We got together with Toyo from Amidio, the creators of the mighty Noise.io Pro [iTunes Link] synth app (and other cool music apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch), to get the inside scoop on their newest app, Touch DJ [iTunes Link], the rewards of playing eastern wind instruments, some down-to-earth points on developing for the iPhone / iPod touch platform, as well as Amidio's thoughts on the future of mobile music creation.
Go on, check it out, but before you do, why not whet your appetite with this sneak peek video in the second half of the post, showing Touch DJ in action at Pacha in New York City.
P.S. You may recall that a while back we featured Sonorasourus [iTunes Link], another great DJ'ing app, and we said we'd let you know when it went live on the App Store. It's now up there; check it out here [iTunes Link].
TUAW: Lets start at the root of it all. Tell us about you, the musician/music lover? Where did "music" all began for you?
TOYO FROM AMIDIO: I am mainly a producer, but I DJ as well, and I always aspire for new technologies (my latest rig includes a Numark NS7 controller). I have had a passion for music since early childhood. However, I haven't got any academic music education, instead, I walked the hard way of learning everything myself. I adore musical instruments, especially the oriental ones. I have a nice collection of eastern drums, flutes and a giant didgeridoo that, occasionally, I let myself play a little. As for my music, for the last several years I've been collecting sonic material and recording pieces for my first album, but I think it will take another year before I consider it done.
I also love the idea of making music on the go, with mobile devices (and the iPhone is the best option currently available). If anyone's interested, on our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/AmidioInc) there are several tracks, like "Future is Now" or "1 year of Music Revolution" that have been created entirely on the iPhone, using Amidio's music apps, which can share audio data and export it for sequencing.
TUAW: How did you get into the crazy world of app development for the iPhone?
TFA: Amidio was founded by a collaboration of gadget and music enthusiasts in 2005. Our first projects included custom robots, limited-quantity gadgets and VST synths. In March 2008, I received my first iPhone (1G) as a gift. At first I was quite sceptical about the device, but then I realized the potential of the platform and decided to roll in with the iPhone Developer Program. Being a pure geek by nature, I thought I really have to make a synthesizer for this thing.
It took us about 7 months to create Noise.io Pro. Some of us, at that time, had full-time day jobs, so we had to work nights to complete the app.
We released Noise.io Pro at the end of October 2008 and we were the first company to introduce an app of such quality and complexity. Noise.io Pro is still unrivaled in terms of sound quality, features and sales volumes.
TUAW: You mention Noise.IO (of which we are big FANS!), are there plans for any further developments on this app? Anything intriguing down the line?
TFA: Yes indeed, we're planning to release Noise.2 (working title), heavily expanded, MIDI-enabled, polyphonic synth with innovative interface (more simplified, than the original Noise.io, though). No ETA is available at present though.
TUAW: Your newest app, Touch DJ, has just hit the App Store shelves. Tell us about Touch DJ, its inception and what Amidio has done to make it stand above the rest?
TFA: The idea of Touch DJ occurred to me when I was abroad. My friends took me into some night club which had really bad music playing. I was checking email on my iPhone to kill time and suddenly thought, "if only I could connect this iPhone to the sound system and play a live good-sounding set right from the device... but wait... that's genius!" At that moment, there weren't any real DJ apps in the App Store, so it was a kind of challenge to create the first one. And I'm so glad we succeeded!
Creating Touch DJ was full of obstacles. At first, nothing worked! At many times I thought what I wanted to achieve was a technical impossibility. Our first goal was to give the user the full DJ experience, without forcing him/her to buy external equipment (adapters etc). That's why we thought of "visual mixing", which is something very unique.
This technology implies the graphic display of the track waveforms next to each other. The low-bass (kick) parts are detected and rendered in a different color compared to the rest of the sonic frequencies, making beatmatching as easy as adjusting the tracks' position and pitch, so that the kick parts become visually matched.
However, as an alternative for the users who really need to pre-listen to the tracks, Touch DJ also offers a second "Split" mode of mixing which requires the usage of a special L/R splitting adapter.
We tried to make the app useful to everyone, for example, professionals can use it as a "sketchpad" for structuring new mixes/ideas while on the road, and have it as a replacement rig in case the main rig suddenly goes down. Meanwhile, currently mixing with Touch DJ resembles mixing with vinyl a lot, and that's why we think Touch DJ can offer a unique experience for beginners, who've never touched decks before.
We have just started with Touch DJ. The community wants us to introduce auto BPM detection and auto-mixing functions, and we're working on it right now! Other updates will include sorting tracks into crates, a powerful track search system, recording mixes and even possibly streaming mixes live. We'll see what comes next!
TUAW: Recently there's been a bit more gripe than usual from developers complaining about the way the App Store is run, and in particular, the time it takes for new apps to get approved. Being a pretty big app developer, what's your take on the app approval process, and the way the store is run in general?
TFA: When talking about the App Store, we cannot forget about the tremendous amount of apps and updates that are submitted each day. Of course, as in any complicated system, there are certain flaws, sometimes minor, sometimes major, but Apple is apparently putting a lot of effort into improving the App Store -- both for developers and for users. I think you have seen the latest redesign of the individual app pages in the App Store; for us it resulted in 20% more sales immediately. So things are definitely changing for the better. A more transparent review process would be nice as well as better communication with the review team. Also, it is not quite evident why the developers cannot issue more than 50 promocodes for each app version, and why those are limited to US accounts only -- this is not too convenient from the PR point of view.
TUAW: Obviously you see a market for the creation of music on mobile platforms, particularly the iPhone. We often wonder (or, kill time day-dreaming in the office) if the iPhone will ever become, as the Mac has, that 'standard' piece of equipment in the studio, or at a live show? Being a music app developer, where do you see things going in the future?
TFA: Over the last few years we've definitely seen some changes in the way music creation happens, . For example, the latest Korg Microsampler has a built-in stand which is clearly designated for the iPhone or iPod touch. Modern sound production systems allow bizarre sonic experiments, but you need a good sound source for decent results, and it absolutely doesn't have to be an $4000 synth. This is where the iPhone comes to stage with its multitouch screen and dozens of music apps. And you can design some of your sounds on the go too! I have already heard some of Noise.io's factory patches in some house tracks, and this is definitely a good sign. Our friend Jordan Rudess is a well-known user of the iPhone on stage. As for now, the iPhone, of course, cannot replace all the studio gear, and it's not supposed to. What it is, however, is a cool and promising gadget that can make some wonderful sounds!! However, we need to see some hardware and OS changes for the iPhone to become a real professional tool, but I hope they will follow.