Amidst some of the gimmicky options, some serious tools are making their way to Apple’s mobile platform. Case in point: Faber Acoustical, a developer of audio analysis and acoustical tools for the Mac, has new iPhone apps for generating and analyzing signals.

SignalScope is a real-time spectrum analyzer and oscilloscope. Interestingly, it’s not just for sound – you can even analyze signal from the built-in accelerometer. That should make this a prized educational tool. You can zoom in and pan analysis displays with multi-touch gestures and save images to the iPhone photo album. US$24.99.

SignalSuite is a signal generator with basic waveforms, session saving, and per-channel left/right control. “Suite” is a bit misleading, as it’s just one app. (Well, I guess it’s a suite of waveforms.) But it should be useful for testing purposes. US$9.99.

Faber Acoustical iPhone Products

Thanks to Tommy Birchett for the tip. He writes, “I’d love to see a synth that takes advantage of the iphone’s multi-touch and motion detection for changing frequency, amplitude, pan, etc. maybe even utilize the GPS somehow.” I agree – and if we see better sound synthesis capabilities on other mobile devices (Android, perhaps?), this could be a possibility on mobile platforms in general.

We did see one accelerometer-controlled synth in the form of iPhone Synth, as spotted in our iPhone round-up. That isn’t an official App Store app (yet, at least), but it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves.

In other news of “serious apps,” on Create Digital Motion we take a first look at a DMX controller for lighting rigs and other devices. It’s really a full-blown app, with a price to match — US$99.99.

Luminair: Gorgeous DMX Controller on iPhone, iPod Touch Runs Your Rocking Light Show

  • Nick Inhofe

    Is the microphone on the iPhone 'serious' enough to do any kind of accurate frequency analysis?

  • @Nick: My guess is, honestly, probably not — but it depends on context. Maybe there's something useful it can tell you from a handheld device, something on the go, etc. The more accurate measurement you get from your computer, of course, but perhaps you use that in a different context.

  • The real thing we need on the iPhone is akaRemote! Wireless Max/MSP control would be the killer app, pocket lemur thing we've been waiting for~

  • @Nick,

    The mic in the iPhone is a pretty standard ECM, which actually have very flat frequency responses, so the mic itself isn't so much of the issue.

    Where I think inaccuracies may occur would be:

    -The port between the outside of the phone and the microphone makes a fairly tight seal, meaning it probably has a pretty significant in-band resonance. Most likely, Apple tuned this for the voiceband. This being said though, if the software can use the headphone jack's mic in, then you could use an external mic and avoid the porting problem.

    -There may be a high-pass filter to remove low frequency noise unnecessary for voice communication (though this also may be tuned so low it has little effect on the 20-20kHz band).

    -The codec may be set by default to only accept a limited frequency band (the entire band isn't needed for voice communication). I'm not sure how much the SDK allows for control of the codec, but it's possible that this could be controlled from the software and the issue alleviated.

  • Mike

    It's too bad that this company didn't focus their programming efforts on something a little more useful. These sort of tools are generally relegated to very specific professional scenarios and make little sense on a mobile phone. I'm still waiting for a decent iPhone DAW with MIDI and audio export capabilities (sigh).

  • Mike

    P.S….. the iPhone 2.0 firmware seems to contain more bugs than a rural Midwestern town on a muggy summer night. While I have always loved and supported nearly everything Apple does, the iPhone deployment and strategy has annoyed me to depths I'd rather not delve….. end rant.

  • samoan

    These apps are still kind of like toys with limited usefulness. Check out BeatMaker on the app store, now that is a sophisticated music app.

  • Well, wait a minute — these are apps with limited *audiences*, not limited usefulness — there's a difference.

    But yes, I agree, BeatMaker is the one really cool app so far. I also think the custom controller stuff (mrmr, i3L, shows a lot of potential — assuming using the iPod/Phone as a controller appeals.

    Mike, I'd be curious to hear what your experiences have been with bugs. Rant on.

  • Jarson

    I think these apps have a lot of potential for audio uses. If you look in their forums there is lots of information on the different uses people have for the software. One potential use is for EQing a room. See this post:
    From my experience, one of the best things a person can do to his/her studio is to get a somewhat flat room response for working with music. The software that I have looked for to do this is very expensive! If they get this app up to that level, it will be bargain!

    I tlooks like they are looking into being able to connect a high-quality Type 1 measurement microphone, which would rival systems costing upwards of $1000:
    Another user was looking for a way to measure SLPs at concerts and clubs to protect his hearing:
    And these guys want to use the iPhone and this App to do speaker setup/placement for shows and concerts:
    So, looks like LOTS of uses for this app and audio 🙂

  • @Peter:

    In my mind using the iPhone/Pod as a controller is far more appealing than using it as a beat creation tool. In my mind there are much better methods to create "studio" music and you'd only want to use the iPhone to do this for convenience sake (being on a bus etc), not productivity. As a controller though, the multi-touch, wireless, and portability make it a truly unique and powerful device.

    I've experienced bugginess with the 2.0 OS as well, and although it's a bit frustrating, it's still nothing in comparison to Windows Mobile. Check Gizmodo's post today for their takes on issues w/ the current OS and reader's responses:

  • Mike

    One of the most annoying bugs concerns typing in applications that normally perform fine. SMS texting is a prime example. I've often experienced considerable latency when trying to type responses after just receiving a text message. I'm not talking "hey let's wait a second for the processor to catch up then continue", I'm talking "wow it's taken me 2 minutes to type 10 words because of the keyboard lag". It also seems like general touch response time has been affected (ex. switching between Recents and Contacts or Keypad menus). Basically, my iPhone always feels like it is slower than it used to be since updating to 2.0.