Synths

Synthesizers

Addictive Pro – Synth of the year?

Addictive Pro Developd by VirSyn

Available in iTunes App Store


It’s hard to not “squee” like a fanboy whenever I see something new from VirSyn. They just don’t disappoint with their high quality, user friendly, powerful and affordable products. Addictive Pro (not to be confused with the awesome Addictive Synth) is yet another outstanding offering from this top tier developer. 

Addictive Pro is a ‘hybrid synthesis algorithm’ based instrument with wavetable spectrum synthesis of up to 12 oscillators, with a virtual analog, noise spectrum, FM and ring modulator synthesis engine.  Further refinement of the sound is had with its well emulated classic analog filtering. A mouth full, I know and we are just getting started. 

Part of what makes this so great is the familiar or intuitive user interface. Start out easy with the ‘easy control’ to begin your trip. Two large customizable X/Y touch controllers dominate this first screen separated by the 4 major randomizable control sections; Wave, Mod, Arp, & FX. Tap the dice for one or all and receive something new and likely unusual. This will get you started very fast with no fuss. It’s also pretty entertaining to roll the dice. If you don’t like what you get, tap the parameter die again for a new roll. Repeat as necessary. Don’t give up too quickly though, you just might end up with something unexpected if you take some time to dig down and start tweaking specific pieces. Explore and you will be rewarded.


When you start to dig in you will likely start with checking out the tabs to the right of ‘easy control’. Here on the wave a, wave b, spectrum a, or spectrum b tabs you will find some real meat to bite into. Draw on the wave or spectrum to make broad or fine adjustments. Change the harmonic content from a wide selection of presets. Select the base set of harmonic partials. Set and configure oscillators. Or hit the randomizer again to roll the dice for something new. Need help? All screens have a “?”(Help) to tap that (as shown in above screen shot) will briefly describe each parameters behavior. More detailed instructions can be found at the developer website, linked at the top of this review. 

Each parameter field has some form of a menu to open. As shown above, touch the “Configuration” box to bring up the options for that parameter. Wave a, and b can be wildly different and further mapped out sonic realms can be explored and designed in great detail. The Stereo Width and Fatten are two nice parameters that should not be ignored. The ‘shadow oscillators’ and stereo impact can be manipulated for a delicate or brash effect. 

The virtual keyboard is pretty standard with programmable key and scales. Aftertouch controls can be assigned and routed. Adjust keyboard size, lock it etc. I think little need be explained here? Pretty standard stuff. 


The Mod section is where things get fun. 9 banks of modulation options with general base value controls and further detailed controls are revealed when touched and selected. Assign, route and edit values for modulation. LFOs have 6 wave form options, phase and delay rates. ADSR, Analog Filters and more can be found for a powerful set of modulation tools. 


I just wanted to show the Mod section without the “?” Help turned on. 

The Arp section has the usual and excellent VirSyn arpeggiator but with a added twist in Addictive Pro. It’s a 4 part polyrhythmic arpeggiator. This is very cool. Basically a 32 step sequencer with 4 separate parts, or ‘tracks’. This is a special feature in my opinion, for any synth. This is an amazing way to create grooves and melodies with intricacies not commonly provided. Each part can have a different clock or pitch with a step offset to make rich sequences. Individual run switches that when selected are always in time. Each part also has its own “Quick Edit” set of parameters to customize the sound. It’s really a remarkable feature with huge possibilities to explore. Plus you can record right here in the app. 


Most synths have FX of mediocre quality. VirSyn doesn’t skimp on the FX like other do. Each of the 7 FX banks sound very good. You won’t get a better reverb unit that is built in to another synth. When VirSyn says “Hi End Reverberation”, they aren’t over selling. It really is hi end. Not quite as hi maybe as a stand alone dedicated reverb app, but still very nice. All of the FX units are well done, and don’t sound like last minute cheap add ons. 

To sum it up, Addictive Pro is a highly capable, powerful synthesizer packed with all of the tools and parameters you need to make just about any type of sound. A sophisticated hybrid, wavetable oscilator synth that is stable and complete. Supports Core MIDI, Inter-App Audio, Audiobus 2, Abelton Link and more.  If there’s only one iOS synth to buy so far this year, it’s Addictive Pro. Short of a remarkable new release from another developer I’d call this the Synth of the year! 

DRC Polyphonic Synthesizer – Review

DRC Synth is developed by Imaginando

Available for free download in iTunes


I’ve seen, used, tested and yawned at every iOS analog emulated synthesizer. This is one particular type of synth that are dime a dozen and not short on competitive options. I’m not saying that DRC isn’t good. In fact I think it’s great. While most developers are creating a graphical resemblance to old hardware to tug at our nostalgia heart strings, these guys are putting the focus on not what you see, but how you use what you hear. 


DRC most resembles the robust and brutal sounds of iSEM (the Oberheim remake for iOS) or iMini (Or Mini Moog) with its signature sound. This definitly is a well made emulation that packs a wallop with the best. This 8 voice polyphonic analog* synth is clearly not just another sell out 2 oscillator emulator of historic hardware trying to cash in on something famous that is either hard or impossible to find. No synth lovers, they really put their hearts into this. One could argue that we have plenty of these already. True, but this not only has the sound talking the talk, it also has a interface of minimalistic design that walks the walk where functionality is concerned. 

The beauty of the simplistic and minimalist user interface design is no accident. It surely isn’t lazy or result of lacking creativity. Everything you need to use, can be used all on this one screen. No interruptions with page swiping. Just set or select the parameter tabs from the 4 quadrant window panes. It promotes a very comfortable usability that’s been largely overlooked by most. Adjusting parameters while playing live in real time allows you to bring new life and evolution into a sound while being performed. This is one of a few instances where I felt really at ease playing the keyboard and slowly maipulating a filter or noise generator at the same time. It feels right. 


Among all of the usual 2 oscillator analog emulators, DRC has something else I found interesting. The above image shows the Mod Wheel and After Touch controls. It also shows the key and scales options. At the bottom with the key labels, flanked to the right and left are ribbon controllers. I couldn’t find anything in the manual that explained them? They can be used to play through the notes of the scale. Whatever the intention is, I found them to add a little extra dimension to certain aspects. They are especially handy while using the arpeggiator. Not sure this was worth getting fixated on, it’s not the first time I’ve seen ribbon controls, but the location is what got my attention. Anyway, I just happen to like it. 

DRC has the MIDI, Audiobus, Inter-App audio supports like we expect. Abelton Link is also supported. You can use the cloud to easily share patches among your devices quite nicely. The usual filters are available, and for a synth of this breed they are the fine quality most would demand. I don’t like listing every parameter, so just check the app page in iTunes to get the full list, or visit the developer website. Both are linked at the very top of this review. 

In the modifiers DRC has something here that you don’t see every day. In the LFO waveforms options is a FS&H, Filtered Sample and Hold. It works similarly to the Sample and Hold waveform that is more common, but ramps up from one random position to another more smoothly. It has a very interesting effect to the LFO behavior. 

It has a Chorus, Delay and Reverb effect unit. You can use the Notch filter cutoff and resonance to make your own phaser effects. All pretty standard stuff. The Reverb is intentionally unrealistic and generates an interesting artificial, spacey component to the sound. It’s not designed after any real world units, or even a simple plate. It’s just a long crazy reverberation effect intended to add more depth to a sound. Interesting, but ultimately still just a cheap sounding reverb. I should add that I’m a reverb snob, so don’t put too much into my comments on this part. I just feel it could be better and remain an equally interesting sound effect. 

Free to download, DRCs synth engine is fully operational for 7 days before purchase is required to permanently unlock and use. It’s worth giving a shot if you like iSEM or iMini type sounds. If you don’t have those apps but want that type of sound, this could be a great first choice. 

Shoom Synthesizer- App Review

Shoom Synthesizer is developed by: Yuri Turov

Available from iTunes


Shoom Synthsizer is a fantastic X/Y touch controlled instrument for iPad. 3 polyphonic synths in one.

An intuitively designed interface clearly emphasizing ease of performance with a great amount of playable screen space makes this super fun to play. 


3 simultaneously playable synths each with their own set of two multi-waveform, FM cross modulation oscillators are at your disposal. Each synth has its own noise, and volume control as well as the standard ADSR and LFO basics. A handy 4 pole low pass resonance filter and overdrive are also included with each. Nothing fancy, but made for easy patching and variable sound types. From crunchy, screaming leads, to booming bass lines, and on to amazing drones. 


Shooms built in stereo delay and reverb effects stand in nicely for simple sound effects. I’d say they are pretty good for what they are. Many users have said that Shooms strength is with making drones. I agree, but wouldn’t say that is all it can do. There’s plenty of room to get creative with this and have some pretty unique sound scenes to play. 

Of course it has Inter-App Audio and Audiobus 2 supports. So far I have found both to be very stable on my iPad Air 2. Though like any iOS synth the more active voices being used, the more the chance of distortion.

I love that each synths note can be played independently and / or held. Get all ten fingers involved. If your digit dexterity is above average, you could do some impressive things. Even with average finger dexterity like me, you’re going to smile. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of Shoom, and I found it to be very easy, very quickly. More importantly the sound quality is fantastic. This is one grand instrument that has more to it than meets the eye. Sure you aren’t getting a massively powerful synthesizer, but you do get quality.

Only thing I felt I was longing for was user sample import. Is that a big deal? Maybe not, but I’d like the option. 

It’s a bargain, it sounds fantastic, and it’s fun. A no brainer purchase. 

Electrify NXT – Review

Electrify NXT is made by Ingolf Koch
Available in the iTunes App Store

…A virtual groove box with drum loops, synths and FX”

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I’ll be honest, I didn’t get along very well with the first Electrify app. When I saw that Ingolf Koch released NXT I was a tad skeptical. After talking to some fellow iOS music artists who have experienced both the old Electrify and the brand new NXT, my eyes began to open. I got a little excited for this new and different follow-up.
When I finally had NXT in my hands exploring it for the first time, I understood why the folks I spoke to were so happy with it.
Electrify NXT is much different, and better.

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Electrify NXT is more than a sequel, it is a completely new app. Redesigned appearance, workflow, audio engine, and tools to provide a greatly improved product. A product that does its job very well.

Loaded up with hundreds of presets, samples, loops and effects, it has a nice FM synthesizer, 8 sampler drum kit, multi track sequencer, automation, sampler, and mixer. All utilizing the intuitive touch interface splendidly.

The polyphonic FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesizer has 11 algorithms and wave-morphing oscillators. Full envelope, and LFOs, all with easy multi-effects routing. Creating classic FM type sounds from scratch is a snap. Having this built-in synth is very good for quickly crafting sounds, melodies or sound effects. Use presets or create and save your own.
It’s a good, capable synth, but I wouldn’t say it has infinite sound possibilities. At any rate I’m glad it’s included.

“Nearly all parameters of instruments and effects can be modulated by envelope, LFOs or by real time parameter sequencing.”

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The drum kits can have 8 samples loaded to the 8 pads. Tap out your own beats using those pads, or just touch the sequencer steps you want them in.
The looper/slicer is indeed strong and is excellent for rearranging and redesigning your beats perfectly. Including a clip editor, creating custom loops is fun and simple. Just the way I like it. Beats and sampling made easy.
With over 1600 full loops and individual clips covering a wide variety of styles and sounds to choose from there will be no shortage of options for your sequences; or use your own samples of course.
Everything can be set to play in perfect sync and on the fly. Load the screen with blocks of samples and quickly activate or deactivate what’s playing and when however you like. No interruptions.

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As you can see from the above screen shot, customizing the background can be done. Piece of cake, but I’ve experienced some occasional crashes when using my own custom backgrounds. Going back to the default options resolved the crashes.

NXT offers a sweet list of several effects to use. Each effect is well done and can be modulated, tweaked and adjusted. With little x/y pads for each in the chain for some added convenience.
Usually offering FX in this quantity ends up with mediocre quality. Arguably the same could be said here with some, however they have a purpose and are functionally sound. I don’t think there’s much reason to complain. The variety of FX are very nice to have.

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Collectively all the tools offered in NXT are well done. Sequencing is easy. Sound design, sampling, arranging, mixing etc, it’s all incredible. I could go on and on in detail about the vast amount of pieces that make up NXT, but this would become unreadably long. That said, I encourage you to visit the developer website for all the details to fill in the blanks.

Clearly I like this app. It is however not perfect. It won’t be a hit with everybody. Much of whether or not one may like or dislike NXT has to do with individual workflow and preferences. Its a sequencer not a DAW. While it is intended for use in live performances, there are still a few minor issues that might make that scenario a bit unattractive at the moment. Little things that wouldn’t be too bothersome in the “studio” (where ever that may be) may be very problematic live. One example is when previewing a sample, I’ve had it fail to stop playing. That can really get in the way.
A “UNDO” option would be nice. Despite the recent update I’ve still heard some audio drop outs when leaving the clip editor. Not as much as before though.
The GUI has on rare occasions paused briefly during the switch from one thing to another. Such as from the main front screen to the mixer etc. On the other hand, there has been little to complain about in general.

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Updates have been steady and coming with bug fixes, various improvements, and new features. As is, this is still my favorite sequencer workstation and I think it’s the best new sequencer of 2013.
As time goes on it will only get better.

Where iOS workflow is concerned NXT is well rounded, but not yet complete without current support for Inter-App Audio. It does have integrated AudioCopy/Paste, Audiobus, and MIDI.

Electrify NXT is one ambitious groove box with a lot of power.

*Quotes taken from Ingolf Koch iTunes App Store description

EGSY01-Analog Synth – MINI Review

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EGSY01- Analog Synth is made by ElliottGarage
Available in iTunes App Store

EGSY01 is a 2 oscillator, virtual analog synth for iPad. A Audiobus, MIDI compatible synth app with support for iOS 7 inter-app audio.
It has a basic arpeggiator, and a 16 step sequencer. Variable latency settings, and modulating keys.
It has a impressive looking list of specs from the iTunes App description, but it’s all really just the very basics. Speaking about its synthesizer functions, they’re all things you find standard in pretty much every synth on the market.
A market loaded to the gills with analog synths, and with many that are very strong in the same price bracket.

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Thing is, EGSY01 isn’t doing much of anything to separate itself from the pack. It is decent, and at times I found I did enjoy the sound qualities , but it just isn’t all that versatile or original.
The arpeggiator is very simple, leaving me wanting more. The 16 step sequencer is cool, but again very simple.
Considering its price tag (currently) of $8.99 I expected something a bit stronger.

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While playing with EGSY01 I found that the virtual knobs were too touchy. Making fine adjustments is agonizing when a slight movement sends the knob to huge swings.
The noise filter sounds a little weak, and the Hi/Lo pass filters would tend to crackle if raised near their slider tops.
They don’t have resonance controls for some reason. I don’t think I’ve ever had a synth with Hi/Lo Pass filters that had no resonance controls?
The keys can control some modulation, like pitch, LFO etc, and that’s about all the routing you get.
The keyboard doesn’t move, but there is an octave slider on the left side of it which essentially accomplishes the same goal. I actually kind of like that more than a sliding keyboard.
I’m not saying this is a bad synth, but it doesn’t do anything new or better than any of the numerous options we’ve seen.
It might have been more impressive a few years ago, unfortunately today it feels like it lags behind in a very competitive market.

I’d say its an excellent starter synth for folks looking to try out their first iOS analog synth, but the price tag prohibits such a recommendation.
EGSY01 is functionally fine, with a decent sound quality, simple, clean GUI, but lacking any factors that inspire excitement in this synth lover.
If it were to ( and I sincerely hope it will ) be updated with more features, improved filters, more modulation & routing options, some innovative functions, and then priced at $4.99, I’d love to have another look at it. I love ElliottGarages EGDR808 app, so this is a little disappointing to me.
As is this is a $.99 synth that rides the middle of the road somewhere between being better than the worst, but not anywhere near good as the better synths. That all said, this is a synth to keep an eye on and hope for a lot more development, but I am sorry to say at nine bucks its not really a “must have” today.