March 18, 2011

iOS Apps: ur doin it rong...

by Chris Randall

My goal today was going to be to put up a fairly thorough review of the Fairlight App for iOS devices. However, I'm a little pissed off now, and with the mood swing comes a goal change.

I purchased the app essentially the minute it went live in the app store. It was $9.99, and I didn't really read the description. I was just like "ten bucks for a Fairlight IIx. Buy now. Click." Here's what I didn't know:

The $9.99 version is, for all intents and purposes, useless. All you can do with it is browse the IIx library, play those sounds from the on-screen keyboard, and play two fairly shitty Page R demonstration songs. That's it. End of story.

Right now, you're saying "but Chris! It says MIDI is a built-in feature right there in the App description! Plus I know from Audanika's recent experiences with Soundprism that you can't sell MIDI support via an in-app purchase! So it's still useful, right?"


CoreMidi support is not available in the $9.99 version. Page R doesn't send MIDI. The voices don't respond to MIDI. The keyboard doesn't send MIDI. It is, for all intents and purposes, a fart app that plays shakahuchi flute samples instead.

Is that image big enough to read? The entries without checkmarks are the ones you get in the Pro version, for which you need to pony up another $39.00. Now, the next thing you'll say is "well, it's a total of US$48.98 for a full-featured Fairlight IIx. That's not so bad." I agree. So what the fuck is the point of the trick, then? The $9.99 one should be free, because it is useless. The "Pro" one should be $49.99. And that's that.

I'll tell you what else I don't like: the fucking gimmicks. The keyboard and disk drive sounds are irritating. The little puzzle you have to complete at the beginning about made me want to frisbee my iPad across the fucking room. When an app is more than, say, $1.99, no matter what its price point beyond that, I expect it to be professional. Not a toy. This thing is made of wood, and someday, if the In App Purchase Fairy comes and touches it with a magic wand, it'll turn in to a real boy. It gets a "DO NOT BUY" from me.

EDIT: I was able to get the CoreMidi working by killing the app and restarting it. Note that it only works on the instrument that is selected via the P3 page. In the simple version, the MIDI implementation is just the selected voice, and that's it.


Page 2 of 5

Mar.18.2011 @ 3:05 PM
D' MacKinnon
$9.99 is pretty much the limit of what I'm willing to spend on an iOS app. The majority of my purchases are in the $1.99 - $4.99 range. $50? Hells no. Not for a standalone that I can't run in my daw.

Mar.18.2011 @ 3:24 PM
Adam Schabtach
I also balk at breaking the $9.99 ceiling with an iPurchase. I have a hard time imagining any iApp that would induce me to shell out $50. The flip side is that, as a developer myself, I think many iApps should be priced higher than they are, and would be if they weren't subject to Steve's Reality Distortion Field.
As a related aside, has anyone besides me had the frustrating experience of typing in a lengthy review (using the rather awful onscreen keyboard), hitting the submit button, and having the store pop back a message saying (in essence) "we screwed up somehow, try again later" and then your entire review is gone, poof? Two instances of that pretty much put me off doing reviews.


Mar.18.2011 @ 4:01 PM
The problem is that there is some stuff that is truly worth $20 to $50 on there (iElectribe and that new Synthtronica app come to mind, but there are others) but because there's very little way to know if something is going to be any good before you purchase, I can see why it's hard to charge more than $9.99. The end result, however, is that I end up buying a large number of cheap apps, most of which suck. So essentially, the good devs end up supporting the bad devs.

Mar.18.2011 @ 4:02 PM
The better word would be subsidizing.

Mar.18.2011 @ 4:06 PM
hydrogen jukebox
(1) I'm with beauty pill.

(2) I don't know much about the Fairlight IIx, but $48.98 (plus angering customers) is a lot more than the $32.99 Korg will eventually charge for their ms-20 app. I'd pay the full price for that Korg app, and $50 if they had a pitch-cv conversion-type feature or let you at least import audio to run through the effects like in the Legacy MS-20FX module.

But above $50 for any synth, I'd just want a version for my laptop where I could far more easily integrate it into the rest of my software. iPads are awesome, and it must be nice for developers not to have to worry about Mac vs Windows and all the soundcards, etc, but the portability doesn't outweigh the iPad being an isolated sandbox above a certain price for apps.

Mar.18.2011 @ 5:49 PM
Sure, the whole $39.99 upgrade thing might be a bit of bait and switch, but I paid $9.99 for Yonac MiniSynth and Bleep Box, and I'm pretty sure I'll get way more use of this. But of course, it all comes down to your needs and what you're using it for. I agree they went a little overboard with the graphics and sound effects - it is cool, but more attention paid to the functionality as opposed to the retro wow factor would have been appreciated.

Mar.18.2011 @ 7:57 PM
I planned on getting an iPad 2 once the bumrush ends, and the Fiarlight App was on the "list" of my first wave of iOS apps to get. So, thank you Chris for trying out the Fairlight for me (and the rest of us), you've saved me the hassle and disappointment. At least I know the $44.25 I spent on Phosphor last night went to good research, and not too much green beer. :)

Not trying to play devil's advocate here, but:
there's a lot of folk chanting an "anything-over-$1.99-iApp is ridiculously expensive" mantra.
Five'll get you ten, ALL of those kvetching have at least one hardware synth in their toy room that cost(s) more than $50. Or $100. $500. $1,000. Or higher.

What's that, you don't own a hardware synth?
I'll bet you paid $499 for Omnisphere.
Or over $100 for any number of Native Instruments virtual thangs... or .
Or did you recently pay $300+ for Logic 8/9... when you coulda bought for GarageBand for iPad for $5.

Just trying to put things in perspective.

Mar.18.2011 @ 8:12 PM
As the creator of the Fairlight CMI and the app (I didn't write the code but I speced it), I'd like to explain a few things.

First, we made a mistake. As Chris discovered by experiment, Midi support IS INCLUDED IN THE BASIC APP. The mistake was that the list of features in the pro upgrade is wrong. The documentation elsewhere is correct (on our website for example) but the description in the app is wrong and we have no opportunity to correct it until we jump through the hoops of an update.

Unfortunately Chris did not read the other documentation but did read the bit that was wrong, so understandably he assumed that the midi would not work. Luckily for me, most users do not read the details and just try stuff out, to find that the midi does work.

This app does not pretend to be a complete CMI-IIx. What it does offer is a way to get the original Fairlight sounds for the price of a burger and coffee.

Plug in a midi keyboard and you can play the 500+ sounds that came with the CMI-IIx of the 80s. Connect it into a midi rig and you've got the real CMI sound, if that's what you want.

It is a retro instrument, we do not intend to compete with modern samplers. That market is pretty well catered for by others with bigger R&D budgets.

Sorry, Chris, that you didn't like the sound effects or the need to select the mains voltage. That is part of the retro appeal. Most people get at least a smile out of it. Perhaps you have to be as old as I am to remember the days when setting the wrong mains voltage resulted in a puff of smoke and expensive repairs. For those who find the gimmicks annoying, they can be turned off in the app's settings.

This is not an app for everyone. It has been greatly appreciated by those who wanted the iconic Fairlight sounds, as it's the only authentic way of accessing the original sound files (afaik all others on the market are resampled clones).

Many people, like Chris, will not see the point of this reconstruction. That's fine, but rather than noting at the end of the first blog entry that the midi does indeed work, it would be more honest to amend the entry. A $10 app that gives you accurate replay of up to 8 original Fairlight voices from a wide range of midi devices is far from useless.

There's a promo on YouTube which makes it clear that this app is part history lesson, part instrument. link []

We'll be adding some tutorials on YouTube in the next couple of days for those who want to know more detail of the app.

Cheers from Australia,

Peter Vogel

Mar.18.2011 @ 10:49 PM
Chris Randall
Mr. Vogel:

I could go a number of ways here, but I'll just point this out: many of your assumptions about me, and about the potential user base for this product, are, in my considered opinion, quite misguided.

Suffice it to say that, for reasons that are patently obvious to the people that read this blog, but will be wholly uninteresting to you, I am exactly the sort of person that can appreciate a good implementation of this concept. Now that I've read your comment, I understand why I got what I got, and why it puzzled me at first. I stand by my main point, though: you're marketing what is essentially a toy as a professional product, and when a professional buys it and says it's a toy, you say "well, it's a toy, what did you expect?"


Mar.19.2011 @ 12:58 AM
Duke Fame
If I read this link [fairlightinstrucom.a...] correctly, the only thing you could do with this $10 app in a midi rig is have a 1-voice monotimbral 8-note polyphonic ROMpler of Fairlight sounds.

Damn, I guess Funkbox was a steal at 3 bones (though I have not tested CoreMIDI functionality yet).

Page 2 of 5



Sorry, commenting is closed for this blog entry.