I was kindly given a Promo code for Looptical, so there’s no chance of me doing an AppRegret article here! From the outset I would say that Looptical is big and I am unlikely to do it justice if I try and run through all of it’s features so I will try to keep this article to more of a ‘Buyer’s Guide’ type thing.
Every now and again an App comes out and everything about it screams out good design, attention to detail, care and love. Looptical is such an app, Mark over at MooCowMusic has spent three years putting this app together and it is a lovely piece of work. I often carp on about UI design as even the best apps can be rendered useless by a poor UI, but Mark has really thought this thing through. Properly.
This is an iPhone app and the UI is designed around the smaller screen although I was using an iPad4 to run it on. Because it is an iPhone app there are obviously more screens to choose from than an average iPad app but this is not really noticeable in the workflow, in fact I was woken up, slightly hungover, early Sunday morning by marathon running wife and insomniac children and dazed and confused as I was I managed lay down all the stems for a track on Looptical within an hour.
The workflow is simple, everything just makes sense.
So what is it? The name would suggest some sort of looper, like loopy, but this isn’t the case at all. Loops are the building blocks you use to make a track, similar to the pattern/song interface used by drum apps, Rebirth, Tabletop etc. You create loops of multiple parts/instruments, and then sequence them into a song.
Each loop can have from 1 to 999 bars in it and the number of tracks/instruments you have in each loop is limited only by the memory capacity of your device.
There is one track per instrument and the instruments are sample based. The samples included in the app are excellent, I regularly complain about shoddy samples being shipped with sample based products (yes, Beatmaker, I AM talking about you) but all the samples I have listened to have been great quality. There are a mass of drumkits available . You may import your own samples to create instruments also.
You can create your track using a variety of interfaces: drumpads, keyboard/double keyboard/scale keyboard, a chord guitar and a granulizer. The chord guitar lets you set up/select a range of chords that you can then strum/pluck, the granulizer lets you sweep your finger through the sample in a way similar to samplr/samplewiz. There is also an Audio Recorder so you can record audio directly into a loop.
Audio Input screen
Mixer screen – note the CPU usage
Once you have your tracks recorded there is a mixer screen that will look pretty familiar, there are three global (send) effects, a limiter, compressor and reverb. In addition each track can have up to 5 input effects – Gain, Overdrive, BitCrush, Compressor, EQ, Filter, Chorus, Phaser, Trance Gate and Delay. All of the effects are excellent, and you pay the CPU price for that. My favorites have to be the filter (with lowpass, lowpass 24db, highpass, bandpass, notch, and a bunch of formant vowels, all of which are controlled by my absolute favorite LFO controller ever) and the Trance Gate which is so much fun.
(Filter screen – click the setup on the right for the most awesome of LFO editors anywhere)
(trance gate awesomeness)
As I mentioned, all of this quality will cost you – I had 6 tracks playing with 3-5 FX on each and that had me at about 60% CPU usage on my iPad4. Looptical also guards it’s resources very jealously, if there is anything else that uses low latency running Looptical will complain about it when you start the app up, the only other app I know that does this is impaktor. Best close everything down in the background first.
In summary then this is a high quality app from a very committed developer, if you don’t usually install iPhone apps on your iPad I wouldn’t worry about it because the UI is so intuitive and the workflow so natural that you probably won’t even notice. This is a sample based app and working with it made me realize how much synthesis I actually do in my work, using samples was quite uncomfortable for me, having said that the FX are so good that the sound you end up with may have little or nothing to do with the sample you started with. Looptical is a great tool for sketching out a riff/song idea quickly, but it is also more than capable of producing polished tracks. Exactly what you need in your pocket!
If I had anything on my wish list it would be for a Midi Editor so that I can go in and correct my mistakes after recording a track, while the quantization is excellent my playing is not and I like to do a bit of editing afterwards.
A final word – the built in manual is a work of art, detailed enough (at 80 pages) to cover everything you need to know, but well written with good screen shots so that you can actually read and understand it easily. You can also (as I did) open it in iBooks and save it there so you can have it open in the background as you get to know your way around..
There are some excellent videos for this app already available so if you are on the fence about buying it check them out… then buy it.