high quality

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.

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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

FACChorus – Review

FACChorus by: Frederic Corvest 

Available in the iTunes App Store and the Mac App Store


FACChorus (Fred Anton Corvest) is a stand alone, versatile Chorus effects app designed to emulate classic physical modules of day’s past. Not unlike the analog Roland Juno Chorus effects (and others) from decades ago. 


FACChorus sports a simple and clean interface resembling a rack mount style with realistic, responsive knobs. The no fuss look may seem a bit dated to some, but fits right in all the same. It mirrors the actual signal path from left to right (input to output) making it quite intuitive. Not that there could really be much to confuse anyone, anyway. Plus, who cares about looks when what really matters it how it sounds.


So how does it sound? Well, it sounds really good, even through an iPads built in mic. Of course better with a plug in mic, USB or in a AU (Audio Unit) setting.  This Chorus unit has a wide range of possible effects from clean and subtle to clinically insane. Most iOS synths and iDAWs have a built in Chorus but lack any real versatility and often even with the most subtle settings, sound overly wobbly. FACChorus can be manipulated to suit any need for vocals, guitars, and of course iOS instruments. Lush, rich and wide. Spacey or water logged, FACChorus gets you there. 

The properly named presets offer a nice range of ready to go effect parameters suitable for most situations. There is now the ability to save custom presets added. 

While this great sounding effects unit supports Audio Unit V3, it does not support Inter-App Audio or Audiobus. Considering that most iDAWs (like Cubasis and GarageBand Mobile) support Au V3, it’s hardly any real concern. Au V3 basically works the same as IAA. 

It’s early still, and it’s already progressing thanks to a dedicated developer. 

That all said, for three bucks you get an incredible sounding Chorus unit that would’ve cost far more in the physical world. 

Keep an eye out for an OSX version that works very nicely with Logic Pro X, and GarageBand for Macs. 

AD 480 Pro – Reverb App Review

AD 480 Pro

Developed By: Fiedler Audio

Available in iTunes App Store

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They said you can’t get a high quality reverb on iOS. They said you can’t do a lot of things with iOS. They were right to some extent, but that was a while ago. Now of course a very large number of high quality tools & options exist for making professional quality music productions.
iOS Reverb options had been difficult to defend and honestly refer to as “professional” or “high quality” for a while. With increased device power (still relatively underpowered) and evolving development, the past several months have seen a boom in high powered music apps of all sorts.
Now AD480 Pro has come along to offer us a very nice quality stand alone reverb app. This is not your Grandmas “FreeVerb”.

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You probably know by now that I love Reverb. If you didn’t, well, now you do. Reverb is a powerful effect giving most any sound a boost in warmth, depth, and wideness. Its very useful, and found nearly everywhere in music. It is a power hungry effect. Which is why early iOS music apps could never really deliver a high quality option. There was even a time when professionals would laugh at the idea of a digital reverb emulation ever being possible. Of course computers have rapidly moved forward and had numerous digital Reverb options at a very high quality standard for years. iOS however is just beginning to join the party.

AD480 Pro is the first high end, stand alone reverb app to hit the App Store, but not the very first high quality or professional reverb option (See my Auria – Plug Ins & FX review series) available to iOS musicians. But, this is about stand alone FX apps, so I’ll stay on track.
This really does sound amazing!
AD480 Pro is a unique algorithm created by Future Audio, inspired by legendary reverb units such as “Lexicon” and the likes. They wanted to develop a reverb that can reproduce any acoustic space imaginable. Furthermore they wanted to make it easy to use with a bevy of adjustable parameters and routing options for the user to manipulate to their liking.
I think they were successful on all counts with AD480 Pro.

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AD480 Pro has a great sound. A really great sound! It is fully Audiobus compatible supporting “Input”, “Effects” and “Output” slots.
It is easy to use in any situation such as playing live, in the studio, a park or practically anywhere. There’s no shortage of possibilities to create a wide margin of reverberation effects.
Having control over Hi/Lo filter frequencies, levels, dampness, cutoffs, spread, mix, and many more parameters will offer you a multitude of sound types. With 108 presets covering a wide spectrum of sounds, there’s plenty of stuff ready to go and or build off of. Create and save your own patches and banks for easy use another time.
The cross feed parameters have a powerful effect, but may not always be necessary. I had been experimenting with these and hearing some added metallic sounds I wanted no part of.
So I asked Future Audio about it and here is what they said:
“The cross feed parameter group was introduced to allow a well defined behavior of the reverb for stereo signals which are not located in the middle of the panorama but much more on the left or right statically. If you have a sound like a nice broad stereo pad or similar things you actually don’t need that parameter group unless you intend to produce some special effect.”

That was a helpful explanation. It made so much sense to me that I felt silly asking the question.
It goes to show you that they are very proud of AD480 Pro and eager to help.

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There’s no shortage of routing options for MIDI uses, and under the hood is a mighty engine. Here are some additional features at a glance:
24 input and output channel routing matrix.
Internal/ external USB class compliant audio interfaces supported.
Full MIDI communication support via network, & USB-MIDI & internal (virtual) MIDI.
Super low latency from 64 samples up.
Sample rate support for 44.1 to 96 kHz
Low Light Mode – Looks pretty cool by the way.
And more.

There are plenty of functions and parameters available to explore the world of reverb.
Nothing fancy like modulations, tuning, or springs etc, but plenty to make excellent sounding reverb space effects. Space, as in a space like a room, not deep space. You can however create deep space reverb sound effects though. Imagine a star destroyers massive hanger bay after all the fighters departed. Vast! It can be done as big or small, cold or warm as you want.
I had no instances where I felt I was unable to achieve the sound I was looking for. When I wanted a warm feel or a deep space chill, it was no problem. I never felt like I was using some old cheap sounding FreeVerb algorithm. What I’ve been hearing from AD480 Pro has been very satisfying and truly professional sounding. I’ve not experienced any crashing even when using Audiobus with this, an input and an output app. Its been stable on both my iPads 3&4.
My only complaints are there’s no recording function, & no AudioCopy/Paste. That dings the convenience factor in my opinion. My other stand alone reverb app is much better for recording directly into it, and or importing and exporting samples between other apps without having to rely on Audiobus or bounce around from app to app.
I was also a little disappointed in the lack of a chorus or other modulation parameters considering the price. Some modulation options might be added, and more presets at a later time, but as IAPs.
I get the IAP for modulation, but for presets? The following in this paragraph alone has been edited with additional content Maybe its because I do my own sound design, and find the parameters of this app to be pretty strait forward, but selling presets in this case just seems silly to me. Just my opinion. Maybe its a great idea to offer professionally designed presets via IAP? Could it be a good value for folks who either don’t feel comfortable trying to make their own, or just don’t want to spend the time? What do you think? Leave a comment, Id love to hear your thoughts, and I think the developer might appreciate it as well?

Minor gripes aside, its about the quality of the app and AD480 Pro oozes quality. Considering that a comparable desktop plug in would cost many times more than this, AD480 is a good value. Just a little inconvenient in certain situations.

Recommended.

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AUFX:Space – Review

AUFX: Space
A High Quality Reverb From: Kymatica
Available Now From iTunes App Store

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Reverb is one of those FX that is found almost everywhere. It’s used in so many settings. From ambient electronic to heavy metal, reverb is in most any music. It’s not just an effect for music, but also something that occurs naturally in seemingly mundane places. Basements, cathedrals, auditoriums, arenas, and caves to name a few. It is often equated to vast space. Sometimes outer space, which is ironic as sound doesn’t carry in a vacuum. Sure that’s not literal when referring to reverb in terms of space with stars and planets, but it does represent the vastness that reverb can convey.

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So “Space” is a good descriptive word when we are talking about reverb. AUFX: Space, is the latest and the first in a series of effects units being developed by Kymatica. You may know of Kymatica from their other highly useful and quality apps like “AudioShare” “BitWiz” and “Gestrument” among others.
What the rest of the AUFX series turns out to include remains to be seen, but “Space” is a great start. Reverb and iOS have not had a long running record of high quality offerings. “Space” aims to change that going forward. Finally a stand alone high quality reverb app is here.

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AUFX: Space is a high quality 32 bit DSP reverb unit with enough adjustable parameters to shape or mimic countless reverb types superbly.
All the standard reverb parameters plus a few more are built in to Space. Spread, Damping, Pre-Delay, Wet/Dry, Scale, Gain, Room Size, Color, and both LoPass and HiPass resonant filters with Cutoff. Very nearly complete. I say nearly because it’s missing a parameter I’ve been seeking for ages in iOS reverbs; “Swirl” or “Chorus” of sorts. Not like a full-on Chorus effect, which I suspect will be offered later in the AUFX series, but a kind that adds a dimension of movement with the reverberations. Maybe it’ll come, but it’s a lot to ask for since it would add more power demands to an already efficient app. No need to over do it, but it would be nice to see for once.

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The numerous highly adjustable parameters I listed from Space have allowed me to make some fantastic-sounding effects that nothing (Aurias Reverb Plug Ins are the exception) in iOS has allowed before. Space scratches the reverb itch.
Deep, rich, warm, and expansive to short, cold, subtle and every effect in-between sound really nice. Unlike most iOS reverb options, which by comparison to “Space” sound very thin, cheap, and like they’re coming from within tin cans. They have been improving slowly, but this is a significant and targeted advancement. AUFX: Space fills a void (no pun intended) I thought might never be filled. I wish I had this 2 years ago.

FEATURES

Process hardware input/output or other apps through Audiobus (input/filter/output slots supported).
Ready for the future inter-app audio standard.
Fully MIDI controllable, including Virtual MIDI.
Background Audio.
Save and load user presets.
Comes with several bundled presets.
Record the result directly in app.
Email recordings or export to AudioShare audio document manager app.
Access user presets and recordings through iTunes File Sharing.

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Using this app with Audiobus has proven to be problem free so far as I’ve experienced on my iPads 3 and 4. In case “clipping” were to happen there is a thoughtful “limiter” function which can be enabled from the menu. It says it adds 10MS to latency, but I haven’t noticed it. You can also save your concoctions to call up later easily from the menu.

The U.I. is simple and uncluttered making usage effortless. Its just you and Space with nothing distracting. The way it should be. With the ability to record directly, run through all Audiobus slots, and MIDI including virtual MIDI, its ready for any project. Not to mention its already built with iOS 7s “inter-app audio” standard in mind and prepared for when iOS7 releases.
When this releases (could be sometime in July) I would encourage anyone who wants a simple yet sophisticated and excellent reverb option to pick this up.

EDIT: 7-23-2013
I wanted to add that I have been using “Space” with my iRig Mic to capture audio recording directly to the app. It was not only convenient, but really sounded great even through the iRig. Just holding on the recording from the menu brings up a option to quickly move files to AudioShare.
The launch price of $3.99 is a steal! Low price compared to others, but by no means is this cheap. Sure you could go spend $10 $20 or more for other stand alone FX, but you won’t get anything better than this.

It will be very interesting to see what Kymatica offers next in the AUFX apps series. I for one am very eager to find out. At any rate, this is a really great start!