Review: Intua Beatmaker 3

A powerful, groove-friendly DAW for iOS
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Intua Beatmaker was one of the first iOS apps to offer extensive groove and sequencing tools, even back on the early iPhones. As the platform evolved, Beatmaker’s fan base expanded, with version 2 quickly amassing a devoted following among iPad producers, thanks to its extensive features and MPC-flavored approach to composition.

Beatmaker 3 is an order of magnitude more advanced than its predecessors, taking advantage of Apple’s latest technologies and the full range of iOS protocols, including all the major plug-in formats and Ableton Link. That means you can actually produce complete tracks with its elaborate sampling functionality or using compatible softsynths.

While the earlier versions evoked the Akai approach to sequencing, Beatmaker 3 takes aim at Ableton, with updated features that strongly evoke both Live and Push. In addition to fluid pitch shifting and time stretching of audio tracks, version 3 gives you the ability to trigger patterns—singly or in groups—in Scenes mode, which functions exactly as you might expect and is a terrific improvisational tool.

Version 3 of Intua Beatmaker is a major upgrade that adds a wealth of new features.

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Each MIDI track centers on a pad-based kit that serves as the gateway to an integrated sampler with synthesis tools such as envelopes, nine filter types, and assisted loop slicing. Alternately, you can override the sampler and select an instrument from any of your compatible iOS synths. In this way, you can create giant kits with a different sample or synth on each pad, as long as your CPU can handle it.

MIDI data is entered via the pads (with 4x4 or 8x8 grid options), the on-screen keyboard, or using the update’s comprehensive MIDI implementation, which allows for both sophisticated controller mapping and detailed parameter automation.

Full audio tracks can also be recorded, either as clips in Scenes mode or using the familiar timeline-based song mode, with baked-in time-stretching that follows the master tempo. A wide range of insert effects, or any of your compatible effect apps can further process both MIDI and audio tracks. From there, you can assign up to 16 macros and four X-Y controllers to almost any parameter for performance or recording automation.

The mixer panel is equally sophisticated, with channels for every track and up to eight global aux buses. Going deeper, if a track is based on a full kit, double-tapping its title opens up a secondary mixer for all of its elements, with independent access to the global aux buses for every pad. Frankly, this is the best mixer implementation I’ve seen on an iOS DAW.

The whole process feels exactly like working with a computer-based DAW, but with the pros and cons of the iOS approach and your platform’s screen size. As a result, locating all of Beatmaker 3’s features takes a while. Getting started is straightforward, but advanced productions require a fair amount of familiarization before the process approaches the fluidity of a traditional computer. That said, the exploration process is an enjoyable experience.

Bottom line? Beatmaker 3 is poised to become the DAW of choice for many groove-centric iPad users, because it’s astonishingly full-featured and does almost every trick in the book beautifully.

STRENGTHS
Deep DAW functionality. Extensive sampling tools. Supports AUv3, IAA, and Audiobus.

LIMITATIONS
Feature density makes for a steeper learning curve.

$39.99
intua.net

Francis Prève has been designing synth presets professionally since 2000. Check out his soundware company at symplesound.com.