Percussa micro super signal processor

Intua is the first to get a full-fledged music creation app on the iTunes App Store, with an MPC-style sampler and step sequencer, plus effects, for the iPhone and iPod Touch. This isn’t just a toy for triggering sounds or a useful utility like a guitar tuner; it’s an actual music app on which you can produce whole songs. As with any mobile app, there are tradeoffs versus a desktop tool – but its simplicity is likely to be part of its appeal. US$19.99.

Most importantly, it’s available now.

The basic features:

  • 16-pad sample triggering. Drum kits and other samples, with “auto chop,” pitch, tuning, reverse, mute, and even a nice wave editor for touch-selecting where you want sample start and end points.
  • Step and song sequencer: Create patterns with a touchable step sequencer, then arrange them into bigger songs using a multitrack editor.
  • Live performance support: Pattern triggering and recording is live, so you could use this as a performance tool.
  • 2 effects channels: Synchronized delay, 3-band EQ, bit-crusher capabilities
  • Pre-loaded kits and samples
  • Sync with desktop audio: Apple doesn’t provide music apps with easy ways of getting files in and out, so Intua has built one: a synchronization tool that lets you load in new audio kits and samples, and export audio back to your machine.

We can certainly see some of the strengths of the platform. The app looks absolutely gorgeous in screen shots; elements are big and friendly and don’t appear to strain the eyes. The touch capability works beautifully for pad triggering and step sequencing – there’s even a nice, draggable velocity and “groove” graph for the step sequencer.

BeatMaker's song sequencer

So how does BeatMaker stand up to the competition, at least on paper?

On the upside, you get a fast, friendly, fun interface, and one that has looks befitting Apple’s beautiful gadget. And, notably, this is an official app you can use without hacking your device. But some power users may still opt for gaming devices for more advanced mobile editing and synthesis. BeatMaker lacks any synthesis features, as on tools like PSPSeq or the upcoming Korg DS-10. (Perhaps we will see some in the future, though, since they got effects working – a bassline synth, perhaps?) You also don’t get wireless MIDI control and sequencing, as on the Nintendo DS’ DSMIDIWiFi, so you can’t connect BeatMaker to a computer studio in the way you can with NitroTracker on DS or the touch controllers aka.iphone and i3L on the iPhone/Touch.

BeatMaker’s real nearest rival may be PSP Rhythm on the PSP. I’ll be interested to hear whether BeatMaker’s audio engine stands up to PSP Rhythm’s on quality. BeatMaker has its lovely interface and touch capabilities, but PSP Rhythm has a synth (bassline and a general purpose wave synth) and a hardware-style interface some may prefer.

These aren’t criticisms – on the contrary, I think differentiation is a good thing. I’ve been having a number of conversations with developers, and part of what I’m hearing is that certain platform features continue to direct developers to different mobile platforms. Not everyone is migrating to Apple – meaning Intua has a chance to stake out a real niche here.

BeatMaker is the serious music creation app the platform has been waiting for, and it app gives you way more power for your dollar than a lot of what I’ve seen on the iPhone. It’s real, worthy, powerful app. If you’ve got an iPod Touch or iPhone and would like to test drive the app for CDM and write up a review / video a review, let me know!

Intua BeatMaker

Direct iTunes Link

(Thanks to everyone who sent this in! That’s always a good indication there’s excitement in the digital musician community around the device and this specific app.)

Update:

Mathieu has some more details: MIDI export is coming very soon. (Mic recording could be possible if there’s a better input solution.)

And one site already has a video hands-on (though CDMers, I’m sure you can do even better – we’ll have one or two of you on this soon).

BeatMaker for iPhone: Upcoming Features Q&A, Video Review

Previously:

Big Updates for Handheld Homebrew Music: NitroTracker 0.4, PSPSeq 3, PSP Rhythm 8

Beyond Mobile Music Making: Organizational Musical Uses for iPhone, Other Smart Devices