September 20, 2013 at 11:00 am

iPhone 5s Lets You Sing in the Shower, Acoustically Speaking

smule_singFor musicians who use iOS devices to record or produce music, upgrading to iOS 7 on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch is a bad idea until Apple fixes the bug that’s crashing recording sessions when someone calls you or an alert appears on the phone (we are not the only ones saying this).

However, Apple’s latest round of announcements does include some good news for the more casual music creators who use Smule’s Sing! app to record themselves singing solo or with others around the world. That fast 64-bit processor in the top-of-the-line iPhone 5s has enabled Smule to add real-time 3D effects processing that can make it sound like you’re singing in the shower, the Sydney Opera House, and other locations of acoustic interest.

“Real-time audio convolution allows for the user to experience their voice in any acoustic environment,” reads the company’s Friday announcement.

This is not “convolution” in the sense of a poorly written, confusing novel, but in the sense of convolution reverb, an audio processing technique that simulates real spaces.

According to Smule, makers of several hugely profitable audio apps for iOS over the years, the iPhone 5s is the first mobile device capable of processing audio in real time with enough speed for apps to be able to simulate acoustic locations in a believable way.

“We never dared attempt this type of audio processing on a mobile device before,” said Smule CTO Alex Li in a statement. “The new audio convolution engine for Sing!, only available on the iPhone 5s, requires 10x the CPU power of Ocarina or I Am T-Pain. Yet the experience and level of audio quality is unprecedented.”

Smule Sing! has been downloaded 12 million times, according to the company, which is a lot of people, and they sing into it an average of 20,000 times per hour. Apparently, there’s a real appetite for singing into one’s phone, when the results get shared all over the world — speaking of which, Sing! now includes a 3D map of the world for iOS 7, so you can see who is singing what where, and even add your voice to theirs.

The iPhone 5s is said to be in short supply, but as it ships, Smule Sing! enthusiasts with the device will have access to these new sonic environments. However, if someone calls you or you get an alert while singing into the app, you’ll likely have to re-record your take. Once Apple fixes that audio issue, the iPhone 5s will be the best option for more serious music makers, if Smule’s enthusiasm about the device is any indication.

  • Svantana

    Some technical notes:

    * convolution can in no sense be considered a “3D effect”, it’s a 1-dimensional effect, and it’s more like a “photo” of an acoustic space – you can’t move around it.

    * I find it hard to believe that Smule couldn’t pull this off on earlier devices – I’ve done convolution reverb on a 3GS using code from apple’s highly optimized ‘Accelerate’ framework. Perhaps their implementation is really poor. Smule, please call me if you need help :D