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Final Touch review – Mastering app from Positive Grid

Positive Grid has been involved in iOS music apps for a while now, with the emphasis up until now being on guitar-based apps. JamUp is one of the premier guitar effects simulators, and their recent app BIAS was revolutionary in its ability to custom design guitar amps (both apps are highly recommended).

But Positive Grid looked to fill an area of iOS music that had previously been under-served - mastering. With their app Final Touch, Positive Grid leaped right towards the top of this category.

Final Touch is a post-production mastering tool, which offers pre- and post-EQ, compressor, stereo imager, reverb, dithering, and of course a maximizer. These are all presented neatly in one screen, which makes tweaking your sound a fairly painless process, especially for a mastering novice such as myself.

I am no expert in the ways of mastering, so the prospect of diving into an arena handled by experts can be a bit daunting. Similar to some lingo used in synthesizers, talks of "Hz", "dithering", and "Q levels" sends my brain into semi-panic mode. I mean, there's a reason why people get paid big bucks to do this, right?

But many of us are not looking for "pro" level recordings (or don't want to spend our entire next paycheck), but obviously want our tracks to sound as good as we can possibly make them. And Final Touch can help.

FinalTouch_Maximizer1

Like BIAS before it, Final Touch comes stocked with a wealth of presets to get you started - 100 presets, in fact. These are a great way to start off, and then make some tweaks based on your song. These presets have a very wide range of genres, so you should be able to find something that suits you. Of course, you can always start from scratch if you want.

As I mentioned before, the main interface provides all the necessary knobs and faders at your fingertips. The screen is essentially split into three sections. On top, you'll find your waveform, along with your transport panel, song info, etc. Here you'll also find your input/output options, settings, and an undo/redo button.

The bulk of the screen is occupied by the middle section, which provides a visualization of your tracks, along with different controls based on the modules you select. It is in this section that you will be doing most of your "tweaking". By either using the touchscreen to drag your parameters, or the virtual knobs, it is here that you will affect your sound the most. This is where I found it most helpful to start with one of the provided presets, and then slightly alter the sound from there.

Those modules comprise the bottom section of the app. This is where you will find your chain of EQ's, dynamics, etc. If you're familiar with JamUp, this section feels familiar, in that you can drag each module into the chain, or bypass it by swiping it upward. You can also rearrange the order of the modules, if you so desire. Here you also have a bypass button, so you can do a "pre/post" comparison of your changes.

Without going into great detail on each module, they are fairly straight forward in what they do. I found the Stereo Imager to be very effective in "widening" my sound, which to me gave my song a real nice full sound. And of course, the maximizer is here to either enhance your sound or enter you into the "Loudness Sweepstakes", so tread lightly there.

I found Final Touch to be an immediately accessible app, which fits right in to the ethos of Positive Grid. Their apps have a very professional quality, yet are friendly to the amateur. Having presets to work from gave me instant courage that I was on the right track, and not just some monkey slapping at an iPad (insert "2001: A Space Odyssey" visuals here). The app is Audiobus and IAA-compatible, and has options to import and export in a number of ways, including Dropbox, email, iTunes Sharing and FTP.

Doing some research on Final Touch, I found some great resources on mastering available on the Internet. For more information on the world of mastering, Sound on Sound is (as usual) a great place to start. They have many informative articles that can be found here. For those visually minded souls, Point Blank Music School did a 10-part overview of Final Touch on YouTube which I found immensely helpful in putting together this review. I have linked to the 1st part here, but would recommend you take some time to view the series.

My colleague here at iOS MARS, Martin Neuhold put together a quick A/B comparison of pre/post Final Touch, which can be seen below.

Unmastered:

Mastered in Final Touch:

I'm not even going to get into the whole "You can't properly master on an iPad" debate, because I quite frankly think that is nonsense. As a musician who works exclusively on iOS devices, I understand that purists will argue that "proper" mastering must be done on a computer, in a studio. I won't argue that you can get better results on a PC. But, to be able to buy such a powerful mastering tool at such an incredibly affordable price, it is foolish to dismiss Final Touch as not worthy of praise.

If you've spent the time to create, write and record your song, you really do owe it to yourself to master it properly. Like a golfer who can't putt, if you can't finish the job, you'll end up regretting the outcome. Final Touch by Positive Grid is a great entry into mastering, and an app that needs to be considered for all iOS Musicians.

Final Touch - Audio Mastering and Post Production (AppStore Link) Final Touch - Audio Mastering and Post Production
Developer: Positive Grid Inc
Rated: 4+4
Price: $3.99 Download

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