Propellerhead Thor for iPad Reviewed

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Since its introduction in Reason 4, Thor has remained one of the most versatile soft synths available anywhere. With a vast array of features that includes models of some of the most famous oscillators and filters in synthesis history, along with one of the deepest modulation routing systems, Thor has become the go-to synth for Reason users. I’ve used it countless times in my own productions.

PROS: Sonically identical to the full Reason version. Extremely deep and flexible synthesis tools. Presets created on iPad are fully compatible with Reason. CoreMIDI and Audiobus support. Works well on first-generation iPad.

CONS: Not able to record/export audio performances.

Bottom Line: Reason’s über-synth goes mobile.

$14.99 |

 So when Propellerhead announced a standalone version for the iPad, more than a few jaws dropped in the Keyboard offices. For the countless keyboardists who are now gigging with iPads, Thor delivers godlike control over sound design like no other synth in the iOS pantheon.

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For those who haven’t experienced Thor, here’s a quick recap of its architecture. There are three oscillators, each with six modes that are based on a famous or influential synth, like the PPG, Casio CZ series, Roland JP-8000, Yamaha DX-style FM, and so on. The oscillators can be routed to a pair of modeled filters that includes a Moog-style ladder mode, state-variable Oberheim-ish mode, formant shifting, and comb options. All of this is topped off with dual LFOs, three envelopes, and a seriously twisted step sequencer that can impart extremely complex rhythmic effects.

While the original Thor was easily controlled via traditional mouse and trackpad techniques, Propellerhead has done a brilliant job of porting the interface to the iPad’s touchscreen. By making each section of parameters (oscillators, filters, envelopes, and such) collapsible, valuable screen real estate is preserved in an extremely transparent manner. What’s more, touching the onscreen knobs with your finger brings up a tasteful and intuitive graphic that lets you dial in precise settings with a minimum of hassle.

The keyboard page of Thor’s interface is extremely playable, as well. Optional pitch-bend and modulation sliders can be toggled on or off—and of course, the now-ubiquitous ability to constrain the keyboard to specific keys and scales is included in an elegant manner. There’s even a nifty “strum” panel that can be toggled, allowing you to latch the keys in a chord or scale and then arpeggiate them manually with your finger.

While it would have been cool for Propellerhead to incorporate an audio recorder for capturing your performances on the fly, I’m not going to complain too much, since there’s Audiobus compatibility (for recording Thor’s output into other apps) and full CoreMIDI implementation. They’ve even included the ability to import your iPad presets into the desktop Reason version—and vice versa. Huzzah!

All in all, Propellerhead has delivered a truly must-have synth for iPad users of all skill levels. For fifteen bucks, Thor a mighty synth indeed.