SampleTank 2 for iOS – A World of Sound at Your Fingertips

SampleTank 2 for iOS is a new version of one of the pioneers of iPad music apps. The first mobile SampleTank was released in 2011, and it has progressed through a landscape that has seen ever faster iPads and iPhones, and ever better music-making applications coming available on the App Store. Any iOS music app faces some stiff competition nowadays, so SampleTank has had to keep up in terms of features and sounds, but apart from the gap year in 2014, IK Multimedia has rolled with iOS changes, while also innovating with Amplitude both on the desktop and in iOS.

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SampleTank 2 for iOS has a handy help layer to point out the controls.

IK Multimedia from Italy really knows sample-based virtual instruments (of course, they know modelling, too). Ever since the early 2000s SampleTank has been a contender in the sample-based workstation space, but after 2003’s SampleTank2 it went a long time without a major upgrade. Finally, in 2014, SampleTank 3 was released for Windows and Mac OS X, with frequent point updates so that know it’s at version 3.5, and editions ranging in depth from the free SampleTank Custom Shop to the humongous 52-gigabyte SampleTank MAX. Also, most of the sound libraries for SampleTank 2 are compatible, but there are also many new ones.

Along with the great samples, a big part of SampleTank is the engine that plays them. Now the engine of SampleTank 3 for the desktop computers has been ported to iOS, and why not – the latest iPhones and iPads pack more punch than PCs or Macs when ST2 was released in 2003. So it’s now possible to enjoy the great sounds on the iPad or iPhone and use the SampleTank engine in iOS apps like GarageBand through Inter-App Audio or Audiobus.

If you’re looking for a workstation quality music app for quickly putting together tracks and arrangements on the move on your iPad or iPhone, SampleTank 2 is one of the obvious choices. It has a large library of quality sounds, augmentable with in-app purchases, and despite its busy looks it is actually quite easy to use when you sit down and get to work.

IT’S A DEAL: at the time of this writing, SampleTank 2 for iOS is only €/$ 1.99 on the App Store (normally €/$ 19.99), with all the in-app purchases half price. Soon it will be replaced by another sale, namely the Scary App Deal, which gets you SampleTank and other IK Multimedia music apps for €/$ 4.99 each until the end of October 2016.

Get SampleTank on the App Store

Steinberg UR22mkII now works with iOS 10

Three weeks ago I got a new iPad after four years. I replaced my iPad 3  (of 2012 vintage) with an iPad Air 2, and the difference in speed is obviously huge. As software demands have grown, the old iPad 3 (the first one with a retina display) simply has not been able to keep up, even though it could be updated all the way to iOS 9.3.4.

When I got the new iPad Air 2, I immediately updated it to iOS 10, but when, a week later, I started a recording session with my Steinberg UR22mkII*, I noticed that the playback and recording suffered from stuttering and crackles. A quick web search resulted in similar complaints from others with the same or similar hardware combination, but also a message from Steinberg about the issue being recognised and a promise of a forthcoming firmware update to the UR22mkII.

The firmware update was published a week ago, and today I got the chance to install it. Based on quick testing with Apple’s GarageBand for iOS**, KORG Gadget** and Native Instruments’ iMASCHINE 2**, it looks like the problem is truly fixed now. Here is some more detailed information; note that all of this applies to OS X only; for Windows, just read the release notes and the update guide included with the firmware update. There is an update available also for the Steinberg UR12*, if you happen to have that other handy iPad-compatible audio interface.

To update the firmware you need to have at least version 1.9.9 of the Yamaha Steinberg USB Driver, which I had, but there was version 1.9.10 available, so I grabbed and installed that first. Of course, installing the USB driver requires a restart. I’m running OS X El Capitan version 10.11.6 with OS X Server 5.2** on my main studio iMac. As they say, ”one does not simply reboot a Mac”, especially one running OS X Server, but I took a plunge for the betterment of all things. (Of course, you might want to ask why I’m running OS X Server anyway, and on the main studio computer. Well, I’m using it for software development also, and as a Continuous Integration host for Xcode Server. So now you know.)

After the driver update, it was a quick matter to connect the UR22mkII to the iMac with USB, fire up the Firmware Updater and hit Start.

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Firmware updates are always just a little scary – something could go wrong, and you could end up with an expensive brick in your hands. But that never happens, right? This time at least it didn’t, even though on the first attempt the Firmware Updater complained that it couldn’t find the UR22mkII, even though the white USB light was glowing steady. Unplugging and replugging the unit did the trick, and after just a few seconds the update was completed.

steinbergur22mkiifirmwareupdatercompleted

Then came the bit that had originally caused the problem, namely the iPad running iOS 10. I bought an Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter*, which does more than its name implies: it allows you to connect a USB device like the UR22mkII into your iPad’s Lightning socket with USB, while allowing the iPad to charge through it, because it has its own Lightning socket. Brilliant!

Since the iPad can’t power the UR22mkII, I connected a USB charger (an old Nokia unit from some Lumia phone) to it and set the power source switch to ”5V DC”. Now both devices were powered separately. There were no problems with playback from KORG Gadget and Native Instruments iMASCHINE 2.

I plugged my Rode NT-1A microphone into the UR22mkII and turned on the 48 V phantom power it needs, being a large-diaphragm condenser. A quick recording test with GarageBand for iOS yielded a nice sound captured through the Yamaha D-Pre microphone preamplifier on the UR22mkII, as expected.

garagebandiosaudiodeviceconnected

Naturally I also tested with Steinberg’s Cubasis LE 2**, the version of Cubasis which is unlocked out of demo mode by the presence of a UR22mkII or UR12 unit and is upgradeable to the full Cubasis with an in-app purchase. For other audio interfaces which unlock Cubasis LE, see the app home page. With other gear (or no gear, relying solely on the iPad), you could go straight to the full Cubasis 2**.

It was also an eye opener, or should I say ear opener, to hear the iPad sounds from proper studio monitors – in my case, a pair of Genelec 8010A* powered monitors. While the iPad Air 2 has a headphone socket, any solution that relies on audio to be distributed to studio-grade monitors through it will lose to a digital audio out from the Lightning connection and onto the DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) of the UR22mkII or a similar audio interface. If you’re interested in reading more about the technology, there is a nice product development story about the UR series published by Steinberg.

It’s good to see that Steinberg and Yamaha are backing their nice and affordable hardware with software solutions, too. The identification and fix for the iOS 10 problem was quite quick for such a large company, so kudos to the people who made it happen in a timely manner.

All the gear mentioned in this article was paid for and remains in active use in my studio, so no freebies here! If you are in the market for this kind of gear, why not give Musikhaus Thomann* a try. All the links marked with * take you their huge web shop, and if you buy something from them as a result, I get a small referral. Same thing with the App Store or Mac App Store, but those links are marked with **. Thanks for your support!

 

Computer Music 236 ja Focusrite Red -plugarit

Tässä hieman kuluttajapalvelua Konesoitosta, lyhyesti ja ytimekkäästi. Nyt jaetaan ämpäreitä, punaisia ja jokaiselle kaksi!

Brittiläinen Computer Music -lehti on monille tietokoneistetun musiikintekemisen harrastajille jo tuttu, mutta jos et tätä aviisia vielä ole lukenut, niin suosittelen lämpimästi. Lehdellä on tapana tehdä varsin asiapitoisia ja helposti sulavia juttuja digitaalisen musanväännön alalta, ja joka numerossa on myös ilmaisia plugareita ja sampleja.

Tuli mieleen hehkuttaa Computer Musicia juuri nyt siksi, että lehden uusimmassa numerossa 236 on ehkä kovimman luokan lukijalahja pitkään aikaan tai kenties koskaan: Focusrite Red Plug-in Suite, johon kuuluvat Red-laitteistoa jäljittelevät ekvalisaattori ja kompressori. Paketin yhteishinta Focusriten verkkokaupassa on 229,99 Iso-Britannian puntaa, eli tällä hetkellä noin 261,75 euroa. Se kauppa ei kuitenkaan kannata, koska monien Focusriten äänilaitteiden* mukana saa samat plugarit kaupan päälle.

Computer Music -lehden numeron 236 lukijalahjana on Focusrite Red Plug-in Suite.
Computer Music -lehden numeron 236 lukijalahjana on Focusrite Red Plug-in Suite.

Jos et juuri nyt ole ostamassa halvintakaan Focusriten äänilaitetta, niin ostamalla Computer Music -lehden uusimman numeron 236 lehtipisteestä hintaan 12,30 euroa tai lataamalla sen iPadiin** tai iPhoneen** Applen Newsstand-ohjelmalla hintaan 4,99 euroa pääset käsiksi näihin Red-plugareihin. Toki tämä edellyttää, että teet myös ilmaisen tunnuksen Computer Music -lehden Vault-palveluun, josta plugarit, samplet ja lehden muu oheissisältö, kuten erilaiset neuvontavideot, muutenkin ladataan.

Toki tarjouksen takia pitää vielä hieman jumpata. Kun olet saanut Focusrite Red Plug-in Suiten ladattua CM-holvista, sinun pitää tehdä tunnus Focusriten omaan palveluun, jotta saat aktivointikoodin näille plugareille. Tarvittava koodi löytyy latauspaketin sisällä olevasta ohjeesta, ja myös Focusriten CM-erikoissivulta, kuten myös seikkaperäiset ohjeetkin.

Uskoisin, että tämä Computer Musicin numero viedään käsistä, vähän kuin aikanaan se vuoden 1999 Wired-lehden numero, jossa oli Jorma Ollilan haastattelu, tai se MagPi-lehden numero, jonka kylkiäisenä oli Raspberry Pi Zero -tietokone.

Ilmaisia plugareita (tai ämpäreitä) ei välttämättä kannata hankkia ihan ilmaisuuden ilosta, ei edes vaikka diili olisikin yhtä hyvä kuin Focusriten ja Computer Musicin järjestämä. Jos käytössäsi on jokin DAW-ohjelma, siinä hyvin todennäköisesti on jo sekä ekvalisaattori että kompressori, tai useita, eikä niidenkään laatu ole erityisen huono. Tärkeämpää on se, miten niitä käyttää. Kannattaa toki ihan kiinnostuksesta lukea Sound Affects Premierin arvostelu/esittely Red Plug-in Suitesta.

Kaupalliset linkit on merkitty näin: ** = App Store, * = Musikhaus Thomann