March 6, 2014 at 3:27 pm

LiveTunes Makes Regular Music Sound Like a Live Concert

livetunesHere’s a neat party trick, possibly quite literally: Queue up a bunch of your favorite party anthems in the LiveTunes app, choose the “sold out arena” setting, and see how long it takes people to notice the crazy crowd noise in between and during each song.

At first, LiveTunes (iOS, $2) sounds like a gimmick. Did someone really make an app to make songs seem like they’re being played live in venues ranging from dive bars to packed stadiums, replete with the appropriate applause, cheering, whistling, and the acoustic properties of those venues? Of course someone did — and they took their task seriously. After all, your smartphone has a lot more flexibility, playback-wise, than a CD player.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s what LiveTunes sounds like when blues legend John Lee Hooker collaborates with classic rockers Canned Heat on their song “Peavine” — this time, performing for a massive stadium audience that never existed:

See? It’s no gimmick. Although its concept is certainly off the beaten path, LiveTunes actually sounds pretty convincing. I actually got chills for a moment listening to that, and couldn’t help envisioning John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat actually taking the stage, even though I knew this was a simulation, of course (your mileage may vary).

Likewise, the sound of the “dive bar” is sufficiently hollowed-out sounding. And when I listened to Javelin’s “Airfield” in the “concert theater” setting, the bass was booming and the atmosphere electric, eliciting a brief vision of elbowing my way to the front of the crowd to get a better view.

To mimic the sound of these venues (sold-out arena, rock stadium, concert theater, Hollywood club, dive bar, headbangers ballroom, symphony hall, or coffee house), LiveTunes processes your music downloads with reverb from iZotope, and adds crowd noise that seems to react, at times, to what’s happening in the music. The crowd noise slider lets you add more or less crowd noise to your music — or, in the Now Playing screen, you can swipe the screen up to add a spontaneous cheer.

It’s the little touches that really make this app work — like, when you swipe left or right to fast-forward or rewind, the crowd keeps cheering until the next song starts, just like they would at a real show. As one would expect, the clapping in the symphony hall is more sedate than the raucous stadium crowds. Somehow, this app, upgraded to a new version this week, is not a joke; it sounds great and convincing on headphones or speakers alike (with native AirPlay support).

The only drawback — as with a lot of the wackier music player apps out there — is that LiveTunes only works on the music stored locally on your phone, rendering it more of a party trick than a way you’d probably want to listen to the majority of your new music.  Still, it’s quite a party trick.