It sure seems like 2016 is the year when software developers, finally realizing that the success of Ableton Live is no fluke, have set their sites on emulating Live’s real-time approach to mixing and matching collections of perfectly synced loops. First, Apple came along with GarageBand 2.1 for iOS, introducing the not-so-subtly named Live Loops approach to loop-based composition. Now, it’s a new company called Blocs (an offshoot of Novation), with a brand-new app for both iPad and iPhone called Wave.
Unlike Live, Wave’s focus is squarely on performance, with a gorgeous and intuitive interface that includes a top row for toggling loops on/off and larger lower area for editing audio-based loops. The loops can be derived from one of three sources—the onboard library, on-the-fly recording, or sounds imported via AudioCopy or AudioShare apps (which requires a trip to the iTunes store for the free software).
In Wave, users start by creating a Project, a collection of up to eight loops that comprise a given groove. Wave’s system categorizes these loops as either drums, bass, melodic, FX, vocal, or percussion, and color codes each type accordingly. Included in the basic package are six collections of loops organized loosely by genres that include hip-hop, cinematic, trap, funk, future house, and rock. Overall, these loops are spot-on in terms of sounding legitimate and useful. And if the base collection doesn’t suit your tastes, the app includes a store for in-app purchases of additional loop packs, which are generally priced at $1.99, making them great little impulse buys.
The factory material is solid, but if you want to roll your own loops, you can easily do so, either by importing audio or recording your own material directly into your iOS device. Here, you can record freestyle and edit later or specify loop length beforehand for easier integration with the factory loops. Once your loops are recorded or imported, you can crop them and slip the start point forward or backward to get everything to align properly. From there, you can add metadata such as tempo, instrument type, and key, which oddly allows identification only in minor keys.
With your collection of loops in place, you can then perform them using the top portion of Wave’s interface. Here, the eight slots allow you to toggle the loops’ audio on or off, but that’s it. No volume mixing or effects. Not even a filter. While it’s obvious that these features are in the pipeline—either as in-app purchases or feature upgrades, possibly by the time you read this—it’s still a bizarre omission from a new company that clearly wants to make a splash in this market. Even so, the interface is so attractive and intuitive that it’s great fun to tinker with the onboard array of material.
As for exporting, thankfully Wave isn’t its own walled garden. If you record something you want to use in a sampler or alternate platform, you can export it via email or AudioCopy/AudioShare. Wave also features Audiobus compatibility for integration with other music software on your iOS device.
All in all, Blocs Wave is a tantalizing first glimpse into a new loop performance platform for iOS. The user interface is intuitive, the factory content is legit, and editing loops is thoughtfully implemented. We’re definitely looking forward to seeing where this platform is headed.
PROS Intuitive approach to performing looped material in a live context. Real-time tempo stretching. Supports Audiobus. Feature parity on both iPad and iPhone.
CONS No mixing, effects or processing of any kind. Minor-key tagging, only.
Bottom Line New loop platform with a lot of potential.