The new Fruity Loops (FL) Studio Mobile HD for iPad, released yesterday, hooks you from the start. We freely admit that our review is a day late because we simply couldn’t tear ourselves away from it long enough to finish writing. Don’t believe the haters; this app provides what any good music creation tool for the iPad should: Tons of fun.
FL Studio Mobile HD from Image Line Software ($20) allows users effortlessly to create beat patterns and synth parts, overlay them, mix them down, and add effects using a simple tabbed interface. A host of keyboard sounds are also built into the app, so you can play away without worrying about importing virtual instruments or anything of that nature. The whole, holistic process offers instant gratification for the budding musician and producer in all of us, and you can save your projects for release on your next album (we’re looking at you, Damon Albarn).
Early commentary has suggested that this app should be considered no more than a toy. People intended those comments as criticisms. Having played with the app for some hours now, we wonder: Why? Shouldn’t a music creation app be something you can quickly engage with, and enjoy playing? FL Studio is a toy — and a fun one at that.
This long-awaited Fruity Loops app does have limitations, and doesn’t compare to a full Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). For example, you can’t split the amount of effects applied by musical channel (though you can turn them on or off each channel individually). And you can’t import samples of your own, at this point — even though iOS has a copy-and-paste feature.
It’s also a bit tricky to export projects from this iPad app to the PC, and you can’t export them to a Mac at all — which makes sense, in a way, because the desktop version of Fruity Loops doesn’t work on a Mac, either. Those considering linking their projects to Apple computers will have to use Bootcamp.
The critics make some good points, but they ask too much from a $20 piece of software that runs on a mobile tablet (Note: the iTunes app store suggests that price will soon increase.)
We found the app’s complexity, options and most of all stability quite remarkable. Those who want deeper control will enjoy nice touches like a ‘soft’ quantizing switch, effect automation, pitch-bend on individual drums, velocity tweaking by drum beat, and more. In testing all of this, we noticed not a single pop or click on the audio signal to indicate that the iPad or the app was struggling with implementing this stuff — again, impressive.
We recently wrote about the defects of many of the current crop of DAW controllers for the iPad, suggesting they can’t really help the working studio (or project studio) engineer. FL Studio Mobile HD demonstrates that, in terms of some of our complaints, it can be done — and done well. The iPad’s screen never seems too cramped or confusing to operate for example, as it did with some of the DAW controllers we tested.
We are left with very few complaints then. Perhaps the most problematic thing about FL Studio Mobile HD is that it hides the iPad’s clock while running, because you can lose hours making music with it when you should be doing something else, like writing a review.