On first opening Auria, the word that best describe how I felt is nervous… Sure, I felt excited and curious… But part of me had such high hopes for this music recording app, that I was nervous I may be let down.
Simply put, there are no other apps available on the iPad at this level.. Auria operates and sounds like a professional DAW, with a great feature set that stacks up well against other desktop DAWs on the market.
The sequencer surprised me with its audio editing and automating capabilities which I didn’t expect to run quite as deep as they do. Every track has automation options for the usual parameters and audio clips can be sliced and diced and processed with normalisation, DC removal and so on. Most parameters are also writeable in real-time and Auria provides a similar process as Cubase in which to live-record automation.
The touch controls on the edit screen can feel a little clunky in places and you soon realise that it’s tricky to make complex edits whilst simultaneously playing the track – this can cause lag which can get a little frustrating. However, once you get used to the controls and find yourself working fluidly with it you soon intuitively work around any quirks in the software and they become much less noticeable.
The mixer itself has an impressive and easy to use GUI, as do the bundled plugins. Each track has a channel strip plugin by PSP which includes an EQ, Expander/Gate and a Compressor as standard. It has to be said that having a channel strip with these features is better than what you get with a commercial sequencer on your desktop… The PSP EQ sounds, looks and works better than any “factory” DAW channel strip I’ve used on my desktop.
Other plugins bundled with the Auria app are: PSP Stereo Delay, PSP Stereo Chorus, ClassicVerb, Convolution Reverb and Retune Autotuner. Quite a nice selection out-of-the-box and, having had a chance to play with each of them for some time I’m genuinely blown away by the gorgeous and musical sounds that you can generate using these plugins.
As well as 4 inserts per track, Auria features two auxiliary busses for setting up your send effects which can be controlled via your master bus. The Final plugin to mention is “PSP MasterStrip” – an augmented version of the channel strip which will serve as your mastering plugin and sits permanently on the master bus. This plugin contains master EQ, output compressor and a limiter all of which sound as great as the other plugins bundled with Auria and go a long way to enabling iOS music producers to see a track through from conception to the mastering, outputting what I would consider to be broadcast-quality audio.
This is a very generous plugin bundle from a developer that is clearly relying on in-app purchases of plugins and add-ons to generate future revenue and provides the user with everything they need to produce a full track.
Getting carried away with these great effects soon leads you down the road to inevitable CPU overload… Yes even new iPad has its limits! And those limits can be found comfortably sitting in the realm of convolution reverb. It sounds so fantastic you’ll want to use it everywhere but it doesn’t take much to push the envelope too far with this plugin.
I for this reason it’s best to stick with ClassicVerb for more intensive stuff and use the Convolution Reverb on and aux send but you will still run into problems if you’re not careful. WaveMachine Labs have included a track-freeze function within Auria to combat this scenario and locking your tracks in this manner does go a long way to avoiding CPU hiccups.
I’d love to see a more optimised version of the ConvolutionReverb plug-in in the future as the IRs sound so much better than your more basic reverbs. – Perhaps a hybrid between convolution and synthesized reverb which lies somewhere between the quality threshold of ClassicVerb and ConvultionReverb?
Auria already has some add ons and plugins for sale as in-app purchases which include support from other well-respected, 3rd party VST developers such as FabFilter. Time will tell how many others get on board, I’m hoping to see many, many more taking advantage of Auria’s great platform in the future.
Also available are a range of Impulse Response packs for the Convolution Reverb plugin, which is a nice addition and I’d love to see the option to record and save my own IR’s for use in the plugin in the future.
If you want it to, Auria can also support video tracks for working on post-production sound. The video track upgrade is available for a very low-cost from within the app and is an extremely valuable feature for anyone working in sound design, audio post production or sound effects and music for media. Not only does Auria support sub-frame accurate syncing to video clips, you also have the option to export the video with your audio track combined, all without leaving the DAW!
Combined with the ability to save projects in AAF format, this makes Auria a serious and professional tool for audio engineers, composers and musicians in any field within the audio industry. If you go to work and sit at a ProTools rig all day… No problem… Do some tracklaying in Auria on the train and simply import the AAF project into ProTools when you get to work. – This is truly revolutionary stuff for audio professionals.
If I could add one feature to my Auria wishlist it would be MIDI sequencing and support of VSTi’s. Opening a synth like Animoog within Auria and the ability to sequence the MIDI parts / automate parameters would be another huge leap forward and would be yet another game-changer for music app developers.
Perhaps the decision to leave this feature out was driven by hardware or technical limitations. In any case, for the time being it’s possible to generate a good workflow using AudioCopy and Paste functions to export from your favourite music instrument apps and import the recording into Auria’s edit window.
Auria also supports Korg’s proprietary app-syncing technology WIST and a new option has popped up in the settings window called “AuriaLink.” This is definitely a space to keep an eye on and may foreshadow WaveMachine Labs’ intention to use some sort of virtual instrument – MIDI track synchronisation in the future.
Finally, when you’re done you can bounce a mix of your track in WAV AIFF or MP3 and have control over all the compression and quality thresholds you’d expect from a pro DAW.
To my mind, Auria is definitely a resounding success. – It is admittedly early days and WaveMachine Labs will inevitably have some ironing out to do but the beauty of the AppStore model for software distribution, is that you get to be a part of a products growth and evolution.
As it stands, Auria is more than I’d hoped for from the iPad’s first proper DAW and with an initial release this impressive I’m holding out high hopes for the future of Auria.