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Get Plugged In With Eventide FX For iOS

There are a significant number of excellent effects plug-ins available these days for iOS users, freeing us from the typically marginal quality FX found in most iDAWs. Eventide has added 3 more to the menu to choose from: Blackhole Reverb, MicroPitch, and UltraTap Delay. All can be purchased from the App Store.

Each of these plug-ins do a lot more than just their basic named concept. While each does well to master its primary function, it also can go beyond its simplistic expectations and offer the user a broader array of effects uses. All have a ribbon function for automating parameters and a load of preset options to explore.

MicroPitch (shown above) is, for all intents and purposes, a dual voice pitch shifter unit capable of excellent chorusing effects. It’s more than just its name implies. Same can be said for BlackHole-a reverb unit, and UltraTap, a delay unit.

Blackhole Reverb is an algorithmic reverb unit that artificially creates spacious and clean depth to your sound. It’s not exactly the longest reverb unit available for iOS but it’s way better than what you can find in most workstations (except Auria) or built in options for the common synth app. There is a really nice tail-reversal ability in the “Gravity” function that totally inverts the decay. This particular reverb unit is not as heavy on CPU as some others, which is nice, but comes at the cost of being less capable of truly enormous spacial reverberations. For the most part Blackhole lives up to its name and is a great option for those looking for a reasonably priced highly programmable reverb unit that won’t bleed your CPU dry.

UltraTap Delay is a fantastic 64 tap delay unit that goes beyond being a simple delay unit. While having the capabilities of some massive delays UltraTap can also morph those repeated taps into a uniquely modulated reverb effect by adjusting the “Slurm” dial along with the width and spread. Specifically, the Slurm dial blurs the spaces between taps to smooth out a delay modulated reverb effect. I really like how versatile this FX unit is. The “Chop” dial is a multi waveform LFO tremolo effect. Great for making choppy glitched out gated effects and creating huge swells. There are some really creative possibilities available to you with this unique tap delay unit.

MicroPitch is a dual voice pitch shifter and harmonizer that can add some meat to an otherwise pale sound. With its onboard delays this thing can bring out some wild slap backs and widened stereo sounds. I guess you could say it’s a sound “biggiefier”. OK, not actually a real word, but it gets the point across. Additionally MicroPitch parameters can be manipulated to make some very nice choruses or ghostly echoes. This one kind of surprised me a little. After exploring some of its presets and twisting some dials I discovered incredible versatility has been packed into MicroPitch. This is a truly impressive effects device. Easily can be a go to chorus unit to say the least.

All of the Eventide FX apps are stand alone, Inter-App Audio and Audio Unit AUv3 capable. Each also has a programmable ribbon feature for automating select parameters in real time. They all have built in help, and a great many presets. Of course, you can save your own presets as well. I recommend getting all three and exploring them in combination for some “out of this world” effects.

Eventide’s FX are now available for iPhone and iPad. Download from the App Store.

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.


PPG Infinite – Review

Developed by Wolfgang Palm

Available in iTunes App Store

Wolfgang Palm changed the world of synthesizers with the development of wavetable synthesis in the 1970s. Since then he has been responsible for numerous innovations, contributing greatly to the world of synths. Recently he brought his inventions to iOS with a collection PPG apps that have given inspiration and previously unavailable options to many artists, myself included. PPG Infinite goes in a direction that offers massive freedom with intricate sound designing, taking notes from nature by manipulating harmonic and inharmonic frequencies not found in typical synthesizers. 

For about three weeks I have explored and experimented with Infinite, and each time discovered new tonal realms. You might think by looking at the GUI that there’s not much to it. You’d be very wrong. It is simply laid out in a way that shouldn’t intimidate, but also has countless doors to open; leading to more doors and so on. Before you know it you’re reading the various “Help” articles, learning new ways to make something interesting. Just about any sound is possible. Any complaints I’ve seen have essentially been because of operator error or plain old laziness. 

What makes PPG Infinite so special is its ultra deep editing and morphing options. I don’t want to get all “tutorial” about it but to put it simply you can edit individual wave partials by the hundreds. This can lead to many different tones coming and going with their independent frequencies and envelopes while holding one key. A truly infinite audio adventure. Maybe it starts out as a stab that fades out as a drone comes in, then soon after a melody starts repeating with background ambience of any number of various sweeps or random chimes clinking about. You could rather easily have a single patch that sounds like multitrack recordings.

It’s all in how much the user chooses to spend their time in the many mod routing and parameter adjustments as they behave with the noise, morpher, and spectral filtering molders. The two Sine editors have different impacts on the sounds. Sine 1 is where you can create and edit your Sine values as they track in the waveform. Sine 2 is where the structure of the sine 1 volume or amplitudes for each partial is adjusted. All with a detailed wave graphic showing you what’s happening to your sound in real time. Additionally there is a Random panel that allows you to make changes to each sinusoids 6 parameters changing their intensity etc. Hit the “Go” button after making some adjustments and that new overtone variation is set. Adjust and repeat while being careful to save the changes. The in app “Help” does a far better job of explaining how each of these work. I recommend reading as many of these articles as you can. 

With so many editable pieces it’s not hard to get lost. Fortunately you can always revert to the original saved version of your patch and compare it to your new edits with the A B button. There is also parameter copy and paste which will become very useful, especially when you want certain partials to have the same behaviors. 

PPG Infinite’s deep mod matrix, 4 LFOs with 4 common waveforms, envelopes, filtering, morphing, molding and all the highly detailed overtone editing can have a nice delay, reverb or distortion effects added. Want more? You can also import wavetables from PPG WaveTable, and WaveMapper or phonic utterances from PPG Phonem to the Molder to expand even further upon the already massive library of included sound sources. I might add that the Molder being so versatile does make for some seriously wild filtering type effects depending on what source is selected. It’s another incredibly powerful unit that shouldn’t be overlooked.

There’s so much good stuff in PPG Infinite that I can’t cover it all. It’s no lightweight. Be patient and if you think something doesn’t work or can’t be done, take the time to read up on the in app “Help” articles or try contacting support. It can seem a bit complicated at first for some people, but in all likelihood there is a way to do what you want. 

My only complaints are a little minor. First is that the mod matrix is tiny. If there is a way to blow it up, I can’t find it-please correct me if I’m wrong. 

My other complaint is that I’ve experienced some crashes on my freshly restarted iPad Air 2 and no background apps. That is likely something that will be corrected in the near future, and I wouldn’t consider it a deal breaker since this is a very new app. Lastly, (another thing that’s hardly a deal breaker and has no impact on my overall enjoyment and satisfaction) I’ve never been a fan of how PPG’s preset managers are laid out. Other than that PPG Infinite is a marvel. It’s so nice to see something that isn’t another classic hardware reproduction. Infinite brings something new and powerful to this summer’s table of great new synthesizers for iOS.  Don’t miss this one. 

*supports MIDI, Audiobus 2, Inter-App Audio, and AU extensions with multiple instances.

KASPAR – Review

KASPAR is developed by Yonac

Available from iTunes App Store

KASPAR (resisting obvious children’s cartoon references) launches with a fierce dragon logo before quickly revealing the synthesizer and all its glory. It is an immediate impression that perhaps intentionally conveys to the user that they just released a majestic, mythical beast. This is however no myth.

In order to properly control such power a proper cage is needed to house it. What I’m saying is don’t expect to fully enjoy KASPAR on anything older than an iPad Air. The developer has included this warning in the App Store description. Somehow a couple ding dongs still wrote bad reviews because this powerful new synthesizer doesn’t work well on their old iPad 4s. Who’s fault is that? Come on. There is a very fair warning upfront that they ignored. Makes as much sense as complaining to the makers of a gold fish bowl that their product sucks because they can’t fit their pet shark in it. I’ll detail the recommendations a little more at the end of this review.

KASPAR is a massive synthesizer or really 8 synths in one with 4 touch controlled morphing (or Auto) groups. Each synth has 3 oscillators (totaling up to 24) with multiple waveforms. Dedicated filter envelopes, an arpeggiator, chord maker, 6 dedicated mods slots with 20 possible targets, 2 LFOs and more. With a strong morphing capability, loads of high quality sound effects, there doesn’t seem to be any limits to what you can come up with.

The 4 group morphing unit is controlled by touch and KASPAR can record your own custom morphing shapes that you draw. Each of the groups are x and y controls. The morpher allows for deep sound modulation control with an endless pallet of possibilities, shapes and sizes. Reassign synths easily to any group, control the x and y curve speeds and enjoy manually shaping your sound or set to “Auto” and watch it go on and morph whatever mode(6) and loop(4) type you choose.

In KASPAR it’s all bout layering. So of course there is a screen to make general adjustments to each of the 8 synths, volume, pan, and both FX bus levels. Similar to a standard mixer.

Choose from about 300 presets. Better yet, make your own synth patches from a variety of common and several unique waveforms for each of the 3 oscillators. All have pulse width/ timbre controls, and oscillators 2 & 3 also have ring modulation. The overall combined sound can have noise added with a wide tone control, and a glide option. Play polyphonic or mono with legato on or off. Pretty standard stuff. It’s the variety of unique waveforms that can spice things up. There are some interesting shapes to choose from and they can make serious impact on the sound that synth makes.

As you edit each layer of synths you will find a nice selection of independent filters to enable. All have their own unique qualities. The Fat 70’s, Formant and Comb are very cool. Mix and match your favorites or whatever your final patch design needs. They are all excellent. I couldn’t find anything lacking with the filters. I just wish I could copy a filter setting to use in a different synth layer. Come to think of it, that would be nice to have for the oscillators or other parameters as well.

Each synth has its own set of 2 LFOs and an envelope. Each LFO has 7 possible waveforms. On the Mod page (not shown) you can have up to 6 different modifiers for each synth with 20 possible sources. For a single synth having just 6 mods, might seem like it’s not much, but remember we can make up to 8 layers of 6 each. That means there are up to 48 possible mods throughout the layers. It adds up and doesn’t pose any significant limitation.

The 2 FX busses can both have up to 8 effects units selected. The signal flow is easily adjusted by touch, drag and drop. For those not familiar how busses work, it means you are sending a chain of FX to the overall sound, not inserted to each specific synth. However each synth has bus controls to adjust how much of each busses chain of FX are applied to them. It would be interesting to see what it would be like to have independent FX chains, varying units and parameters for each synth someday. I don’t think even the latest iPad Pro could handle that today? That said 2 busses are nothing to shrug off. The FX units are all high end and custom made for KASPAR. There’s plenty of interesting options and combinations.

Being a stand alone synthesizer, KASPAR wouldn’t be complete without its own recorder. It can also be used to play a imported loop along with whatever sound the app is making.

With such an enormous range KASPAR doesn’t just stop here. Each synth also has its own multi mode arpeggiator and chord maker. Program your own chords to a single key in a snap. That’s become more useful than I had thought it would.

Put it all together and you have one colossal or “super synth”. Even my iPad Air 2 performed well with heavy loads of layers, FX, arps, filters and morphs running with the “Best” audio generation quality at 256 buffer through Inter-App Audio in Cubasis. Yonac really did a good job with efficiency here. They also thoughtfully made sure to include full MIDI services, Audiobus, Abelton Link, and AU plug in.

KASPAR sports up to 12 polyphony (tested with 8), a pleasant interface with after touch and velocity controls. A very playable synth that unlocks layered sounds not seen on iOS until now. It is making summer of 2017 one of the best for synth lovers.

As I mentioned near the beginning of this review here are more device recommendations for this super synth. You should have an iPad Air, iPad Pro, iPad Mini 2 or newer. If you must try KASPAR on an older device like an iPad 4 and are willing to take the risk and not blame the developer, you might have decent results if you turn the buffer to 512 and the audio generation quality to its lowest or “Good” setting. Just know that you probably won’t always be able to use all 8 synths, mods, FX, arps etc.

*Tested with iPad Air 2