Back when the iPhone was first opened up to third-party apps, one of the
first synth toys to hit the market was a Mellotron emulator called
Ellatron. While its sound library was quite good, the original
Ellatron—which is still available for the iPhone, incidentally—was
hobbled by the iPhone’s miniscule screen. Sure, it was great for wowing
your synth geek friends, but hardly playable.
More recently, the Ellatron developer, Omenie, teamed up
with Streetly Mellotronics—the original manufacturer of the legendary
Mellotron—and released the Mellotronics M3000 HD—those last two letters
referring to a version optimized for the iPad’s large screen. That
collaboration has yielded an outstanding and genuinely useful virtual
Mellotron that can easily go toe-to-toe with the best of plug-in
emulations on the market.
The M3000’s 13 banks include the Holy Trinity of Mellotron
essentials: flutes, strings, and choir. Even if you’re a complete
Mello-newbie, you’ll immediately recognize these sounds, because they’ve
appeared on countless legendary tracks. The flutes are the most
recognizable, since they’ve been highlighted on both “Strawberry Fields
Forever” and “Stairway to Heaven”. The choirs were a staple on 80s new
wave tracks, notably OMD’s “Dazzle Ships” album and the cult classic,
“First Last for Everything” by Endgames. The strings will also be
familiar to prog rock aficionados, having been used extensively by King
Crimson, Yes, and the Moody Blues.
Other presets include clarinet, oboe, trombone, brass and
string sections, and the weirdest tenor sax you’ve ever encountered on a
synth. M3000 has a couple of cool amenities for customizing the sounds
further, as you can blend multiple sounds via an A/B/C mix knob as well
as apply basic hall reverb to the sound. There’s also a rudimentary tone
control that sounds a lot like a slightly resonant lowpass filter to my
M3000’s interface includes the ability to play chords via a
collection of pads, so you don’t have to wrangle your fingers around
the iPad’s screen when playing complicated progressions. While the
method for programming the chords is a tad fiddly, being able to assign a
batch of useful chords is a time-tested way to break out of your
fingering habits and come up with progressions outside your normal
So, with all of this Mellotron goodness at your fingertips
for only 12 bucks, there must be a catch, and there is: The
Omenie/Streetly team still hasn’t added any modern iOS features to the
M3000. That means, no MIDI and no Audiobus compatibility. For a lot of
iPad players, that’s going to be a bit of a deal-breaker. In fact, the
only way you can incorporate the M3000 into your studio rig is by
connecting it to your audio inputs via a standard 1/8" stereo cable. You
could also record it via a CoreAudio-compatible third-party audio
interface, of course.
That said, plug-in versions of the Mellotron still cost
three figures and most musicians just need its sounds for a dash of
retro here and there. So for 12 bucks, the M3000 is a total bargain for a
Streetly-approved Mellotron collection—even without MIDI.
PROS: Mellotron samples directly from the original Streetly
libraries. Ability to blend up to three simultaneous sounds. Built-in
reverb and basic lowpass filtering.
CONS: No CoreMIDI or Audiobus support makes the M3000 feel rather dated for an iPad app.
Bottom Line: The least expensive way to emulate a Mellotron convincingly.
$11.99 | omenie.com