Music to our ears: Sound apps for Mac and iOS

David Holloway
16 February, 2012
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In Macworld Australia, there’s been a veritable explosion in choice as iOS has continued to evolve and more people buy iPads, iPhones and iPod touches – and Mac software has been given a massive boost by the launch of the Mac App Store.

Here David Holloway looks at 10 Mac and 10 iOS applications. Selection was based on anything released since the last roundup that has either been popular or well reviewed, or that offers something a little different.

Mac apps


Rogue Amoeba

Price: $10.49

I love Rogue Amoeba products, and Piezo is no exception. It’s essentially a lite version of its Audio Hijack Pro software, which has been around for a lot of years now. It’ll record audio from any application you’re using. Its simplicity is in the interface: Select the application, or input, you want to record the audio from, then hit the record button and that’s it. It worked flawlessly for me recording from iTunes radio streams, podcasts on Safari and direct via the built-in microphone.

It also gives you direct control over sound levels – turn up the audio of the source application and it’s immediately reflected in Piezo.

I haven’t had so much fun with simple recording since I used a cassette recorder to record my favourite TV ads (yes, that’s a true story). Piezo is free to try (you can record up to 10 minutes of audio).

Logic Pro 9



Just before Christmas, Apple unleashed music creation behemoth Logic Pro 9 onto the Mac App Store. At the time of writing it was looking like the box versions would be discontinued – it’s not a surprising move since Final Cut Pro went down that route but it’s a big move all the same.

With its extensive feature set, Logic is not an application for the faint-hearted but, like any digital audio workstation, overcoming the learning curve delivers big rewards.

The application is 413MB to download, which expands to 3.6GB on installation. All the extra loops you got in the Studio Pro boxed bundle is also available via a free in-app download – a whopping 19GB worth. If you want a comprehensive Digital Audio platform to compose, mix and master your music, then it doesn’t get much better than Logic.



Price: Free

In case you didn’t realise, MySpace is very 2004 in relation to uploading and sharing your own music.

SoundCloud has had some huge growth over the past year or so and is a very popular platform for sharing original music. It’s a well-fleshed-out social networking platform for musicians and music lovers alike.

This app just brings the OSX interface to what is traditionally a web-only experience. You can search for music, record your own audio in-app to upload, make your own playlists, download music for offline listening and comment on tracks (although that does send you to the web to complete).

Overall, it’s a very iTunes-like interface and integrates seamlessly with the broader SoundCloud.

If you’re a musician who wants to share your creations, definitely have a closer look at SoundCloud. If you’re a music appreciator and want something new to listen to, you’ll love this. The SoundCloud app is free, as is membership.

VirtualDJ Home

Atomix Productions

Price: Free

I know I’m not alone in enjoying some home-based DJing – I was at a recent party where a GP by day had become a DJ by night for a work function. iTunes doesn’t cut it for even a hobbyist DJ and that’s where apps like VirtualDJ Home come in.

It contains everything you need to create a fun mix for a party. There’s the obvious stuff like cross-fading between songs, (somewhat limited) iTunes integration and pitch shifting, but this app has a bunch more.

You can use music videos rather than songs, the built in sampler has a range of sound effects you can drop into your mix and you can record your mix, burn it to CD or even broadcast live via Shoutcast or Icecast. This is one of those apps that you can get up and running quickly, but has deep features that’ll keep you interested in the longer term. Did I mention it was free?

Free Ringtone Maker

Wondershare Software

Price: Free

If you’re sick of the bog-standard tones on your iPhone, this little app can easily get some new riffs to annoy everyone around you. Launch the app, choose the song from nicely integrated iTunes library and then the fun begins.

You can choose up to a 40-second slice of any song you load, with the option of a one-second fade-in and fade-out. You can do finer editing as far as reducing the time of the tone by one-second increments. This works well in most cases, although with some tones I created I would have loved to be able to edit to the half-second level.

Once you’ve got the segment you like, click the Start button and it automatically creates the ringtone and places it in your iTunes Tones folder ready to sync with your iPhone. I created three ringtones and all transferred to my iPhone 4 flawlessly. Another free app.


RoGame Software

Price: $10.49

As a D-Grade keyboard player in a covers band, music scales scare the hell out of me. For the more refined musician they’re a critical part of the theoretical arsenal, and ScaleMaster is designed to keep that arsenal well stocked.

It contains 211 scales and provides four playable virtual instruments (bass, guitar, piano and mandolin). There is also a chord-matching feature that is useful in determining which scales to use with particular chords.

Whether you’re learning scales or wanting to delve into some of the more idiosyncratic scales for enjoyment, there’s lots of productive time to be spent with this app.


Baracoda Media

Price: $10.99

There’s no shortage of internet radio apps on the market but this one caught my eye. Radioline has a nice, simple interface, and what impressed me initially is that on launching the app it listed all the Australian streams in its database.

That database is growing regularly as anyone can submit new streams if they don’t find them. The Spotlight-like search function is well done, all stations have logos and a lot of songs display album art as they’re playing. There’s some nice attention to detail as far as the listening experience goes too with a nice fade-out if you switch stations.

Nice to have for future versions would be folders for favourites, the ability to hide the app and information on the type/bandwidth of stream for each station, but overall this is one of the best and most simple internet radio apps I’ve seen.

If you go to you can download a 30-day free trial version.


Quantic Fox

Price: $2.99

Most of us have favourite musicians whose new work we always like to check out. The trouble is knowing when new work is released.

AlbumTrackr solves that problem quite nicely by scanning your iTunes library and listing the latest releases for that artist (with the obvious limitation that they need to have their music on the iTunes store). Click on the Buy Album button and the information loads in iTunes via Safari.

Inversely, once your library has been scanned, notifications of new albums available will pop up when a new song starts playing.

This is a little hit and miss in that some songs aren’t available on the Australian iTunes store–I did a trial of clicking Add Music to 20 suggestions AlbumTrackr made and 12 of them weren’t available locally. Also, each time I clicked on a new album to browse, a web page loaded so there were a few windows to close at the end. All that said, if you have a large library and like to know what’s new, it’s a useful app.


Mauricio Santos

Price: $4.49

I spent quite a while debating which audio conversion application to cover, but Auditri won out. It converts between a number of formats: FLAC, Apple Lossless, M4a, MP3, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, WAV and AIFF. Windows Lossless conversions can also be converted with the installation of an additional application (Flip4Mac).



Price: $1.99

I love a good iTunes enhancer and NowPlaying sure does that. It adds a component to your Mac’s menu bar showing the iTunes track currently playing. Click on the name and a menu comes up allowing you to rate the song, pause the track and skip to the next or previous track. Simple and effective.

iOS apps

This Day in Pink Floyd

This Day in Music Apps

Price: $2.99

This tidy little Aussie app provides interesting information on Pink Floyd linked to each day of the calendar. On top of that is some trivia, a quiz, song notes for each album and some extras.

If you’re a fan, $2.99 is going to be a small price to pay for some daily facts. My only significant criticism is that there’s only one music video and a lot of links pushing you to external websites.

his tidy little Aussie app provides interesting information on Pink Floyd linked to each day of the calendar.

On top of that is some trivia, a quiz, song notes for each album and some extras.

If you’re a fan, $2.99 is going to be a small price to pay for some daily facts. My only significant criticism is that there’s only one music video and a lot of links pushing you to external websites.

Loopy HD

A Tasty Pixel

Price: $8.49

If you want to be challenged by an interface then give Loopy a try. What it does is give you an allegedly intuitive way to create your own loops, which can be layered to produce some impressive results.

I say ‘allegedly’ because even after a few hours of playing with this app I still don’t feel I have a handle on the interface at all – it just plain annoys me. That said, however, the number of really good demo videos and finished creations I’ve seen from this app tells me I’m probably in the minority.

I do love the synchronisation and beat-matching features and you can even import audio from iTunes to create some fuller pieces. If you’re a beatboxer or singer I can see this could become a must-have app. I just can’t get my feeble, linear mind around it.

There’s a lite version for $2.99.

Jimi Hendrix: The Complete Experience

Sony Music Entertainment

Price: Free

One of the reasons I bought an iPad in the first place was for the immersive reading experiences. This app is an example of how that can work so well. It covers the life and work of Jimi Hendrix and does so with text, music and video.

Created by Sony Entertainment, there’s hours of entertainment and the promise of further content added all the time. Even better, it’s a free app, with the only risk that you’ll want to buy some more of Hendrix’s music via the in-app purchase option.

Bagpipe Tuner

Murray Blair

Price: $11.49

OK, I admit I’m reviewing this app as much for novelty as substance, but that said, this app is an example
of how iOS devices have become serious tools for musicians in a range of ways.

This app does one thing only: helps you tune a set of Highland bagpipes. Features include auto note detection and display, a learn function for calibration and support for external microphones.

Now, the only way to test this app is to actually have some bagpipes on hand. To prove how dedicated we are here at Macworld Australia, I did track down some bagpipes, albeit virtually.

I found a few videos of people tuning their bagpipes using a hardware tuner and held my iPad up to the speakers. Of the three videos I tested, the Bagpipe Tuner exactly matched the hardware tuner shown in the videos on two and within 1Hz on the third. Given the less than ideal testing circumstance I take that as a mark of the app’s success.

The day-by-day info is really the reason to spend the money and if you approach it with that mindset, you’ll probably enjoy the app

Discovr Music


Price: $2.99

Wow – I don’t know where to start with this app. Australian outfit Filter Squad has created Discovr Music, and what a creation it is. Enter the name of a band or musician you like, and a bubble with their name appears, with other connected bubbles showing similar artists. Tap once on any of those artists and further connections to them and the original artist appear.

Tap and hold any bubble and you can queue demo snippets of songs from the artist. Double-click
a bubble and you get the band’s biography (usually imported from, from which you can scroll to reviews, watch YouTube videos, view blog posts about the artist, listen to samples from albums and check out external artist links.

I put in some pretty esoteric artists including one outfit I did some vocals for 15+ years ago from Norway and still got the same impressive experience. It’s the best $2.99 I’ve ever spent on an app. It’s also available for Mac via the Mac App Store.

Bebot – Robot Synth


Price: $1.99


Want a four-finger multi-touch polyphonic synth with a built-in theremin? Want an engaging music app for the kids or yourself with a few minutes of downtime? Then check out Bebot.He’s a simple animated robot that moves and ‘sings’

the notes you select on the screen. More impressive, though, is the synth engine that drives it – you have some pretty deep features to tweak, including cutoff, resonance, synth modes (PWM, Sawtooth, Pulse and Sine) and oscillator mix, to name a few.

There is also an effects section with echo, overdrive and chorus and the ability to customise the note grid used. The app produces sounds which are well and truly performance quality while still being simple and fun to tinker with. I can see this app popping up on the odd band video clip in the very near future, if it hasn’t already.


Moog Music
Price: $31.99

Moog is arguably the name most synonymous with sound synthesis over the past 60 years, and the company has continued that legacy by offering  high-quality iOS apps.

Animoog (iPad only) is a polyphonic synthesiser that contains a truckload of analogue synth goodness in a very non-standard way.

There’s no traditional keyboard as such, which is a bit jarring initially but actually opens up a lot of creative options.

Even more interesting is the oscilloscope, which not only visually represents the sound but also offers direct control over it. Add to that the more traditional filter and effects knobs and you have one very interesting creative tool.

You’ll need to spend some time getting to know the interface but it really does enhance creativity once you’re used to it.

At $31.99 it’s not cheap, but as a sound source it’s money well spent, particularly if analogue sounds are your thing.

Ultimate Guitar Tabs

Ultimate Guitar

Price: $2.99

If you’ve ever tried looking for guitar tabs on the internet, you’ll know what a nightmare the bigger sites are with their constant pop-up ads and awful interfaces.

One of the larger sites has actually been proactive and created a very useful app. With more than 300,000 tabs you’ll be hard-pushed to not find what you’re looking for.

As a non-guitar player I found a lot of songs showed the chords, making it fairly easy for me to get the gist of a song’s structure on piano.

The only downside is the variance in appearance of tabs – because they are submitted by a huge user community it’s unavoidable to some extent but still jarring at times. That said, if you perform music in any sort of way, this app is likely to become a godsend.

For $2.99 you have a pretty extensive fakebook at your fingertips. It’s for iPhone – the HD iPad version is $6.49 for a 12-month subscription.


Pinion Systems

Price: Free

This is an app that’s being used for research purposes. Will Randall, a student from Monash University in Victoria, is undertaking his PhD research, which is titled “Music Use to Regulate Emotions and Promote Well-being in Adolescence and Young Adulthood”.

What the app does is allow you to select music from your iTunes library, which it then uses as a base from which to ask you semi-regular questions about your mood. Additionally, there are some short surveys you need to complete – you’ll be notified by your device’s notifications when you need to complete them.

Aside from the useful information you’ve provided Will for his PhD, once you’ve completed the surveys the app will create playlists for you based on mood. So whether you’re after some new playlists or want to help our understanding of the impact of music on mood, this free app is worth the download.

One note: the study covers 12-25-year-olds but your data will still be helping and you’ll still get the benefit of the mood-based playlists.


Price: Free

If you’ve got this far through the app reviews and are thinking, “I don’t really have much musical ability, what’s in this for me?” then read on.

SoundPrism isone of those rare apps that has a feature set that will engage both newcomers and professionals alike. The reason for that is the interface, which provides a beautiful way to see how chords interrelate.

For the pro, you’ll spend a little bit of time getting the lay of the land then wanting to create some music. For the newcomer, you actually won’t spend much more time than the pro before you have some attractive sounding riffs to your name.

You can record and email your creations from the app. The included Soundpack has a handful of nice sounds and you can buy others in-app.

It’s free, but a $16.99 Pro version is available if you want more advanced MIDI control.


Ringtone Maker & Designer Pro

Pro Manager Studio

Price: $0.99

Don’t you hate it when Apple’s standard iPhone ringtone sounds and you frantically dig about in your bag, along with five others, all convinced it’s your own phone that’s ringing? Sidestep the scenario by creating customised ringtones using this super app on your iOS device.

Accessing the music you have stored in your iPod library, you can tweak the audio by clipping a short wave to make a ringtone. Choose the start and end time of the clip and apply effects like fade-ins and -outs for a polished result. Alternatively, you can record sounds to use as your ringtone.

If you’re running iOS 5 Ringtone Maker & Designer Pro also offers a swag of custom options for you to create new Text, Tweet, Alert, Mail, Calendar, Reminder and Alarm tones.


Virtual Sheet Music

Virtual Sheet Music

Price: Free

For beginner or seasoned musicians, trying to keep a paper trail of sheet music is not only messy but environmentally wasteful. Try building a compact catalogue on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad via a download like Virtual Sheet Music.

Users can browse and download the app’s digital sheet music collection including such classics as Fur Elise by Beethoven, Meditation by Massenet and Canon in D by Pachelbel. There is also a catalogue of MP3 audio files (over 8000 available), with the option to play these in offline mode. Designed by professional musicians for musicians, the app features a handy page turning function, so that the sheets can be used during live performances, no matter the level of difficulty or instrument you play.

Included with all downloaded PDF files is an envelope button that lets you send your music to email and a printer button to print the sheets in paper form via AirPrint.


4 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. steven says:

    Maybe you should try reading the reviews for these apps BEFORE recommending them to everyone. Just saying, coz when I went to download the apps, I saw low star rating and bad reviews, so I don’t think I’ll be following your advice anytime soon.
    (Songl, Music Videos for iTunes were pretty bad, SoundPrism is the best, I already have it)

  2. David Holloway says:

    Hi Steven,

    I’d say there’s been a glitch as the two apps you mention (Songl and the Music video one) I didn’t write. I did indeed check all reviews prior to choosing apps to cover.



  3. Macworld Australia Staff says:

    Those two app writeups weren’t written by David, but inserted into the print edition to make up space. They weren’t intended to be included here, so we’ve taken them off.
    However … any writeup or review is a personal opinion, and at Macworld Australia we’ve never not published something because it goes against the grain.

    Dave Bullard

  4. David Holloway says:

    Thanks Dave and a great point – I did review some apps that had middle of the road reviews but that seemed to work really well in the niche they occupied.

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