Arctic ProSynth app reviewed

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One Red Dog Media’s latest iOS app, Arctic ProSynth, is their newest entry in the iPad virtual analog wars. At first glance, there’s not a lot we haven’t seen before, but dig a bit deeper, and there’s a real attention to detail and quality in this ten-dollar virtual analog synthesizer.

PROS: Hyper-oscillators deliver fat, thick textures. Integrated vocoder and effects. Excellent presets. Audiobus, AudioCopy, and WIST.

CONS: A little short on matrix modulation amenities.

Bottom Line: Another excellent analog emulation for your iPad rig.

$9.99 |

For starters, the developers opted for big knobs and multiple pages for Arctic Pro’s parameter set. This is an often-overlooked detail by countless iOS developers and adds greatly to this synth’s tweakability.

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As for the synth engine, it’s pretty straightforward stuff, but with a few nifty enhancements that give the synth its own character. Sure, it’s another dual-oscillator affair with a pair of resonant multimode filters that can be arranged in series or parallel—like the majority of iOS synths—and of course, there’s an LFO and three envelopes for modulation tasks. So it’s easy to glance at its screen shots without feeling too much app-lust.

However, after digging into this synth for a few hours, here are a few highlights that set Arctic Pro apart from the pack.

Each oscillator sports the holy trinity of analog waveforms—saw, square and triangle—and the absence of any sort of pulse width control is rather conspicuous, frankly. But upon further inspection, two new parameters caught my eye: Hyper Mix and Spread. These two knobs give Arctic Pro the ability to do stacked oscillator tricks (a la Roland’s super saw wave) with all three waveforms, which is fantastic for massive festival-style chords and pads.

What’s more, Arctic Pro includes an onboard vocoder that works with the iPad microphone input. As vocoders go, this one’s pretty solid overall. While it’s nowhere near as complex as a standalone product like iVoxel, it’s great for old-school robot voices and Daft Punk-ish effects. Arctic Pro also includes a bunch of more standard effects like chorus, delay, EQ, phaser, reverb, and a flexible distortion unit with 6 different modes.

One of the biggest features that sets Arctic Pro apart from the rest of its peers is a fantastic collection of presets, courtesy veteran sound designer, John “Skippy” Lehmkuhl. John’s work on classic Korg synths is legendary - and these presets really show off his skills. Silky pads, scorching leads, acid bass, and a collection of patterns that make excellent use of Arctic Pro’s onboard step sequencer gives this synth an air of quality that’s often missing from products by other iOS-centric startups.

As for other iOS amenities, Arctic Pro is fully buzzword compliant. You can record your performances to WAV or MIDI files. Audiobus and AudioCopy are available as well, so you can integrate ArcticPro’s output with your other iPad apps. SoundCloud upload is supported as well, as is the ability to transfer presets and banks via WiFi or iTunes. It even includes Korg’s WIST synchronization.

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So, despite its similarities to a lot of other iPad soft synths, Arctic Pro really is a different beast and certainly worthy of a closer look, especially if you’re an iPad performer who absolutely has to have it all.