iOS Synth

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

Mood – How to Analog Right

Mood is developed by apeSoft

Available in iTunes App Store

apeSoft continues their offerings of reimagined classics ( i.e. iVCS 3) with Mood. A “personal interpretation” of the Analog Synthesizer by Eugenio Giordani. As apeSoft fans would expect, Mood is a faithful sonic reproduction with several modern additions that make it more than just another virtual analog synth. 


More than just another 3 oscillator VA Synth, ( is there an echo in here?) Mood comes packed with loads of user customizable widgets and supports, like an easy to use sampler, audio unit v3, full midi, Inter-App Audio, Audiobus 3, and so much more. 

This mono or up to 16 voice polyphonic synth does deliver quality at all levels of design and sonic exploration.  With the built in sampler you’ll have many more avenues of sound designing to explore. Dig in to micro details by assigning various widgets to nearly any parameter by a double tap on the knob. I’ve been up very late obsessively tweeking many different things. 

As shown above the aforementioned double tap on a parameters knob brings up the widgets screen to make those specific adjustments. It can get a bit tedious for those not interested in audio designing, but for those who are, it is very welcome. These should look familiar to anybody who has used any other apeSoft offering.  The widgets bring audio designers a mass of possibilities that can lead to some extreme detail in their sound creations. 

With the sampler you are open to many more options in possible sound designs. This is another example of how Mood separates itself from the usual or hum drum typicality of common VA synths. Import samples or record new ones from the environment or people around you. Mix and match with the FM or Wave unit, various effects, sub oscillator sounds, filters or LFOs etc. There’s not much limiting your imagination being brought to audible life. 

Although not shown in this review, there is a full service arp available. It’s accessed a little awkwardly by turning the XLFO wave knob to the lowest right hand wave form. I’m sure there’s a good reason for this, but it struck me as a bit oddly placed. Nevertheless, it is there. It’s possible I’ve had a major lapse of understanding from one too many late nights micro managing some sound I was working on. 

Moods effects are top notch. The Reverb unit has a vintage or distinctly different modern settings option and sounds very clean. That is until the powerful and grungy Distortion unit is enabled. There’s an excellent Ring Modulator for adding some unique tonal qualities. Of course a very nice Delay effects as well. 

I should mention the filters. The well designed Moog-like filters are as good as any can get for iOS. Personally I think they may be the best so far, but that’s just me. 

Overall Mood is not your ordinary virtual analog synth trying to be a perfect copy of a classic. It’s a loaded baked potato with double the flavor and satisfaction. Is it perfect? Maybe not, but what is? It’s about as perfect as I think it can be minus a few minor UI issues. Its very stable (using iPad Air 2 for this review) and with a quick buffer, it’s largely lag-free. Except for maybe a loaded 16 voice sound with heavy Reverb,  running through audiobus to a DAW with an effects unit in the chain, this synth rarely causes any grumbles or crashes. It’s hard to find any reason to no recommend Mood highly. 

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.

Nave – Review

Nave
Developed By: Waldorf & Tempo Rubato

Nave is compatible with iPads 2,3 & 4

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UPDATED 6-14-13
There were a few things I left out when I originally wrote the review below. Only because I was trying to keep things short, and honestly I just forgot. However a couple are pretty important and should be mentioned.
Yes, Nave is a polyphonic and monophonic synth. It has a 4 voice unison mode with adjustable width. It gets really wide, by the way. I find myself using it a lot. As for how many voices in total polyphony is concerned, I have been unable to locate an exact number. From what I’ve experienced it has more than I have fingers. Whatever the case, its plenty.

There’s also the speach synthesis which uses the device talk to text function to create new wavetables. That’s a strange one, but awfully cool anyway. More importantly Nave allows one to import via pasteboard, their own audio files to create original wavetables. That’s sweet.

I kind of just glanced at a mention of the “UberWave” function. It adds a big fat sound quality that puts a lot of edge on it. Its hard to explain, you really just gotta hear it. Its definitely better explained by Waldorf in the manual, but again to keep this short, I’m just going to suggest you visit the Nave page of their website for that and all the tech stuff. The link is down in the review itself.

So there’s a couple more things. Sorry I didn’t mention these before. Nave has a lot of capabilities, and I can’t list them all. Most important is that Nave has an amazing sound quality for some powerful patch crafting and has become my daily synth of choice. Anyone who doesn’t get excited by this synth clearly has no pulse.

Original Review:

Synthesizers just make me happy. Incredibly powerful ones such as Nave, make my head spin with joy.
You’ve probably heard about Nave, seen the videos, or endured my merciless teasing.
Now after 1.5 years of hard work and careful development, Nave is finally finished! As I am writing this it is with Apple pending review to be launched in the iTunes App Store any time now.
I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to beta test Nave for a couple months leading up to this. From day one, I’ve been very impressed with this powerful new synth made just for iOS.
Waldorf has been making great software for a while, but this is their first for iOS. They joined with Tempo Rubato, who you may know of from the excellent NLog Synth Pro.
Pretty solid development team if you ask me.

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Nave is a powerful twin wavetable oscillator synthesizer with a single classic oscillator (with all the basic waveforms) and the pulse racing “Uberwave” function. You have hands on control over numerous options to tweak the many choices of wavetables, (in full screen “Edit” mode) 7 different 3D views. Very fine tuning is easily done by touch to fully customize any wavetable. Full ADSR envelope controls over each oscillator, 2 multi waveform LFOs, fully adjustable pitch/bend wheels and modulation options at every corner. The amount of modulation options really are nothing short of amazing.
At last count there were 500 plus factory presets being shipped with Nave at launch. Nave is pure sound design heaven!

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The integrated ( and beautifully emulated ) Waldorf Multimode Filter with the Drive function that has a selection of 5 curve types to 4 location options offer you amazing control of the wavetable oscillators to craft the wildest of imagined sounds from morphing, teeth mashing leads on overdrive steroids, to silky and mesmerizing pads. The ten source to destination modulation matrix extends sound designing possibilities dramatically. Truly limitless.

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Playing Nave on screen has a couple options. It has a classic, scrolling virtual chromatic keyboard. Then there are the “Blades” which can have x/y modulations, and velocity programmed to them giving you full polyphonic modulation control. I got caught by my wife gesturing my fingers in strange massaging motions over the Blades manipulating the sound in a way she referred to as “Romantic”.
Plugging in your MIDI controller/keyboard (iRig Keys in my case) was about as difficult as just that. Plug in, start playing. All significant parameters can be mapped and MIDI controlled either virtually or with compatible hardware.

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As for FX, Nave has that covered also. 7 effects units are onboard and sound really good. I actually like the reverb on this synth. A delay, chorus, phaser, flanger, 3 band EQ, and compressor round out the options. I have found each to sound excellent. Though, at times if I had applied the reverb with a few others and played some chords, I got a bit of clipping. Could have just been I forgot to close a background app, or the CPU on my iPad was over burdened. Lowering the amount of reverb used and set to %50 wet vs dry helped. That was on my iPad 3. No such experience was repeated on my iPad 4.

On the same page with the FX, is a competent arpeggiator with better than normal options, but still kind of basic. That’s not a bad thing. I actually like this arpeggiator better than most iOS synths. It has a fair amount of options to make some unique, and melodic patterns including your own notes. Using the arpeggiator with the 2 large programmable x/y pads adds much to experience. Nave is multi dimensional doing everything splendidly.

All in all the specification list is quite large so please check out the Waldorf website for all the details. There’s too many to list here.

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Lastly is the vintage styled 4 track recorder. You could use it to make a whole Nave song, or sketch out some things. I’m enjoying using it to layer on some interesting and varied synth sounds for creative loops. Each track can be panned, leveled, split, and or duplicated.
In loop mode (iPads 3&4) I heard some clicks where the loop ends meet, but they didn’t translate to the recording I made while using Audiobus to an output app. In addition to Audiobus input support Nave has AudioCopy/Paste, “Open In”, & Save to iTunes Folder.
I’ve had no crashes, or weird mishaps at all with this final version of Nave. They did a great job with this ambitious synth, and it is full of impressive bits all around. If anything looks confusing there is a manual accessible from the “?” button on the “Tape” screen.

The amount of tools and options for creating sounds strait from your imagination are fantastic. Nave has become one of my most favored iOS synths and I easily consider it a must have. The audio quality is second to none. This is one massive, beastly synth that raises the bar.
Whatever the price is in your iTunes Store, it is my sincere and honest opinion it’ll be worth it.

Yeah, I recommend Nave. Duh.

Here’s a couple more screen shots from the Wavetable edit full screen. You can even manipulate the colors.

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PPG WaveGenerator – Review

I reviewed WaveGenerator as a guest for iDesignSound.com a little while ago. I seem to have neglected to link it up. Sorry about that.

It is published on their site. To read my review please click HERE to be directed to iDesignSound.

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Let me know what you think. Comments appreciated and welcome! Thank you for reading 🙂