Monday, September 6, 2010

Seline HD Review

I thought I would do my first review on the newest addition to my iPad music arsenal. Seline HD from Amidio Inc. is a performance instrument I was really hoping to use last week when I played a show using my iPad in place of a keyboard. Unfortunately, the combination of its minimal soundset and its interface designed for solo/ambient performance made it a little awkward for integration into a live band.

The Interface

The interface on Seline is certainly unique. The main performance area consists of two sets of 8 rectangles that are configured to provide logical access to the notes of the selected scale. Amidio, the creators of this app call this the ioGrid. This is perhaps the best feature of the app as like Bebot or MorphWiz every note on the screen is in the scale so it is hard to make a disastrous mistake. It is also set up so the area of each note is large enough that mistakes are less frequent than in the aforementioned apps. A touch in the center of each rectangle gives the loudest signal while moving to the edges diminishes the volume. It is a pretty cool setup designed to take logical advantage of the real estate on the iPad.

Aside from the main note triggers, there are a bunch of controllers around the screen that have functions that are not obvious on first glance. There is a button under each note cluster that bends tones up to the root note above the currently playing notes. Likewise a single button on the bottom of the screen does the same thing down to the lower root. Sort of useful for playing around but usually useless for live performance in a band as you could only bend to the next note in the scale. Bends to other notes in the scale were not possible with these buttons. A single pitch/vibrato joystick is used for regular bends. It is kind of awkward to use but will do the job once you get used to it. The controls are rounded out by two controllers for attack, one for each set of notes. Again, not as useful as one would hope for live performance in a band.

In addition to the main playing surface, there is a drone generator that automatically creates accompanying parts based on the key and melodies played on the ioGrid. I kind of found this feature annoying as the drones change slowly and I often find myself playing over a drone that did not really match my melodies. This feature clearly is aimed at improvisational composition which is something I am not a huge fan of so if you like that kind of thing you might like this feature. Luckily, you can disable this feature so I just leave it off.


The sounds in Seline are actually pretty good. Unfortunately, there aren't very many of them and there is no control over the generation engine and that is another major drawback that keeps this app in the toy category for me. There are only 20 tones that can be played and 9 drone sounds. The 20 playable tones are really clean and sound great. On the downside, they sound very similar and really limit the flexibility of the app as an instrument. The inclusion of synth settings or sample import would have really opened Seline up as the sound processing is quite impressive. There are reverb and delay effects that sound great and enhance the limited soundset but they are not enough to add the much needed diversity to the palette of the instrument.

Other Features

Amidio has also included a recording function that allows export of performances to .wav. This functionality even includes rudimentary multitrack capability which is a really nice bonus that a lot of similar apps could take a cue from. This feature could actually prove useful in using the app for song creation or as the often touted "musical sketchpad" people love to attribute to the iPad. There is also access to a simple mixer in the settings menu that allows some more influence over the sound of the overall app. Another nice addition that could stand a little refinement.

Wrap Up

Personally I am looking for two specific types of iPad audio apps; either a complete production environment or a usable performance instrument. Seline HD appears to be aiming for the latter and it's recording functionality allows it to creep into the territory of the former. However, it falls short for performance as its design is clearly aimed for improvisation and not use as a normal musical instrument. Lack of control over the sounds and a limited soundest also limit it's usefulness as an instrument.

The unique ioGrid interface and high quality sound engine lend Seline HD a very professional overall sound. Coupling the grid interface with a control over Amidio's Crystal Clarity sound engine would likely result in the performance instrument I was hoping Seline HD would be. Perhaps future updates will expand functionality in this direction, but even more exciting would be the development if an entirely new app which takes the best parts of Seline and puts them in a true synthesizer type environment. Seline is clearly targeted at improvisation and creating "pretty", albeit limited, soundscapes. If that is what you are looking for, Seline delivers.
Seline HD

No comments:

Post a Comment