Analogue hardware sucks right?* You spend hours crafting your perfect sound with hardware processing only for it to be all lost when someone moves a knob. Or how difficult is it to return to a project later on, to recall those settings and recreate that sound when there’s no MIDI or digital patch saving. Relying on scribbled notes on scrappy bits of paper and photos doesn’t really cut it. Well, PatchRat could be the answer.
PatchRat is a studio management app for iPad that can map out your entire signal chain. It’s like taking a snapshot of your studio for easy recall later on. It’s not magic, it’s not some clever way of automatically recalling settings on analogue gear, it’s a piece of management software that gives you cool and helpful ways to record all the settings relevant to the project.
It contains a large inventory of studio gear with virtual, photo-realistic control panels that mirror the hardware. All of them have movable controls and light-up buttons. The idea is that you record the setting of your hardware by setting the controls the same on the virtual panel. That is really the guts of it. You can create signal paths with I/O assignments and all the gear along the way. There are note facilities for adding more detail, you can also include photos. PatchRat also provides links to the manufacturer and available manuals from within the interface.
This sounds like a very useful piece of software to me. As even the smallest home studios get tempted into hardware more and more these days the ability to recall something cool you did the other day is becoming a bit of a concern. Not every musician wants to live in the moment of an analogue performance – sometimes it would be really good to go back to a track you were working on with detailed notes of exactly how everything was. You can, of course, take your own notes, on paper, or OneNote or you can take photos of your gear. But how likely is it for those notes and photos to stay together, easy to find and with all the information on how it was connected? Also if you change something you’d need to take new photos, whereas in PatchRat you just move the knob or the signal flow to reflect the change. PatchRat offers an elegant solution that’s going to be as flawless as your ability to accurately record the information.
Currently, PatchRat comes with 325+ units from 88+ manufacturers and they are adding to the gear list all the time. Or at worst you can create a custom device and add a photo of your panel – just like you were before but now it’s part of an easily recallable project. Most of the user interface is a bit dull, grey and utility looking but the control panels on the gear look excellent.
I totally get it. It could be a huge time saver for people or studios with large amounts of hardware, and a useful tool for those of us with a few bits of analogue gear knocking around. It also strikes me as a fabulous solution for modular synthesis. If you take something like ModularGrid.net which lets you build virtual versions of your rack with photos of modules – how awesome would it be to be able to move those knobs to record an inspiring patch you’ve just created? Perhaps more time consuming than just taking a quick photo, but a lot more versatile. Actually, what we need is a camera that can track knob position and changes – there’s a project for someone.
Where it all falls apart slightly is with the pricing model. You can try it out for free. Everything is available to you with the one restriction that you can only build and recall one song. If you want more than that then it’s going to cost you $34.99 a month or $299 a year. That is quite a leap and a huge commitment. That’s probably great for proper studios. But I feel it’s going to miss out on the huge market of home and project studios. I would have thought that for a home user model you could sell it for free or a low fixed price. And then have in-app purchases of bundles of hardware, or maybe $1 a device. So if you had a few bits of outboard and a couple of stomp boxes then you’d be sorted for $10. But what do I know?
More information on the PatchRat website and you can get 50% off with the following codes for about a week – ANNUAL50%OFF or MONTHLY25%OFF
*Note: Before you spill your vitriol all over Facebook, of course, analogue hardware doesn’t suck. I’m using hyperbole to overemphasise a frustration with recalling settings on analogue gear.