With so many subtractive synth apps available for iOS , developers need to be really clever in finding ways to differentiate their products from the competition. While Imaginando DRC is a polyphonic synth based on the standard model of two oscillators and a resonant multimode filter, its distinctions make it worthy of a closer look if you want tighter integration across all of your production platforms.
For starters, DRC is compatible with iOS on iPads with larger screens, but the interface also scales down nicely for use with a modern iPhone. There’s also an Android version, which is a nice touch as the Android music ecosystem isn’t nearly as evolved as iOS, so there’s still a lot of room for synth apps to stand out from the pack. Moreover, for an additional $29.99, there is a VST 2.4 version available for both Mac and Windows.
Imaginando’s multiplatform approach allows them to offer an interesting twist on the usual mobile synthesis paradigm, thanks to its ability to store presets both locally and in the Cloud. With this feature, you can create original patches while on the subway or in a coffee shop, then save them to your DRC Cloud account and call them up within the VST version in your DAW. Even if you don’t pick up the VST, you can still create or edit patches on your iPhone and have them accessible on your iPad when you get home.
The DRC interface helps greatly with this approach, even on a smaller iPhone 6 screen, as the knobs and sliders are all well-spaced and easy to read, thanks to the minimal and clean design. On the downside, switchable parameters such as waveform selection and filter mode require lots of tapping to cycle through the options. A pulldown menu would be more effective.
DRC also offers quite a few amenities beyond its synthesis engine that help set it apart. For example, there’s a hexagonal, isomorphic keyboard mode that allows you to whip up chord progressions quickly in any of its key/scale/modes, which are extensive. What’s more, any selected chord can be strummed via a nifty set of “strings” on either side of the keyboard. DRC also provides compatibility with Ableton’s WiFi-based Link protocol for syncing up its dual LFOs and arpeggiator with other iOS performers in a jam session. Lastly, it supports Audiobus and offers extensive MIDI compatibilities, making it a team player for on-the-go composing.
While these forward-thinking features are great, the bottom line is the sound and in this regard, DRC is solid. The 4-pole resonant lowpass mode is a real standout, while its pulse-width modulation—combined with a bit of detuning on the second oscillator—allows DRC to sound a tad fatter than other iOS synths, even without the effects, which include a lovely stereo analog-chorus emulation. That said, it’s not quite in the same league as synths from the best-known developers; but then again, it’s half the price of those apps.
All in all, Imaginando’s first foray into synthesis is a strong entry in the world of iOS production tools. And for users who also purchase the affordable VST companion synth, there is an added level of DAW integration that’s tantalizing. I look forward to seeing more from this company, as they definitely have a clear vision for the future of mobile softsynths.
PROS Solid emulation of classic two-oscillator analog synthesis. Integrated effects and arpeggiator. Integrated chording interface with customizable key, scale, and mode. Ableton Link compatibility. Available for iOS, Android and VST 2.4.
CONS Interface uses awkward switching for multistate parameters.
Handy subtractive synth with Cloud-based preset storage.
Free, with $14.99 in-app purchase to unlock synthesis features. imaginando.pt