Back when the iPhone was first opened up to third-party apps, one of the first synth toys to hit the market was a Mellotron emulator called Ellatron. While its sound library was quite good, the original Ellatron—which is still available for the iPhone, incidentally—was hobbled by the iPhone’s miniscule screen. Sure, it was great for wowing your synth geek friends, but hardly playable.
More recently, the Ellatron developer, Omenie, teamed up with Streetly Mellotronics—the original manufacturer of the legendary Mellotron—and released the Mellotronics M3000 HD—those last two letters referring to a version optimized for the iPad’s large screen. That collaboration has yielded an outstanding and genuinely useful virtual Mellotron that can easily go toe-to-toe with the best of plug-in emulations on the market.
The M3000’s 13 banks include the Holy Trinity of Mellotron essentials: flutes, strings, and choir. Even if you’re a complete Mello-newbie, you’ll immediately recognize these sounds, because they’ve appeared on countless legendary tracks. The flutes are the most recognizable, since they’ve been highlighted on both “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Stairway to Heaven”. The choirs were a staple on 80s new wave tracks, notably OMD’s “Dazzle Ships” album and the cult classic, “First Last for Everything” by Endgames. The strings will also be familiar to prog rock aficionados, having been used extensively by King Crimson, Yes, and the Moody Blues.
Other presets include clarinet, oboe, trombone, brass and string sections, and the weirdest tenor sax you’ve ever encountered on a synth. M3000 has a couple of cool amenities for customizing the sounds further, as you can blend multiple sounds via an A/B/C mix knob as well as apply basic hall reverb to the sound. There’s also a rudimentary tone control that sounds a lot like a slightly resonant lowpass filter to my ears.
M3000’s interface includes the ability to play chords via a collection of pads, so you don’t have to wrangle your fingers around the iPad’s screen when playing complicated progressions. While the method for programming the chords is a tad fiddly, being able to assign a batch of useful chords is a time-tested way to break out of your fingering habits and come up with progressions outside your normal repertoire.
So, with all of this Mellotron goodness at your fingertips for only 12 bucks, there must be a catch, and there is: The Omenie/Streetly team still hasn’t added any modern iOS features to the M3000. That means, no MIDI and no Audiobus compatibility. For a lot of iPad players, that’s going to be a bit of a deal-breaker. In fact, the only way you can incorporate the M3000 into your studio rig is by connecting it to your audio inputs via a standard 1/8" stereo cable. You could also record it via a CoreAudio-compatible third-party audio interface, of course.
That said, plug-in versions of the Mellotron still cost three figures and most musicians just need its sounds for a dash of retro here and there. So for 12 bucks, the M3000 is a total bargain for a Streetly-approved Mellotron collection—even without MIDI.
PROS: Mellotron samples directly from the original Streetly libraries. Ability to blend up to three simultaneous sounds. Built-in reverb and basic lowpass filtering.
CONS: No CoreMIDI or Audiobus support makes the M3000 feel rather dated for an iPad app.
Bottom Line: The least expensive way to emulate a Mellotron convincingly.
$11.99 | omenie.com