OK, I will admit to being almost entirely negative about the state of music production apps on the Android platform. Much of this centers on one absolute reality – iOS has core audio services built-in that take care of things for developers, whereas on Android not only is there a lack of such services, the audio system is so weak that there is no assurance of a low-lag environment on any device. That has meant it was up to developers to code their own low-lag audio system for their apps, and has also meant that very few apps are available. Now Image-Line has finally managed to bring FL Studio to Android based on their own engine – let’s see how they did!
Type of app: Music sequencing and production
Platform/where to buy: Android (also iPhone & iPad version); available in the Google Play App Store
FL Studio has loads of content, including:
• 133 high quality instruments, drum kits & sliced-loop beats
• Step sequencer for fast percussion programming and sliced-loop reworking
• High quality, battery-friendly audio engine (latency depends on the device)
• Drum loops and sliced loops ready to start your project with a cool beat
• Effects include Limiter, Reverb, Delay, EQ, Amp simulator & Filter to enhance your mix.
• 99 track sequencer and intuitive editing options
• Save and load your songs, export to WAV and AAC
• MIDI file import/export
• Share your songs via Email or Dropbox
• In-app user manual
• Android 2.3.3 required
• Works with all screen resolutions, but FL Studio Mobile is optimized for 1280×800, 800×480, 960×640 and 480×320 screens.
FL Studio (formerly known as Fruity-Loops) was born as a PC-centric loop based music platform that has grown into a very powerful and popular music production system (referred to as a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation). It made the leap to iOS a couple of years ago, and has grown to a feature-rich universal binary app, and has now made the jump to Android. Neither of the mobile versions approach the desktop version in terms of functionality, but they are really very solid ways to accomplish on-the-go recording.
Making music with FL Studio is meant to be a simple affair – you can use the step recorder to build up a drum track and then just jam over it to develop ideas. The interface loops automatically (i.e. it repeats after a fixed time period), so that you can focus on the music rather than the machinations of looping or copy & paste you might encounter on some desktop software. In terms of step recording there is also a ‘piano roll’ editor system that allows you to manually insert notes and beats exactly where you want them in terms of placement, pitch and duration.
Real-time recording is also possible using drum pads or a virtual keyboard. Neither is the best you’ll find amongst comparable software, but both work well and get the job done. Once your music is entered, you can go back to the step editor to smooth things out or edit mistakes. You can also use the song editor to move around full sections of tracks, copy & paste larger chunks to create songs from segments, and so on.
FL Studio also offers an extensive suite of effects – you can use the 4-quadrant pad to assign XY effects such as filtering to give your mix some interesting impact. You can also add a number of real-time effects to shape your sound and make it sound more polished before exporting.
Speaking of export, you can share your music via a MIDI file (raw data format), and to WAV and AAC formats. You can also share them by email or using DropBox, which makes it simple to piece together a demo and share it with friends.
Ease of use/Overall performance:
Since I have been using MIDI software for more than 30 years since the very earliest days, I acknowledge I am not the best person to ask about ‘ease of use’! So I brought my younger son into the mix. He has used FL Studio on the iPad and iPhone, but it is not his preferred tool. Looking at the Android version he was able to quickly get in, navigate around and make some music. In fact, the video review is his first time sitting down with the Android version – and his first use of FL studio in quite a while.
Ease of use is not an issue, owing to a well laid out and documented interface and loads of help available in the app itself. A bigger issue is the ease of actually getting the app to operate – in fact, there is even an entire knowledge base built up around the app on Android! There are loads of problems, but it all boils down to this: if you are serious about making music on your Android device, don’t root, no custom ROMs, no antivirus, and cut WAY back on the crap running in the background. Also, make sure you have a high-end multi-core device.
But even with all of this, don’t set your expectations too high. If you have used the iOS version, prepare for disappointment. First off, there is serious lag going on. I used this on a clean Samsung Galaxy SIII and had issues with responsiveness throughout the evaluation. I didn’t mention it to my son, and during our first take on the video he spontaneously commented on the frustrating lag.
Worse still, even if they get the lag to a manageable level, due to a lack of OS services the Android version is lacking features present in the iOS version back in 2011! And more advanced things like AudioCopy and AudioBus – both of which are HUGELY important to making serious mobile music – may never come to Android.
Would use again/recommend?: Probably NOT! I spent the $20 to get the app, which is the same price as the iOS version. But there is no comparison – I would give the iOS version a ‘buy at full price’ recommendation, whereas the Android version I would only recommend if you are desperate – and be sure you understand the limitations and shortcomings. Image-Line has already patched the app FOUR times, and that has taken it from what I would call ‘proof of concept’ at 1.0 to where we are now. Which is a pretty mediocre state, and once again reflects poorly on the Android platform and reminds us that there is only one platform for making mobile music.
Suggested changes/wish list for updates: Continue working to improve performance and work towards feature parity with iOS.
Source: Personal purchase
Here is our hands-on review: