Roundup: iOS Synths

Once a rare cu­rios­ity, iOS syn­the­siz­ers are now some­thing of a mu­sic pro­duc­tion sta­ple. Let’s check out a quar­tet of re­cent high­lights…

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

Sugar Bytes Unique £14.99 (iPad)/£4.99 (iPhone)

Sugar Bytes have led the way for de­vel­op­ers port­ing desk­top plug­ins to iOS, of­fer­ing qual­ity mo­bile ver­sions of plug­ins in­clud­ing the Wow fil­ter, Ef­fec­trix multi-ef­fect and Cy­clop synth. The lat­est to make the jump is Unique, an ana­logue-in­spired synth that first ap­peared in desk­top form a decade ago. Unique doesn’t feel dated though, with a sleek iPad­friendly in­ter­face and solid, rich sound. The synth en­gine sec­tion it­self is fairly un­re­mark­able – there are two ana­logue style os­cil­la­tors, each with five wave­forms. It’s in the fil­ter sec­tion that Unique gets in­ter­est­ing, of­fer­ing a great vowel fil­ter – which al­lows sev­eral for­mant sounds to be chained to­gether – and comb fil­ter, along­side stan­dard low-, high- and band-pass modes. These are joined by LFO and en­ve­lope sec­tions. There’s a se­quencer too, as well as an XY per­for­mance pad. It’s not the most in­no­va­tive synth for iOS, but it sounds great and is a bar­gain price.


Re­actable Ro­tor £15.99

Span­ish de­vel­op­ers Re­actable are orig­i­nally known for their large, ta­ble-like per­for­mance sur­faces that al­low users to cre­ate mu­sic in a mod­u­lar, tac­tile man­ner. While the cost of the original hard­ware was in the mul­ti­ple thou­sands, an iOS ver­sion ar­rived back in 2010 bring­ing the con­cept into the reach of the gen­eral pub­lic. Now we also have Ro­tor, which is ef­fec­tively an im­proved and re­fined ver­sion of the same sys­tem, de­signed to take ad­van­tage of the en­hanced power of newer iOS de­vices.

As be­fore, the mu­sic cre­ation en­vi­ron­ment is mod­u­lar, of­fer­ing a va­ri­ety of synth el­e­ments and sam­ple/loop play­ers aug­mented by a va­ri­ety of ef­fects, se­quenc­ing and con­trol de­vices. Each of these el­e­ments ap­pears as a cir­cu­lar node, which is dragged onto the in­ter­face and then connected to a cen­tral out­put hub. Adding ex­tra el­e­ments or ef­fects into a chain is a sim­ple case of drag­ging a node into po­si­tion be­tween which­ever el­e­ments you wish to place it. These mod­ules are then edited in a sim­ple ro­tary man­ner – in­ter­est­ingly, Re­actable are also of­fer­ing a set of hard­ware knobs (£34) that can be placed onto the iOS de­vice screen for bet­ter con­trol of in­di­vid­ual el­e­ments, which is a smart idea. In all, the in­ter­face is re­ally nice to use and very in­tu­itive.

Ro­tor au­to­mat­i­cally keeps ev­ery ele­ment in key and sync’d to a cen­tral bpm, which makes it easy to use but can make things feel a lit­tle ‘on the rails’ cre­atively, as it’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to make any­thing sound wrong. There are some cool gen­er­a­tive tools on­board though, which help to reignite the cre­ative spark. In all Ro­tor is a qual­ity in­stru­ment with an ex­cel­lent in­ter­face, which makes the most of the tac­tile iOS workspace. re­


Korg iWaves­ta­tion £29.99

Korg’s ’90s clas­sic is the lat­est to get the iOS treat­ment, bring­ing its glis­ten­ing, am­bi­ent-friendly sound en­gine to both iPhone and iPad. The original Waves­ta­tion’s synth en­gine com­bined ‘wave se­quenc­ing’ and vec­tor syn­the­sis to cre­ate rich, com­plex sounds, and came com­plete with a joy­stick which al­low users to an­i­mate and morph patches. This ar­chi­tec­ture is repli­cated faith­fully here; again, the wave se­quencer al­lows for up to 127 in­di­vid­ual wave­forms to be ar­ranged and ad­justed for each sound, with the abil­ity to set up ve­loc­ity lay­ers and key­board splits. On the vec­tor side, mean­while, the vir­tual joy­stick is joined by an X/Y pad that makes good use of the iOS in­ter­face to cre­ate a mod­ern, cre­ative way to morph be­tween waves. This is then joined by a flex­i­ble ar­chi­tec­ture of LFOs, en­velopes, fil­ters and ef­fects.

There’s a healthy range of 50 ‘per­for­mances’ and 35 patches on­board – split over sev­eral ‘cards’ – but a £4 IAP will un­lock a mas­sive bun­dle with over 1,000 per­for­mances. The sounds them­selves are great – as with the iM1 be­fore it, the dig­i­tal sound en­gine sounds in­cred­i­bly faith­ful. All the func­tion­al­ity of the original is ported over, and the in­ter­face here is ac­tu­ally an im­prove­ment on the original, mak­ing sound de­sign far less fid­dly and more vis­ually en­gag­ing. The iWaves­ta­tion is in­ter-app au­dio and Au­diobus com­pat­i­ble, but isn’t com­pat­i­ble with the iOS AU for­mat. It’s worth not­ing, how­ever, that the app does load in Korg’s iOS synth stu­dio Gad­get – hav­ing both in­stalled on the same de­vice opens up the Mil­pi­tas Gad­get, bring­ing full func­tion­al­ity and sound into app. Own­ers of Gad­get for Mac get the Mil­pi­tas ver­sion as a free up­date.


iMu­sicAl­bum Syn­thS­ca­per £9.99

Syn­thS­ca­per is the lat­est of­fer­ing from the de­vel­oper be­hind mas­ter­ing app Au­dio Mas­ter­ing, AltiS­pace con­vo­lu­tion re­verb and ‘ex­per­i­men­tal stu­dio’ SoundS­ca­per. It’s a sam­ple-based syn­the­sizer de­signed specif­i­cally for the cre­ation of am­bi­ent pads and at­mo­spheric sound­scapes. It achieves this with a synth en­gine that al­lows the easy blend­ing of melodic and atonal sounds, via a three-layer ar­chi­tec­ture of­fer­ing six voices per layer. Each layer features three os­cil­la­tors, then there are six sub os­cil­la­tors and six en­velopes. Each os­cil­la­tor has its own flex­i­ble arpeg­gia­tor, and Syn­thS­ca­per can ac­cept mul­ti­ple vir­tual and hard­ware MIDI inputs at once. There’s also an in-app key­board too, with split mode and ex­ten­sive ve­loc­ity and pitch­bend ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The UI can feel a lit­tle daunt­ing and un­fa­mil­iar, largely down to the sheer amount there is go­ing on, but there’s a de­cent ar­ray of qual­ity pre­sets in­cluded and an ex­ten­sive in-app man­ual (al­beit writ­ten in slightly shaky English, see­ing as it isn’t the de­vel­oper’s first lan­guage). In all though, Syn­thS­ca­per is a real gem – the sound is lush, rich and com­plex, and at just shy of a ten­ner, any­body with an in­ter­est in am­bi­ent or at­mo­spheric mu­sic should re­ally check this out. http://mo­tion-sound­




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