iOS is a perfect platform for certain types of music application. Self-contained sequencing and synthesis apps in particular work really well on touch screens: so it is that beatboxes were one of the first kinds of music app to appear on the platform, and they have only got better as iOS has matured. Elastic Drums works on iPhones and iPads and requires a dual core model (so an iPhone 4S, iPad 2 or higher) and as always the faster your device, the smoother your experience will be. It has six synth channels with ten different percussion synth engines and 12 parameters for each synth engine. It’s a drum synth, but a particularly powerful one.
The beats sound crisp, authentic and heavy and by virtue of being synthesized rather than sampled, they can be bent and twisted with ease.
The graphics aren’t particularly slick though that doesn’t affect the workflow. Some people prefer a more stripped back approach and ultimately it’s more about what an instrument sounds like than what it looks like that matters. It could arguably use a little more differentiation between screen elements and this could be achieved graphically, even if only to lighten the heavy grey that dominates.
The instrument section also contains the sequencer and here you tap notes into the grid, dragging up or down as you do so to set the velocity of a note. Move between any of the six channels using the buttons to the right and you can swap out any sound via the sound selection menus at the bottom left hand corner. For any sound, the central area contains controls to tweak the sound generator and these take the form of global and synth specific parameters. It’s possible to automate almost any of the controls in this section by hitting the ‘autom’ button and then moving a knob, after which the movement is repeated as the sequence plays back. Randomizers are available as well as good selection of presets of course.
In the arrange section you can chain together multiple patterns and there are tools including copy, paste and delete for you to manage longer sequences. There’s a mixer here too with volume, pan, mute and solo and FX sends. The Master Effects tab contains an X/Y pad that is great fun to play with and lets you punch in and manipulate multiple types of effect. In the main Effects section, four effects slots are available, each with a good selection of effects including some weird stuff, and automation is possible here too using the large X/Y pad. The app can handle MIDI input and output via hardware or a network and has a configurable audio buffer, recording of patterns or songs to audio and export to Soundcloud, email or Audioshare. A Jam section also lets you play more organically by triggering patterns, effects, freeze and other performance parameters with simple taps.
Elastic Drums’ workmanlike appearance is slightly misleading. It’s actually a really powerful and cool-sounding application that works very well on the iOS platform. The beats sound crisp, authentic and heavy and by virtue of being synthesized rather than sampled, they can be bent and twisted with ease. The effects are also great, and automation of effects as well as synth engines makes the whole thing incredibly flexible. Check out the audio demos to hear the ways in which Elastic Drums might surpass your expectations.
Pros: Sounds awesome. Really flexible. Automation throughout. Heavy sounding effects. Work with patterns and songs. Good integration with other iOS technologies. Jam feature is fun and practical.
Cons: Graphically could be a little more varied.
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