Tag Archives: Cubasis

Catching Up #4: Card Tricks

8SQM_DE035D4D-861F-4C02-AF99-134F216B4D8A_largeOf all the infuriating we-know-better-than-you limitations that Apple place on iPad users, few annoy me more than the inability to copy anything else photos and videos from SD cards. I have two Zoom portable microphones that record to SD cards, but I can’t transfer these recordings to the iPad using the Apple camera connection kit (CCK).

However, I have discovered a useful workaround using a Kingston MobileLiteWireless (MLW) device. There’s a newer version available (which I haven’t tried), but you can get the original for less than £20 now.

Once you’ve installed the MLW software on the iPad and connected it to the device (fairly easy – just follow their instructions, basically the MLW acts as a WiFi access point), you can transfer files to Cubasis using the process describe below.

First, choose how the card is connected to the MLW – you can either put the card in the device or (as I have done in this case) connected the microphone to the device with a USB cable and turned on the mic’s card reader mode.

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Then you can browse the files – in this case I am using a Zoom Q8 so I have both audio and video files.

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Choose the one you want, and you can play the audio.

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Now if you tap the icon in the top right corner,  choose the “Open in” menu.

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Now choose Cubasis (or app of your choice). Bizarrely, you can open in iMovie, but not in Garageband.

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In Cubasis, go to the Media browser and you’ll find the file under “Audio”

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And finally, just drag it into your project.

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It sounds like quite a few steps, but is fairly easy when you get the hang of it. In some ways it’s actually better than using the CCK because:

  • you don’t need to take the SD card out of the microphone
  • you can preview the files before you copy them to the iPad
  • if you haven’t already got the CCK SD card reader, it’s actually cheaper to buy a MobileLiteWireless than a CCK.

The only disadvantages I can think of are:

  • the WiFi connection to the MLW can be a bit erratic at times
  • I haven’t worked out a way of importing the files into Garageband yet

 

 

 

 

Cubasis is fixed!

Rejoice, for it seems that Cubasis is finally fixed. Ever since v1.7, I (like many other people) have found it unusable due to audio distortion during recording and playback. The 1.7.2 release earlier this week finally seems to have fixed it. Feedback on the forum is good, and I’ve successfully recorded 6 audio tracks without any problem.

While Cubasis has been broken, I’ve been trying Auria, but have to say I really don’t like it. More on that in a subsequent post.

Cubasis vs Garageband Revisited

Back in May I wrote about my initial experiences with Cubasis, and how it compares with Garageband. That post has become one of the most viewed on this site, so I felt an update was in order as it doesn’t really reflect my current thoughts.

In May, my conclusion was:

I would say that Cubasis is a better DAW, but Garageband is a more complete package. I will probably use both – Cubasis for proper recordings, and probably most of the time for acoustic tracks; Garageband for quick sketches, and electric guitar & virtual instrument tracks in particular.

I’ve used either Cubasis or Garageband almost every day since then as part of my tune a day project, and on the whole that prediction has proved to be very accurate. For mostly acoustic tracks like this one, I would always use Cubasis to give me more control over the sound of the instruments – Garageband’s lack of track EQ continues to be a huge problem to me.

But for electric guitars and tracks like this one, I would pick Garageband every time. I’ve used Ampkit via Audiobus to record electric instruments in Cubasis, but it’s a lot more hassle than using Garageband.

Another killer reason for using Garageband on a track like this is the ability to then open the track in Garageband or Logic on the Mac. The new drummer feature in both of these is so much better than anything I have on the iPad that this alone can be a reason to start a project with Garageband.

However, in recent weeks there have been more and more reasons to avoid Cubasis. I’m not sure whether it started with the iOS 7 upgrade or the Cubasis 1.7 update, but I’m finding the app less and less reliable, with frequent audio glitches. The Cubasis forums seem to suggest that I am not alone, but there seems to be no solution in sight at the moment.

I’ve found that the problems can usually be avoided by doing a total restart of the iPad before starting recording. But that’s a lot of hassle, and I often forget. It’s really disappointing, because I liked Cubasis a lot.

So… I’ve decided the time has come to try Auria. It’s downloading now… watch this space for a first report.

 

ThumbJam

I’d heard several times that ThumbJam is one of the best iPad music apps , but it took me a long time to get round to trying it, and even longer to finally understand how it all works. On a flight home from Nice this week, I did my first recording entirely in ThumbJam using its loop mixer.

I think the app is very much an acquired taste. The instruments sound great, and there are lots of free instruments to download. But the interface is hard to learn, and it took me a while to get the hang of the way the notes are laid out. There’s no piano-style keyboard – instead you can choose from a wide range of scales which allocate notes to strip of the screen. Moving left and right plays up and down the scale; moving up and down causes other effects like vibrato. The result is a very expressive instrument that makes good use of the iPad’s screen, but it takes a while to learn how to play it well.

The recording features are much more basic. You  record a series of loops, and then use the mixer to adjust the volume of each, and turn them on and off. You can then record a “session” from a live mix – that’s what the tune above is.

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While the loop recording is interesting, it’s much better to use Audiobus to record directly to Garageband or Cubasis, and just use ThumbJam  as an instrument. That what I did for these two tunes – the first uses the rather lovely Scottish Smallpipes instrument, the second uses JR Zendrix, designed by Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater.

 

Winter is coming, and so is iOS7

ios7_1370892900sA post on musicradar.com yesterday advised everyone using iOS for music recording to wait before upgrading to iOS 7 due to a number of problem with the audio engine. Of course, I read this less than an hour after I’d upgraded my iPad (3rd generation), so I was stuck with it.

However, my first attempt at recording using Garageband didn’t encounter any major problems. It was a version of the Game of Thrones theme (we’re halfway through watching series 3 – don’t tell me what happens in the last 4 episodes) for bouzouki, accordion and piano. The bouzouki and piano were recorded through a Blue Snowball mic without any problem at all. The piano was recorded through a Roland UA-3 interface, and that did at one point start making a funny noise, but I just unplugged it, plugged it in again, and it was OK.

Haven’t done anything through Audiobus on iOS 7 yet – maybe that will expose other problems.

UPDATE – just recorded in Cubasis via Audiobus on iOS7 successfully. At first there was no sound output from Cubasis, but I’ve had that happen before. I stopped the app, restarted it, and it was OK.

 

Cubasis 1.5

Since switching from Garageband, I’ve been very happy with Cubasis on the whole. But I’ve always found the virtual instruments rather disappointing. So yesterday’s Cubasis 1.5 update was very welcome as it introduced better drum kits, a Micrologue virtual analog synth, and a much better instrument browser.

The Micrologue synth is pretty demanding on the iPad CPU. My iPad 3 struggled to play a drum track a synth pad and a synth lead at the same time. So the new ability to freeze a track (which effectively converts it to an audio track) is essential.

Using a more expensive DAW makes you realise what phenomenally good value Garageband is, but it doesn’t get updated very often – it feels like Apple have decided it already does what it needs to do. Cubasis, on the other hand, is getting regular updates which are making genuinely useful improvements.

Here’s my first use of the Micrologue synth and the new drum loops.

Cubasis vs Garageband

See also: Cubasis vs Garageband Revisited

One of the objectives of my tune-a-day project is to try out different iPad music apps. My first attempt at using an alterative DAW was a bit of a disaster, so I was a little more careful in researching which one to try next. Cubasis and Auria are usually mentioned as the top two, but I was put off Auria by all the in-app purchases that seem to be required, and lots of reports of poor reliability. So I took the £35/$50 plunge and went for Cubasis. And I have to say that so far I’ve been very pleased with it.

Having used Garageband for so long, I inevitably compare alternative DAWs directly with Garageband’s capabilities. While Cubasis is undoubtedly a better DAW, there are definitely areas where Garageband is better. So here’s a list of 7 things I prefer about Cubasis and 4 things I prefer about Garageband.

7 things I prefer about Cubasis:

  1. Wide range of effects (delay, reverb, eq, etc) that can be applied to each track individually. I was increasingly unhappy with the sound of my digital piano recorded in Garageband, and the lack of eq control prevented me doing anything about it. Strangely, in Cubasis it sounds much better even without any eq changes. This is a little odd and probably worthy of another post in its own right.
  2. More time signatures – you can play in 5/4 and 7/4 in Cubasis (although curiously not 6/8 or 7/8… that doesn’t really matter in practice because you can just choose 6/4 or 7/4 instead, but it’s a bit weird).
  3. Export to Dropbox. I use Dropbox as my main way of getting mixes onto my (Android) phone to listen to while I’m out. From Garageband, this is really tedious.
  4. Import MIDI loops. I got a great range of 7/8 drum loops from OddGrooves, but getting them into Garageband on the iPad is really awkward (it involves going via Logic on the Mac). In Cubasis, this is very easy.
  5. Import/export files via web server. Cubasis has a built in web server to upload/download files.
  6. Ability to name tracks. As I use a lot of acoustic instruments, I end up with loads of “Audio Recorder” tracks in Garageband that are hard to tell apart. In Cubasis you can name each track.
  7. It is being regularly updated with new features – in fact there was a new release today adding punch-in/out recording, another thing Garageband lacks.

4 things I prefer about Garageband:

  1. The virtual instruments sound better. I found this quite surprising, but most of the Cubasis ones are rather horrible – they sound like the sort of thing you’d find on a cheap keyboard. I quite like some of the synth pads though, while I don’t much like the Garageband ones.
  2. The electric guitar presets. It’s only when they’re taken away from you that you realise how good they are. I use several of Garageband’s presets frequently. Cubasis has nothing like this. Yes, it has all the effects that you could combine to get a similar sound, but there are no presets and (more surprisingly) seemingly no way to save a combination of effects. As a result, I’ve also had to buy Ampkit – more on that another time.
  3. The loops are better. The difference here is not as big as the previous two points, and some of the Cubasis drum loops are usable. But I think the Garageband ones are better.
  4. It’s much easier to loop sections of a track in Garageband – you just drag the end of the section to repeat as many times as required. In Cubasis you have to copy and paste, which is OK, but a bit tedious.

Two things that are about the same:

  1. User interface. When I tried Multitrack DAW I was somewhat horrified by the user interface. Cubasis is much nicer; I learned how to use it very quickly. It doesn’t feel like a step down from Garageband.
  2. Audiobus. Both support Audiobus, and while I’ve read that the Cubasis integration is meant to be better, I can’t say I really noticed the difference. One thing is certain – the Audiobus integration is more important to Cubasis than to Garageband, because you are more likely to need external instruments and effects than you are in Garageband.

To sum it up, I would say that Cubasis is a better DAW, but Garageband is a more complete package. I will probably use both – Cubasis for proper recordings, and probably most of the time for acoustic tracks; Garageband for quick sketches, and electric guitar & virtual instrument tracks in particular.

Finally, here’s today’s tune-a-day, recorded in Cubasis. It’s a piano piece that my son, Tom, is learning. I added some banjo and accordion.