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Entries in synthesizer (6)

Addictive Synth - Perfect Name, Amazing Sounds

Addictive Synth

"Addiction: a physiological and psychological compulsion for a habit-forming substance. In extreme cases, an addiction may become an overwhelming obsession."

That perfectly describes how we feel about Addictive Synth from VirSyn.

For substance read the literally amazing array of sounds that Addictive Synth can generate and the obsession comes from knowing that despite hours spent with the app, we have only just scratched the surface of what it can do.

We love playing with this app so much that it has taken us a lot longer than it should have to post about it. Why? Because every time we sit down to write the review we start playing with Addictive Synth and that's it, the review is forgotten about and the evening has gone.

Before we go on, take a look at the video below from VirSyn for a taste of what Addictive Synth can do:

Sounds

Watching that video you were probably as surprised as us at how much this little app can do. It sounds fantastic to our 80s-tuned ears and features some very strong customisation options.

We were absolutely blown away by the sheer range of sounds that Addictive Synth is capable of producing. Many sounds defy definition and they can be so minutely tuned away from the standard sounds that any synth/electronic type sound is probably achievable.

Presets

Digging into the Presets, one minute we were tantalisingly close to getting that Knight Rider sound (Dip Down Preset 1/16 Arp) the next we were sending the cats running out of the room with the strangest sounds they may ever have heard from the iPad (Resozz with Chase Arp) then calming things down with much nicer sounds (like the haunting Ethereal Preset).

When you find that perfect sound you can save it as a Preset for use again. Addictive Synth comes with 128 Presets giving you a good range of starting points but there are 192 slots altogether for you to use.

Editing Sounds

All of this is, of course, just the beginning. You can further shape the sound using a wide range of tools that include the following:

  • Six dynamic wavetable oscillators per voice, up to 48 total.
  • Continous morphing between two oscillator sets.
  • Realtime editing of up to 128 partials (overtones).
  • Realtime editing of filter structure to create arbitrary body resonances.
  • Extensive modulation possibilities using up to 4 LFOs and 4 Envelopes.
  • Control matrix allows real time control of five parameters using the X/Y touch pad, the modulation wheel and the tilt sensors of the iPad.
  • Monophonic or polyphonic with 8 voices.
  • 128 factory presets, unlimited user presets can be shared.
  • Up to three effects concurrently usable selected from: equalizer, phaser, flanger, chorus and stereo/cross delay

Really, you need to get this app and play with it to see and hear for yourself what the app can do, especially when editing the Waves or Filters simply by drawing the waveform with your finger across the screen it is very Addictive, we have to say.

If you want to get the best from the app you would benefit from downloading the PDF manual or viewing it online (via Google Docs - Google account needed).

Arpreggiator

Addictive Synth's Arp mode really impressed us with its versatility and depth. As you can see from the screenshot below you can customise the Arp with up to 32 steps, you can program the Tie, Accent, Note transposition and also randomise any of these parameters using the 'randomizer' or dice icon.

This is a brilliant feature we liked a lot. The 'randomizer' is described as intelligent and gives useable results at almost every throw of the dice.

MIDI

Of course, Addictive Synth is CoreMIDI compliant and we were able to play the app with our MIDI connected keyboard via the iRig MIDI (more on that very soon) without any problems. A little bit of fiddling in the parameters on the Control screen can reap some great benefits when combining effects on the Modulation wheel too.

 

Recording

We had a few crashes with Addictive Synth, which is always a bit of a concern with a performance app, but we think making sure there are no other background apps running and perhaps even a restart before a recording session would minimise or preclude these crashes completely.

We did find the Record function a bit flaky, we usually had to give it a couple of goes to get it working and this was usually when the app crashed in our experience. If you follow the tips above though it will help.

You can record any loop or sequence you play and using ACP export it to GarageBand or one of the other compatible apps, but Addictive Synth also records it as a MIDI and Audio file for sharing via iTunes, so you have a good range of options for capturing your sonic creations.

Overall

We have to say that Addictive Synth has now become our go-to synth app for it's versatility of sound and relatively easy accessibility. If you want to, you can geek out in the Control Screen and get specific with the detailed shaping of your sound based on an existing preset.

If you have even a vague interest in creating digital music we think you will really like Addictive Synth, it truly lives up to its name - we can't put it down!

If you've already tried Addictive Synth we would love to hear what you think, or even hear what you have created with the app, comments and links are welcome below.

Addictive Synth is available on the App Store for $9.99 (£6.99)

OscilloScoop - Carve Your Own Synth Sounds

Oscilloscoop icon

Over the last few weeks we have been playing with OscilloScoop, a sound maker app with an interesting game-like interface twist, here's the detail and a video to help you see why you should buy it.


Crafted Design

OscilloScoop was designed by Lukas Girling and developed by interactive artist and programmer Scott Snibbe (Gravilux, Bubble Harp and the upcoming Bjork album apps) along with game designer Graham McDermott.

Getting Creative

Although we don't imagine professional DJs will be using the app necessarily, as non-professionals we found the app a lot of fun to play with and we have lost many hours exploring and experimenting with the apps myriad adjustments.

Carving into the rotating cylinders feels really creative and organic, very much like shaping clay on a potter's wheel.

Just like pot throwing, you can completely reshape your creation and start again if you get carried away or make a complete mess.

Song Creation

OscilloScoop also has the advantage of being able to save your carefully moulded sound for instant recall later, meaning you could create songs or performance sets if you wish.

There is no Audio Copy & Paste, but we were able to use the iPhone version (it's a Universal app so this is included in the price) to record into GarageBand on the iPad via the iRig or AmpKit Link so that multi-layered soundscapes can be created.

We would have been happier to see more beats included in the purchase price (complete sets of 20 new beats can be had via in-app purchase) but a lot of clever design has gone into making this app deceptively simple to access and the Landscape mode is even better for fine control of your sound.

Recommended Purchase

If synthesizer sounds mixed with great beats are your thing, we would definitely recommend you try out OscilloScoop. It is currently available for $1.99 (£1.19) on the app store as a Universal app.

The app has been out for just over a month now so if you have tried it already let us know what you think about OscilloScoop in the comments.

If you haven't seen it yet, here is the video demo from the Developers that made us buy it (be sure to note the Landscape mode later in the video, it will help you shape your sounds more accurately):

 

NodeBeat: Create and View Musical Soundscapes

The NodeBeat app by Affinity Blue has been out for the iPad (and iPhone) for a few weeks now and we have been experimenting with it and returning to it since the app was released.

Why we liked it

What makes NodeBeat more than worth the $0.99 (59p) asking price is the range and depth of the sounds that you can create with it. The basic premise is the same for any tune, but the configurable options are what make the app so interesting.

As an instrument, NodeBeat is not something that can be relied upon to play the exact same sounds, exactly the same way, every time. It is far more organic than that.

But it is this that keeps us coming back to it. We found it very relaxing to use and to experiement with.

A few tips

Try for instance running the app in 'gravity' mode so that the notes fall towards the floor (usually the default), then turn your iPad slowly around from landscape to portrait mode, see how this affects the sounds generated as the nodes fall at different rates and collide with each other.

You can just watch the nodes interact with each other as they enter a configurable proximity field, or you can take control and move the nodes around, forcing interaction and actually 'playing' NodeBeat as an instrument.

Our biggest tip: dig into the setup and really experiment. Like any synth, you can dramatically change the sounds generated using the Attack, Delay and Release controls, plus the Echo and Pulse settings. You get live sound previews so you can make your changes organically, on the fly.

Go and get it

For $0.99 in the App Store we would definitely recommend you get NodeBeat on your iPad. Spend some time with it, experiment with the settings, get to know how to sculpt the sound and we think you will love the creativity this app gives you. Check out the promo video below to see the app in action.

NodeBeat - iOS Music Sequencer from AffinityBlue on Vimeo.

Friday Fun: iPad Guitar DJ Frame

Fancy performing live with some of the fancy iPad Synth and audio apps?  VJ Frank Z has you covered. He is taking pre-orders for a custom guitar-like frame which mounts your iPad and controllers on what looks like a snowboard for your very own live performance. Whilst some are scoffing at this idea, we happen to think it is very creative!

Check out the video evidence below, and extra kudos points to the person who leaves a comment naming all of the iPad music apps VJ Frank uses in his video:

We want our iPad Jean Michel Jarre synth app, not excuses!


Our last 'not excuses!' post caused quite a stir, we are not making any promises, but there is a small chance that some form of old school arcade emulation may find its way onto the iPad soon. We'll be sure to update you with more details as the project nears completion.

In the meantime we turn our attention toward the area of music synthesisers. There is already quite an array of synth apps available for the iPad — hardly surprising as the iPad is just about perfect for music creation — however, all but a handful appear to be upgraded iPhone apps.

We think there is a place for music creation applications that are narrowly focused on replicating the distinctive sound of just one artist, perhaps even just one specific album from that artist. We'll use the seminal 1976 Jean Michel Jarre classic, 'Oxygene' as an example of how and why this should be done.

"I listened to all of Jean Michel Jarre’s albums obsessively, to the point of knowing every note by heart. His music accompanied me as I wrote « 2010 : Odyssey Two. His concerts are always a celebration of wonderment…" Sir Arthur C. Clarke

A truly defining album, not just of the 70s but also of Jarre's career. Oxygene proved that electronic music can be emotive, sweeping and even soulful. Oxygene Synth, a synthesiser app based on nothing but the musical equipment and production procedures that Jarre used to create Oxygene would be a sure fire hit and could possibly lead to a renewed interest in the music of France's most enigmatic musician.

Here's how we think it should work...

Authenticity comes first

Oxygene Synth should contain the full variety of analog synthesisers and other electronic instruments and effects that Jarre used when creating the original recording. This is vital to the whole endeavour, without the full range of authentic instruments and sounds the app simply wouldn't appeal to its target audience and would likely be seen as a cheap money grabbing exercise. We are no synthesiser experts but we do know that getting that authentic sound will require broad software emulation of the EMS VCS 3 analogue synthesiser, a 'portable' synthesiser use by Jarre, but also Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and Portishead. 

The full emulation of early synthesisers is a worthy endeavour, old beauties like the EMS VCS 3 and Yamaha CS-80 — a synth also used by Jarre, Vangelis, David Bowie, Keane and Coldplay — need to be preserved for future generations. Unlike many other classic instruments these synths are no longer in production. Interestingly, the Yamaha CS-80 has already been reproduced in software by Arturia using their TAE (True Analog Emulation) technology, a technique which allows for the accurate modelling of the behavior of analog circuits on a personal computer. We've contacted Arturia about the Oxygene Synth, we'll post their reply here.

Next comes music

Oxygene Synth should include the complete album as MIDI files. This will allow the user to examine the timing and nuance of each note and effect. A Smule Magic Piano songbook style interface would make for a wonderful way for the music keyboard novice to make quick progress, though ultimately a full musical keyboard and portrayal of the original physical controls should be presented.

The icing on the cake

So far we have the full array of sounds, the musical note-by-note breakdown of the entire album and a way for the inexperienced to recreate Oxygene. Adding video interviews with Jean Michel Jarre, tutorials, sleeve notes, poster artwork, album reviews, a 'making of' documentary and social networking hooks would really make the Oxygene Synth app shine.

We think there's a big future in this kind of app. The iPad is so much more than any other personal computer, it's more flexible, more personal, and in many ways more powerful. By the end of 2011 the installed user base could be approaching 30 million. Given the right price point and advertising — surely Apple would feature the Oxygene Synth app at a Steve Jobs keynote! — we are convinced that the Oxygene Synth would be a success.

We are currently attempting to get in contact with the man himself. Stay tuned! You can show your support for the Oxygene Synth iPad app by mentioning this article on your own blog or by tweeting about it on Twitter. Let's see if we can make this happen.

Further reading:

We want our iPad Arcade, not excuses!

Making Music with the iPad - Loopers, Synths and (Drum)Pads - Part 1

Without being able to play an actual instrument, such as Piano or Keyboards, Guitar or Drums, there are still many ways to make music electronically, and the iPad as a platform for unleashing this creativity is no exception.  There are new music creation apps being added for the iPad nearly every day, as well as those already existing for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

In this mini-series of posts we will take a look at a few of the main non-Keyboard Synths, Loop and Drum Pad apps that have caught our attention and, importantly, have been written especially for the iPad or have their own re-worked version for the iPad.

First up, a very faithful simulation of an awesome piece of beatmaker hardware:

KORG iELECTRIBEGorgeous to look at and very detailed in its execution, Korg's digital recreation of its own classic hardware the ELECTRIBE•R also includes a few features from some of the more advanced Korg beatmakers the ELECTRIBE•SX and ELECTRIBE•MX, and even the inclusion of the Vacuum Tube animation in the window at the top, the Tubes  react as the real ones would, a really nice UI touch.

Korg calls this app a 'virtual analog beatbox' and they say that while it is fun to use it 'is no toy'.  Everything has been brought over from the ELECTRIBE•R, the 'entire sound engine and sequencer' and nearly all the functionality you would expect is present here, including features such as:

  • 16 step sequencer
  • Four part percussion synthesizer (enhanced by cross modulation)
  • Four part PCM synthesizer
  • Accent function
  • Virtual Valve Force Tube modelling (for that analogue warmth, controlled by a Tube Gain knob)
  • 64 pattern presets get started straight away with these presets covering those on the ELECTRIBE•R plus new ones created especially for iELECTRIBE
  • 8 master effect types some brought over from the SX/MX hardware including the super-grungy Decimator, nice!
  • Advanced Motion Sequencing: allows live 'tweaking' to be memorised and replayed in your sequence. This improves on the original hardware which was limited in the number of parts it could memorise and incorporate into the sequence, but the iPad app has no limitation, Korg claims it can memorise 'all the parameters for each and every part', allowing some pretty complex patterns to be created.

Sequences you create can be saved in the app, called up later and amended or enhanced, but unfortunately there is no export option at the moment for DAW sync, which means that your creations stay on the iPad and cannot be incorporated into your desktop based music software, at the moment.  This may be added, but there is no word on that happening just yet from Korg, although a lot of the iTunes reviews and Korg forum posts are asking for this functionality.

Overall though this app is amazing value for money when you think about what is included here.  We have no doubt that, with a certain amount of skill and practice, this app could be used for a live performance, and with the portability of the iPad this could take your performances places the more bulky real life hardware couldn't.  Plus you can check your e-mail, browse the web, and show off your photos on the same device, try doing that with your hardware beatmaker!

iECLECTRIBE will normally be $19.99, but until 30th June Korg are selling it for $9.99 (just £5.99) and we think this is a great price for what is 'virtually' an excellent recreation of a couple of hundred dollars worth of hardware.  Have a look at the videos below and check it out in the app store if it pushes your buttons.

An in-depth look at the app compared to the real hardware