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.
Another nice review by smitematter – makes you want to have LayR on your iPad … perhaps a soundclip or two would help the reader get an idea of what sonic sounds can be achieved with the Apps reviewed – just suggesting ..
Thank you. That’s a pretty good idea. Hmmmm thinking…..
In the case of LayR I would definitely recommend checking out Brice Beasleys Cinematics YouTube demo, with presets available within the app.
For some time I was on the verge of buying Layr but the above video made me get it. I have been toying around with layr for weeks and all I can say I am glad I got it. Nice review. I bought Scythe which is WaveTable it has something that draws my attention but I am not already convinced on it, I think I have to play around with it more. But Layr with my eyes closed I would get it again just for the presets, what can be achieved with this synth is amazing
I forgot Yonac is coming with a new synth it looks like a Moog. Let’s hope it is not just a Moog emulator but something new
Any idea if this would run on ipad 4? I couldn’t find it mentioned on apple store.
Unfortunately the iPad 4 (second gen with Retina display) is a 32bit device, and LayR requires a 64bit device like iPad Air 1 or newer to run. Sorry.
For some reason I haven’t pulled the trigger on this one yet. But now that it is an audio unit, I feel I will have to! Looks epic!
I have one promo code if you want it? Email me at SmiteMatter@comcast.net if interested.