Essential iPhone Apps for Synthesis, Part 1

September 08, 2009

By Francis Preve

Back when we first covered the iPhone in 2007 issue, there were a few tantalizing apps – like Noise.io, Intua Beatmaker, and IR-909 – that alluded to the power lurking within this device. More recently, we thoroughly investigated the one-two punch of Audiofile Engineering’s FiRe field recorder and Blue’s nifty Mikey iPhone/iPod microphone.

With well over a hundred apps to sift through on the App Store, it’s become a tad daunting to find the real instruments among the toys, so here’s a collection of truly useful synthesis apps that will get your juices flowing next time you’re chillin’ at an airport gate.

Jasuto modular synthesizer
Developer: Chris Wolfe
Price: $0.99
iTunes Link

A few years back, an experimental synthesis instrument called the Reactable wowed the electronic music world with a wholly new approach to modular synthesis. Using a large “intelligent” tabletop surface, users can rearrange virtual geometric objects – oscillators, filters, LFOs - to create sounds. The amount of modulation was governed by the proximity of these objects to each other. This prototype oozed Minority Report coolness and its YouTube videos became an instant viral hit among synthesists.

Reactable video.

Intrepid developer Chris Wolfe has taken some of these concepts and created an extraordinary little app called Jasuto. Stocked with a massive array of both classic and exotic components, Jasuto is a 21st century modular synth in the form of an iPhone app.

While we could exhaustively list its features, the darn thing is only ninety-nine cents – less than the price of many songs in the iTunes store. So go grab Jasuto now and set aside a few hours to get lost in a magical new rabbit hole of sonic goodness.

Once you’ve discovered the joy of Jasuto, contemplate this: Mr. Wolfe is currently developing a VST version of this gem. Here’s a link to his early beta for the curious.

VST beta



Pictured: Jasuto’s littleDiddy preset, which delivers a quirky little groove all by itself.

Developer: AudioMidi.com/VirSyn
Price: $4.99
iTunes Link

Keyboard’s own Mitchell Sigman had a big hand in developing iSyn and his years of synthesis experience – combined with the expertise of the folks at VirSyn – has resulted in a comprehensive synth/sequencer that’s a must-have for on-the-go electronica producers.

Sporting two full-featured synths, sequencing tools, and a handy little drum machine, iSyn is vaguely reminiscent of Korg’s übercool DS-10 cartridge for the Nintendo DS.

iSyn’s synthesis engine (pictured above) is loosely based on the Minimoog : three oscillators into a 4-pole lowpass filter, followed by an amp module that sports some yummy overdrive options. Throw in a couple of envelopes and an LFO and you’ve got all of the essentials for creating classic synth patches.

The drum machine features eight kits, including the obligatory 808 and 909, along with Simmons, Linn and a few original options.

There’s also an effects send for all three instruments. Options here include phaser, flanger, chorus and delay, so you don’t have to settle for bone-dry mixes of your iSyn compositions.

The interface for the whole shebang is quite elegant, despite being crammed onto the iPhone’s tiny screen. So if Apple does deliver a larger iPad in the coming months, iSyn’s usability will expand exponentially.

Either way, iSyn is five bucks well spent – and an essential part of any iPhone-wielding producer’s toolkit.



Pictured: iSyn’s Minimoog-inspired synth architecture

Stay tuned for more....

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