BeatMaker 3 is set for release this weekend for the iPad. And it could win over more than just mobile die-hards. Here’s why:

A lot of what makes a DAW a DAW derives from what makes a PC a PC. The particular grab bag of functions for editing and performance is designed around the capabilities and interface of conventional desktop computers and notebooks.

Many, many attempts to redefine what a DAW is have tended to wind up morphing back into the same thing.

Now, forget for a second whether the iPad has really replaced your PC or not. One thing it has done is to finally reboot the discussion around what a workstation is. And some really interesting stuff has happened as a result.

The funny thing is, this can take some time. (Hey, you probably spend months or even years on a piece of music; it makes sense the software would also evolve over longer spans of time than those throwaway venture-funded apps do.) So, Intua was one of the very first developers of any kind of mobile workstation. Its flagship BeatMaker app now is almost as old as apps on the iPhone are.

This weekend, though, is set to be a major landmark in its history and in iPad music making in general. Everyone I’ve talked to has asked me the question: have you seen it?

Set to launch on Saturday with a 7-day US$19.99 intro price, BeatMaker 3 builds on the basic ideas of the previous installments, but it’s something new. It can act as the center of other gear, as a mobile recording tool and MIDI hub or the glue that holds the rest of your studio together. It’s also a high-powered sampler/workstation, one in which each pad can become a different instrument.

It’s sort of, then, the love child of a DAW, an MPC, and all the best mobile apps.

There’s a huge feature set, and that’s worth checking out. But let’s cut to the basic elements of what makes this special – with pictures, natch.

It looks pretty. I was going to say that in a fancier way, but – yeah, this. The redesigned UI makes you want to use this. It looks like a futuristic piece of software, not something stuck in the past. It looks at home on mobile. And that makes it easier to see what you’re doing and get stuff done … and to enjoy the process.

It acts as a hub for all your other stuff. Audio Units V3, Inter App Audio, MIDI, and all that buzzword compliance is important, yes – but also the fact that you get powerful pages for controlling MIDI assignments and modulation and audio mixing brings all those things together.

It does real-time time and pitch stretching and slicing. Frustratingly often you get some of this and not all of this… this does all of this.

It’s a hugely-powerful sampler. This also works with plug-in and inter-app support, so this could be the best way to grab interesting and weird sounds from other apps. From there, it’s really a powerful sampler inside, with all the mapping and modulation you’d expect from a fairly expensive desktop tool.

There’s an 8×8 mode. Hey, this deserves special mention – and is weirdly uncommon. But since it’s software, not hardware, you can switch between the two at will.

You can still arrange stuff. Instruments and audio tracks mean the MPC-style workflow still lets you finish tracks.

It might not be an end-to-end production tool. Okay, this could be weird to say. But the assumption of a DAW was always that you start, work on, and finish a track in one environment. The very nature of a mobile device suggests that doesn’t have to be the case. You might start an idea in a standalone environment, then sample it, then sequence with it, then bring that into a desktop environment. Or you might take a desktop DAW idea you’ve got that needs some new level of focus, and rip it apart onto your iPad. The extensive app integration and file sharing features here, then, become make-or-break.

Intua have been obsessive about giving users everything they want, so odds are if you’re asking about a spec – it’s there. What’s impressive, and what makes me want to try playing with this more this summer, is that you at last get all of that kitchen sink approach in an elegant, attractive, coherent package.

In other words, this could be the killer iPad Pro app. I wasn’t in on the beta like my various colleagues, but I’m keen to get up to speed.

The rest we can see more clearly in pictures:

Each pad now has extensive sound design possibilities, as seen in the effects layers here.

There are also clever touch-specific adaptations, too, like these wheels. (Remember when the Lemur gave us the first glimpse of this?)

There’s a deep editor inside each pad – more than you’d find in most hardware and software samplers, even.

You can map multi-samples across a keyboard, too, so .

An 8×8 grid means you can have 128 pads instead of 16.

Plug-in hosting is coming at just the right moment, as developers on iOS start to embrace Apple’s mobile Audio Unit format.

Mmmmmmmmodulation. That’s a big deal for the internal sound features, plug-in hosting, and external gear control alike.

Yes, there’s an all-new mixer, and yes, it’s deeper (with powerful sends and so on) and easier to look at. But what makes this interesting from a touch and live performance perspective is the macro controls, available as 8-up encoders or these interesting X/Y pads. Also, I hear you kids love color gradients these days.

Interestingly, staking out similar territory but with a very different philosophy is Modstep, which is also a hybrid of many of these but emphasizes steps sequencing and flatter, centralized user interactions. And likewise, the desktop software and hardware that most changes the workflow of how to produce new ideas also focuses on MPC-style, sampling-based work – think Native Instruments Maschine, the software/hardware hybrid new Akai MPCs, or even the reduced feature set you see when working with Ableton Push.

All of this is about focusing on actually creating the sound, and less on the linear, arrangement-focused DAW of the past. It’ll be interesting to see how these categories shake out.

Padbangers (oh my) has a nice hands-on review (h/t Synthtopia, thanks!):

Full features / mark your calendars:

  • jipumarino

    Hey Peter, a couple of questions:

    1) How does external audio sampling work? Other apps still have a really cumbersome way of doing it (like AudioCopy).
    2) Somewhat related: can external audio tracks be added to the mixer?


    • Jogua
      • jipumarino

        Yeah, I watched that, but I’d like to see if the workflow is the same for external audio (mic/audio interface) and resampling. For me it’s obvious that it should be the same, but other apps tend to do things differently for external audio.

        • Mi Ke

          it’s just like in your desktop daw. you add an audio track, select the input and hit record.

    • Jogua
  • Empt

    Do you know if its Ipad Pro only, or does it support others?

    • Supports others, even older iPads.

  • It also has audio tracks you can record to.

  • Rich Conrad

    any minimum ipad specs ?i have a mini3 . wow this app looks like everything imaschine could have been. at 19$ this is insanely packed with everything i need .

    • JaiJai DwarkMan

      it runs on my ipad mini 2, I have not stress tested it yet. But jamming with 2 drumtracks (samplers), two arturia isem plugins and one yahama fm seems to run fine. Without any fx plugins etc. I used a remapped novation launchpad mini. It crashed once while adding another isem plugin.

  • R__W

    Looks great but disagree about this type of UI looking futuristic. It has the same “dark” theme as every other music app, plugin and daw, all of which are clearly inspired by the black “pro audio” hardware look that’s been around for 30 years.

  • dalas v

    Can you modulate stuff like sample start point?

  • Random Chance

    This looks interesting. Although I’m not an MPC person by any means, this program and its launch price have me thinking seriously about buying in. I have had a lot of fun sketching song ideas in GarageBand and later recreating them on the desktop. But if I can have a mobile app that gives me enough rope to use the iPad as more than a glorified dictaphone, I’d be thrilled.

  • Dave

    The question is, does it have “Ableton Link”?
    If not, it’s not for me unfortunately…

    • leonw

      In the Padbangers review video above, you can see a “Link” button on the upper left-hand side of the main interface, so I’m guessing that means it has it built in.

      • Yeah, the “Link” button appears in Beatmaker 2, and that is indeed for Ableton Link.

      • Dave

        that’s perfect 🙂

  • Psssst: 8 x 8 = 64 pads, not 128. 🙂

    Nice to see, but that grid might be cramped except on a 12” iPad Pro. Playing chords on pads is nice on my LaunchPad, but my fingers may not squeeze that close together on my iPad.

    • I’m a little confused by the 128 pad information, too. The website says “BeatMaker 3 has eight banks of 128 pads.”

  • Presteign

    Intua has clearly made big strides on the visual design, but I hope they went deep as well. Speaking as a UX designer, there was no single big problem with BeatMaker 2’s interface, but there was no shortage of little annoyances that, taken together, made it a less-than-stellar experience.

    From the over-reliance on modals, to an overloaded navigation paradigm that all too often left me wondering how I was supposed to get where I was trying to go, version 2 felt like a lot of pieces bolted together. The iOS music landscape is considerably more mature now than when BeatMaker 2 came out, though – here’s hoping version 3 has the UX to match its impressive features.

  • DrüMünkey

    Please please please say it has relative mode for midi… Absolute mode on iPad with lots of mapped controllers suuuuuucccckkkksssss…

  • Dubby Labby

    The news are there was all a scam an there is not app itself, just a organized trolling campaign with fake vids and screenshoots…

    Just joking, but the delay can hurt sales (or hearts) xD

  • Florian Krause

    Doesn’t run on my iPad mini 2. Which I mainly bought for this back then when work on Beatmaker 3 was first announced. Epic fail!

    • Dubby Labby

      Betatesters pointed mini2 in the test but…
      There are other apps (includding BM2) which could work for you.
      BlocsWave+Launchpad app (with launch control hardware), AUM with ReSlice+BeatHawk2…
      i’m waiting BM3 for some tools like timestretching and warping (not fan of Auria but it should work in your mini also) and clip launching for remixing and live gigging (which I could bypass with GroupTheLoop also)

      So if it wasn’t for “all in one” cheap and timestretching/sidechainning I will not worry about BM3.
      What will your use for it? I will try to point any other app to cover it…

    • Florian Krause

      Wait…now it all of a sudden showed up in the App store, I could buy it, and it seems to work on my iPad mini 2, even though it’s not supported…I am so confused…

  • Stephan Vankov

    Does it support .bmk2 kits from Beatmaker 2? Hoping the answer is yes, as I have a couple of hundred BMK2 kits I’ve made.

    • Stephan Vankov

      Correction: my kits were in the original .bmk format. $20 later I think I found my answer and that is no, it doesn’t support them. Ah, Intua, why didn’t you include backwards support for kits… Big oversight in my opinion. To use an analogy – it would be like Live 10 coming out, and all of a sudden your Drum Rack presets no longer work.

      • Dubby Labby

        I saw some betatesters talking about workarounds involving rename these to zip and using also audioshare (more info at forum) but also at intua forum someone asked the same so maybe it’s a matter of time getting an answer…

        • Stephan Vankov

          I did a quick test – in BM2, I loaded one of my .bmk kits, resaved it (which converts and saves it as .bmk2), then copied over to BM3 using iFunBox. Once in BM3, kit loaded fine. Unfortunately, with hundreds of .bmk kits, doing this manually for each single kit is a real pain… Seems strange that BM2 has no problem reading .bmk files and converting them into .bmk2 files, and BM3 has no problem reading .bmk2 files, but BM3 cannot handle .bmk files.

          • Dubby Labby

            I asked at intua forums for a batch processor. It seems a must for BM2 users like you. Why not come there and share your needs and so? Maybe Mathieu brings a solution…

  • Tom

    You nailed it Peter. I’ve tried really hard to get a well rounded work flow working on an iPad and I had given up. I bought Cubasis and Auria, while both have their perks, ultimately neither was the production sketch pad I was looking for. But I just bought Beatmaker 3 and I love it. This is a must for anybody who wishes they could have an Ableton style production work flow on their iOS device (scene launching, drum rack, etc). Price is great, though not a lot of sounds that come with it. Dropbox integration makes it really easy to port over your drum samples. Still have a bunch of stuff to check out, but so far this is my new favorite iPad music app.

  • Frank

    Can the 8×8 grid be used to somehow control Ableton Live on a computer (like the Touchable app etc) ?