Ever since the iPad was launched, many electronic musicians have been dreaming of a modular, Reason-style app for it.
So when Retronyms announced Tabletop - billed as a modular audio environment - excitement levels were high (particularly since this was the company that handled the iOS conversion of ReBirth so effectively).
"The sound library has a minimal, slightly experimental feel, but this fits with Tabletop's 'techy' design and image."
Open Tabletop and comparisons with Reason initially seem justified; it ships with a range of devices - including a pad sampler, a Tenori-on style 'tone matrix', a keyboard, a mixer, a sequencer and more - and these can be hooked together on a desktop with virtual patch cables.
The sound library has a minimal, slightly experimental feel (don't expect real instrument patches), but this fits with Tabletop's 'techy' design and image.
However, elements of the feature set disappoint: the keyboard has just a two-octave range, and as yet there's no support for external MIDI. You can't edit notes in your recordings, either, though quantise is an option.
On a more positive note, it's nice to see support for Korg's WIST, which enables two iOS devices running compatible apps to be synced.
One controversial aspect of Tabletop is its in-app purchasing model; nine of the 15 devices available are included, but you'll have to pay extra to get the more fully-featured mixer and most of the effects (only a low-pass filter is bundled). You might feel that you need to spend more money immediately, then.
A greater range of devices wouldn't go amiss, either, though Retronyms says that more will be forthcoming, and third-parties have been invited to contribute to the platform, too.
Right now, however, Tabletop feels like less than the sum of its parts, and very much a work in progress, albeit a promising one.