Review: SampleTank 2 for iOS

IK Multimedia SampleTank 2 for iOSIK Multimedia has released SampleTank 2 for iOS, a major upgrade for their virtual instrument app for the iOS mobile platform. SampleTank 2 for iOS is based on IK Multimedia’s flagship SampleTank 3 for PC and Mac.

SampleTank 2 for iOS Instrument BrowserAs iOS devices become more and more powerful, their capability as an essential mobile music workstation for musicians is becoming unquestionable. IK Multimedia is the first manufacturer to port over their suite of successful desktop audio apps to such an extent. That SampleTank is so fully featured is impressive. The improvements in sound quality and preset selection are extensive, and it promises big things for mobile iOS audio workstations.

SampleTank 2 brings a pedigree as a high quality desktop virtual instrument to a mobile environment. With access to a huge sample library of musical instruments, and a massive collection of grooves and pre-made patterns, plus the ability to create your own patterns, SampleTank 2 is undoubtedly throwing down the gauntlet as the most advanced mobile sound module.

Improvements between SampleTank and SampleTank 2 for iOS

SampleTank 2 for iOS has a completely re-designed sound engine, providing professional quality sound on your mobile platform. SampleTank 2 for iOS provides 8 part multitimbral sounds. That is double the capability of SampleTank. Instrument categories include bass, brass, drums, guitar, keyboards, organs, piano, strings , synths and woodwind.

You can build upon the default set of sounds, expanding the already impressive sound library by in-app purchases with the original instrument libraries like Miroslav Philharmonik, Sonik Synth and SampleMoog, but there are more than 500 new instruments in 6 new pro-instrument collections including SampleTank Pro with pro quality sounds, plus Alan Parsons Piano, Future Synths and Elektronica Deep House and more. That brings the total available instruments to more than 1,900 instruments! There are more than 1,200 MIDI patterns. that’s pretty awesome right there.

As if that is not enough, new downloadable libraries are also planned for monthly release. Planned libraries, previously only available in the SampleTank desktop app, include signature titles like American Acoustic guitar, Neil Peart Drums, Hugh Padgham Drums, Terry Bozzio Drums, Billy Cobham Drums and more.

Just like SampleTank 3 for PC/Mac, SampleTank 2 for iOS can be operated in either song mode or live mode making use of an optimised environment for both the creation process and for live performance.

There are a number of features that really make SampleTank 2 for iOS a formidable live solution.

The instrument browser has been improved, making sound selection quick, easy and efficient.

There’s also the layers feature, for layering and zoning controllers, and support for loop instruments. This means you can assign sounds to one of 8 intrument slots, allowing the creation of layers, split sounds in keyboard zones or multi sounds via a multi-touch device

Sounds can be triggered via an external midi keyboard or controller using a lightning MIDI interface.

Song Mode

SampleTank 2 for iOS Song ModeThere are 3 views available in Song Mode:

  • Intrument Browser Interface
  • Keyboard Interface
  • Pads Interface

One of my favorite bits about the instrument browser is actually the edit strip across the bottom of the screen. It allows you to tweak your selected sound immediately, and to set some basics like panning and transposition, attack and release and filter cut off.

While both the keyboard and pads interface contain the transport controls, the keyboard interface provides dual-row keyboards with clear highlighting of keyboard zones, while the pads view provides 16 launch pads and essential sliders to make complex beat construction much easier. Both provide access to the 8 track MIDI sequencer.

Once you have finished your sequencing you can export the result as stereo wav files, nice and easy.

Live Mode

SampleTank 2 for iOS Live ModeLive mode is a huge evolution for a mobile device. The interface makes playing and manipulating sounds very easy. Activating sounds, patterns and loops, or playing instruments or multis has never been easier. Combining MIDI note triggering and touch on the iOS device is both very flexible and intuitive way to interact with an instrument. Latency is negligible making for a very satisfactory playing experience.

In the main live view you can access 8 instrument parts to make it easy to use instruments and patterns. Each can be enabled/disabled, assigned to a MIDI channel, and access the patterns menu. The instrument edit strip is immediately above the keyboard making it easy to tweak the currently selected instrument.

Live mode also provides two more views:

  • Mix view
  • Layers view

Mix view provides volume and pan controls for each instrument, plus the edit strip.

The Layers view allows individual instruments to be assigned to keyboard zones. The combination of zones and layers allows for the creation of interesting instrument combinations either across the keyboard or stacked in interlaced layers.

External Hardware

IK Multimedia iOS HardwareThere really is no competition for the breadth of iOS interfaces for musicians. IK Multimedia rules the roost.

It should come as no surprise that SampleTank 2 for iOS is optimized for use with IK Multimedia interfaces. They work pretty seemlessly. That said, it would be good if Bluetooth interfaces could be connected with directly from within the app, but currently they have to be configured from another app to pair the controller to your iOS device. Straight forward enough, just not quite so convenient.

Verdict

Overall SampleTank 2 for iOS is an impressive contribution to mobile music creation and the introduction of a live mode is a very welcome addition. The sound quality is higher than that of SampleTank and the depth of choice of instruments is truly awesome. The interface is intuitive and immensely easy to use for live performance.

Using an iOS as a main sound source is now a more realistic proposition than ever before. The days of my iOS being limited to just demo and draft work are definitely numbered.

Price $19.99 in the App Store

For more information visit ikmultimedia.com

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Red Auerbach