Jordan Rudess' app Jordantron reviewed

January 16, 2015

Calling Jordan Rudess a legend is a bit of an understatement. From his pioneering work with prog-metal band Dream Theater to his forward-thinking apps for the earliest versions of iOS, Rudess has remained at the forefront of both progressive rock and synthesis technology for over 20 years.

Rudess’ latest foray into iPad synths is a collaboration with Omenie, makers of the wonderful M3000 virtual Mellotron for iOS (reviewed Aug. ’13). The concept behind Jordantron is straightforward: Start with the M3000 architecture, then load it with a 1GB library of Rudess’ favorite sampled instruments. The result is quite impressive and musically useful, regardless of whether you’re even a prog fan at all.

Here’s a quick recap of Omenie’s architecture. Up to three simultaneous layers of samples can be blended, then modified via simple controls for volume, pitch, tone, and a basic integrated reverb. The resulting patch is assigned to a dual-manual virtual keyboard with wonderfully large keys, making it possible to play basic riffs directly on the iPad. Since chording on a touchscreen keyboard is always tricky, one of the keyboards can be swapped for a set of 12 configurable “pads,” with each pad triggering a different user-programmed chord. In practice, this is a rather elegant way to get the most from an iPad as a live instrument. 

On the downside, presets are selected via tapping on left/right arrows for each layer, with no direct menu selection, which is a bit cumbersome. Fortunately, there are 32 “Voicebanks,” which are user-programmable combinations of layers and tone settings. In addition to the sample layers, the factory Voicebanks were also designed by Rudess and are astonishingly rich and spot-on when it comes to capturing his trademark sound.

While Omenie’s M3000 included basic MIDI features, the Jordantron sports a more advanced complement of performance options, which are accessed via the iOS settings app rather than the synth itself. Here you can customize the behavior of pitch-bend, velocity, aftertouch, expression pedal, and other controllers. The app also includes the ability to assign a fourth preset to an external MIDI controller, allowing you to perform the main trio of blended sounds on the iPad with an additional sound, called “Voice D,” assigned to a second keyboard. You can even set up the pitch wheel range to duplicate Jordan’s trademark octave dive-bombs.

In addition to the MIDI features, iOS amenities include support for InterApp audio and the Audiobus 1 and 2 standards, making Jordantron a team player for iPad diehards.

It’s not often that an artist of this caliber offers their personal collection of handcrafted and instantly recognizable sounds to the world—and certainly not for ten dollars—so Dream Theater fans should leap on this opportunity. Even for those who are unfamiliar with Rudess’ discography, Jordantron is a fantastic collection of rich orchestral and progressive textures that fit beautifully into a wide range of styles.

PROS

Sounds drawn from Jordan Rudess’ famed patch library. Large keys and chord mode make performing directly from an iPad viable. Lets you play a secondary patch from an external keyboard. MIDI options reflect Rudess’ own performance approach. Audiobus integration.

CONS

No menu or pull-down for patch selection makes sifting through presets a bit tedious. Requires 1GB free space for installation.

Bottom Line

The ultimate app for Jordan Rudess and Dream Theater fans.

$9.99 | wizdommusic.com

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