Synth

CubeSynth – Review

CubeSynth
Developed by: VirSyn
Available in the iTunes App Store

20131015-153605.jpg
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!

20131015-154211.jpg
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!

20131015-160141.jpg
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.

20131015-160909.jpg
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.

20131015-162224.jpg
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?

20131015-163313.jpg
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.

20131015-170248.jpg
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.

Advertisements

iMini Synth – Review

iMini is developed by Arturia

20130429-134956.jpg

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.

20130429-140412.jpg

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?

20130429-141926.jpg

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.

20130429-142507.jpg

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.

20130429-144527.jpg
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.

Chordion – Review

20130317-133554.jpg

Chordion, by Olympia Noise Co.

Chordion was a bit of a surprise to me. I had heard good things, but until it was in my hands inspiring me to explore its many offerings, I hadn’t really taken notice. What a pleasant surprise indeed.

Chordion employs several functions to provide a fulfilling musical experience. The scales and keys selections are numerous, allowing the user to make simple or exotic selections for any sort of style. You play chords (Hex Keys) with one hand while strumming or hitting individual notes with the other. All in perfect tune. Each of the icons on screen represent a visual queue as to which options and parameters are to be selected. It’s a nifty, clean interface for quick navigation. There were times at first while learning the interface where I lost track of where some things were but I got used to it pretty fast, so I don’t consider it a flaw.

20130317-134644.jpg

Chordion has a decent and simple built in synth, but with more controllable parameters than most of this breed. Such controllable tidbits like Timbre, Envelope, Polyphony, Delay, Vibrato, and so on. That’s a nice option allowing a lot more user sound control, but really where Chordion shines is when it controls your favorite synth. Virtual Midi control is set up with ease. A nice no nonsense design makes it all quick to set up, and get right to it. In no time I was snapping out melodies and chords simultaneously feeling very good about the experience.

20130317-135752.jpg

In addition to the synth, Chordion sports a handy Arpeggiator, and 4 different drum machine styles to expand its functionality. One could write complete songs using only Chordion. With Audiobus support, sending all the audio to record in your favorite iDAW is a cinch. You could also use its built in record feature to save performances and then upload to SoundCloud, Dropbox, or iTunes File Share. AudioCopy is noticeably absent. I know many users who either don’t have Audiobus or just prefer ACP would appreciate that to be added in a future update.

20130317-140808.jpg

Chordion is rich with tools and options to design and play with your own unique style. With the many scales available and more being added this becomes a potent instrument. Easily customize your own scales and layout. The interface is very responsive with no detectable latency or any stability issues. It’s comfortable and fun. Not to mention deep enough to make Chordion accessible to any musicians level. I couldn’t really find anything to complain about. This is a remarkable, full featured Midi controller/instrument.

20130317-141456.jpg

Sure, there are a lot of Midi/instruments available on iOS. Chordion separates itself by a wide margin with including so many options to tweak (there’s that word again) the sounds, play chords, leads, arpeggios, accompanied by an included drum machine. All pooled together in a marvelous U.I. This is the most comfortable and content I have felt with an app of this breed so far. My experiences with the Virtual Midi control while also running this through Audiobus were so pleasant and issue free, that I just can’t help but recommend this fantastic app with a big smile.

Buy Chordion from iTunes HERE

20130317-143244.jpg

20130317-143309.jpg

Arpeggionome Pro – Review

20130216-160333.jpg

Arpeggionome Pro By: Alexandernaut

UPDATED: 6-23-2013

Arpeggionome Pro was already getting a fine work out on my iPad controlling other MIDI capable synths and the likes. Now Audiobus support has been added to further expand the apps functionality. Audiobus wasn’t really a necessity since the apps Arpeggionome Pro controls sends the recorded audio through Audiobus to whatever output is being used. It does however make things much easier to do. Triggering the record function while in AP definitely speeds up the process and eliminates extra home button clicks.
Personally I really appreciate the landscape view support being added. Choice is good.
Don’t underestimate this app. This is a strong piece of software and is worth the cost.

Original Review:

I’ve been looking around for a robust, dedicated Arpeggiator app to add to my iPad music studio. Since I don’t use any midi hardware and have found most virtual midi capable apps less than exciting, they often don’t escape my self induced blind spot. There are some very good ones, and then there are those like Arpeggionome Pro that blow me away. This is one cool program! I am kicking myself for having missed it until now.

20130216-161656.jpg

Arpeggionome Pro is first and foremost a midi controller. It is a very complex Arpeggiator with a full plate of programming capabilities. It has its own built in synthesizer, but very basic. Using this to control any (virtual) midi capable synth is where it at. Thanks to a thoughtful design that inspires easy use, making midi connections is a breeze.
Deigned to control pretty much anything midi, Arpeggionome Pro beckons users to put it to work with what ever you want it to control. Quantize first note, use any of the 16 channel sends, midi clock sync, so on and so on. If its midi, Arpeggionome Pro can do it.
Making virtual midi connections are effortless and more up my alley for my uses. In no time I was enjoying this marvelous app controlling my favorite synths and crafting some slick arps.

20130216-163903.jpg

The range of arpeggio pattern controls are splendid. Center screen is the performance matrix for primary pattern control by touch to manipulate first triggered note (left & right) and pattern speed (up & down). 6 groups of button matrices and 8 virtual knobs frame the performance matrix. Make pattern adjustments in any size, shape or speed on the fly. Theres no need to stop the flow just to change where it goes, the octaves, gate, speeds etc.
Having all the controls right there in your face makes this one very tidy experience. At the top of the screen is also a visual indication of the notes as they are played out on a virtual keyboard.

See screen shot below for details on the button matrices and knob controls.
For even more details please visit Alexandernaut here! There is a lot going on under the hood.

20130216-165547.jpg

As you can see (from the screen shots) the available controls are not just numerous, but also just a quick tap or slide away. No changing screens, or menus to dig through. One screen with everything. This is designed with consideration to those performing live and with the adjustable accelerometer assigned messages, (like, pitchbend, gate, etc) Arpeggionome Pro becomes a whole new instrument full of expressive possibilities.
With the combination of all the available options to make up your own unique arpeggios you’ll soon discover this is all you’ll want for your pattern programming needs. Nothing opens up a greater, more pleasant experience for creating any arps you can imagine. Plus a nice selection of preset patterns to use or build off are included as well.
Anything you create can be saved for future use and is quickly accessible via the pattern banks on the bottom of the same screen.

20130216-171811.jpg

Arpeggionome Pro has no record, audio copy, or Audiobus support. Audiobus support is planned. Even without it Arpeggionome Pro can control a synth assigned to an Audiobus input which can then be captured by whatever output you are using. It works fine as is, but starting a recording in an output slot app from the very handy Audiobus remote control would be a nice addition here.

If you want something to create specialized and unique arpeggios beyond the usual fare get Arpeggionome Pro and start making some serious arps. This is powerful, fun, and creative. All packed into an intuitive interface that works with you. This is a masterpiece in design and functionality.

Smashing! 5 stars Click here to buy Arpeggionome Pro in iTunes.

*There is also a lighter version called simply “Arpeggionome” with fewer features at a smaller price.

Borderlands – Review

20130111-164931.jpg

Borderlands Created By: Chris Carlson

Updated: June 2 2013.
Borderlands was one of those apps that showed huge potential with great innovative design. It was one I had purchased because I believed in it and really bought the promise of updates. Unfortunately those promised updates to bring vital functions to make this great app live up to its potential. Functions like AudioCopy/Paste and or Audiobus. They should have been added months ago.

It’s not often I will show much interest in music apps that are shipped missing critical components leaving a rather inconvenient to use product. Borderlands is so very unique and designed with such a pleasant user interface, I can’t ignore its brilliance.

20130111-165438.jpg

What is Borderlands? Where are the controls or virtual knobs and sliders? What it is, is a gesture controlled granular synthesis instrument. No knobs, sliders, or much of anything except a clean interface with a minimalist list of function buttons on the top of the screen. Everything is controlled by you and your hands.

Load audio files (this is the main problem I’ll touch on later) onto the screen and they appear as waveform snapshots. You double tap to produce “clouds” which are then what brings the audio to life as you sculpt grains of sound. Double tap the cloud again to bring up its specific set of controls. How you move, pinch, spread, zoom, throw or swipe will determine the sounds it generates. Don’t want the cloud or just done with it? Swipe it off the screen to delete it.

20130111-170434.jpg

Further control over the audio is done via the top of the screens buttons or icons. These manipulate the grains direction, the grain windows such as Sinc, Exponential, Random and so on control the behaviors. It’s a beautiful experience and fun to experiment. I recommend visiting the website HERE where you will find information , news, and helpful tutorials.

Borderlands is well made to suit live performances, as well as instrumentation for music productions. Turn on the “Gravity” function to enable accelerometer control to add to the fun. While the sample rate is a bit lower than I would prefer and the latency is high, it still sounds really good.

It’s early for Borderlands and what we have today is just a taste of what’s in store through further development as time goes on. The biggest problem with Borderlands is sharing. Importing is limited to a iTunes Borderlands specific playlist you must load and sync well in advance of use. A very cumbersome and dreadful way to import your own samples. If you’re not near your computer with iTunes and want to add something you just made, its not possible at this time. No Audio Copy Paste, No iTunes File Share, No Dropbox, No Audiobus. I’ve found these missing features to be very problematic, as well as terribly inconvenient. You can record, but pretty much only have the options to share that by uploading to SoundCloud.

20130111-172250.jpg

Now hang on, I’m not bashing this. I’ve corresponded with Chris Carlson over the past couple months several times. He is doing all of the development himself in his limited spare time. Consider that please. Additionally like you and I, he has a life with many things requiring his attention. Borderlands today is not what Borderlands will always be. He is working diligently to bring in new features, many improvements, and expanding its capabilities. This cannot be rushed if it is to be done right.

Improving audio quality is one thing high on the list. Midi options are planned. Audio Copy Paste, & the AudioShare App SDK is being looked at for implementing shortly. Even better news is he is working on Audiobus Output support. Which contrary to intuition is the routing of audio in to Borderlands to capture. That is far more complex than Audiobus Input which just sends audio.

Borderlands is special and developed by one massively creative person. Limited today, but with a little more time we can expect big things to make the experience far more enjoyable than it already is. This is the kind of creative app development that deserves support. I feel good about having spent the money. Almost there.

So all things considered I rate 3.5 stars. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a great app, but its painful to import your own audio and honestly I wouldn’t use the playlist method of importing. Really this is a 5 star app just temporarily stuck on 3.5 pending the inevitable improvements. You can bet I’ll be adjusting that appropriately the instant those arrive. And they will arrive.