Synths

Synthesizers

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. 

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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.

CubeSynth – Review

CubeSynth
Developed by: VirSyn
Available in the iTunes App Store

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I have to admit, I am a big fan of VirSyn. They’ve been delivering some of the best software instruments to desktop computers for ages. It’s their iOS entries that have captivated me. I’ll try not to “fanboy”, but holy cow! CubeSynth is fantastic. I’ve enjoyed VirSyns AddictiveSynth since it launch a while back, and I just didn’t expect them to drop this one on us. I’m so glad they did!

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CubeSynth is not at all like AddictiveSynth except for the fundamental features and the ingenious arpeggiator.
This is an additive synthesizer with a deep set of controls to morph sounds. A huge spectrum of sound capabilities await your touch to sculpt, tweak, and evolve dramatic and detailed soundscapes.
4 predefined sound sources (A,B,C,&D) independently controllable with their own draw screens, are where the magic happens. At least that’s a good place to start. There are literally thousands of parameters to be manipulated. With each of the 4 sources are a set of 6 controls you can adjust in extremely fine detail. Up to 512 adjustable partials per voice, numerous Wave Source tools, and options options options galore open up a universe of amazing synth sounds. This is a grand synth of massive functionality. Morphing done right!

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I’ve spent several days engrossed within CubeSynth. It could easily be a big time killer for anyone who loves complex synth controls.
When you open the Sound Source control screens you are presented with a draw screen to manage each if the 6 sound modifiers. Level, Pan Position, Attack, Decay, Filter, and Noise. As I mentioned this is also where you can select wave sources from various types to apply in any combination. Maybe I’m a bit odd, but I find this sort of control to be extremely satisfying.

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Control the harmonic or in-harmonic spectra, brightness, pitch, modulation assignments and so much more.
CubeSynth has 3 envelopes with 64 time/level segments. Again these are touch manipulated and impact how the overall sound morphs.
How each parameter behaves is very detailed and allow a range of short, and subtle to long, spread out changes. You could easily create a single patch that will take on its own life and direction as though its a song of its own by just holding a key or keys.
Like AddictiveSynth before, CubeSynth not only has an insane amount of complex details to control, but also a randomizer. Tap the dice and CubeSynth will make a patch for you. This can be very helpful when you just want to be surprised with something to build off of. It may take a few rolls of the dice, but something interesting is bound to happen.

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CubeSynth shares the brilliant Arpeggiator found in AddictiveSynth. Create sequences up to 64 steps. Each step has its own accent, tie, octave, and key setting. It can trigger single notes and chords with a general Gate, and Accent dials. I’m really glad to see that VirSyn left the arpeggiator alone. It has been my favorite arp among all of my synths. It just can’t be topped in my opinion.
Of course there are also a healthy number of preset arps, and synth patches to choose from. If you liked the dice for the synth, you’ll probably find them just as intriguing when rolling them to randomly create a new arp sequence.
VirSyn says in the app description the randomized arpeggios are “%100 usable”, but I kind of disagree. Many times I’ve rolled the dice and ended up with an arp that just made no sense at all. Sure there have been a bunch that miraculously hit the right spot, but far from %100. Nevertheless, it’s still a great function. Besides it’s more interesting to make something yourself. Isn’t it?

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We can’t have a synth and call it full featured without the obligatory FX banks. In many cases these are pretty generic and just tacked on other synths. Not CubeSynth. Each of the 7 FX are quality options. Not quite as detailed as what’s probably found in your iDAW, or stand alone FX apps, but very capable with excellent sound characteristics. Included FX are: A Hi&Lo EQ, Phaser, Delay, Overdrive, Ensemble, Chorus, and Reverb.
Except for the Overdrive, & Ensemble the FX each have a fair amount of adjustable parameters to fine tune the specified effect.
Reverb for example, has diffusion, absorption, tail delay, and tail stereo controls beyond the standard size and wet/dry adjustments more commonly found in most synth apps. Like I said, the CubeSynth effects all sound very good making them more desirable for use than most synths.

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Complete is really a accurate descriptor of this synth. MIDI, Audiobus, AudioCopy, and a built in recorder round out the list of useful features. Plus the keyboard can be programmed to a lot of scales and all keys.
I didn’t list every specification but you can visit VirSyn for more details and information.

Do I recommend CubeSynth? Yes! I can’t really recommend CubeSynth any higher. I’ve not experienced any problems or shortcomings. It hasn’t crashed on either iPad 3or4 (haven’t been able to try on an iPad 2 first hand, but it does work just fine on iPad 2) the only thing that made me scratch my head was when I was slowly moving a finger up a white key to manipulate the assigned modifier, the closest black key was triggered without ever touching it. Big deal? Maybe. Maybe not.
Inter-App Audio is not yet part of CubeSynth but VirSyn confirmed that it is coming.
!!***!!***!! UPDATE !!**!!**!!
CubeSynth now supports Inter-App Audio. As of 11-25-2013 CubeSynth and VirSyns AddictiveSynth both support IAA.
This is a must have synth. Great sound, great features, great variety. There aren’t a lot of iOS synths that can create enormous evolving soundscapes, rich pads, leads, and all things in-between quite like Cube.
Just get it.

iSEM – Review

iSEM Available in the iTunes App Store
Developed By:Arturia

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Arturia has the vintage analog emulation thing down. Their TAE (True Analog Emulation) technology they’ve developed is a premium body of work. They have a history of creating some of the very best emulations of vintage classics that have forever left their mark on the music world. iSEM is the latest carefully crafted, vintage emulation of the famous Oberheim Synthesizer Expander Module (S.E.M.) from 1974. The sounds from the hardware back in the day graced legendary progressive rock, and electronic music artists like Tangerine Dream, and Rush. Today we can recreate those synth sounds not only with great ease on our iPads, but also with the same sound characteristics that made them famous. iSEM delivers.

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Attention to detail in faithfully recreating the visual appearance is obvious. All of the original Oberheim functions are neatly placed in uncluttered, and separate screens identified by their own button at the top of the screen. This 2 oscillator sawtoothed legend looks and sounds like the old hardware. iSEM maintains all of the original parameters of the classic that inspired it.
2 LFOs, multi mode 12db Lo, Hi, and Band Pass filter, notch, and 2 ADS envelopes .
This also has some added functionality that expand upon its original, improving the synths overall scope of sound design range.
Noise, Sub Oscillator, Arpeggiator, 8 voice programmer module, FX and more. Here is a link to some more info in the Arturia Official iSEM Trailor

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The modulation matrix that comes with iSEM has 8 source to destination banks. Virtual dials control the parameter selection and how much you want of them in the mix. Very simple to use and immediately satisfying. Combined with the voice programmer (next) there are loads of cool sounds to be made.
The 8 voice programmer module (see above image) allows independent voice settings for each. Select the desired parameter by a virtual knob that cycles through all of the routing options, and apply it’s effect and behaviors via additional up/down sliders. How about that!
Well, maybe it’s not exactly the most impressive thing, but it does give you more room to spice up your sound creations effectively.

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iSEM also comes with some well emulated analog FX. Delay, Chorus, and Overdrive. Pretty much just the basics. These FX actually sound very nice. The Overdrive really packs a punch. Not a whole lot to say here that isn’t probably very obvious.

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Last is the “Pref” section. In this spot you can control the amount of every parameter in 4 banks. Each parameter is selected again by a virtual dial, and the amount by adjusting up/down sliders. So there is really quite a bit that can be done to craft sounds in very fine detail.
iSEM is well thought out and designed for easy use. Full midi mapping control, Audiobus, WIST, and Inter-App Audio ready.
There is no recording function onboard so that also means no AudioCopy.. It works easily with the iRig Keys if you don’t want to use the scrolling keyboard. Play mono or polyphonic by the flip of a switch.
It’s stable, and behaves itself when connected to other host apps just as well as it does all alone. Things were not nearly as simple back in the day of wires and heavy equipment. Considering how things back in those hardware days were so much more complicated, you gain perspective of how truly spoiled we are with today’s technology. Can you imagine the look on Klaus Schults face if you told him in 1975 that his truckload of synthesizers and gear would fit on a device like an iPad? He would’ve Schultsed his pants!

iSEM may not be the most feature rich synth ever made, but it’s not trying to be. This is a special type of sound that is especially suited well for thick leads and warm pads. With over 500 presets there’s a lot to try out, or build off. That’s a lot of presets, and honestly many are totally unnecessary. Several of them sound very much the same.
In closing I have to say that although I am not particularly thrilled with yet another analog synth emulation, iSEM does do an excellent job finding its own place with its head slightly above glut of vintage synth copies we have seen so often. I think we have enough now?
A brand new synth design would be very welcome from Arturia in the future.
If you love that vintage sound, then this is the perfect synth for you. You will get your monies worth. This is a excellent, quality synth and you really can’t go wrong unless you already have a dozen analogs.

Arturia iSEM YouTube tutorial

For those of you synth history fans I included a copy of some interesting historical tid bits that I received from Arturia in their press release.

Some history from Arturia taken from the Arturia official press release:
“Hatched by legendary synth designer Tom Oberheim back in 1974, the dual-oscillator SEM was originally conceived as a way of beefing up weaker-sounding compatible analogue monosynths of the time before becoming a sought-after sound in its own right — so much so that its American creator came up with a series of successive SEM-based instruments, first pairing up two SEMs with a 37-note keyboard and a simple analogue step sequencer to form the Two Voice, Oberheim’s first self-contained compact, duophonic synthesizer in 1975, thereby beating rivals to the polyphonic punch. Programmability came courtesy of Oberheim’s breakthrough Polyphonic Synthesizer Programmer which — when hardwired into the fair-sized Four Voice (featuring four SEMs and a 49-note keyboard) in 1976 and enormous Eight Voice (eight SEMs set across two tiers) in 1977 — enabled the control voltages of many parameters for up to eight SEMs to be memorised for the first time. Though these instruments were undeniably groundbreaking, quickly finding favour with the likes of popular prog-rockers Rush and electronic music trailblazers Tangerine Dream, polyphony was, after all, achieved with multiple SEMs so each voice/module had to be programmed independently, which was quite a daunting task — even by somewhat shaky Seventies standards!

Fast forward, then, to 2013 and the truly 21st Century musical landscape has changed considerably, as has music technology itself. Today, of course, we take polyphony and programmability for granted, though not necessarily that still-sought-after Oberheim sound. Ingeniously, iSEM quite literally taps into all of this and then some, putting more musicality at anyone’s fingertips than its analogue namesake designer dared dream possible back in Oberheim’s Seventies salad days!”