Synthesizer

LayR – Multi Timbral Synthesizer

LayR – Multi Timbral Synthesizer is developed by Living Memory Software

Available from iTunes App Store

LayR is described as a “massively polyphonic, Multi Timbral Synthesizer” capable of up to 256 voices of multi layered and textured sounds for 64 bit devices. I was a little skeptical initially and expected less. I was wrong. LayR can actually do as it says it can. 

Andy Bull created LayR somewhat by accident. He started out with something else in mind, not looking to create a synthesizer. After experiencing some disappointments with some of his iOS synths in a live stage setting, he ended up making something to meet his needs as a live performer. LayR was born, and here we are today able to enjoy the fruits of his labor. So much juicy goodness. 


LayR launches with a clean, albeit dark, interface showing the general mix functions of whatever layers make up the selected patch or “performance”, as they are called. A performance is a collection of instruments which contain layers of synths. One performance can be as simple or as complicated as desired. The overall results can be astonishing, with layers coming and going in various states and times. There are a lot of excellent presets available that demonstrate the many possibilities and can be great templates to dissect and learn from. Overall it’s an exciting synthesizer that will satisfy. 


Each layer is its own independent synth with 2 oscillators, each with their own shape and phase states that can be morphed, modulated and filtered. There are 2 ADSRs which can be looped from super fast out to 100 seconds, along with a 3rd ADSR controlling the overall volume. Both of the filters (LP, HP, Band & Notch) can be smoothed with a handy mini filter mixer. The 2 LFOs are well behaved and have several shapes to choose from. At first glance it all seems like a standard twin oscillator synthesizer, but that’s forgetting to consider the amazing depth of what can be hundreds of layers playing together in a giant cooperative audio party. You could easily spend days constructing elaborate performances. Pack a lunch.


It’s hard to explain just how much detail LayR is able to control better than the above screen shot. As you can see this is thoughtfully designed with a forward looking layer parameter linking tool. This will be indispensable when one gets ambitious, getting deep into greater numbers of layers with parameters that will likely need to be linked, and really helps with keeping the intended order together without needing to try and remember what was where or having to constantly switch back and forth to make sure certain layers have the same behaviors. Just link them in sets of parameter groups. My inner synth nerd did backflips when I first discovered this clever tool. You can also copy and paste one parameter to another. 

The 16 step multi channel arpeggiator is quite robust. This screenshot (above) should convey how carefully it was designed to give the user a rich midi routing capability that works reliably. Up to 8 event tracks can be set up with their own synth layer, making for some very lively compositions. While getting acquainted with LayR I found some presets that were impressive and inspiring. Some had multiple synths of varied arp events, all playing together with the touch of a single key. Event notes are visible by the flash of the corresponding key as played by the arpeggiator assignments. 

The in-app help can be accessed at any time should there be a need, so even someone new to multi channel arpeggiators can learn to create their own routes for their project with a minimal learning curve. 


Getting back to the graphical interface, its design uses symbols relevant to each parameter control. Most experienced synth users should understand what they mean but it might also be a little unfamiliar to others more accustomed with text identifiers. Those not used to this will become best friends with the top right corner info button within the first hours. Eventually it becomes second nature. The scale and key can be set, as well as an option for a colorful keyboard if all black isn’t desired. The keyboard can be adjusted in size, range, scrolled or locked. 

LayR has 3 sound effects; Reverb, Delay and a 3 Band EQ. The FX are competent and useful but not particularly noteworthy. 

Inter-app audio and Audiobus are supported, but not AU. I feel like the lack of AU support is for a good reason. Might be because the current iOS AU systems can’t quite keep up yet with something so intensive as LayR. Perhaps that will change in the future?

I spent several days digging into LayR and found it to be a wonderful experience. Great sound, nice quality filters, excellent morphing and an overall magnificent synthesizer. It truly excels when put to the test of making many layers of timbres, multi channel arpeggios and wildly evolving soundscapes. LayR is no slouch by any means and should fit in everybody’s collection. 

I highly recommend LayR. Be sure to check out the developers Website for a more specific feature list and links to helpful tutorial videos. 

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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.

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. 

Addictive Pro – Synth of the year?

Addictive Pro Developd by VirSyn

Available in iTunes App Store


It’s hard to not “squee” like a fanboy whenever I see something new from VirSyn. They just don’t disappoint with their high quality, user friendly, powerful and affordable products. Addictive Pro (not to be confused with the awesome Addictive Synth) is yet another outstanding offering from this top tier developer. 

Addictive Pro is a ‘hybrid synthesis algorithm’ based instrument with wavetable spectrum synthesis of up to 12 oscillators, with a virtual analog, noise spectrum, FM and ring modulator synthesis engine.  Further refinement of the sound is had with its well emulated classic analog filtering. A mouth full, I know and we are just getting started. 

Part of what makes this so great is the familiar or intuitive user interface. Start out easy with the ‘easy control’ to begin your trip. Two large customizable X/Y touch controllers dominate this first screen separated by the 4 major randomizable control sections; Wave, Mod, Arp, & FX. Tap the dice for one or all and receive something new and likely unusual. This will get you started very fast with no fuss. It’s also pretty entertaining to roll the dice. If you don’t like what you get, tap the parameter die again for a new roll. Repeat as necessary. Don’t give up too quickly though, you just might end up with something unexpected if you take some time to dig down and start tweaking specific pieces. Explore and you will be rewarded.


When you start to dig in you will likely start with checking out the tabs to the right of ‘easy control’. Here on the wave a, wave b, spectrum a, or spectrum b tabs you will find some real meat to bite into. Draw on the wave or spectrum to make broad or fine adjustments. Change the harmonic content from a wide selection of presets. Select the base set of harmonic partials. Set and configure oscillators. Or hit the randomizer again to roll the dice for something new. Need help? All screens have a “?”(Help) to tap that (as shown in above screen shot) will briefly describe each parameters behavior. More detailed instructions can be found at the developer website, linked at the top of this review. 

Each parameter field has some form of a menu to open. As shown above, touch the “Configuration” box to bring up the options for that parameter. Wave a, and b can be wildly different and further mapped out sonic realms can be explored and designed in great detail. The Stereo Width and Fatten are two nice parameters that should not be ignored. The ‘shadow oscillators’ and stereo impact can be manipulated for a delicate or brash effect. 

The virtual keyboard is pretty standard with programmable key and scales. Aftertouch controls can be assigned and routed. Adjust keyboard size, lock it etc. I think little need be explained here? Pretty standard stuff. 


The Mod section is where things get fun. 9 banks of modulation options with general base value controls and further detailed controls are revealed when touched and selected. Assign, route and edit values for modulation. LFOs have 6 wave form options, phase and delay rates. ADSR, Analog Filters and more can be found for a powerful set of modulation tools. 


I just wanted to show the Mod section without the “?” Help turned on. 

The Arp section has the usual and excellent VirSyn arpeggiator but with a added twist in Addictive Pro. It’s a 4 part polyrhythmic arpeggiator. This is very cool. Basically a 32 step sequencer with 4 separate parts, or ‘tracks’. This is a special feature in my opinion, for any synth. This is an amazing way to create grooves and melodies with intricacies not commonly provided. Each part can have a different clock or pitch with a step offset to make rich sequences. Individual run switches that when selected are always in time. Each part also has its own “Quick Edit” set of parameters to customize the sound. It’s really a remarkable feature with huge possibilities to explore. Plus you can record right here in the app. 


Most synths have FX of mediocre quality. VirSyn doesn’t skimp on the FX like other do. Each of the 7 FX banks sound very good. You won’t get a better reverb unit that is built in to another synth. When VirSyn says “Hi End Reverberation”, they aren’t over selling. It really is hi end. Not quite as hi maybe as a stand alone dedicated reverb app, but still very nice. All of the FX units are well done, and don’t sound like last minute cheap add ons. 

To sum it up, Addictive Pro is a highly capable, powerful synthesizer packed with all of the tools and parameters you need to make just about any type of sound. A sophisticated hybrid, wavetable oscilator synth that is stable and complete. Supports Core MIDI, Inter-App Audio, Audiobus 2, Abelton Link and more.  If there’s only one iOS synth to buy so far this year, it’s Addictive Pro. Short of a remarkable new release from another developer I’d call this the Synth of the year!