So when Propellerhead announced a standalone version for the iPad, more than a few jaws dropped in the Keyboard
offices. For the countless keyboardists who are now gigging with iPads,
Thor delivers godlike control over sound design like no other synth in
the iOS pantheon.
For those who haven’t experienced Thor, here’s a quick
recap of its architecture. There are three oscillators, each with six
modes that are based on a famous or influential synth, like the PPG,
Casio CZ series, Roland JP-8000, Yamaha DX-style FM, and so on. The
oscillators can be routed to a pair of modeled filters that includes a
Moog-style ladder mode, state-variable Oberheim-ish mode, formant
shifting, and comb options. All of this is topped off with dual LFOs,
three envelopes, and a seriously twisted step sequencer that can impart
extremely complex rhythmic effects.
While the original Thor was easily controlled via
traditional mouse and trackpad techniques, Propellerhead has done a
brilliant job of porting the interface to the iPad’s touchscreen. By
making each section of parameters (oscillators, filters, envelopes, and
such) collapsible, valuable screen real estate is preserved in an
extremely transparent manner. What’s more, touching the onscreen knobs
with your finger brings up a tasteful and intuitive graphic that lets
you dial in precise settings with a minimum of hassle.
The keyboard page of Thor’s interface is extremely
playable, as well. Optional pitch-bend and modulation sliders can be
toggled on or off—and of course, the now-ubiquitous ability to constrain
the keyboard to specific keys and scales is included in an elegant
manner. There’s even a nifty “strum” panel that can be toggled, allowing
you to latch the keys in a chord or scale and then arpeggiate them
manually with your finger.
While it would have been cool for Propellerhead to
incorporate an audio recorder for capturing your performances on the
fly, I’m not going to complain too much, since there’s Audiobus
compatibility (for recording Thor’s output into other apps) and full
CoreMIDI implementation. They’ve even included the ability to import
your iPad presets into the desktop Reason version—and vice versa.
All in all, Propellerhead has delivered a truly must-have
synth for iPad users of all skill levels. For fifteen bucks, Thor a
mighty synth indeed.