BeatMaker 2 is the improved version of Intua’s mobile music workstation and production tool. Intua, a European company founded in 2001, have been designing and developing software-based multimedia solutions for nearly a decade. Taking their expertise and applying it to iOS devices, to provide a complete solution of tools for musicians seems like a great idea and the next logical step. If you are reading this review, chances are that you are a musician, producer or at least understand most of the terms I’ll be referring to. For those not familiar I apologize in advance as this is meant to be a review of the app and not a tutorial on the technology.
Basically BeatMaker 2 is a DAW. (Digital Audio Workstation) and it’s used to record and mix digital audio tracks. It allows you to create multiple virtual instruments, edit values and settings and connect them to audio effects such as delays and compressors to compose, record and arrange your ideas on the run. Import your own sound libraries or use the included one with 170 presets from synths and drums up to orchestral sounds. The app features two different interfaces, a drum machine and a keyboard sampler (which for anyone who is familiar with midi controllers, it’s the same thing), each with their own polyphony controls, filters and all the tweaking you would expect.
Right at your fingertips, you have access to a multi-track sequencer with “unlimited” tracks. I haven’t tried too many tracks, but while the iPhone 4 is powerful, sometimes its processor coughs, so I’m not sure how many tracks you could actually handle. Finally there is of course a mixer, with level meters and bus routing features.
What I really like about BeatMaker 2 is the sharing capabilities that are included: Beat Sync allows you to transfer files from your computer to your iPhone with a bundled FTP Server and then there’s Sound Cloud Export (now we are talking about the future trends). The iPod Song Import option enables you to remix tracks from your iTunes library and the a bundled wave editor includes a varied collection of basic editing tools, perhaps more that you might ever actually use.
BeatMaker 2’s presentation is well thought out, the graphics and the user interface are really superb. The attention to every detail and small nuances shows and it feels like a complete package. That being said, track editing and mixing can required a good deal of precision, and the iPhone’s small screen doesn’t necessarily lend itself to this so it can be a source of frustrating sometimes. Perhaps if BeatMaker 2 were updated to be a universal app, allowing for proper use on the iPad or iPad 2 would resolve this.
Intua claims that the app is easy to use. Well, I have a few years of experience using DAWs, from Logic pro 9 (my favorite) to Cubase, Sonar, Acid, you name it, and honestly I wouldn’t say it’s “easy” to use at all. In fact it’s very complex and within the app there are no manuals or tutorials. On the other hand, if you visit Inutia’s website, you will find that you can download the users manual and watch some video tutorials covering different topics like the keyboard sampler & effects or chop lab & time stretch. Intua also have forums for BeatMaker 2 on their site and of course customer support, so experimenters shouldn’t be too afraid to taste the waters. Admittedly, at least a portion of this information should really be accessible directly from within the app, with at least a basic tutorial to walk you through the tool.
If you are a musician, composer, producer and have ever felt the need of a composing tool to set in stone your ideas while on the go, look no further, this is what you have been looking for. Like with most DAWs, you can expect a steep learning curve, so I strongly advise you to visit Intua’s website and download the manual and watch the available tutorials. BeatMaker 2 is a pricey and complex package, so if the idea of working directly on an iPhone or iPod Touch for all of your mixing, recording and editing doesn’t appeal to you, then you’d probably be better served by getting yourself a portable audio recorder for rough demos and working them out on your home computer instead. Anyway, for musicians I’d certainly recommend BeatMaker 2. Thumbs up Intua!