Berklee professor Dr. Richard Boulanger has been one of the world’s leading authorities on the audio-focused Csound programming language since its earliest days at MIT. His company, Boulanger Labs, is quickly becoming a go-to for iPad musicians with a taste for the unusual. A perfect example of Boulanger’s devotion to cutting-edge audio tools is his latest iOS offering, csSpectral.
As with his previous releases, csSpectral puts the focus squarely on processing sound, as opposed to a keyboard-based or DAW-like interface. Don’t expect to be whipping up riffs or sequences in csSpectral—that’s not its purpose. Instead, this app is a treasure trove of deep FFT functionality, which makes it perfect for performers and producers who work with samplers and sample-based groove tools.
By importing various audio from your computer or iTunes library, csSpectral lets you apply its wide range of processing tools to the file and render the results. You can MIDI-map parameters to an external controller. What’s more, csSpectral is Audiobus compliant, so if you want to use it in conjunction with a compatible iPad DAW or synth, you’re in business. Here’s a quick overview of the processing.
Filters. A de rigueur multimode filter is on hand, along with a three-note comb/resonator that’s cool for embossing a chord on your audio material, but the real showstopper here is the modal resonator. It whips up some astonishingly useful physical modeling effects akin to those available in Logic’s Sculpture synth or Ableton’s Corpus audio effect. There are quite a few models to choose from, ranging from wine glasses to Tibetan bowls to wooden plates. Drum and percussion loops are ideal to use as the input, as these provide the proper “excitors” for the model to process. If this were the only thing this app did, it would still be worth the price of admission.
Delays. This section includes three modes: granular, lo-fi, and “stereo glitch.” While I was expecting the lo-fi mode to deliver tape/analog effects, it’s actually more of a digital distortion. The glitch mode is cool for stuttering and chopping your audio.
Spectral. Here, each of the seven modes delivers a different type of FFT processing. The phase vocoder mode works much like a standard pitch-shifter. Spectral warp resembles a frequency shifter. EQ allows adjustment of six tunable bands and imparts a bit of quirky digital distortion. Spectral SampleHold does a great job of making you sound like BT, and ReSynthesizer delivers pitched results that sound like a cross between a flanger and briskly rubbing a balloon. That said, my favorite was the Spectral Buffer, which transforms your source material into a series of complex sustained notes, each perfect for importing into a sampler as raw wave material. Letting it run on a drum loop delivered countless inharmonic options, while running spoken words through it created various sustained vowels. I was pretty blown away by this feature.
Reverbs. The three reverbs definitely go against the grain. The waveguide reverb will be the most familiar to casual users, whereas the phaser and “ball in the box” options are fantastic for creating truly exotic acoustic resonances.
Cutters. These three granular processors—Vari-Gate, Bouncer, and MicroCutter—will be immediate favorites of BT fans and anyone else who’s into experimental glitch effects. In some ways, it’s almost too easy to get results. They’re all great fun to tinker with, especially if you like flashy and/or academic production techniques.
All in all, csSpectral is a powerhouse when it comes to advanced processing tools, FFT or otherwise. If you make music that pushes the envelope – or just want to add a bit of intelligent spice to more mainstream productions – you can’t afford to miss this app. It’s definitely worth the 20 bucks.
Extensive FFT and granular processing tools. Exotic reverb and delay functions. Chopping and stuttering galore. Audiobus support. Extensive MIDI CC control of parameters. Three real-time XY controllers.
Heavy CPU use requires a newer iPad for best results.
Fantastic collection of intelligent and unusual effects.
$19.99 | boulangerlabs.com