Since Google is taking so long to get its act together regarding low-latency audio on Android, Samsung has decided to take matters into their own hands. Announced just in time for Samsung’s annual Developer Conference, The Samsung Professional Audio Software Development Kit (SDK) provides a suite of cool stuff under the hood for developers, along with a music making app for the rest of us.
First up, there’s the new app for owners of Samsung hardware, called Soundcamp. Looking at the screenshots, it’s quite easy to make comparisons to a certain fruity rival’s signature production software. That said, Android needs some simple, sturdy music making software. I used to really enjoy GarageBand back when I had an iPad 2, so something like that would be really fun on Android.
To make the app as smooth and low latency as possible, Samsung has tinkered loads under the hood, to strip out any part of the audio pipeline that might delay output. They’ve also got Jack Audio working on Android, to give flexible low-latency audio and MIDI routing options for everyone. There’s also better support for USB audio interfaces, which we can never have too much of.
Professional Audio allows you to create virtual instrument applications with Android. You can connect and share audio devices and synchronize low-latency shared devices.
Professional Audio improves the environment in which virtual instruments are created by adding high-performance audio processing logic. You can use Professional Audio to create applications without background knowledge in hardware and high-performance drivers. You need not worry about connecting devices between applications. Using the provided modules and a USB MIDI driver, you can create virtual instrument applications with ease.
Professional Audio provides the following features:
Musical Instrument Creation
API for creating professional instrument applications
Support for all functions of the JACK Audio Connection Kit
Plug-ins for acoustic piano, steel guitar and a standard drum kit
Support for USB Audio devices
Support for Audio input
Usage of the real-time scheduler
It can make a connection between apps at the SDK level
It is easier to move to other apps and support its remote control
Musical Instrument Creation
Professional Audio provides an API for creating professional instrument applications using an SDK and NDK.
You can use the SDK to send MIDI notes, control audio/MIDI ports, access/use added plug-in information, and synchronize virtual instruments.
You can use the NDK to create new sound modules and process high-speed audio signals.
Professional Audio supports all the JACK Audio Connection Kit functions. A separate low-latency audio environment is required for its use.
JACK is a system for low-latency real-time processing of audio and MIDI signals. It allows multiple applications to be connected to an audio device and enables sharing between applications. You can place the client within the processor or on the JACK server. JACK can also perform diffused processing between networks (inter-network transmission is currently not supported by Professional Audio due to performance issues). JACK is compatible with a variety of operating systems including GNU/Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, OS X and Windows. For more information, click on the link below.
You can use the Professional Audio plug-ins to improve the framework functions. To create a piano application for example, you can use the piano provided by the synthesizer plug-in to send MIDI notes. You can create applications without expert knowledge in virtual instruments and audio signal processing.
The Professional Audio SDK includes acoustic piano, steel guitar and standard drum kit plug-ins.
A wave table synthesizer and a variety of effect plug-ins are available on the support website.
Professional Audio has the following restrictions:
Only devices with the Professional Audio Framework
Framework performance depends on device specifications
When Professional Audio operates in background mode, it may affect the performance of other applications
I really hope this pushes Google to get its act together. Really, this should have been Google’s announcement for Android L, Not Samsung’s. Part of me wishes that there’s some key Google employee who’s also a DJ, reading this article, declaring “Enough is enough! The DJ world needs us!”. A man can dream.
According to a comment from a developer who used the SDK, it’s currently only for the Galaxy Note 4 “phablet” (although the screenshots show a 10 inch tablet), with plans to expand the kit to a couple of the other Galaxy phones. There’s always the worry that this SDK might potentially further push fragmentation within Android (something, to be fair, that Google has worked hard to combat in recent years), and Samsung seems determined to further forge its own path in the mobile market. Although the severely limited number of devices that will work with the SDK doesn’t bode well for the “standard” this sets.
The porting of Jack Audio Connection Kit not only solves a few of the audio issues with Android, it also potentially opens up a world of opportunity for app developers wanting some interoperability between different apps. But again, something like this needs to be standardised across all of Android (and iOS, really) to make it really inviting to developers.
I think Android’s open source origins really need to be a strength here, and someone needs to work on a suite of drivers, apps and kernel changes designed for pro-audio that can be readily added to existing installs, whether manufacturer or third party (like CyanogenMod). Get on it, Android community!