Gadget’s synthesis engine is a monster, including modeled
analog, FM, phase modulation, vector synthesis, wavetable synthesis, and
a few sample-based synths for things like drums, special effects, and
acoustic instruments. But instead of putting all that power into a
complex and confusing interface, they distilled it into 15 distinct soft
synths that run inside the Gadget environment. Each of these is
optimized for a different aspect of electronic music composition and
named after a different city.
For starters, there are two drum synths—London and
Tokyo—that cover the bases for sampled and analog modeled sounds,
respectively. London includes a huge assortment of drums and some really
sweet editing features, like per-drum control over tuning, duration,
reverse, punch, low boost, and the ability to apply an onboard effect
that can be anything from gated reverb to granular delay. Tokyo is a
simple virtual analog affair that offers customizable kick, snare/clap,
toms, and percussion.
Speaking of analog, the next four city-themed
synths—Chicago, Berlin, Phoenix, and Dublin—all sound fantastic and
cover a specialized range of the analog world. Chicago is Gadget’s
TB-303 emulation and does a great job of evoking the original,
especially in the filter and distortion departments. Berlin is a
monophonic synth that specializes in hard sync effects. Phoenix is
Gadget’s polyphonic offering (see image), and it both looks and sounds
reminiscent of the legendary Oberheim OB-Xa, sporting dual oscillators
and a sweet-sounding lowpass filter. Dublin is another monosynth and
handles more like a Moog, with a few faux-modular interface elements
thrown in to keep things interesting.
On the mainstream digital side, Marseille, Wolfsburg, and
Brussels deliver the essentials. Marseille is a ROMpler covering
necessities like piano, strings, brass, and such, but with the addition
of a nifty Chord button that works in conjunction with the global key
signature and mode settings to make clever one-finger progressions
absurdly easy. Wolfsburg has that icy digital-analog sound that strongly
evokes the vibe of a Nord or Virus, whereas Brussels is the monophonic
go-to synth for super-saw festival leads.
In the realm of more exotic digital tools are Kiev,
Helsinki, Miami, Chiangmai, and Kingston. Kiev is a nifty little vector
synth with lovely modulation amenities and a fantastic wavetable.
Helsinki excels at ethereal textures with an additive flair. Miami does
dubstep wobbles with grit and swagger. Chiangmai is Gadget’s DX clone,
and Kingston’s specialty is arcade sounds and chip tune leads.
Rounding out the collection is a “boom box” called
Amsterdam that has four slots for sampled sound effects such as
explosions and risers.
In addition to spot-on sounds and interfaces, most of
these synths include integrated effects that are tailor-made for their
character and go a long way toward eliminating the need for added
processing and EQ in Gadget’s mixer, so the output of each synth is
extremely polished. The attention to detail is stunning.
In four years of reviewing iPad DAWs and groovebox apps, I
can honestly say the Gadget sequencer is is the best by far. It’s
obvious that Korg’s engineers spent a lot of time analyzing top-notch
computer DAWs, cherry-picking their most intuitive features, and then
optimizing those functions for a touch screen interface.
Individual sequences are laid out in a manner that
strongly evokes Ableton’s session view without being an outright
rip-off. They even use the term “Scenes” for the pattern groups. What’s
more, Gadget’s ability to view the piano roll and current synth
simultaneously has a whiff of Propellerhead Reason about it. In
practice, Gadget’s workflow is blissfully straightforward: Create a
scene and then add individual synth tracks, each with its own associated
sequence. Individual synth sequences can be any length, with the
longest determining the overall duration of that scene. For example, a
scene containing a one-bar drum loop, four-bar chord progression, and
eight-bar lead will loop every eight bars. Delete the lead track and it
becomes a four-bar sequence.
Arranging is even easier. Just drag your scenes around
vertically until they’re in the right order, top to bottom, and hit
Play. As each sequence completes, Gadget jumps to the next until it
reaches the bottom scene, then loops endlessly.
Editing tools are kept to the bare essentials, but as with
everything else in Gadget, they’re implemented so seamlessly that you
don’t really miss the fussier functions, which, honestly, would just
clutter everything up on an iPad.
Mixing and Effects
Gadget’s mixer includes panning and volume for every
track, mute and solo buttons, a global reverb with individual send
levels, and an adjustable limiter on the master bus. The reverb is a
hall (with adjustable decay) and can’t be changed, but since almost
every synth has its own integrated effects, you really don’t need much
else besides this reverb. The limiter is also top-notch, with adjustable
“intensity.” In fact, as I was working on my first sequence, I cranked
up the knob and was instantly greeted with that punchy-bricky sound
that’s essential for big-room tracks. Dialing it back imparted a more
natural feel, yet still delivered the necessary impact for credible
dance floor music.
Gadget comes with in-app social media sharing, WAV export
to AudioCopy-compliant apps, and Korg’s WIST technology for wireless
syncing. Audiobus support was added as of version 1.02, but a recent
iPad—such as an Air or Retina-equipped Mini—is recommended. All this
connectivity can come in handy, as about the only thing Gadget can’t do
is record user samples or external audio —you’ll need to get outside of
Gadget to put a lead vocal over your electronic opus, for example.
Frankly, when you have 20 to 30 synth tracks cranking away on your
iPad—as I did on my recently purchased iPad Air, and without a
glitch—you won’t miss this ability. There’s even a freeze function that
will up your track count by another 20 to 30 percent if you’re on an
From the moment I fired it up, Gadget completely blew me
away. It’s the single best iPad electronic music tool I’ve ever used,
hands down. Its 15 synths are so specialized, but collectively cover so
much ground, that even newcomers can quickly find exactly the sounds
they’re seeking. They’re also so well designed that it’s basically
impossible to come up with a bad patch. The sequencing and arrangement
functions are absolute best of breed for iOS. Even the limiter delivers
Beatport-grade mastering for your exported songs. Finally, you can
complete a no-compromise electronic track using nothing but an iPad.
Buy. Gadget. Now.