Some good news, some bad news for iPhone/iPod Touch owners. (For everyone who doesn’t care, we’ll be consolidating iPhone news from here on out so you can safely ignore it.)

Good news: iZotope’s mobile version of iDrum is here (seen above). It’s a nifty $5 toy, though some restrictions, including the lack of audio export, may keep it from being more than that.I Correction: you can exchange both samples and project files with the desktop iDrum, and use ringtone bounce (including, apparently, on iPod touch) to export audio. That could make this very useful as a mobile addition to your workflow.

I do also think it’s inspiring in the way that it uses touch interfaces, something that could bode well for what touch-enabled computer music apps might look like.

Better news: BtBx is a fun-looking US$3.99 beat machine with drum sounds and (at last!) real-time synthesizers from the creator of PSP Rhythm. Unfortunately, it doesn’t let you use your own samples, and it can’t quite stand up to the cooler PSP Rhythm – even if hacking a PSP is kind of a pain. But it is a good sign.

But bad news for Apple owners, good news for owners of other gadgets: the generative music studio Mixtikl will hit those platforms first because of Apple is tying its developers’ hands with technical and legal restrictions. It’s not a deal killer for everyone – we’ve seen developers write special client apps to get around file exchange issues, and obviously a number of developers aren’t concerned with legal terms because they’re releasing apps anyway. (Jobs is justifiably proud of their 60 million-download count.) But there’s no question that part of why the iPhone is more a mobile toy and less a mobile computer is in fine print and legalese, not silicon. That could be mobile carriers’ fault – but either way, it could also demonstrate that shrinking computers and not more powerful mobiles are the future for mobile music creation.

iDrum is In

iZotope have released their first app for iPhone, a mobile counterpart to the iDrum drum machine. (Thanks to Richard Lawler for the tip!)

iDrum for iPhone/iPod touch comes in two editions, each costing US$4.99 – a “Hip Hop” and “Club” version. (If you buy both, bizarrely, you get two apps; Richard speculates this may be due to how Apple sandboxes their apps.)


  • An elegant interface, showing what touch-enabled apps in general can do
  • Ring tone creation
  • Some sound design names we enjoy (Goldbaby, Matt Simmers, Art Gillespie, Sable Gray)
  • Round-trip work with the iDrum desktop app


  • Can’t export audio of your creations directly, but you can use the ringtone bounce
  • Ring tone creation requires a sync app on the desktop

iZotope iDrum for iPhone and iPod Touch

Update/correction: I’m, fairly I think, called out by iDrum developer Art Gillespie on two points:

1. I missed the most important feature here, which is that the mobile iDrum works with round-trip co

mpatibility with the desktop iDrum. As Art points out in comments:

“you can do full round-trip editing of beats–including sending samples back and forth–with iDrum (desktop) for Windows/Mac.”

This obviously would fundamentally change the workflow of using the mobile app. If you’re not an iDrum user, you might stick to the rival drum machine for iPhone, Intua Beatmaker. But if you are an iDrum desktop fan, this could be a real killer app.

2. His experience with Apple developer relations has been positive, meaning me blurring the description of iDrum with some other criticisms of Apple’s platform and developer relations is unfair.

In my defense, there’s actually no explicit mention of the ability to share project files between desktop and mobile iDrum. So, let’s say that right now, as that’s very, very cool. (In fact, it’s cool enough that this is worthy of a separate aside!)

As for developer relations, I think that’s fair – and it’s absolutely in keeping with what we’ve been hearing. Some people are happy, some are unhappy, and some are simultaneously happy and unhappy. That’s what one would expect on any developer platform. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out some of the weaknesses alongside the strengths. It would be far easier to do so if Apple hadn’t placed an NDA over everything having to do with development, so that does mean I’m often ranting in the dark. But without violating an NDA, I think we can very safely say Art is happy, and there are a number of happy developers putting out great apps. There are other developers who are less happy, which has the side effect of ensuring we’ll have mobile apps on other platforms (and the jailbroken Apple platform) to look forward to, alongside these apps.

BtBx (“BeatBox”), From PSP Rhythm’s Creator

Louis Iturzaeta and Billy, the talented developers of the way-awesome PSP Rhythm on Sony’s gaming handheld, has launched their first iPhone / iPod Touch app, using a modified version of their RHYTHM engine.

The good:

  • Real-time synths, with some great, acid-style sounds
  • Fairly impressive features in a compact space
  • Pattern-auto save, online docs
  • Real-time sound modification via their engine

The bad:

  • No custom samples
  • No audio export
  • Kinda silly-looking interface (I prefer PSP Rhythm’s look – but Louie promises there’s a new skin coming soon)

At this absurdly low price, I can’t complain. Don’t let the baby toy interface fool you: the underlying sound engine means this could be a seriously fun soundmaker.

That said, I have to say, I’d choose the PSP app over this. I’ll add a major caveat, though: hacking a PSP is a pain. (More on that soon. Short version: buy a used unit on which someone has done the hard work for you.) It’s too bad Sony doesn’t have some outlet for homebrew developers like this to sell through the Sony PSP store. I think they could do great, iPhone-killing work.

Full specs from Billy:

Hey Peter and team, the drum machine/synthesizer BtBx that Billy and I (from PSP Rhythm) created is now available in the app store!

Below is are the features/specs of the app. It was written with a modified version of our RHYTHM audio engine. Our plan is to create a synth application and a full studio application as well as release "Lite" versions of each app.

BtBx is available for $3.99 and the "Lite" version will be available for $0.99 when it is released.

BtBx ("BeatBox") is a music sequencer for the iPhone or iPod Touch.
BtBx gives you instant access to the world of electronic music with big drum sounds and acid-style synthesizers.


  • 8 drum sounds
  • 2 instrument sounds
  • 2 real-time synthesizers
  • 16 step drum machine style sequencer
  • 16 patterns
  • Keyboard with +/- 3 Octave Range
  • Realtime Mutes
  • Tempo Adjustment (40-240 BPM)
  • Low Pass Filter with cutoff frequency and filter resonance
  • Auto-saves patterns so no data is lost
  • Instruction manual is built into the application

BtBx utilizes a custom audio engine and sequencer which enables you to:

  • Program song melodies with any sound
  • Play any drum or instrument sound forward or in reverse on any pattern step
  • Modify a Low Pass Filter on each sound (12 total LFPs running at the same time!)
  • Add accent notes on the synthesizers
  • Add Distortion to any sound
  • Add Delay to any sound

BtBx Product Page

Mixtikl Bails on Apple for Now

One of the most exciting upcoming iPhone apps is delayed for the forseeable future. That’s Apple’s loss, but a gain for Windows Mobile and Symbian as they gain the developers’ focus. The tool is Mixtikl, a mobile edition of an innovative music creation platform with:

  • a generative music engine
  • synths and samplers
  • effects network

Is the problem that the iPhone isn’t powerful enough? Absolutely not. The problem is what happens after you add in other restrictions. Bottom line:

We were (and still are) very excited by the potential of our software running on these Apple devices, and we love Apple products and all our other software products run on Mac OS X (and Windows XP of course).

So, we have decided not to press ahead with development until Apple can:

  • relax a number of (as we see it) overly restrictive terms in the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement
  • allow apps to share/exchange data/files between themselves and an attached PC/Mac

The developers can’t talk about specifics because of the NDA covering the agreement, but they do point back to some of the issues I’ve discussed here.

Of course, this isn’t the end of the road for Mixtikl, necessarily. If Apple could relax or even better clarify the terms of their agreement, this app could be back. But this further illustrates the problems with the NDA. It’ll be even harder for developers to share these restrictions with one another, and for those issues to be addressed, if no one can even talk about it.

We have some wonderful mobile toys at the moment, but I do look forward to the day when cool mobile platforms don’t come with gag orders attached (cough, Apple) or require elaborate hacking (ahem, DS and PSP) just to use. Windows Mobile and Symbian remain valid and should have better hardware behind them soon. As for Linux platforms, basically, we’re just waiting for more to actually ship.

It’s well worth reading the full story:

Mixtikl for iPhone / iPod touch – Intermorphic postpones development for now

Mixtikl Product Page


Generative iPod? Deep Modular, Generative Music System Bound for iPhone, Phones, Windows, Mac

  • I just wanted to comment about our skin for BtBx, that is the first thing we are updating and should be released along with BtBx Lite.

  • Art Gillespie

    With iDrum for iPhone, you can do full round-trip editing of beats–including sending samples back and forth–with iDrum (desktop) for Windows/Mac.

    As for audio export, it's pretty easy to grab the ringtone bounce and use that. (If you don't already have iDrum)

    Also, I'd be grateful if you didn't use our application design decisions as more fodder for your rant against Apple's developer restrictions. For my part, I can say that Apple (in particular, the Core Audio team and some Marketing peeps) was *incredible* during the development of iDrum for iPhone, going way beyond the call of duty to help us out. All this bitching about Apple's policies (or in some cases about things they just haven't gotten around to yet) reeks of dog-piling by the blogosphere. News certainly, and some genuine issues that I hope will be resolved (FNDA!), but I'd just like to serve as a counter-example: some of us have been very pleased working with Apple on iPhone development.

    In any case, thanks for the coverage! I'm pleased that you get that iDrum is a 'toy' (though we don't really think of it in those terms–the design brief was 'making beats is fun for everyone'), just like its desktop big brother.

    Oh, and if you haven't had a chance to try it hands on yet, Peter, drop me a line and I'll make sure you get an NFR ASAP.

  • Mr. Tunes

    "For everyone who doesn’t care, we’ll be consolidating iPhone news from here on out so you can safely ignore it"

    yes i'm finding it's a bit much. thanks

  • @Mr. Tunes: That's okay, me, too. 😉 To keep it manageable, we'll do a once-weekly post. Of course, it is necessary for me to get my FACTS correct in that once-weekly post, so Art:

    @Art: I apologize, in that I think I got this very wrong. My point wasn't to criticize your design decisions, for one. The overwhelming feedback I've gotten from readers is that the presence or lack of significant customization and round-trip workflow determines whether something is a toy or serious music tool. There's nothing wrong with a toy, especially for a few bucks! And toys can be wonderful musical tools — I have a toy piano that sits beside my computer rig, literally. But this question of whether something becomes more than just a soundmaker is really that question of workflow. Either you need to be able to finish a track on the mobile device (LSDJ and nanoloop being long-time examples of that), or you need to work together with the other stuff in your toolkit.

    For that reason, I consider this correction a very big deal, and have both adjusted this story and done a separate item. I expect — readers, feel free to chime in — this will also make a difference to the folks here in terms of the app.

    I do stand beside my criticism of the iPhone; as I said before, it's a tool worth criticizing, so I don't see this as "dog-piling." But obviously, I want to make sure that criticism is aimed where it's deserved and not where it's not, and it sounds like iDrum is a good example of where it shouldn't be aimed.

    Also, I don't want to lose the larger picture. Windows Mobile and Symbian haven't proven themselves yet as music software distribution platforms, so it'll be interesting to see how Mixtikl fares. (There have been very interesting apps on both platforms, but it seems that actual usage of them has been limited.) Linux likewise I don't think has had a big hit in mobile — yet. The PSP, DS, and Game Boy have each been hugely popular, but they're in a completely separate category as you have to hack them just to use them. I think the iPhone/iPod touch therefore can come under more intense scrutiny because they do look successful.

    Anyway, to keep this stuff in balance, I'll be doing a number of things:

    1. taking more time to get my facts right, and finally getting to do some hands-on

    2. separating iPhone news so we don't fall into the trap of other blogs

    3. continuing to look at the big picture issues

    As for dog piling, I just don't see it. Even in some of the iPhone's darker moments, I'd say the blogosphere has heaped praise on the gadget — to the point of ignoring how practical the iPod touch is, even, if you just want to run apps. So, if anyone — CDM or anyone else — has seemed negative, I expect it's partly because people just want to balance out some of that story. By contrast, I see Gizmodo has taken to repeatedly referring to Google's Android platform as "poop." There's a place for that kind of, um, discourse, but I certainly don't want it here, lest anyone think otherwise.

  • I tend to disagree that iDrum is any more of a toy than any other mobile music app I've seen. But like a toy it is accessible and it has some limitations. Some of those limitations are clearly by design in an attempt to create an application suitable for a mobile device with a 3 inch screen. I think they've struck a good balance with iDrum. (If you want something with every option on a Boing 747 get a computer.)

    @Art Gillespie

    I didn't know you could move data back and forth between iDrum for Mac/PC and iDrum for iPhone. That's great. I didn't see that in the documentation I downloaded. Does that work in the current versions?

    Since Ringtones are currently the only export option it would be nice if you could create ringtones on the iPod touch. But full audio files would be even better.

    Great work by the way.

  • Art Gillespie

    @Peter — Oh! I fear I may have come off too strident in my comment. No apology necessary! First off, the round-trip editing was offered as information, not as a correction… as far as I know it's not yet documented. I just wanted to point out that you could do it.

    As for remarks on dog-piling, my poorly-expressed point was simply that there's at least one developer who feels that the whole damned thing is just awesome (with a few glaring exceptions: FNDA!) Plus, it humbled me every time some overworked Apple engineer took the time to personally answer one of my stupid questions via email, so when I hear the common refrain of late that Apple isn't communicating with developers, I get a little WTF about the whole thing. When you think about it, the rank and file at Apple are probably more screwed by the NDA than third party developers since they can't just post the answer once in a dev mailing list and get back to work. They've lost the ability to broadcast answers to FAQs except with sanctioned SDK releases. Ouch.

    (I'm dimly aware that I just did an excellent job of proving everyone's point about Apple's policies. Shit. Maybe I'm on the wrong team here.)

    Anyhow, point taken about suggesting that such a universally beloved device is being 'dog-piled'.

    @RichardL I get to publish my own retraction of sorts here: the latest version of on the iZotope website is not yet the version that syncs with iDrum.iPhone. I'm told it's due any day now. I'll post a follow-up comment here as soon as it's available.

  • @Art: No worries. Hey, we're not in politics, we're in technology — it usually involves contradictions.

    Bottom line: awesome device, if not for everyone, but the gag rules are causing some real damage. And the one thing the iPhone/touch skeptics and believers seem to agree upon is that the platform would be better with that NDA lifted.

  • Tim

    @Art – iDrum sounds cool Art, good one! NB: How did you get access from Apple to a not-yet-documented feature or API? Would that API solve the sandbox issue for other developers? If so, excellent news… Intermorphic was not being tough on Apple, just raising some issues we face and which we cannot talk about or ask others about. Which does not make doing something any easier… We would still love to get Mixtikl on iPhone one day :).

    @Peter – Yes, we will see how it goes with Windows Mobile and Symbian, and it is early days. There have been many music apps come and go for all platforms, so it is a difficult space. Apple is doing something right to get that level of app downloads, and maybe it is because they are getting behind apps in a way that the others have not yet seemed to (whether that is channel, marketing, hype, operator, device, single manufacturere or other or all related) but who knows. Whatever it is, it seems to be working in that it is getting news and attention.

  • Ted

    How do you take a pattern you've made on the iPhone version of iDrum and bring it into the desktop version of iDrum? I looked at the documentation on iZotope's website, but could only find information on the ringtone sharing. If you can really create beats on the iPhone while riding the subway, and then pull them into iDrum to use more power on them, that would be FABULOUS! I'd buy it sight unseen! (BTW, just got the desktop version of iDrum last week and am loving it with my Axiom 25.)

  • velocipede

    That's great news, Art! iDrum on an iPod is a match made in heaven.


  • Art Gillespie

    @Tim We have no access to unpublished APIs (as for undocumented, well, heh, that covers about half the SDK, doesn't it ;)) The Core Audio team did work with us on getting a few requested features into RemoteIO during the SDK beta, though. (Doubt we were alone in that, Band, Intua, etc. *must* have needed the same things we did.) But as far as sandboxing goes, no, we have no workaround for that. Why would a music app need to bypass its sandbox?

    @Ted This is my fault… the version of iDrum for the desktop that allows this is not yet available to the public. I'm told any day.

    I'll post a comment here as soon as it's available.

    @velocipede Konnichiwa!

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  • Tim

    @Art – The use case behind this is as simple as:

    1. Install app 1

    2. install app 2, which is complementary to app 1 (e.g. part of a suite, or maybe even just a media pack for app 1)

    3. If this were done on e.g. Windows Mobile, then app 1 and app 2 can both see/share share each others data….

    If you're thinking of standalone tools or games, then this is not an issue. If you're thinking of suites of cooperative tools and/or media packs, then this is a big issue.

    Anyhow, HTH!

  • @ Art Gillespie. I just installed iDrum on my iPhone and this is the most fun I have had in a long time. I very much hope you continue developing for iPhone. I would gladly pay 30-50 bucks for a more advanced version of iDrum. Keep up the good work.

  • Art Gillespie

    @Tim check out 'app groups' — I believe this allows apps to share data. FNDA!

    @DJ Condra, Thanks! But I can't take credit, I just stand around going 'not fun enough!' or 'wrong typeface!' while the amazing guys at iZotope do all the heavy lifting. 🙂

    So as promised, iDrum 1.64 is out. Roundtrip editing 🙂 Grab it from

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