishing Point.

Before You Update to iOS 7

Everyone is naturally excited about the new-shiny-thing that is iOS 7, but there have been some dire warnings from all over the web. Even some of the Apple faithful are calling for readers to avoid iOS 7.0.0 and to wait for 7.0.1 or 7.0.2. Many of you are using your iDevices as your primary production environments, but iOS has conditioned us to just hit the Update All button or even update the whole OS over-the-air. For most users it hasn't been a problem, but this can be quite reckless if you are a content creator.

Developers have had a chance to play with iOS 7 for a while now, so I spoke with them to get their take on the update now that the NDA has lifted.

Prominent Audiobus developer Sebastian Dittmann, has been critical of the new UI in iOS 7 since it was first released to developers. In talking with him he also mentioned how fundamental changes to iOS 7, relating to the UI, will impact apps not prepared for it.

"We've had to fix some bugs with regards to how some button taps are detected, because iOS 7 does something differently. So obviously there are changes in the core OS. If applications haven't been updated for months, chances are they might have issues in iOS 7. If you're only using apps that have been updated in last few days, you should be fine."

DJ Player developer Gábor Szántó was also alarmed by the scope of changes in the UI. He shared some insights into the troubles faced by music app developers with all new versions of iOS, and 7 in particular.

"Every time Apple releases a major iOS version, the developer forums are full with audio related problems, as Apple actively develops the audio components and bugs happen.

There is another problem, not audio related but affects almost every app: the user interface handling is also changed, and not just graphically/aesthetically, but on the "programming side" as well.

This step is quite big, larger than before.

They introduced larger than usual changes in the API, some of them need developers to re-think established concepts. For example it was ordinary to do certain things differently when a new major version comes out. This time there are so many it's not about writing different code, but a need to re-think how things should work.

Add these two factors together (UI + audio), and now you see that audio app developers need to take quality time with the new system."

Jonatan Liljedahl from Kymatica shared this concern about the amount of changes introduced in iOS 7.

"There's so many changes in iOS7, and many apps will break, crash, or just look weird. Also, there are still bugs in iOS 7.0. Sure, inter-app audio will be cool, but only when we have enough hosts (and nodes) to actually use it."

Fortunately iOS 7 updates for popular music apps have been pouring in, but not everything has received this attention. Even major apps like Animoog have not had patches to specifically address iOS 7.

Many developers have been approaching iOS 7 with caution, such as One Red Dog's Peter Johnson. Peter is keeping all of his already developed apps on the previous versions of XCode, Apple's development environment, that they were originally designed for. This keeps him from being able to use new features in iOS 7, but in Peter's experience it also dramatically cuts down on the random bugs.

"My golden rule: don't develop on betas unless there is a feature of iOS 7 that you really must have. Stick to what is working, update gradually. Some features like inter-app audio might be really sexy, but if it breaks your shit, don't go there.

And if you're relying on your iPad for live gigs to get paid real money by DJ'ing or performing - don't fucking update your live rig just because it looks sexy and new. Lock down app versions and iOS versions and stick to what works."

Other bugs are simply intrinsic to the nature of any major OS release, as Jonatan mentioned earlier. There is often very little developers can do about bugs in the OS itself. Echo Pad developer Christopher Rice wrote in with an iOS 7 bug that will impact many music app fans. This has been confirmed by others I spoke with.

"I found a bug with iOS 7 that affects a lot of music apps, including Echo Pad, Audiobus and pretty much all apps that process live audio input. Apps that do not process live audio such as iElectribe and Figure do not appear to be affected by the bug.

With iOS 7, if the user has headphones plugged into their device and they receive an audio interruption like a phone call, alarm clock or other interruption that shuts down audio, the apps cannot recover their audio session. Some apps will crash, some will just hang, and some will give an error message.

There is no known workaround at the moment, so when this happens the apps must be completely terminated and re-launched in order to work again. Note that in most cases simply closing and re-opening the apps is not enough, you need to remove them from the multitask bar and relaunch the apps.

I will say this is probably the buggiest initial release I've seen from Apple, at least on the iPad. I just don't think it's quite as bad as some users expect.

I actually like iOS 7, and once the bugs are ironed out I think overall CPU performance will be comparable to iOS 6 on most devices."

Secret Base Design's Patrick Madden shares this optimism with a heavy dose of reality, specifically with regards to Audiobus.

"I've been using the iOS 7 beta, and have seen some things that are strange. Sometimes things don't start on the first try -- restarting Audiobus sometimes fixes problems. Sometimes not. There might be some special sauce in which order apps get launched, that we have not figured out yet.

My suspicion is that there are memory issues -- maybe things take more space, or take up space differently, causing some things to break. The under-the-hood changes to Audiobus are probably fairly substantial, and they're splicing on to a new audio infrastructure in iOS 7 -- realistically, I'd be stunned there were no problems.

So -- in terms of advice for users:
  1. Hold off on updating to iOS 7, if you need to have everything work. There will be people who are willing to experiment -- let them take the risk, and figure out what is working, and what's broken.
  2. If you update, don't freak out if something breaks. The developers are going to try to fix it as soon as they can.
  3. Keep in mind that the developers are doing their best, with a rather tricky moving target. There are the changes to iOS (multiple beta versions, some of them really badly broken), updates to the underlying audio system on iOS, changes to the Audiobus app, and changes to the Audiobus app SDK. And about 300 apps that work on Audiobus.

This last point is something I really would like to emphasize. It's astounding how much actually works -- and it's because a lot of developers have been very careful in what they do, and are making a big effort to have things work. I'm sure some stuff will break, and it may be something that a developer has no way of predicting, or preventing. The last thing any of us needs is someone flipping out, and taking a huge dump in the iTunes review for an app."

There is no rush to update, so don't. I'm sure Apple will have most of these issues sorted in the next couple of point releases, over the coming weeks and months. So why take the risk? There is even less reason to update at all now that Apple allows users to download previously compatible versions of apps.

With all that said, the very next thing I'm doing with my day is updating my phone to iOS 7, because I'm a guinea pig. My iPads, my primary music creation devices, are going to stay on 6; at least until there is a jailbreak for iOS 7.x.x. As I've learned from previous iOS updates: By the time the hackers have had their way with it, Apple is typically done with all the major bug fixing and the apps have all been patched. If after all this you still update, at least turn automatic updates off.

Update: If all of these developers weren't enough for you to think twice, Native Instruments just said pretty much the same thing.

Due to the extent and severity of the errors mentioned above, we are advising Native Instruments product users to postpone upgrading their devices to iOS 7 until the issues are resolved. This is extremely important as a device can NOT be downgraded to iOS 6 after upgrading to iOS 7. Native Instruments and Apple are working together to find solutions to these problems as soon as possible. Further announcements will be made as soon as the issues are resolved.

Tutorial: Intro to Modular (Part 2)

Following the release of Modular yesterday, I present Part 2 of my Modular tutorials. This time I get a bit more advanced and explore how modules, and the signals they generate, can be modified for use in different ways.

Buy Modular Synthesizer on iTunes: Freemium ($9 Unlock Bundle)

Apple Announces iOS 7 Coming Next Week

Jony Ive
Unapologeticly Smug

In a move that surprised no one, yesterday Apple announced the new iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5Cheap. More, faster, smaller, yadda, yadda... They didn't announce the next generation of iPads! Just a fucking plastic phone! Oh excuse me, a fucking "unapologeticly plastic" phone.

One bit of interesting news did surface yesterday, with the iPhone 5S running 64-bit processors. This appears to be a play for future development, rather than a specific performance improvement in this generation. Developers Sebastian Dittmann and Rolf Wöhrmann were available on Skype to help me make sense of what this will mean in practical terms.

"The only real benefit of 64-bit is that it is able to address more RAM. The only reason to do that is if you have more than 3 gigabytes of RAM. Since none of the new devices have more than 3 gigabytes of RAM; there is no benefit here.

If apps are optimized for 64-bit, then they can potentially be faster or more efficient because they can basically use bigger numbers. But unless apps are optimized for that, there is no benefit."

- Sebastian Dittmann, Co-Founder Audiobus

Rolf was more optimistic, but only slightly when ask about the challenges developers will have to face in order to do that.

"I understand 32-bit apps will run without recompiling on the new CPU. Just recompiling the code for 64-bit doesn't get at the real power from the CPU. You have to rethink some part of your processing kernel, to unleash the 64-bit power. The effort required is dependent on whether your current code is already thought out with these specific features in mind. For some it will be a whole rewrite, or simply not possible, for others it will be quite easy."

Rolf Wöhrmann, Tempo Rubato

So by the time we get to the iPhone 6 we should have a batch of 64-bit apps that will be able to fully take advantage of a projected 4 gigabytes of RAM, but for iPhone 5S owners the extra bits may go largely unnoticed.

Additionally Apple has announced that iOS 7 is coming out next Wednesday. If you use your iDevices in any sort of serious music production capacity I would like to remind you that you should really hold off on updating immediately. You wouldn't jump up to the latest OSX on your production Mac, so don't automatically update your iPad!

Finally in an effort to address the rampant iPhone theft in America, Apple announced plans to minimize the impact of this statistic by inflating the incidents of thumb theft.

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