It’s iPhones being used by cute babies! And if that doesn’t sum up the ways in which Apple’s mobile is divisive, I don’t know what does. It’s time for our Monday round-up of the latest from the Apple iStuff world.

I’ve never been an advocate of the iPhone and iPod touch; the idea is to cover all digital music platforms on CDM, and as regular readers know, I have no love of Apple’s strict NDA and restrictive developer policies. But I did find this reader comment by PLP amusing:

I was getting annoyed with the amount of iphone info on CDM as well…then I broke down and bought one today 🙂 i really like itouch midi. little XY pad perfect.

If you’ve found yourself in that boat, today’s round-up of iPhone and iPod touch news brings some very good news: BtBx, the PSP Rhythm creators’ wonderful beat machine, in action, iDrum working with round-trip workflows and operated by babies, and a multi-touch OpenSoundControl app on the app store.

BtBx in Action

What it is: The creators of the popular PSP Rhythm for Sony PSP show off their latest beat-making app for Apple. And it costs about as much as one beer — during happy hour.
Why it matters: Designing UIs for mobile apps requires a return to efficient, minimal interface design. Mark my words – that’ll start to influence desktop UI design for music software. And, yo, Sony: this could have been an official app on your platform, except you refused to make them an official developer. Indie PSP store, please?

Louie (RCON) shares two tasty BtBx videos. First on deck: making some acid basslines with BtBx. Skip the first couple of minutes — it’s the usual beat step sequencer you’ve seen before. Things start to get interesting further in as he sequences a live bassline. Note this is also the first time we’ve seen a full-blown synth in one of these apps, which for me put BtBx at the front of the pack. Part of why I like the Sony PSP is that it’s very capable of doing a lot of hard-core synthesis; we’re still waiting to see how much the iPhone can do.

For a sense of BtBx’s workflow, here’s a video demo of mixing songs:

BtBx was later to the game than iDrum and BeatMaker, but my guess is it’s going to start to earn some attention. I’ve just gotten my refurb iPod touch for testing these apps, so watch for a three-way battle soon. They each have their own strengths, and they’re very different. But don’t think that’ll stop me from letting my own biases loose and choosing a favorite.

iDrum + iDrum = Round-Trip Ticket

What it is: An update to the iDrum desktop app means you can take samples and patterns from your Mac and PC, then to your iPhone / iPod touch, and back again.
Why it matters: The laptop/desktop computer remains the center of music making for most people, and mobile tech isn’t likely to change that. But imagine simpler, portable versions of your favorite music apps, so you can develop ideas on the road and bring them back to the main environment. (Ableton, are you listening?)

iDrum has a unique feature, which is the ability to make custom sample packs and/or patterns in iDrum on your desktop Mac or PC, load them on your iPod touch or iPhone, edit them in iDrum, and then bring the full patterns back to your desktop. That solves an important issue, which is that MIDI export from a mobile device gives you patterns but not the sounds you created them for, whereas audio export gives you both but can’t be edited as easily as MIDI. It’s the first real round-trip workflow we’ve seen on the Apple platform. (Palm and Windows Mobile have done something like that before with music apps, but it’s still big news. Any Palm/WinMo historians, did any match up the desktop and mobile app quite like this?)

The trick was, we were waiting on a desktop update to actually use this. It’s now here, in the form of iDrum 1.64 (and later):

iDrum Product Page

Here’s a great demo of how iDrum in general works:

And for all of you iPhone haters who said these are just toys with UIs that look like they were designed for babies — okay, maybe you were right. But Baby Nicolina would like to have a word for you. If you insult her mad production skills, she gets really angry.

(The uploader notes Nicolina can “* Sequences notes * Turn the sequencer on * Solo the kick drum and modify which notes play * Bring in the modified kick drum part with the overall beat!”)

OpenSoundControl App on App Store

OpenSoundControl is a terrific, open protocol for controlling music and visual software more flexibly than you can with MIDI. It’s ideal for the iPhone and iPod touch, because these devices use networking protocols to communicate with the outside world.

We’ve seen controller apps on the “jailbroken” iPhone, but OSCemote is the first to be available via the official SDK and App Store. (That should be a reasonably good sign, in that it means at least some of this functionality is possible using Apple’s official SDK.)

It’s quite a nice app, as you can see. I like the simplicity of it, actually, as there’s not a whole lot of space on an iPhone for your fingers. The killer feature is clearly the Lemur-like multi-touch mode. And because it uses OSC, it should be a snap to hook this up to apps like Processing or the new Circle synth.

iTunes links:
OSCemote Light

I’ll definitely be testing this and will report back. A free version gives you pads, so try that out first; the full version is US$5. I am still interested to watch for jailbroken apps to make their way through the hurdles of the new SDK and, hopefully, show up on the official store. Some of those apps do things this one doesn’t, one (mrmr) has been open source, and choice is good. (I’m unclear on the implications of Apple’s developer agreement for open source; maybe someone has some idea.)

Here’s a quick review of those apps:

iPod / iPhone Touch as Visualist Controller: Free, Multiplatform with Pd (Pure Data)
Mrmr : iPhone + 10.5 + Quartz Composer = Wireless VJ Nirvana
MIDI Control with iPhone and iPod Touch: i3L MIDI Bridge
aka.iphone 2.1: More iPhone and iPod Touch Performance Tools; launch video

These won’t work even if you jailbreak your 2.0 iPhone/iPod touch, because the firmware changes are incompatible with these 1.x jailbroken apps.

We’ve also seen one official DMX controller

More entries for our next iTouch round-up? Send them our way!

  • HMMM

    Yeah I could almost call this an iphone music blog..

  • Look, I hear you. I know not everyone is into this — that's fine, and you're entitled to that opinion, and normally I encourage as much feedback as possible..

    But this has gotten needlessly repetitive, and I'm not really interested in any more of these anti-iPhone comments, because they add nothing. I think the content of the site is overwhelmingly balanced to a variety of tools and platforms. Anyone who argues otherwise, as near as I can figure, isn't reading. It's certainly up for debate how good that stuff is, or what else I could cover. But we've gotten lots of feedback on what devices people own and what's useful to them. I'm fully aware not everyone cares about iPhone/iPod touch — *absolutely* — hence we're consolidating these posts to make them easier to find for people who own them and easier to ignore for people who don't. But I'm really tired of comment feeds filling up with meaningless debate over it, just as I'd be tired if there were a backlash to Windows coverage, or Mac coverage, or Linux coverage. So, uh … knock it off. I've got a whole list of posts here on backlog that have nothing to do with the iPhone or iPod touch. I'll be focusing on them — pardon this brief rant, but I had to say something.

  • anders

    maybe i missed it. To have the iDrum round-trip ability, you need to own iDrum for both the iPhone and for the desktop?



  • @Anders: That's correct. It does work with both the Mac and Windows versions, though. I'll be testing it out on Windows.

    It's not too expensive to add on the iPhone app, though, provided you own the desktop app — each soundpack is $5, and you'd probably only get one.

    But I'll reiterate, I do think this could have implications beyond the iPhone. To take Linux, for instance, imagine a mobile Pd (one has already been done, in fact), or a PC/Linux mobile EnergyXT, where you ran EnergyXT on your mobile and then synced files back to your desktop rig (also possible right now).

    Anecdotally, I've heard this is meaningless to people who don't travel much. But I personally like to just get away from my desk, go sit on the couch or in the dining room or coffee shop, to be able to make music on trains and buses and airplanes that I often find myself on. If your time is under significant pressure, I think that's huge.

  • zenzen

    Peter, it's good to emphasize (as you do) that these apps also run on the ipod touch. I think the iphone polarizes people mainly on after-purchase price. In Canada, at least, a 199 iphone tethers you to a 3-year contract with a substantial monthly fee.

    ipod touch prices will apparently fall significantly in September (see Kevin Rose etc). Imagine doing all this cool stuff (and surf the net on open wi-fi, and listen to your tunes) on a device that costs the same as a Korg Kaoss Pad KP3!

  • fiz

    Dig the roundup format…

    These iPhone apps are really starting to make my Alesis Micron seem dated…with its single-line lcd screen.

    I'll always dig my Micron for its phat sound chip and fun factor (no computer needed). But with apps like iDrum, super-portable toys like the Kaossilator, and other fun toys that free you from your laptop, my Micron sees like a relic. A funky, quirky relic, but a relic.

    Those easy round-trips to and from your computer with apps like iDrum seal it for me. The Micron was a fun cross-over synth…before things got even smaller and funner.

  • @zenzen: Well, that's why I bought an iPod touch and not an iPhone (contracts!) Still on Blackberry for my phone. But I agree that it's frustrating to have apps that require the purchase of a special device, that are their own walled garden in the way the Apple ecosystem is (far more so than Mac OS desktop ever was). I do think it's worth watching, however, as I can't imagine that Linux or even Symbian and Windows Mobile won't challenge some of this on their own platforms, and each of those is more connected in development terms to your existing computer platforms. It's still early.

    I do expect we'll have a few months' lull on iPhone, followed by another burst when the homebrew developers catch up with 2.0 firmware (which clearly has not happened yet), probably mid-fall.


    the iPhone platform is so new that there are new things to write about constantly and the fact that you can make music with is the reason its being written about here. don't change a thing — CDM is still a must read for me every single day. I have an iPhone (1st gen) and have been using it to fill the void on my #6 train rides since i found IR-909. I still have 1.1.4 so I can still add my own sample packs to it, but am looking into using other stuff. CDM keeps me up to date with that. And if I might want to read about some new crazy midi controller, it's here too. You do have a choice to just not read the articles you have no interest in after all….

    Ableton Ultralite iPhone version anyone?

  • cobalt

    It's so obviously inevitable that these apps will appear on the iPod Touch and iPhone that it's hard to understand why anyone would be upset about it or not interested in knowing about it. If you look at something like Ableton Live and Max/MSP, and you look at who uses those programs, I'd say at least 3 to 1 are using Apple computers to run those programs. And if you look specifically at OSC, those two programs, in addition to NI's line of instruments, are pretty much the main OSC compatible applications out there, and again, most people seem to be running them on Macs.

    I don't like Apple's way of handling things very much, I do own an iPhone 3G, I don't own a Mac, I detest iTunes, and I'm thinking about ditching the iPhone for Android because of the network issues. But as cool as it is to pick up Nanoloop, for instance, or some homebrew cartridge to run a tracker, the fact is that the developer of Nanoloop stopped working with Nintendo hardware as a platform because it's such a pain. There are way more Nintendo DS's than iPhones and Touches, but Apple actually allows 3rd party application development, while Nintendo doesn't.

    I get the sense that if someone wanted to sell a networkable multi-touchscreen mini-computer that runs a version of Linux and contains 2 light sensors and 2 gyroscopic sensors for a few hundred dollars that functioned like a Monome and a miniature Lemur/Dexter and could download cheap additional functions over a cellular network using a credit card, the people who read this blog would probably be thrilled but would doubt that it could be a sustainable product. Well, if you would like something like that, here it is, but it's a sustainable product, and you can code an app for it yourself if you want, you Mac users you. I just don't see what the complaining is about. If you want to design a better hardware peripheral, please go ahead, and I'm sure anyone who manages to pull it off will get a post on CDM as well.

  • Pingback: Create Digital Motion » OpenSoundControl on iPhone and iPod Touch App Store()

  • cobalt

    Okay, I just looked at the Monome website and the current prices for the iPod Touch. You can spend $800 for Monome 128, which you can get in January 09. Or you can spend $900 for three 8GB Touches. I understand, they're totally different kinds of things and all that. But really, the only thing I can see to complain about regarding the iPod Touch is, how are you going to keep three of them from sliding around on the table?

  • Multitouch, I believe, is one of the big deals here. Cobalt, I'm with you in being curious about Android. I've held out on buying an iPhone because people keep insisting that the first android phone will come out before '09.

    However, the iTouch is really cheap for being what it is. I mean, what are people dropping on MIDI controllers? $199 doesn't really seem so bad in that arena, especially with what is being offered. I too think of this as a little 'mini-lemur'. One thing I would like to see is a sound app for iPhone/Touch that allows you to 'build' a workspace. I haven't been looking at every iPhone post, so maybe I missed that one. But even just this OSC app with pads, sliders, and multitouch pad makes me really consider getting a Touch.

    Also, I would like to say as someone who doesn't own a iPhone/Touch- I appreciate the posts because it's helping me decide if I want one or not. Don't listen to the haters.

  • @cobalt: Well, let me count the ways:

    You're comparing a 128; there are cheaper Monomes. But..

    * The monome is sustainably and locally produced.

    * The monome has open source software you can customize to your needs — specifically for performance, assuming you're using it as a controller.

    * The monome is community-supported.

    * The monome has tangible buttons you can feel, and looks great onstage.

    * You can mod the Monome hardware, adding tilt sensors, extra knobs, your own case, etc., etc.

    I mean, obviously, the two really can't be compared. I will say that there's no reason to choose — and both (via the app above, and more to come) now support OpenSoundControl. I'm using my $200 iPod touch by my desk to test parameters in Processing, using faders which the Monome doesn't support out of the box.

    So, the message I'd give here is not so much monome vs. iPod/iPhone, as that'd be a little strange, but that if any developers think there's no reason to support OSC, they should add up the number of iPod touch units sold, the number of iPhone units sold, and the several thousand Monomes sold so far, and then compare that number to something like the number of units that support Mackie Control. They can then get back to me on that.

  • cobalt

    @Newmiracle: I think Android is going to be a big hit, personally. Apple Phone OS vs. Google Open Source OS is going to be like Apple vs. PC, but more chaotic. The HTC Dream also apparently has a capacitative touchscreen, not to mention a "jog ball," which has got to be good, at least to say out loud. From what I can see, for the Apple Phone OS or whatever you want to call it, there will always be two app stores: the official app store, and the jailbroken app store. If there's a reason to jailbreak the phone and get more access to base level operations, it will happen. So, if someone needs to wander against Apple's SDK to code something like eXT for iPod/iPhone OS, and there's an interest in it, you can count on people doing it. Android won't have the benefit of lots of non-phone devices, but it will certainly go on PDAs, the Nokia Internet Tablet, etc. And Android will have one main app store, since they won't need two. They'll have other problems of course in the app quality control process.

    Every aspect of the iPod Touch/iPhone is an advantage as a controller. It has a 1400 mAh battery that will last at least a few hours with heavy use, a high quality headphone jack that also supports audio in, and wireless G networking built in, other than the other stuff. Someone could do a lot with that kind of thing. Not me, but someone. If you really wanted to turn one into a dedicated controller, you could add a whole level of weirdness by using the audio i/o as another kind of signal system.

    In case I've inspired someone to rush forth and get an iPod Touch, I'd wait to see what's up with the expected hardware refresh in the next few weeks. The Touch is still in its first generation hardware-wise, and my personal speculation, not supported by anything at all, is that Apple is going to add some IR functionality to it. Even if they don't, it might get a GPS or the additional gyroscopic sensor, to keep it more consistent with the iPhone.

  • cobalt

    @Peter: I definitely agree with you. I'd rather have a Monome than an iPod Touch, at least. But I'm just saying, there are a lot of creative people out there, and it would be a shame if they didn't see how much potential this piece of hardware has all of the sudden, because Apple opened up application development. If someone wanted to build something with similar capabilities as the iPod touch as a DIY project, it would be enormous and much more expensive.

  • rattyuk

    I hate to sound a little negative here – but has anyone used an iPhone App that actually keeps time. I mean properly? The things I've played with so far seem more than just a little unmusical. I am prepared to be amazed but I have to say that the stuff I have invested in so far appears to be iffy when it comes to doing things on the beat.

  • anders

    A Peter,

    Thanks – I actually already own the app and wanted to know if I would need the desktop application as well.

    I also own Beatmaker, which provides a free desktop app for creating your own drum kits and was wondering (hoping) iDrum had a similar thing going.

    I too enjoy sitting back and relaxing with musical ideas and am really enjoying the iPhone for it.


  • bliss

    What I'm interested in seeing is if the pricing for apps in the mobile space will impact the pricing for apps in the desktop PC (personal computer) space? Seems like this would happen at some point in the not to distant future.

  • bliss

    Too, too, too, too…

  • Rc

    what about MPCs does iphone/ipod touch apps compare?

  • olivier


    I guess it's just too early, it will take some time to develop apps that use the full potential of the platform. That potential is certainly huge but the interface is narrow (the screen is rather small given that it's finger-operated, not much space for control elements) and quite a challenge.

  • olivier

    As a developer I must say I find the iPhone/itouch near ideal: It has the attractivity of a games console while it is relatively open compared to Nintendo's or Sony's devices. While the app store is full of crap right now, I think this business model will lead to a great future mid-term. There are certainly more open (and less attractive) platforms, but this one opens up commercial distribution to independent and even hobbyist developers – which is really unique unique at the moment.

    Ideally, this will unite the innovation power of experimental with the solitity of commercial software.

  • Pingback: The A Team music box, Audio Damage @ Vimeo, Opentape, iPhone/Touch Roundup: BtBx Acid Bass, iDrum Workflow and Babies, OpenSoundControl App()

  • dom

    CDM rocks. I like your iphone/touch roundup. its one of the main reasons I come to this site as it keeps you unique from other sites. iphone/touch have alot of potential in music. cant wait to see where it goes!

  • I like the round-up format as well, though I must admit when I opened the Music category this morning and saw the new turntable like player that you can upload WAV, OGG and AIFF files to so you can DJ with your phone like I've been dying to have for a while the first thing I thought was, "Damn, too bad this hadn't happened before CDM's weekly round-up."


    It's a somewhat limited app right now for a few reasons, but it's going in the direction of being exactly what I'd like it to be.

  • james oo

    more iphone coverage please, screw the haters. keep up good work!

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » OSCulator, Magic Bullet for Mac Alternative Controllers, Updated()

  • rattyuk


    I was just commenting on if there was an inherent issue with the timing or that currently the people who are programming it are not paying attention to the essentials.

  • olivier


    oh, you mean these programs actually don't have accurate timing? or is there just a lag between graphics and sound?

  • I'm totally interested in keeping up on the status of mobile device audio. I'd like to hear about what's going on with other devices also. I'm interested in developing some of my own software, and am curious about what's available and what people are using in terms of synthesis libraries, what the open source options are, whether there's anyone working on any sort of cross-platform mobile device synthesis package. Thanks!

  • Pingback: - To Day New Ac D Song - 2008()

  • rattyuk


    Well some of the so-called music apps keep time very badly indeed.

  • larhule

    it shocks me how anyone interested in "creating digital music" would be interested in these articles on iphone software that simply performs archaic, boring operations on a trendy interface. the truth that everyone knows is that this is pure consumer-oreiented gadgetry. stop talking about it and people who are actually interested in creative projects will stop complaining about having to listen.

    search youtube for "iphone david lynch" and take his advice.

    what can be done on an iphone that hasn't been done or couldn't be done on any other device that has come out in the last 20 years? and you people still seem to saddle this toy with terms like "innovative" and "potential"? get real! this is pure, uninventive gadgetry.

  • MonksDream

    @larhule – It baffles me that anyone can berate someone for their interest in, or use of, "uninventive gadgetry" on a site devoted to people who hack all manner of gadgetry – from radios to children's toys – to make music.

    I can't be the only one who feels that the dismissive phrase "simply performs archaic, boring operations on a trendy interface" is vague enough to describe even the computer you used to post our comment or who questions the advisability of using david lynch as a moral compass.

    C'mon already, Peter gathers all the iPhone/iPod Touch stuff into a single blog post once a week and *that's* too much coverage? You actually had to open this article and read it to be exposed to the content you claim to not want to see! I'm not interested in trackers or Kore but I can't imagine petitioning Peter to eliminate their coverage on that basis.

    If you don't like the iPhone coverage don't read it and move on to something you are interested in. If there is nothing else you're interested in that day then go for a walk or make some music. Just spare us your righteous posturing. It wastes time we could be using to coax music from our gadgets.

  • Sjoerd

    More iPhone coverage PLZ!

  • Sjoerd

    larhule: name me one single device that has both accelerometer and multitouch screen, plus wireless networking functionality. And costs no more than a few 100 $.

    You'll probably fail. As most likely your phone already does.

    Lynch David. Get an iPhone.

  • Just been given an iPod Touch from work (I'm in E-Learning) and can't wait to start using all these apps like iDrum. I've got iDrum on my PC so the "round trip" method will be great, so I now make some beats when I'm working!

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » iPhone/Touch Roundup: Control, Art, Snow Patrol, Visualizers, Recording, One for India()

  • samu


    "But really, the only thing I can see to complain about regarding the iPod Touch is, how are you going to keep three of them from sliding around on the table?"

    Incase make great rubber sleeves which solve that problem (as do other companies, but I like Incase. Their sling backpack laptop case is fantastic).

    Similar point; anyone interested in using these controller apps might want to snap up flat-backed 1G Touches, because the tapered back of the iPhone 3G and new Touch means that they rock if not held in place. And not in the good way.

  • I've got the Speck case — the rubberized one with the squares on the back. It's working out really nicely. Sliding around isn't a problem; besides, you're likely to pick it up and use it in your hand at least some of the time.

    But I hadn't thought about the back! Right now, my touch fits perfectly on the edge of my Novation keyboard, so I get this lovely multi-touch control bonus in what would otherwise be a blank space.

    I'm sure someone will be out with a cheap plastic product that fixes this, of course, but still good to know…