Synthesizer

DRC Polyphonic Synthesizer – Review

DRC Synth is developed by Imaginando

Available for free download in iTunes


I’ve seen, used, tested and yawned at every iOS analog emulated synthesizer. This is one particular type of synth that are dime a dozen and not short on competitive options. I’m not saying that DRC isn’t good. In fact I think it’s great. While most developers are creating a graphical resemblance to old hardware to tug at our nostalgia heart strings, these guys are putting the focus on not what you see, but how you use what you hear. 


DRC most resembles the robust and brutal sounds of iSEM (the Oberheim remake for iOS) or iMini (Or Mini Moog) with its signature sound. This definitly is a well made emulation that packs a wallop with the best. This 8 voice polyphonic analog* synth is clearly not just another sell out 2 oscillator emulator of historic hardware trying to cash in on something famous that is either hard or impossible to find. No synth lovers, they really put their hearts into this. One could argue that we have plenty of these already. True, but this not only has the sound talking the talk, it also has a interface of minimalistic design that walks the walk where functionality is concerned. 

The beauty of the simplistic and minimalist user interface design is no accident. It surely isn’t lazy or result of lacking creativity. Everything you need to use, can be used all on this one screen. No interruptions with page swiping. Just set or select the parameter tabs from the 4 quadrant window panes. It promotes a very comfortable usability that’s been largely overlooked by most. Adjusting parameters while playing live in real time allows you to bring new life and evolution into a sound while being performed. This is one of a few instances where I felt really at ease playing the keyboard and slowly maipulating a filter or noise generator at the same time. It feels right. 


Among all of the usual 2 oscillator analog emulators, DRC has something else I found interesting. The above image shows the Mod Wheel and After Touch controls. It also shows the key and scales options. At the bottom with the key labels, flanked to the right and left are ribbon controllers. I couldn’t find anything in the manual that explained them? They can be used to play through the notes of the scale. Whatever the intention is, I found them to add a little extra dimension to certain aspects. They are especially handy while using the arpeggiator. Not sure this was worth getting fixated on, it’s not the first time I’ve seen ribbon controls, but the location is what got my attention. Anyway, I just happen to like it. 

DRC has the MIDI, Audiobus, Inter-App audio supports like we expect. Abelton Link is also supported. You can use the cloud to easily share patches among your devices quite nicely. The usual filters are available, and for a synth of this breed they are the fine quality most would demand. I don’t like listing every parameter, so just check the app page in iTunes to get the full list, or visit the developer website. Both are linked at the very top of this review. 

In the modifiers DRC has something here that you don’t see every day. In the LFO waveforms options is a FS&H, Filtered Sample and Hold. It works similarly to the Sample and Hold waveform that is more common, but ramps up from one random position to another more smoothly. It has a very interesting effect to the LFO behavior. 

It has a Chorus, Delay and Reverb effect unit. You can use the Notch filter cutoff and resonance to make your own phaser effects. All pretty standard stuff. The Reverb is intentionally unrealistic and generates an interesting artificial, spacey component to the sound. It’s not designed after any real world units, or even a simple plate. It’s just a long crazy reverberation effect intended to add more depth to a sound. Interesting, but ultimately still just a cheap sounding reverb. I should add that I’m a reverb snob, so don’t put too much into my comments on this part. I just feel it could be better and remain an equally interesting sound effect. 

Free to download, DRCs synth engine is fully operational for 7 days before purchase is required to permanently unlock and use. It’s worth giving a shot if you like iSEM or iMini type sounds. If you don’t have those apps but want that type of sound, this could be a great first choice. 

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Shoom Synthesizer- App Review

Shoom Synthesizer is developed by: Yuri Turov

Available from iTunes


Shoom Synthsizer is a fantastic X/Y touch controlled instrument for iPad. 3 polyphonic synths in one.

An intuitively designed interface clearly emphasizing ease of performance with a great amount of playable screen space makes this super fun to play. 


3 simultaneously playable synths each with their own set of two multi-waveform, FM cross modulation oscillators are at your disposal. Each synth has its own noise, and volume control as well as the standard ADSR and LFO basics. A handy 4 pole low pass resonance filter and overdrive are also included with each. Nothing fancy, but made for easy patching and variable sound types. From crunchy, screaming leads, to booming bass lines, and on to amazing drones. 


Shooms built in stereo delay and reverb effects stand in nicely for simple sound effects. I’d say they are pretty good for what they are. Many users have said that Shooms strength is with making drones. I agree, but wouldn’t say that is all it can do. There’s plenty of room to get creative with this and have some pretty unique sound scenes to play. 

Of course it has Inter-App Audio and Audiobus 2 supports. So far I have found both to be very stable on my iPad Air 2. Though like any iOS synth the more active voices being used, the more the chance of distortion.

I love that each synths note can be played independently and / or held. Get all ten fingers involved. If your digit dexterity is above average, you could do some impressive things. Even with average finger dexterity like me, you’re going to smile. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of Shoom, and I found it to be very easy, very quickly. More importantly the sound quality is fantastic. This is one grand instrument that has more to it than meets the eye. Sure you aren’t getting a massively powerful synthesizer, but you do get quality.

Only thing I felt I was longing for was user sample import. Is that a big deal? Maybe not, but I’d like the option. 

It’s a bargain, it sounds fantastic, and it’s fun. A no brainer purchase. 

So busy….. Whew.

Hey there mobile music makers.
Sorry I’ve been on hiatus for a couple months. Our living situation had become rather urgent and changing moment to moment.
Short version is our slum lord who owns the house, that is basically sectioned off into 5 studio type apartments, stopped paying the utilities he was responsible for. That led to water being shut off for 10 days in March, and lots of headaches for us ever since. To top it all off, he has decided to just let the bank take the property.
Skip ahead to today (and removing the dramatic details) and we are on the verge of getting a house.
However time is running out fast. We only have until August 1st to find a place to live.
I hated to do it, but in the interest of sparing my wife and son the discomfort of just taking anything we could afford (which is nothing really) I swallowed my pride and am accepting my fathers enormous help. It pretty much adds up to receiving an early inheritance, and nobody has to die, yay!
I’d much rather have done this all myself. I’m no fan of not earning what’s mine. I’m doing this for my family.

Hopefully we will close on a nice little house not too far away. It’s an old house, which we like a lot more than those new cookie cutter yuppy houses that seem to pop up all over like so many silver SUVs and wannabe high rolling twenty something’s fixated on material wealth and appearances.
Fuck that. Excuse my French.
The house we are close to closing on is just right. Plus it has a huge basement that’s already partially renovated for me to set up a full on studio slash work space. A Smite Office, if you will.

Aside from all this I’ve been working on some new music. I’m making very chill ambient soundscapes with melodies and interesting textures. No drums. Lite percussive accompaniment might appear, but no in your face drum beats.
As usual I’m creating every sound from scratch myself using only my iOS music apps. So despite how much I love hearing Alchemy, it is once again pushed off the table.
At least it was, until that latest update arrived that seems to allow custom sound designing by importing user samples. I may have to reconsider and give that some thought. Is Alchemy now actually a synthesizer, instead of a cool preset morphing player? This is the one thing that’s held me back from using it seriously. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds amazing. Problem is, the sounds are recognizable and clearly presets made by someone else. Not that it’s a bad thing, I mean who expects everybody to always create every sound themselves? Its pretty unreasonable to demand or expect. I just happen to personally prefer making my own synths. I’m crazy like that, and I’m not judging.
So maybe this new import feature will open things up?

Well, back on track. Alchemy may be part of this new music. Several new apps I’ve received and or bought since March will find their way into my project.
Some new, some old. Some need to be reviewed.
I bought and tried to love Looptical, but ended up irritated by it so much that I just deleted it in a fit of rage. Money wasted. What a pain in the ass that app is.
I get it, people love it. That’s cool. I personally can’t freaking stand that thing.

Cubasis is forever removed from my workflow. Ironically right when they finally added automation.
Yay.
Not!
The FX are still crap, the instruments sound cheap, and I’d never use them so why would I care to automate a bunch of cheap crap? I don’t. Later Crapbasis. Too little too late.

Before this turns into a big rant of apps that piss me off, I’ll switch gears.

Oscilab, now with Audiobus support has become a new favorite of mine. It’s such a nice app. Great and clever on all counts. Fantastic sequencing with a cool twist. I really have been enjoying Oscilab thoroughly.

MitoSynth really sunk it’s teeth into me. Wooji hit a home run with this new synth. I love the novel interface and all the automation options. It took a few minutes to get comfortable with its design, but it wasn’t long before I looked up and several hours had gone by. What a joy to use.
Only thing I don’t like about Mito is the limited scales, and no assignable key conveniences. Sure, I should just know when I’m in tune, but having the option to just set the playable notes to all be in key is a very nice short cut.
Alright I’m a bit lazy there, so what.

Among those I’m also wearing out Z3TA, microTERA, CubeSynth, AudioReverb, Crystaline, iVCS, Samplr, iPulsaret, and several others.
Auria is now my exclusive iDAW. It simply can’t be beat as far as I’m concerned. Best on all counts in ease of use, quality, and functionality. On my iPad Air, I can work it harder than ever. I hardly ever use midi so it’s perfect for me. I just don’t have any problems with it.

Audio Mastering App will continue to be my “goto” mastering suite. It does everything I need it to do. Hi/Lo shelving, 3 band stereo imaging, gentle reverb, EQing, Compression…and it’s just easy and reliable. It fits me.
I have Final Touch, but it’s Stereo Imaging is pretty awful. The rest of it is alright, but a little contrived for my taste.

I think I’m done for now. This run on letter that was to be a small update on what I’m doing has gotten long enough.

If everything goes as planed, and we are settled in to our new home come August 1st, I’ll return to writing reviews.
Until then I have to choose how I use my currently limited hours each day, and making music takes priority over telling you what apps I think you should buy.

Wish me luck. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon.

Cheers 🙂

PS- We just got news that the house may very well be ours to move into as soon as next Friday, or shortly after. Yippie! Out of this dump, and into our own house. So close now.

Oscilab – Review Updated 9-10-14

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Oscilab is created by 2Beat
Available the iTunes App Store

Oscilab has been on the radar of anticipated new music apps and now finally hits the App Store.
It is a unique wave sequencer where by touch, drag, and sweeps will determine much of the music making experience.

Right off the bat I was feeling great and very happy with how it operates even if it was a little unusual. Didn’t take long to get comfortable with this at all.

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28 wave shapers, 6 channel mixing, FX and great on the fly live sound manipulation for each channel independently via X/Y pads and some pretty nice synthesis and drum options are some of the many features. Everything is easy to find and access. Great interface. I likey!

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Exploring this unique and fun new sequencer has been nothing short of fun.
I really like how easily they made this for doing live tweaks to the sounds. With scenes that can wait until the current one has played out before the next seamlessly enters the flow, and instantly changing a sequence without any drop outs is sweet.

Shaping the sounds wether they are loaded samples or your own synth designs at a whim rocks.
The FX are pretty simple if not a bit bland, but no problem just run Oscilab through Audiobus or IAA and use your other FX apps to…. To…to… Hang on?

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Wait a second? Where’s the Audiobus or Inter-App Audio support?
I assumed it was available, but where?
No…no…..no…..NO!
Just AudioCopy, “Open In” and SoundCloud for sharing….WTF? This isn’t 2009.
Did this cool, fun, impressive app really just get released without the most basic and expected supports for inter app connectivity?
It can’t be? Not again…… Geeeez! How frustrating.

This isn’t happening, is it? Well, I guess so, never mind.
I don’t mean to be harsh, this is a cool new app, but come on. Call me when it can actually be integrated in the most common workflows we actually use these days. Then I’ll finish the review. Until then this ones on hold.

UPDATE

Since I initially wrote this half review Oscilab has seen significant updates with great improvements. I’ll try to be brief and to the point.
Now with Audiobus support and Inter-App Audio, improved midi functionality, and other nice tweaks Oscilab is my new favorite goto sequencer.
I love how simple it is to use. It makes a
To of sense and doesn’t try too hard to be different.

Highly recommended!

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.