Camel Audio’s Alchemy Mobile has been out for a while now, and the free version has developed quite a following among iPad users thanks to its ability to whip up cool textures without a deep understanding of synthesis tools. Last spring, Camel updated the popular app to version 2.0, adding some cool new features like drum pads, new presets, Audiobus support, and a four–track sequencer for doodling.
PROS: Intuitive and easy-to-navigate sound design tools. Audiobus support. User-adjustable balance between latency and polyphony. Great sounding synthesis engine. Compatible all the way back to first-generation iPad.
CONS: Sequence editing tools are meager at best.
Bottom Line: Another useful and affordable color for your iPad synth palette.
$14.99 | camelaudio.com
That said, the real fun begins when you plunk down an extra 15 bucks for the in–app purchase of Alchemy Mobile Pro, which lets you save your four–track songs for future work and light editing tasks. Oddly, the Pro version also adds the ability to add swing to your grooves—a feature that seems like it should be included standard, but that’s really just a quibble. The upgrade also includes the ability to tweak your overall latency, which can help with polyphony. This is a major plus for original iPad users, who thankfully are supported in both versions of the app.
Alchemy’s approach to sound design is quite intuitive, even for beginners, thanks to Camel’s intelligent use of macros, a pair of X/Y pads, and a 4 x 2 grid that provides morphing between eight variations on the preset. This last feature lets you smoothly transition through preset variations by sliding your finger around the grid, delivering useful results with a minimum of technical knowledge.
More savvy users can experiment with the macro sliders on the left side of the interface. These sliders change their function based on the preset selected. For some instruments, the macros control familiar parameters like cutoff and resonance. For others, the sliders control more exotic aspects of the sound, like comb filtering, effects levels, and even grouped parameters with unusual [yoga-inspired ?] names like “Prasavya” and “Lotus.”
The sequencing tools are functional, but really basic compared to many of the other multitrack iPad apps. You get a basic ruler at the top of each selected preset-plus-track combo that corresponds to bar length and play position, but that’s it. There’s no full-screen editor that allows you to manipulate individual events on the MIDI timeline. Yes, you can overdub and/or re-record, but that’s about it.
Of course, the Alchemy synth sounds so good that some users will probably just use it as another tool in their arsenal of iPad sound generators or, thanks to the inclusion of Audiobus compatibility, incorporate Alchemy into a larger iOS sequencing environment, so again, this may be splitting hairs since the app sounds so darned good.
All in all, Alchemy Mobile—Pro or free—is a great sounding addition to any iPad rig and its ease of use in the sound design department should make it a go-to synth for nascent sound designers, regardless of your preferred musical genre.