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. 

A few music apps to keep an eye on.

I have a bunch of apps that I’m sitting on waiting for some updates to come.
I’m sure a lot of us share this dilemma? Apps that we got and for whatever reason can’t or just won’t use them. The reasons may be arbitrary, but to each individual they are important.
Still there are a few I have sitting on my iPad that I see having potential for excellence.

Usually I’d just delete a high potential app that I can’t or don’t want to use. The 3 I still have installed are each something I think can be very good. Unfortunately at the moment and for reasons I’ll explain when I get to the app specifics, they are missing key elements or have flaws making them (fair or not) little more than a virtual paper weight.

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VOSIS
Voice Of Sisyphus Image Sonification. By Ryan McGee
This is really a unusual and creative synth app. Simply put it makes sound based on a picture. You load a photo then touch and drag on it to hear the sound that VOSIS translates from the greyscale pixel data. Interesting no?
It has basic synthesizer parameters like ADSR, some filtering, and so on.
Multi touch, reverb, image adjustments relative to the sonic properties, cutoff, and other parameters are included to bring photos (and live video!) to audible life.
This innovative and just damn interesting synth is sitting highest on my list of potentially great apps.
It could use some stability improvement, LFOs, and allow deeper routing parameters to modulate things. Basically I’m saying I’d like to see more traditional synth tools added for more control over the sound.
It supports Audiobus now which is a big move forward. I’d also really like to see IAA input supported.
All in all VOSIS is already capable of doing some cool things. Almost there.

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Xynthesizr By Yuri Turov
Mr. Turov sent me a copy of this app a while ago. I was a bit preoccupied and couldn’t get to it when I had hoped to. I wish I had though.
This oddly spelled app is a sleek 32 step matrix sequencer, synthesizer with generative properties. Highly musical and strait forward in design.
This iPhone only app (works but not native to iPad) is easy to use and instantly pleasing. It has most of what one might need to quickly tap or draw out some beautiful melodies.
It has a 32 bit float sound engine, MIDI, AudioCopy/Paste and support for AudioShare, SoundCloud, email, and iTunes File Share.
Its a stronger app than what I had initially expected. The developer is very attentive and clearly eager to make this something everybody will want to use.

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Although it has Audiobus support its missing IAA support. It also only can be used in portrait mode. Add supports for those, allow landscape orientation and make it iPad native so it can fit in more common iOS workflows would do the trick for me. Fingers crossed.

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MultiTrackStudio By Giel Bremmers
This is an ambitious new iDAW that by looking at its specs appears to be what a lot of folks are looking for.
16 Stereo tracks, automation, numerous effects, sequencing, editing, and mastering tools. Its also packed with a bunch of built in instruments. Synths, drums, sound FX, and emulated instruments. It’s got a lot of good things going for it. Edit by piano roll, score, drum, audio etc. Comprehensive MIDI support, ACP, iTunes File Share and the list of features goes on looking quite impressive. But…..

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…..MTS regarding routing IAA input apps suffers from one of the worst workflow designs I’ve ever had the displeasure of trying to use. It supports IAA but not Audiobus. Could be a big deal for those without iOS7.
The way routing IAA instruments is done here just doesn’t make any sense. No problem with routing IAA Effects though. For some reason its designed so you must create a MIDI track in order to be able to select any IAA audio instrument. This is far from intuitive and it doesn’t always work as expected.
Several times I followed the instructions so I could get an IAA instrument to connect with MTS and all I got were the apps internal (MTSi) instruments. What the f…. ?
So frustrating! I tried and tried to find a comfort zone with this app so I could start recording and seriously explore this app, but the routing is so frustrating I just stopped. I’m not exactly a rookie here, I know how to operate DAWs. I have all the iOS DAWs and none of them are this painful.
It’s very difficult to appreciate this app when just getting started succeeds only in causing fits of rage.
Its a real shame too. It looks like it can do most of what I want it to.
Until the workflow is redesigned to be legitimately intuitive I just can’t say whether this is good or bad? So it will sit in my “Potential” folder until that day comes when MTS is a pleasure to use rather than a sources of frustration. That potential is surely there.
One to watch out for.

These are just a few that I think have potential. Obviously its subjective and you very likely have some of your own. I’d be curious to hear from you, so leave a comment sharing your thoughts about another app you think this way about.

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.

iMini Synth – Review

iMini is developed by Arturia

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Based on the Mini V software developed in partnership with Dr. Bob Moog himself back in 2003, the iMini comes to iOS. Oh boy, what a treat!

I haven’t had the pleasure of touching the legendary MiniMoog, so having a lovingly recreated version for our iPads to enjoy is very welcome.

Some of the first electronic music I heard was from Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. I marveled in the powerful structure of the music made in part with the amazing MiniMoog synth dreaming of one day having my own.
Thank you Arturia for making that dream come as close to reality as possible for many synth lovers, myself included.

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Arturia really captures the nostalgia in both appearance and sound. Visually iMini is presented like a virtual replica that evokes a feeling of something very special from the past. iMini just looks like it could pop off the screen, and after touching a key the sound confirms its undeniable quality.

As expected, the rich sonic capabilities are outstanding. I had no hints of disappointment with any of the presets, especially regarding patch making. Big, fat, lead sounds erupt, deep rich pads swirl, wild modulated tones and combinations of all in between make ears smile. Get the picture?

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iMini was initially released focused on its integration with Retronyms’ “Table Top” application. I’m sure that was much to the delight of Table Top fans who’ve been craving a serious synth to enjoy. Unfortunately those of us with workflows that don’t take advantage of Table Top were left with a bit of dilemma. The fretting ended when Arturia updated iMini with Audiobus support. YES! That was the day I really perked up and obtained a copy of iMini leading up to this review. As I said, I wasn’t disappointed one bit.

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With only 3 simple screens to navigate by a quick button tap, I found it to be very playable on my iPads. The “Main” screen ( 1 ) is where all the sound designing is done with the 3 oscillators, filters, noise, mixer, shapes and so forth.

On screen 2 (Perform) there’s two X/Y pads with assignable modifiers on the screen which includes the keyboard. This is also where the simple but capable arpeggiator is accessed and manipulated. Having the two pads right there above the keyboard makes it very comfortable to perform.

Screen 3 (FX) is where you’ll find, obviously, the FX. Two simple but good FX live here: Chorus and Analogue Delay. The Chorus has 3 types to choose from that each deliver varied chorus effects and unique sounds. The Analogue Delay does exactly what you’d expect and can be synced.

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iMini is of course designed to support MIDI. The controls for that and BPM etc are accessed by touching the “tools” arrow from the top right of the screen. Similarly keyboard, scales, and keys are accessed by a little cog looking icon just to the left of the iMini plate above the keyboard.

For a detailed spec list please visit: Arturia HERE

Overall iMini is a quality synth emulating the classic MiniMoog with great care. A unique sound quality from an era of music is offered now to anyone willing to pay the insanely low price. Low compared to the real thing, maybe a little higher than some App Store customers would prefer, but its worth it nonetheless.

It may not be the first pro modeled analogue iSynth, but iMini is oozing with nostalgic style and sound that I dare say few could argue against.
I suppose it could be a hard sell if you already have one of the other analogue iOS synths, but this is not worth passing up all the same.

If you decide to buy iMini here is the link to the App Store.

Enjoy.