Month: November 2017

KAULDRON – Stir up some magic!

KAULDRON is developed by Yonac Inc.

Available in the iTunes App Store

Oh my-where to begin? I don’t have enough good things to say about Yonac’s latest entry into the ever-expanding and impressive world of iOS music. We all know (unless this is your first look at iOS music) about the incredible Magellan, Galileo, AirVox etc, and now on the heels of KASPAR they drop KAULDRON like a bomb (I mean bomb in the most loving way). If these synthesizers are any indication of what might be possible in the near future, then paint me in the dead center of the target with gleeful, outreached arms and keep dropping.

I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the overflowing nostalgia pool of available analog emulation synths. It’s not that I have anything against them, it’s just that there’s so many already and mostly all doing the very same things. I understand the giddy feeling for wanting to buy recreations of long-past physical synth icons, most of which you either can’t find, or cost way too much. I believe expectations are, or at least should be, much higher and KAULDRON (among a few others) stands out high above the crowd.

What we have here is a carefully developed engine that has vast range of tones. The three oscillators can combine for intensely driven power leads or fluffy and spacey pads. Oscillator two has an FM option, and the third has a keyboard track. A rather nice set of filters with envelope controls, and a VCA with two distinctly different attack curves to suit nearly any style. The Pink or White Noise both offer some flare and sound very clean. The Maximizer can be set with up to five voices to give loads of options when combined with the Drift and super wide spread. In all and just as Yonac says, you really only need minimal twists of the knobs to make powerful adjustments. Everything seems to have a massive range between 0 and 100.

The 2 LFOs have several waves to choose from, an envelope control, and 4 modulation banks to bring a little or a lot more life to the mix. Four target parameters might seem like a small amount of mods, but it shouldn’t be anything to stick ones nose up or scoff at. The amount of possible textures spring to life regardless of whether there were many more. It doesn’t feel or sound like there’s any shortages. Controlling selected parameter behaviors can be done on the Pads page.

These customizable X/Y pads aren’t just for the mod matrix benefit. Anything can be assigned to these responsive pads. Pads are pretty common sure, but not all pads are created equal. Some will drift as you release your finger or have some lag as said finger slides around the box. Not these pads. I love it, they are tight, and obedient. I can’t think of any setting they wouldn’t be perfect for.

The arpeggiator is combined on the same screen with the three FX units. A highly programmable arpeggiator with three modes and several program patterns are at your fingertips. Most synths have four or six programs to choose from so it’s very nice to have a much more robust set to choose from. Not the best arp unit ever, but also nothing I think can be called weak. Definitely better than average.

The three FX units (really four actually) are also above average for any synthesizer. The Chorus/Flanger can be set to one or the other. Both are clear and faithful.

The Delay does its job as it is told to and doesn’t talk back. BMP sync or have independent left/right times. It’s a Delay unit, I don’t think much needs explaining.

The Reverb unit is better than typical. Instead of a gradual size parameter going from smallest to biggest you get a selection of Reverb types. Each type from 1 to 7 having a specific Reverb size like Room, Hall, Cathedral, Plate etc. suitable for any need. You won’t hear wobble like echo at large and long settings like older lower quality reverbs. They don’t sound cheap or tinny which is very nice.

A quality set of effects for sure.

I saved my favorite feature for last. The “SPAWN2” or randomizer. SPAWN turned heads first in Magellan with its amazing ability to make usable new sounds more often than not. SPAWN2 is a massive improvement!

A combination of machine language, algorithms, and predictive artificial intelligence designed to make randomizing more like a living patch assistant. Never mind all the techy stuff, this thing is insane. Three foundation algorithms to choose from in expert mode. Cumulative-which create a reoccurring variation of the existing patch selected each time you hit the button. Persistent-will create a new variation of the current preset each time. More random than Cumulative. Lastly is Random, which does exactly that, totally random new patch will be born.

Using Persistent SPAWN with the Autonomy parameters all set to zero will keep the current patch you like but offer a whole new arpeggio pattern.

Want to get to it faster? Release the expert control setting for a fully autonomous randomizer that will still impress.

You can and should get lost playing around with all the settings in this crazy new SPAWN2. Everything it’s done for me has come out shiny and useful. Even when totally not what I expected at all. SPAWN2 is a new high water mark for future randomizers to aspire to.

All in all KAULDRON has amazing features, crunchy bold tones, spacious dimensions of sound and impressive stability. It’s redesigned sound engine is remarkably capable. This synth has a special quality to it and demonstrates willingness to bend to any need. It is another piece of critical evidence that iOS synthesizers can run neck and neck with the best. There’s many more bits and pieces I’ve left out so be sure to visit Yonac’s website for more specifics and a user guide to learn all about it. It is ready to fit into any workflow (IAA, Audiobus, AUv3, MIDI etc) fluidly.

If you never wanted another analog synth, or can only buy one ever again, then KAULDRON should be added to your collection or arsenal. No regrets, all love. Get it.

LayR – Multi Timbral Synthesizer

LayR – Multi Timbral Synthesizer is developed by Living Memory Software

Available from iTunes App Store

LayR is described as a “massively polyphonic, Multi Timbral Synthesizer” capable of up to 256 voices of multi layered and textured sounds for 64 bit devices. I was a little skeptical initially and expected less. I was wrong. LayR can actually do as it says it can.

Andy Bull created LayR somewhat by accident. He started out with something else in mind, not looking to create a synthesizer. After experiencing some disappointments with some of his iOS synths in a live stage setting, he ended up making something to meet his needs as a live performer. LayR was born, and here we are today able to enjoy the fruits of his labor. So much juicy goodness.

LayR launches with a clean, albeit dark, interface showing the general mix functions of whatever layers make up the selected patch or “performance”, as they are called. A performance is a collection of instruments which contain layers of synths. One performance can be as simple or as complicated as desired. The overall results can be astonishing, with layers coming and going in various states and times. There are a lot of excellent presets available that demonstrate the many possibilities and can be great templates to dissect and learn from. Overall it’s an exciting synthesizer that will satisfy.

Each layer is its own independent synth with 2 oscillators, each with their own shape and phase states that can be morphed, modulated and filtered. There are 2 ADSRs which can be looped from super fast out to 100 seconds, along with a 3rd ADSR controlling the overall volume. Both of the filters (LP, HP, Band & Notch) can be smoothed with a handy mini filter mixer. The 2 LFOs are well behaved and have several shapes to choose from. At first glance it all seems like a standard twin oscillator synthesizer, but that’s forgetting to consider the amazing depth of what can be hundreds of layers playing together in a giant cooperative audio party. You could easily spend days constructing elaborate performances. Pack a lunch.

It’s hard to explain just how much detail LayR is able to control better than the above screen shot. As you can see this is thoughtfully designed with a forward looking layer parameter linking tool. This will be indispensable when one gets ambitious, getting deep into greater numbers of layers with parameters that will likely need to be linked, and really helps with keeping the intended order together without needing to try and remember what was where or having to constantly switch back and forth to make sure certain layers have the same behaviors. Just link them in sets of parameter groups. My inner synth nerd did backflips when I first discovered this clever tool. You can also copy and paste one parameter to another.

The 16 step multi channel arpeggiator is quite robust. This screenshot (above) should convey how carefully it was designed to give the user a rich midi routing capability that works reliably. Up to 8 event tracks can be set up with their own synth layer, making for some very lively compositions. While getting acquainted with LayR I found some presets that were impressive and inspiring. Some had multiple synths of varied arp events, all playing together with the touch of a single key. Event notes are visible by the flash of the corresponding key as played by the arpeggiator assignments.

The in-app help can be accessed at any time should there be a need, so even someone new to multi channel arpeggiators can learn to create their own routes for their project with a minimal learning curve.

Getting back to the graphical interface, its design uses symbols relevant to each parameter control. Most experienced synth users should understand what they mean but it might also be a little unfamiliar to others more accustomed with text identifiers. Those not used to this will become best friends with the top right corner info button within the first hours. Eventually it becomes second nature. The scale and key can be set, as well as an option for a colorful keyboard if all black isn’t desired. The keyboard can be adjusted in size, range, scrolled or locked.

LayR has 3 sound effects; Reverb, Delay and a 3 Band EQ. The FX are competent and useful but not particularly noteworthy.

Inter-app audio and Audiobus are supported, but not AU. I feel like the lack of AU support is for a good reason. Might be because the current iOS AU systems can’t quite keep up yet with something so intensive as LayR. Perhaps that will change in the future?

I spent several days digging into LayR and found it to be a wonderful experience. Great sound, nice quality filters, excellent morphing and an overall magnificent synthesizer. It truly excels when put to the test of making many layers of timbres, multi channel arpeggios and wildly evolving soundscapes. LayR is no slouch by any means and should fit in everybody’s collection.

I highly recommend LayR. Be sure to check out the developers Website for a more specific feature list and links to helpful tutorial videos.

Massive Update April 20 2018 V 1.2

Audio Unit: LayR now includes a fully functional audio unit version with a dynamic user interface that adapts to the available screen space.
PDF Manual: The old help system is replaced by a comprehensive manual which can be read in-app or exported to your preferred PDF reader.
Improved User Interface: The entire UI has been given a modern facelift including pinch to zoom, double tap to zoom and fully labelled controls in the Layer Editor.
Instrument Mixer Drag & Drop: Instrument and Layer strips can now be re-arranged in the Instrument Mixer. Layers can be converted to new Instruments or copied between instruments with drag and drop.
MIDI Controller Mixer: A new panel that sports optional sliders for Channel Volumes and every MIDI cc that’s been assigned to the current performance. Allows users to perform live MIDI controller mixing in-app. Can also be used to query which parameters have been assigned to MIDI and in which Instrument/Layer they are located.
Arpeggio Sequencer: The arpeggiator gets a more descriptive name and some cool additions including new event types, new playback modes and the ability to set mode, speed and length per track.
Modulation Matrix: Modulation sources in the Layer Editor can now be routed to any destination.
Improved Oscillator: The oscillator gets Coarse/Fine tuning and “Fixed Mode” which decouples the oscillator from the MIDI keyboard. Also FM has been greatly improved with a new mode allowing modulation over the full audio range.
LFO Sync Mode: Keeps LFOs in all playing voices synced to the same phase as each other.
Wave Folder Pitch Adjust: The amount of folding is now reduced as notes get higher, this helps reduce aliasing artifacts that may be introduced by the folder when processing high frequency content.
Legacy Mode: A experimental option that keeps LayR’s engine to a fixed lower CPU usage, this will hopefully extend LayR’s lifetime for users with older, lower powered iOS devices.
Light Colour Scheme: An optional lighter colour scheme for use in bright daylight conditions.
2nd MIDI Input Port: For stand-alone app: A port which listens on all channels for MIDI Bank Select/Program messages, this port can be used to select Performance presets while allowing the other input port to use all 16 channels for multi-timbral use.
New Presets: A whole new bank of 36 presets by Sky Runner and another new bank dedicated to individual user presets.