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iPads and other iOS devices can be turned into powerful sampling tools!
Not all digital samplers are built the same; we’ve separated the toys from the extraordinary to bring you the best samplers.
Find the best iOS samplers available for all budgets.
So what is a sampler?
Fundamentally, a sampler is a synthesizer that uses an audio file as its oscillator: load in a sound file (a sample), play MIDI notes up and down the keyboard, and the sampler will play back the sample at the desired pitch.
From here, you can loop, reverse, filter, envelope and modulate the sound via the sampler’s various synthesis-style features.
You may not realize it, but iPads and iPhones have plenty of grunt to run all sorts of music-making tools. You can turn your device into a powerful sampler with any of these apps!
What Are The Best iOS Samplers?
For us, Koala: Samurai Edition by Elf Audio takes the cake. This is the most fully featured and powerful sampler on this list that is also easy to use and fun for making music.
Flip Sampler by Andrew Huang is the most accessible and easiest to jam with. It’s responsive, spontaneous, and very easy to use. Finally, Garageband’s sampler is the best free option (but only for Mac users!).
SK-51 is an all-in-one keyboardinspired by the Casio SK-1 (and its brother the SK-5), an 8-bit lo-fi keyboard from the 80s, with sampling features and an onboard drum machine.
Called the ‘poor man’s sampler’ at the time, this keyboard was a real instrument and has been used by many major artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Fatboy Slim, Portishead, and Authectre.
You’ll also see it in Bob’s Burgers, Gene sometimes totes his SK-1, sampling inopportune noises.
Some of the lads at Fingerlab composed their first songs with it when they were kids in the 80s, so they felt compelled to resurrect the SK-1 as an app.
They recorded all the instrument and drum notes, one by one, with professional audio quality (16 bit/44KHz), they re-created the sample features, and they transcribed all the drum patterns. Fingerlab also added the sound from the Casio VL-Tone, which was a keyboard / calculator from Casio that predated the SK-1 (we’re not joking, it actually had a calculator built in).
Use the four sampling buttons, “Sample 1”, “Sample 2”, “Sample 3”, and “Sample 4”, to sample your voice or any other sound using your device’s microphone. The recording starts when the button is tapped and stops when the button is released. A simple tap on a sample button will select the sample. Once a sample is selected, you can start playing the piano keyboard.
With its nice and true-to-life interface, many instruments (Trumpet, Flute, Piano, Vibraphone), 4 sampling slots, and many drum patterns and sounds. There are also 3 effects: phaser, reverb, and delay.
Even though there’s a giant difference in instruments available in the free version vs the paid it is still a very capable sampler with an undeniable grit and integrity.
Won’t open in Beatmaker
Can’t upload samples (without workarounds)
This is probably the most approachable sampler on the list; there are no frills about it. It’s got a super simple GUI, and all the sounds from the Casio SK-1, SK-5, and VL-Tone. This sampler is for Casio enthusiasts and for musicians interested in learning about sampling.
Inside Apple’s newest GarageBand update, they slipped in a ‘tiny’ slimline update that just might make heads spin. The old sampler boasted a dated and minimal look while the new sampler looks streamlined, cleaned up, and modern.
The sampler was the last feature in GarageBand for iOS to still sport that skeuomorphic design philosophy that Apple was all about in the late 2000s. This refresh brings it in line with all the other touch instruments in GarageBand.
Apple has included the keyboard and other control layouts from their other keyboard instruments which makes getting stuck into your samples a much more straightforward process.
You have pitch and mod wheels on the left and a new velocity control too. The section in the middle displays the waveform of your sample and from here you can adjust and edit your sounds in a number of ways.
You can drag arrows on the bottom corner to chop your sample. You can reverse or loop the playback of your sample or your playback by tapping on the sample.
Originally the app was built for the developer himself, but once a niche audience was established, he kept developing the app to the liking of the enthusiasts and pro users.
Samplist is a MIDI sampler instrument that allows you to easily chop a sample into different slices. You can then play the slices with the velocity-sensitive pads, chromatically with the on-screen keyboard, or via MIDI.
You can also long hold the sample to delete it. The app boasts a high pass, low pass, and slice amplitude envelope. To load a file, it brings you to your file-sharing menu which has epic options for Audioshare, AudioCopy, Files, Dropbox, iCloud, etc.
After loading a sample, you add slices and manually place them on transients. Choosing the “play slices chromatically” option doesn’t change the length of the sample, just the pitch.
There’s also a hidden page in which you can adjust the entire sample of the pitch and a Glide pitch effect.
Real-time Timestretch with individual tempo per slice
Import via Files App or “Open In”
Filter, Envelope, and pitch shift per slice
MIDI in, wired and Bluetooth
Only monophonic, no multi-sampled instruments
Not AuV3 compatible
No filter ADSR
Setting slice boundaries is clumsy
This is a fun app for jamming and slicing up drums and loops. Currently it is lacking some critical features (such as polyphony) that make it a serious music making tool, but it’s very easy to get going and it has wide compatibility with Bluetooth MIDI and easy sample import. Grab Samplist here!
Many champion Koala for having a similar workflow to the hardware samplers, Roland’s SP-404 Teenage Engineering’s or PO-33, Elf Audio has marketed their flagship sampler as “The Ultimate Pocket Sampler”.
The design focuses totally on making the music-making progress instant, keeping the user in the flow, not getting bogged down by endless pages of parameters and micro-editing.
Most recently they have updated their all-star sampler to have even more features, in the new “Samurai” edition of Koala, which is accessible through an In-App Purchase. This update allows the user to time-stretch, auto-chop, and edit sequences on a piano roll.
Time stretching allows the user to change the length of a sample without changing its pitch. The piano roll gives users the ability to edit notes on a timeline, rather than play them in. Thirdly, Auto-chop allows the user to chop larger samples into smaller samples very quickly and precisely, so the user doesn’t have to manually do it.
Koala has garnered a sprawling community of users and a twitch channel, “Koala Beatcast”, in which they host flip roulettes and beat competitions, pinning Koala users against SP-404 users.
Record up to 64 samples
8 mic effects and 16 DJ mix effects
Import via Audioshare, ‘Open In’, Files App, or from videos
Export loops, track, or Live set
GUI is a bit cramped on iPhone (another reason to cop an iPad)
Sequences cannot be quantized
No editable step-sequencer
No effects automation
Koala should be in every mobile producer’s arsenal. Even those not interested in sampling can use the robust effect section provided in the app.
Chameleon is an AUv3 compatible sampler instrument plugin for your favorite DAW. The program can run as a standalone app in order to record audio samples from the internal microphone or professional audio interface.
The program can run as a standalone app in order to record audio samples from the internal microphone or professional audio interface, however, it is primarily intended to be used an AuV3 plugin in tablet DAWS such as Cubasis 3, Beatmaker 3, AUM.Auria, Meteor, GarageBand, etc.
The plugin can additionally be loaded as an AUV3 effect in order to record audio passing from other AUV3 instrument sources, which makes it a very versatile and powerful tool.
Although it comes with a library of presets, it also allows you to easily create your own. You do this by recording multiple audio clips and mapping them to the notes on a MIDI keyboard and Chameleon does the rest using sophisticated pitch-shifting algorithms to fill in the blanks.
Recorded samples can either be layered or mapped freely over a 7-octave range and saved as individual presets. Presets are then organized into custom categorized banks which can be shared and exported with others.
Recording is incredibly easy, just press a new patch and press record. Chameleon will wait for you to play a note to start recording.
Once recorded, press The Learn button and tap the note range on the virtual or MIDI keyboard to map the sample. Repeat this as many times as required, tweak the settings and save the patch.
Standalone for recording audio and creating patches
Import via Files app or paste
Extensive sample editor
16 Drum pads
Delay, Reverb, And Chorus with respective X-Y Pads
Only 8 seconds of sampling time
No pitch shift
No ADSR per sample
This is a great straightforward sampler. It’s reliable in that it saves and records patches/samples and works with Audiobus well. The main downsides are the short sampling time and it also lacks a few pro features. You can find Chameleon on the Apple App Store.
Within seconds the app turns them into blocks of grooves and rhythms. “Anything can be Yellofied.”. #1 in Music (iPad) in 8 countries, top 10 in 50 countries, and top 5 in 3 countries (iPhone).
Edit the sounds and effects by moving and twisting colored blocks. Yellofier doesn’t look like any other music program. You can create a full song in minutes – even without knowing anything about music.
Create unique music with your own sounds of Yello’s musical Maestro, Boris Blank. The Yellofier also includes sounds and songs by some of the greatest musicians within electronic music.
Automatically slice your sounds into 8 parts and create a groove
112 bundles sounds from Boris Blank
Innovative step sequencer
Multiple effects and step sequencer
Crashed quite a bit for me
Included samples don’t reflect in-the-moment creativity
Needs 32 steps for more intricate pattern building
The Yellofier is perhaps the easiest app here to use and the most instantly impressive. Those with an experimental edge will enjoy recording the results and playing with them further.
Flip is a sample-based mobile music studio that was designed for a fast and intuitive workflow. Import your own sounds via AirDrop or the Files app, or record sounds directly with your device's microphone or a connected iOS interface.
Flip is a sample-based mobile music studio that was designed for a fast and intuitive workflow. Import your sounds via Airdrop, Audioshare, or the files app, or record sounds directly with your device’s microphone or a connected iOS interface.
As soon as you record a sound, it’s available to be played on drum pads as well as being mapped across a keyboard. Sounds can be subtly shaped or easily transformed using built-in effects and easy-to-use editing tools.
You can record a Quantized or un-quantized performance on pads or keyboards. There is also a full piano roll where you enter notes and velocities.
Record knob movements or draw automation by hand to bring even more life into your sounds. Every automation lane can have its own independent length, for polyrhythmic and generative music possibilities.
Create up to 16 different sections for your song and drag and drop them in any order to create your arrangement.
Mixing and Mastering tools allow you to finish a full track without ever leaving your phone. You can export your full track, or hit the tape icon and record the live output of the app while you tweak anything on the fly. Both options allow you to capture individual track stems as well.
A performance page lets you trigger your patterns live while controlling a global filter, assignable pitch bends, reverb sends, and a random fill generator.
9 track sampler
4 fx per track
19 automatable parameters per track
Full piano roll with editing tools
Mixing and mastering tools
Export track and stems
Quantization can only be set to quarter note
No pitch quantization
No Auv3 or IAA
Unable to delete default tracks
Cannot use MIDI keyboard and pads in conjunction
While not being a full-fledged DAW, Flip falls into the category of a high-powered sampler with many features. This app is for producers looking for alternatives to their hardware sampler or that just want to try out something new in the sampler world.
Segments is a slicer/sampler app in which the user can import any loop/sample/audio file and find the best samples inside of, using the automatic transient detection or manually adding more markers.
The slices can be played with any MIDI external controller or with the built-in pads and keyboard layout; also each slice can be played chromatically as in a real synth with mono or polyphonic voices (up to 12).
Each slice has independent parameters (all automatable in an UA host) such as reverse, level, attack, release, start point, and length and individual effects (reverb, delay, bitcrusher, and filter) that can be changed on the fly thanks to its flexible audio engine.
sEgments automatically detects BPM and the root key of your project file and it can adjust its tempo and pitch according to your project settings.
Drag and Drop Import
Audiounit Multi output & Audiounit Fx
Up to 16 slices, each one with individual parameters, ADSR and effects (reverb, delay, filter, bitcrusher)
BPM & Key Detection
Transient Detection and Beat Division
Could use better control of Pitch bar
No sample preview
Not Audioshare compatible
Doesn’t respond to global transport functions
In standalone on iPhone XR/11, delay and crush are inaccessible due to iOS switch bar
It’s great to be able to drop and drop samples from the files app directly from sEgments. Having velocity sensitivity, time-sensitive times stretch algorithms, and FX with XY pads that you can automate with touch are an understatement.
Making music on an iPad is easy with the right tools. Being able to manipulate samples with the touch screen is an advantage that your production workstation doesn’t have.
With these apps, your iPad becomes a portable sampler that you can sketch ideas on quickly and record sounds for later. You can also use many of these apps in your DAW-less jams, turning your iPad into a drum machine or grand piano.