We’ve seen plenty of efforts to make it easy to build song ideas from samples and loops on mobile. With a Mac launch, Endlesss now does what it set out to do – make those sound materials connect everywhere.
And there’s more to this, too. While Endlesss gives you access to samples and people to jam with, it never underestimates the uniquess of your own samples or your desire to add some weirdness to them.
It’s been a trip to watch Endlesss evolve, partly because the tech has to keep up with the expansive imagination and musical dexterity of founder Tim Exile. Long before any app aspirations, Exile had already built a virtuoso sampling persona in his own music, with layered loop gymnastics powered by Reaktor. It was always a nerdier, more hyperactive take on the Loop Station riff.
And about those Loopstations – the odd thing is, for all the permutations of “anyone can make music” apps built around sampling and looping, nothing has had quite the impact on musical culture as something like BOSS Loop Station hardware. That is, if you actually do have some musicianship – singing, rapping, beatboxing, playing a violin or accordion or whatever – you may already be really satisfied just plugging in a pedal and layering loops that way. And maybe you don’t have to be terribly great at this, because whatever you play, it’s yours. No one else is making it.
So yes, you do have quite a lot of apps that allow you to construct music from loops in ever-easier ways, with ever-more-minimal flat mobile interfaces. But then, we’ve had something like that ever since GarageBand and before that, ACID.
The unique conceit of Endlesss is to do something that loop pedal can’t, that even previous computer software didn’t really do, and keep a cloud-based journal of what you’re making.
Endlesss is constantly capturing ideas – committing them to storage after the fact when you find something you like. Then your ideas take on what it calls a Rifff, and Endlesss also has a splashy colored visualization that looks like a paint splatter.
It’s a different approach than the one you may already know from other sampling tools. Instead of starting to record, then capturing an idea, sampling is always on – so you can say, “ah, that was it” after you’ve recorded. (Endlesss calls this “retroactive sampling”; it’s a feature that has started to show up in DAWs but not necessarily this kind of sampling app.) And then you always have access to all of your loops, too, rather than having to explicitly put them in a project or save them off the limited sample time of hardware.
The Endlesss app brought the first mobile-centered addition to this design – letting you collaborate and jam, in person (with Ableton Link), or – conveniently socially distanced – online. You could then export the results to your DAW. Endlesss was from the start uniquely focused on the musician (by emphasizing mic input sampling), and on that global community.
But it’s really connecting that back to the DAW that shows some potential. Endlesss Studio has the same workflow on a Mac (soon on Windows PCs, too), which also means a bigger screen and familiar workflows, including for people who find tablets and phones cramped (or didn’t invest in higher-end hardware).
But this also means a complete flow from mobile to Mac. Apple tried their hand at this, evidently in response to overwhelming user feedback – even Grammy-level artists were already using the default iOS Voice Memos feature as a sketchpad wherever they were. Apple accordingly beefed up that app and eventually has added integrated sync in its flagship DAW Logic.
Endlesss Studio is purpose-built for this task. You can run it as a standalone music production tool, or bring its VST3 or Audio Unit plug-in into your tool of choice (Ableton Live, Logic, GarageBand, Reason, or what have you).
Once there, you have the ability to browse your own Rifffs and Jams – locally and worldwide online. And you can record new loops, mess with loops, and mix and arrange Rifffs.
What’s unique is the fluidity of those different tools. If you really prefer to work on the Mac, all the mobile-style tools are there – they just work now in whatever your existing production tool is, so you can finish stuff effectively, use all your favorite finishing effects, and you don’t have to wrap your head around a new way of working. If you like the mobile method as a scratchpad and a way of improvising, your materials show up, too.
Endlesss has a steady ramp in difficulty, too, so that people who do have a musical background – or want to explore – don’t hit a wall. So you have complete control over time signatures, scales, longer loops, and more advanced meters and rhythms. You can turn quantization off.
There is also a nicely powerful array of effects to play with, including bread-and-butter stuff (filters, reverb, gate, delay, saturator) but also more exotic offerings (keymashing, heavy distortion, repeat, ring mod, multicomb, and more).
You also get a lot of sampler fun, including sample settings with names like zap, bubble, growl, and wave. You can scratch, jump, and reverse. It sounds like a Batman fight more than technical terminology – deliciously so.
It’s still very Tim Exile, basically – nerdy sample mangling, which could ultimately deliver some of its long-term appeal.
Behind the scenes:
I think the main deciding factor here is whether you want the mobile-to-Mac workflows and connected Rifffs. If you do want online access to other folks doing stuff, it’s always there. I suppose this has some strong parallels to the gaming world. Some people prefer games that are single-player only, to be lost in that world at their own style and tempo. Some want multiplayer, but only with friends. Some love that wide-open ability to just find online buddies at any time of the day or night. And some are a combination.
As Endlesss has matured, it is also up against a growing array of competition. If it’s just sampling on mobile you want, you have loads of options. Hainbach and Bram Bos went the tape looper route, if you want some solid one-on-one time with a vintage hardware-style recorder.
Closer to what Endlesss does, Andrew Huang recently unveiled Flip, an app he made with a developer team led by Oliver Greschke (of Elastic Drums fame) plus Christian Blomert (co-creator of touchAble) and Matt Davey. (Disclosure: I worked with Oliver on the WretchUp app as a co-developer.)
Flip clearly has some of the Elastic DNA in it, but that’ll be a good thing for some. It still provides very accessible sampling, and it also comes with a ton of depth in effects and sample mangling that newcomers and advanced users alike will enjoy.
Here’s Andrew on that approach:
It’s worth considering some of the competition may come from the DAWs themselves, and whether they’re able to integrate sampling directly. What Ableton are doing with comping, for instance, is already powerful, and it does allow you to work right in the environment where you make songs.
But you certainly have choices. If Flip (and other mobile samplers) want you to make music everywhere, Endlesss binds all that everywhere together. And… well, you can still just record into your DAW, import audio samples from other gear and mobile, or just plug in a hardware looper and be done with it. I’m sure people will go down all those paths.
Endlesss Studio is US$99 intro; then after March 2021 (oh my that sounds far off), it’s $199.