[REVIEW] - DopplerPad - 'Powerful & Expressive Touch Instrument'

Discussion in 'iTunes App Store Reviews' started by JackWH, Jul 25, 2009.

  1. JackWH

    JackWH New Member

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    UPDATE 27th July 09: I have received an update from Retronyms. Please see the end of this post for more information.

    Hey folks, this is my first review on these forums and my review for this new app, DopplerPad.

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    Name: DopplerPad
    Developer: Retronyms
    Price: $9.99 / £5.99
    Size: 3.8 MB
    Rating: 4+
    Version: 1.0
    iTunes Link: Click here


    What is DopplerPad?

    DopplerPad is described by its developers as being "a powerful and expressive touch instrument for iPhone & iPod Touch". DopplerPad lets you quickly create musical loops, beats and rhythms, which you can weave into compositions quickly and easily.

    This is all done through a relatively simple 3-screen interface: Pad A, Mixer, Pad B:

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    The Mixing Panel

    We can see in this screenshot the Mixing Panel. This is the screen that appears when DopplerPad first launches:

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    The image shows several things, which I'll explain. Around the bottom of the screen are six buttons, 3 on each side (Mute, 2/6, ||). On the far left and right sides are two bars - these go to Panels A & B, the two other screens where you can mix your loops and beats.

    We can see that an abstract series of coloured squares appears on both these side bars - this is a 'visual representation' of the beat you are playing currently. I have found this to be quite unclear, but does help when trying to differentiate between beats if there is a major difference between them.

    The numbers on the sidebar show several things. Looking at the left sidebar, the first number (120) is the Beats Per Minute. The second number, (4) is the amount of bars in that loop. The third number (and letter) at the bottom (C3) is the Key and Octave that your beat is being played in. I should point out now that you may struggle quite a bit learning how to use DopplerPad if you have no prior musical experience.

    So the three buttons on either side control each loop's mixing properties. You can play two loops at once by putting them on each side bar. You can mute one or both, pause one or both, and the numbers (2/6) show how many beats into the loop they currently are.

    If that all stumped you, you're in for a hard time learning DopplerPad. It is tricky software for those with no musical experience, and still reasonably hard for those with. You'll probably find it easier if you've used synthesizers or other mixing programs before, but you'll want to set apart a good hour or two to properly learn to use it well.

    The Pattern Pads

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    The other two screens I have been mentioning are called the Pattern Pads. This is where you compose your loops, beats and melodies. Pad A and Pad B are both identical, there are two of them to enable you to mix beats and play more than one at once.

    I'll break down the anatomy of the Pattern Pads. Along the top are 4 light-coloured squares. These count the beats for you. When you're recording, they light up one by one on each beat. Touching the '4 Beats' icon lets you change between 1, 2, 4, 8 and 16 beats - letting you create varied loop lengths.

    Beneath that are 4 darker coloured squares. These are where you play your rhythms. You touch in each box with your finger.

    A nifty feature of DopplerPad is velocity. The harder you tap, the louder your note is. Whilst this is really cool, it would be helpful to have a 'Velocity Turn Off' option or something so that you could achieve a consistent volume when composing, however it just needs a steady finger.

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    Each box you tap in produces its own note on a scale. Initially, when you first start up DopplerPad, the scale is chromatic (notes going up the scale one-by-one).

    However, you can easily set your own scales by touching the keyboard icon:

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    This will bring up the Scale Editor.

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    Simply tap the keys on the keyboard, and when they go dark, they are disabled and hidden. This lets you adjust the scale. On the screenshot I earlier showed you, there were only four boxes available. this was because only 4 keys were illuminated in the scale editor. For every active key, another box appears on screen for you to tap.

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    The above screenshot shows 14 keys illuminated (including the black ones). We can see, above the keyboard, 14 boxes to touch and play notes on.

    Now you know how to set scales, to create a loop, you just select one of DopplerPad's 37 custom instruments.

    The instruments are divided into 6 groups - Bass, Drums, FX, Leads, Pads and Samplers. Each has its own colour.

    You simply tap the button next to the keyboard to select your instrument. Scroll along horizontally and you can choose which one to use.

    To record notes, press the Record button. It will light up pink and the beats in the four boxes on the top of the screen will illuminate and count for you.

    Just tap along to the rhythm, making your own beats and loops, and DopplerPad will put this together and dub it for you.

    Once your loop has looped (reached the end, and started again), you will start to hear what you've just played. DopplerPad will let you keep playing and dub it again - record what you continue playing on top of what you've composed already.

    Sliding your finger on a note further upwards or further downwards adjusts the intensity of a note's filter, letting you create different sounds with the same notes. This is one of my favourite features.

    You can play notes in rhythms by using the Gate/Arp feature.

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    Gate Arpeggiate lets you tap out a rhythm like in the screenshot shown above. When you tap your note on the editor, it will only play in the rhythm specified by Gate/Arp.

    Once you've created a loop you like, returning to the Mixer screen, you can crossfade loops (using the big scroll bar) found in your Loop library (the grid on the top of the mixer panel).

    Full Feature List

    What Retronyms Say: "DopplerPad’s built-in instruments range from fat bass synths and unique leads to unusual pads and effects. Add in some tight drum kits and the ability to record custom samples and you’ve got a full arsenal of sounds at your disposal!"
    Do I agree? Built in instruments are of a wide variety, but several do sound very similar - but still a bigger variety than any other similar App I've tried. Recording custom samples needs a Mic to be bought seperately on the iPod Touch.

    What Retronyms Say: "Drags and taps come to life with responsive visual feedback, making the groove visible. This helps you time your overdubs, visually distinguish one loop from another, and it doesn’t hurt that it looks cool."
    Do I agree? It looks snazzy, but can be hard to distinguish which note is which. You can't delete individual notes either, only single beats. It does however provide a hell of a load of eye-candy.

    What Retronyms Say: "Set your tempo & loop length, and start recording! Overdub layers onto your loops, and save them for future use. "
    Do I agree? Yep. Setting tempo and loop length is easy. Shame you're limited to 14 saved loops, but thats still plenty.

    What Retronyms Say: " Use rhythmic and melodic automation to create phrases by freely moving fingers around the musical touchpad. "
    Do I agree? It's not terribly rhythmic, since there's no quantinisation (beat-matching). It is, however, highly melodic, since the keyboard spans plenty of octaves.


    What Retronyms Say: "Use your mic to record samples on the fly, then use the touchpad to trigger excerpts as part of any loop — or just freely improvise over your mix."
    Do I agree? You obviously need a seperate microphone for the iPod Touch.

    What Retronyms Say: " By storing loops in the loop bank and working on the fly with both pads and the mixer, you can create real-time performanceswherever you go. "
    Do I agree? You won't be any sort of Mr. Scruff playing beats out your iPod. I'm afraid this isn't for real public DJ performances, but it's great for some entertainment on a smaller scale.

    My Experiences

    My experiences using DopplerPad have been pretty mixed so far.

    Pros:
    • Swift interface - nice design and pleasant, soft graphics
    • Wide selection of instruments - 37 to choose from
    • Once you know the basics (and there are quite a few!) it's relatively easy to get the hang of
    • Fun, addictive, great for passing time, or just having a jammin' session!
    • Quite adaptive to different styles and needs
    • Many, many more features than similar competitors

    Cons:
    • NO METRONOME - this is one of my biggest gripes. Whilst there are flashing beats illuminating, you can't hear any audible click to keep you in time
    • No Quantinising - quantinising (I think I spelt it right?!) shifts notes to match the beat. It means notes played slightly out of time will be played back correctly. DopplerPad offers no quantinising, making it easy for your beats to sound out of time
    • Limited to 14 saved loops
    • No 'export' function - you can only record your masterpieces using Line-out, hardware can be expensive
    • Velocity can be inaccurate at times
    • Likely will be very hard for beginners to learn
    • Gate/Arp note as specific as it could be
    • HIGHLY INACCURATE DELETING - I forgot about this one, but urgh. You can only delete beats manually, and not notes by themselves, making it very hard to correct an error!
    • Expensive! At $10, this may not be worth it for some

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, DopplerPad is one of the best mixing tools on the App Store, for certain. It's lacking a few features and some annoying niggles, but if you're serious about making music on your iPod, it's worth the $9.99.

    My Rating:

    4/5


    Hope you like this review!

    UPDATE: I Tweeted my opinions (@JackWebbHeller) to DopplerPad (@DopplerPad) about lack of Quantinisation and a metronome. This is Retronym's response:

    dopplerpad @JackWebbHeller Try the Gate/Arp as a stand-in for quantization. Try making a 4/4 click track on other pad for metronome. #dopplerpadtips

    So as yet, no official fixes, but something to get us around this for the time being.

    Attached Files:

  2. Chicken

    Chicken Retired Moderator

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    AMAZING review. Especially seeing as you've only got 10 posts, and havent been on these forums for long.
  3. Ryuzaki

    Ryuzaki Active Member

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    Oh wow this is a really nice review. :O
  4. rileyman

    rileyman Banned

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    awesome review, i usually dont know how to use these apps
  5. Universal Denizen

    Universal Denizen Member

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    Brilliant review! Very well done...
  6. JackWH

    JackWH New Member

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    Thanks so much you guys! Writing and music are two things I'm really into, so I thought hey, why not put the two together here?

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    Am I right in thinking if I want to enter that 'Review of the
    month' $10 prize
    thingy, I only need to add a link to this post to the thread? Is that all?

    Thank you!
  7. Nburnes

    Nburnes Well-Known Member

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    That is a great review.
  8. JackWH

    JackWH New Member

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    Hey guys, I have an update for you!

    I Tweeted my opinions (@JackWebbHeller) to DopplerPad (@DopplerPad) about lack of Quantinisation and a metronome. This is their response:

    dopplerpad @JackWebbHeller Try the Gate/Arp as a stand-in for quantization. Try making a 4/4 click track on other pad for metronome. #dopplerpadtips

    So as yet, no official fixes, but something to get us around this for the
    time
    being.
  9. studangerous

    studangerous Super Moderator Emeritus Staff Member

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    Excellent review with lots of depth. Top notch!
  10. drkztan

    drkztan Member

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    great review! keep up!
    i was just trying to figure how the hell it worked! thanks lol

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