The Koala sampler app – available on both iOS and Android – has won the hearts of many mobile beat makers since its release in February 2020. Its simple and intuitive interface allows for sound construction fairly easily, and it’s pretty much a steal for $4.99. The interface offers a streamlined approach to your current production session in an on-the-go setting.
Koala offers up a slew of sought-after features such as sample slicing, time stretching, and live FX. It’s an app built for pros – not just something you play with on your phone in waiting rooms. Mimicking many of today’s industry leading hardware samplers, it can add another layer to your sound design or beat making. Koala takes after the Roland SP-404 series both in functionality and layout.
How it works
The app is simple: record a sound or input a sample from your file library (whether on the device or in cloud storage). It will appear on one of the 16 sample pads on the interface. Individual samples can then be edited with a standard suite of tools. Koala can even resample through effects like some of its hardware counterparts. It offers 4 banks of 16 pads, making for 64 sounds in total per session. Koala also features separate FX for performance and another set of FX that can be used on an input source
On top of all that, Koala can also export your session to Ableton.
Auto-Chop: slice and dice like a pro
I use Koala quite a bit, and the use cases I continue to find for it grow with every project. I am an MPC user at heart – MPCs were my first foray into samplers at a very young age. Needless to say, I like old records and chopping them up into pieces. Koala allows you to chop samples to an extensive level, taking a chunk of a record or sound and slicing it up to 32 times.
Before committing to the sample slice, you can edit choke groups and attack and release. Once you have committed to your chops, you have the option to resample them through effects, add filtering, adjust pitch, and timestretch to a particular BPM. I find myself using time stretch in conjunction with stem splitting to create loops as a creative starter to a full track.
Here’s a quick walkthrough of ways you can utilize the app’s resampling and sequencing features:
Stems: extract your samples
Stemming a sample is essentially splitting it into elements such as drums, bass, vocal and melody. With Koala, the process uses AI to separate elements of samples as cleanly as possible.
At the time of our testing, the results are actually better and far more usable than we had first anticipated. Drums and bass work especially well, but the melody and vocal tracks are nothing to scoff at. Everything is split and still remains usable for effecting or further chopping.
The process to split a sample into stems is incredibly easy and useful. When you have a pad loaded with a sample, you can press the Tools button and select “split stems”. A context box will pop up and ask you which elements you would like added to a new pad.
Take note: you don’t need to save every stem – the app allows you to pick and choose between drums, bass, vocals, and other stem options (which, 99% of the time, are melody elements).
Stem exporting is becoming more common in modern day music production and DJ systems. With AI programs and features like we see in Koala, producers are able to create remixes and productions much faster. They have proven useful for sound design as well, allowing for an intricate separation of sound.
The process is easy. With a sample on a pad, open the edit menu. This will bring a pop-up to the forefront of the screen that asks if you’d like to isolate drums, vocals, bass, and other. In my experience, “other” gives us the melody instruments of a track – i.e. piano, guitars etc. The process is smooth and only takes a few seconds, and the results – albeit needing a little bit of EQ – are more than workable.
I’d like to see the ability to stem samples longer than 40 seconds. I’ve tried to find negatives in the app itself but they are few and far between. Even though Koala takes its cues from the classic Roland line of samplers, it offers much more. If you produce in a sample heavy genre like lo-fi or hip hop, it’s a great starting point for projects when you’re on the go.
You can also create your own samples by using the microphone on your device to capture audio in your environment. On top of that it is compatible with a variety of external devices for sampling hardware instruments or turntables. I was able to connect a mixer’s output through a ZOOM H6 to sample using a USB-to-lightning Apple adapter. The built-in FX allow for some interesting sound design abilities, especially when sampling organic environment sound.
I believe every type of producer from beginner to pro could find a use for this app. Whether it be starting new ideas on the fly or finishing them in Ableton by using the export feature.
Koala has a wealth of onboard effects that can be used as live sound manipulation, or to add layering and other sonic qualities during resampling. Check out some of the live features you can use:
Worth a download: an accessible, easy-to-use producer tool
I believe every type of producer from beginner to pro could find a use for this app, whether that’s for starting new ideas on the fly or finishing them in Ableton via the export feature. Koala is a steal for five bucks, as it gives you a mobile mega-toolkit for sequencing and sampling. Stem splitting for isolating specific elements of a sample or song clip is made drastically easier with the app, and the performance FX can come in handy when adding variations to a performance.
I put together these videos based on my own experience with the app, but I would love to see what you decide to do with it as well. If you want more information or need help getting started, feel free to drop a comment below!