The touch GUI renaissance will continue at NAMM 2016 as associated hardware and software product unveilings promise to be especially plentiful in the audio hall. For one, exhibitor Slate Media Technology will demonstrate its RAVEN Multi-Touch DAW Control Surface v3.0 software, now reportedly supporting most major DAWs. Nearby, tablet DAW pioneer WaveMachine Labs will show its latest incarnation of Auria, the Auria Pro digital audio workstation for iPad, significantly updated for the increased capabilities of Apple’s new flagship tablet, the buzz-worthy 12.9-inch, 64-bit iPad Pro running iOS 9.
Slate’s latest 27-inch MTi2 RAVEN Multi-Touch DAW control surface, among the other RAVEN models, will now support Pro Tools, Cubase/Nuendo, Studio One v3, Logic Pro X, Digital Performer and Ableton Live. New RAVEN 3.0 software includes upgraded hardware fader modeling and Batch Commander record features, allowing customized multi-move commands within the user’s DAW of choice. [Raven v3.0 does not support, for example, Cakewalk SONAR, a Windows-only DAW, only Mac OS DAWs to date.]
Now available, the new Auria Pro features comprehensive MIDI capabilities, real-time audio warping, advanced internal bus routing, audio quantizing, audio transient-to-MIDI conversion, groove templates, transient slicing, unlimited tracks, synths such as FabFilter’s One and Twin2 plus WaveMachine Labs’ own multi-format sampler, Lyra, and more.
WaveMachine Labs is not a hardware manufacturer; it is dependent on whichever iOS tablets are shipping as well as currently available USB class compliant I/Os—the latter of which were relatively scarce upon Auria’s NAMM debut a half decade ago, in 2011. Today Auria remains a simple download from Apple’s App Store and a favorite among audio engineers for its straightforward, near-traditional studio aesthetic and features that arguably rival some widely accepted DAW standards.
“I think our developer and owner, Rim [Buntinas], had a lot of foresight when he started developing Auria,” explains Corey Winer, technical support supervisor/product specialist, WaveMachine Labs. “He took a chance when making the prediction that the industry was headed this way. And it seems like it is. Just go into a lot of studios now, with their big Pro Tools rigs, and they have an iPad [running] the Pro Tools controller. It’s just an easy way of working.”
As consumer technology bled into professional work, everybody “wanted touch,” reasons Winer, “because everyone had an iPhone or Android in their pocket. And then we pushed the envelope; we developed software that was ahead of its time. With the original Auria, it wasn’t until the iPad Air 2 that [Apple] caught up with just enough processing power to allow for what we really needed Auria to do; we move forward as fast as we can, hoping that hardware catches up with us. Of course, we want to see the capabilities of a MacBook Pro in an iPad, but that’s going to take time and further technology. Already with iPad Pro, we see CPU usage dropping when using Auria Pro and its new MIDI sequencers; its processors are really good.”
As Auria’s popularity has grown since 2011, more potential customers consider WaveMachine Labs’ Compatibility page on its website, offering a healthy collection of interfaces from USB I/O manufacturers including AKAI, Antelope, Apogee, Avid, Cymatic Audio, Lexicon, Lynx, Mackie, PreSonus, RME, and Tascam, among others. The list continues to grow.
Winer says that Auria users are attracted to the DAW for various reasons, but that in the end, it ultimately leaves users with more money to invest elsewhere. “Originally people were just completely blown away by what we developed for iPad and how it went beyond GarageBand—which is severely limiting [to professional users]. I think we’re still a little way off from the point where, quote/unquote, professional engineers move away from their Pro Tools rigs, but we have a lot of artists using Auria Pro that are Grammy-winning/Grammy-nominated engineers, showing that you can use it in lieu of your Pro Tools rig—it’s real. But because we’re charging $49.99 for it, compared to the $300-$400 for many desktop DAWs, our users can justify the purchase some of the additional professional plug-ins that work with Auria and are, fortunately or unfortunately, on the iOS pricing tier. It allows more users to have more professional plug-ins, the DAW and an interface for not even a fraction of the cost of a comparable desktop DAW setup. Once people discover the quality of what they can do with Auria and the plug-ins that are available for it, they do things like spend more on the microphone or mic preamp that they’ve wanted, or buy a lunchbox-style interface filled with good 500 Series modules—saving money up front on the software, spending more on those nice things you want, like the hardware.”
Despite very promising Windows and Android OS advances, bleeding-edge pro audio developers, designers and manufacturers are still mostly found plying their trade within Apple environments. “Right now, we’re solely focused on iOS and iPad because the power and the development is there,” offers Winer. “With Android, it would be hard for us to keep up with compatibility issues simply for the sheer number of devices available. That’s definitely a hindrance. I won’t say we won’t develop for Android, but there are $60 Android tablets out there and [owners] may expect it to do what an iPad Pro can do. It could be a messy situation and we don’t have the resources to deal with it.”
Such resources, like a large tech support staff, are nearly essential when attempting to build an ultimately bug-free DAW for a non-proprietary OS. “I do tons of technical support for [WaveMachine Labs] plug-ins, made for Macs and PCs,” continues Winer. “You can see big differences troubleshooting between Pro Tools on a Mac and Pro Tools on a PC. It’s the same difference [as iOS and Android app development]; there are so many PCs out there that the differences inside—in terms of performance, troubleshooting and what their BIOS (basic input/output system) looks like—make service increasingly more difficult.”