gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device. iPhone Synthesizer And Controller Review

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a couple of days before its release. Now, a couple of days after, I have been absolutely stunned by the iPhone synthesizer and even bought the application, despite already having it, to support the small but talented development team who have invested months in this project. Fortunately, they’ve already shifted something in the region of 2000 copies to synth-heads across the globe and the more people with the better the community, and user generated content, will get.

So, without further ado, head over the fold for my full review.

P.S. if you want a cracked version of, or are looking for the cracked app, need a crack or want cracked… suck it up and buy the $9.99 application, you cheapskate! Failing that, wait for the demo version, it’s called “ Pro” for a reason. – the iPhone Synthesizer from ToyoBunko on Vimeo.

Until you actually try it’s very difficult to imagine the iPhone becoming a powerful software synthesizer. The iPhone’s processor and somewhat poor memory management are certainly not the best of environments in which to develop one. But the allure of the multi-touch control and accelerometer was substantial enough to make two incredibly talented programmers give it a go. The result is nothing short of mind blowing. is a beast of a monophonic FM synthesizer that fits in your pocket and will produce an unbelievable range of sounds limited only by your imagination. isn’t just a synthesizer, of course, the multi-touch control affords you one of the most unique and groundbreaking audio controllers ever conceived and allows you to effortlessly adjust up to three parameters with just two fingers. Add to that the tilt/roll sensitivity and, with a little skill, you can seamlessly control 5 parameters in real-time. The only thing missing, perhaps, is the ability to use the microphone input on the iPhone as a modulator but this would immediately alienate iPod Touch users. is incredibly easy to use and very intuitive. Whilst I have historically been overwhelmed by the programming options in many hardware synthesizers, and never found the time for sound design in software (damn distracting internet) I took to like a fish to water. I found the manual completely unnecessary and simply played with every setting, slider, button and tab in the interface until I had hewn the sound I wanted from a default tone. I managed to repeat this success several times and managed to submit the first user created bank to the preset library the moment it became live.

I have produced three patch banks so far for which I have published to their library, these are still incomplete but with the pick-up-and-play nature of I will, no doubt, always be working on them, creating new ones and trying out those produced by other sound designers. is very difficult to put down and, because it’s a synthesizer with theoretically unlimited potential, it has a longevity that far, far exceeds its humble £7 App Store price tag. The patch library helps cement the value of the little synth, allowing users to share their creations online, collaborate on sounds, and ensure that even if you have no patch programming experience whatsoever you will still have a wealth of sounds to draw from, tweak and use in live performances, recordings or just for your own entertainment.

One of the main things to arise from the 2-ish month delay on the release of is the pitch sequencer. It’s a step-sequencer and arpeggiator that allows you to create anything from simple, brief arpeggiation patterns to entire 64-step, one-touch melodies which you can then apply effects to and switch between using the control zone.

Of course, entering in 64-step sequences on the iPhone screen is a painstaking process and doing it 4 times will take a little patience.

The addition of 5 large buttons which can optionally be placed on the right-hand side of the control zone further the power of the step-sequencer and let you switch between patterns in real time, potentially allowing an entire, varied and highly effected lead or base sequence to be played. With a few iPhones to hand and the step sequencer to ease the pain of playing live on the keyboard you really could perform live and I wish I knew enough people with iPhones and an interest in music to give it a try.

At the moment has no recording functionality which seems to be somewhat of an annoyance for many of its users. Recording functionality has been promised but is largely superfluous If you take, for example, a Roland synthesizer such as the SH-201 you will find that it, too, lacks integrated recording functionality, quite expected of a synthesizer. does not set out to allow you to produce complete musical compositions on the iPhone, but rather give you a compact synthesizer which you can use for entertainment, live performances or home recording. At the moment, even with audio exporting, you would need a desktop sequencer to make use of the resulting file unless you wished to cue up and play samples on your iPhone rather than actually use the controller live. Of course, audio recording will come in good time and a 1.1 version of is already in the pipeline that not only fixes a few bugs but introduces new functionality.

As I mentioned above, the iPhone is not a particularly well-suited environment to any third party application, much less a synthesizer which makes such complete use of its resources. is astoundingly stable for what it is and does but, like most iPhone applications, it’s subject to seemingly random crashes caused by bad memory management issues in the iPhone firmware itself. It’s a good idea to perform live or record after a fresh restart of the iPhone to avoid issues, although I have only ever encountered one crash when actually playing a patch, perhaps because I spend so much more time enjoying creating them. Sadly, though, the crashes are a matter of fact with for the time being and there’s nothing the developers themselves can actually do about them. Fingers crossed that Apple crank out a fix soon.

Another common complaint from true synth-heads is the use of the names “Brother” and “Sister” for the Oscillators. I personally don’t see this as a problem, and once you know that they are oscillators it’s certainly not. There might be some initial confusion, but it’s worth it for these slightly more unique and aesthetically pleasing naming choices.

Fantastic sound isn’t all has got going for it, either. As you can see, it looks fantastic. Every screen on the synthesizer spare the quite-crowded bank/patch manager is a work of artistry in itself and the Korg Kaoss-Pad like controller screen lights up in response to your touch, giving visual cues as to the position of your touch that are not immediately obscured by your finger.

For more traditional synthesis there’s a two-octave keyboard with expression, controlled by the vertical position of your finger on a key. After a short amount of time playing with the keyboard it’s quite a pleasure to play. Compared to some of the other keyboards/pianos on the iPhone it’s exceptionally responsive despite the huge amount of processing required to actually play the sounds it produces. comes with a selection of built-in pre-sets to get you started and give you an idea of what sort of sounds it can produce. The emphasis is on sound-design, however, so you should immediately try tweaking settings, adding filters, playing with the trance-gate and applying a bit of trial and error methodology until you end up with something you like. Even if you’ve never touched a synthesizer in your life you will find that a little patience will give great results, and if you end up completely stuck there’s a full PDF manual online with a revised version in the pipeline.

If it wasn’t enough that isn’t, in and of itself, a five-star worthy application the support behind the powerful little iPhone synthesizer is excellent. A question or problem on the forums is responded to by the developers themselves absurdly quickly, during their waking hours at least, and several bugs and feature requests have been already implemented ready for version 1.1, sometimes within hours of being requested. This sort of support far exceeds the expectations set by a £7 (or $9.99) price tag and I can only hope it will be able to continue as the developers have to deal with more customers, take on new projects and make even more awesome than it already is.

If it’s the best iPhone Synthesizer on the App Store you’re looking for, then look no further than The competition doesn’t even come close, it doesn’t even come close to coming close. For the most part, cute little apps such as “Destiny – Digital Synth”, “miniSynth”, and “Synthesizer” are totally eclipsed by this synthesis behemoth that is and, as such, are mere toys by comparison. Okay. I lied. There is no competition. To call the other, slightly similar apps “synthesizers” is, at best, stretching the term and, at worse, an outright lie. is, without a shadow of a doubt, fully deserving of the term.

As for the future after version 1.1, Features such as sending MIDI control messages over WIFI, polyphony, WAV export and BeatMaker integration are being researched and any worthwhile feature you can suggest on their forums will surely be considered.

Grab at the App Store now!

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008, iPhone, Professional Audio.