Review: Korg iElectribe for iPhone

Review of Korg's iElectribe app for iPhone
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In an ever-expanding universe of IOS audio apps, KORG is one of the only manufacturers that consistently delivers products that are profoundly useful for achieving production-quality results. Their iPad apps—notably Gadget and the recent iM1—have become mainstays in my backpack. So when they announced the new iElectribe for iPhone, I immediately had to add it to my iPhone 6 to see if they could achieve the same success in a smaller interface.

In a nutshell, the iElectribe is a note-perfect reproduction of their classic ER-1 drum machine that was a mainstay in early 21st century dance music. With its combination of programmable virtual analog sounds and fluid sequencing tools, the ER-1 quickly became an integral component in countless tracks from that era.

The array of drum parts in the iElectribe differs slightly from the original ER-1 in extremely useful ways with one minor caveat: The original included two audio inputs that could be ring modulated with one of the synthesized drum sounds. While these are no longer available (for obvious technical reasons on the iPhone), the enhancements more than make up for it. As with the original, there are four synthesized parts along with sampled hi-hats, cymbal, and clap/snare. Better still, there are several different options for each of the sampled parts—notably alternate cymbals and snares—that really expand the app’s flexibility.

That said, the synthesized drums in iElectribe are where the action really is. Using a deceptively simple set of parameters—pitch, waveform, mod depth, mod speed, and mod type—it’s possible to create everything from classic 808-style kicks and toms to exotic percussion sounds that evoke artists ranging from Kraftwerk to Nine Inch Nails. Thanks to Korg’s iOS updates, the oscillator waveforms are no longer limited to sine and triangle, with saw-tooth and square options added for greater tonal range. This may seem obvious, but their inclusion dramatically adds to the flexibility of the instrument and allows for credible synth parts in addition to the standard range of analog drum sounds.

Of course, the secret sauce of the ER-1’s architecture was its clever modulation options for each oscillator/part. Via a pitch LFO that extends into the audio range and includes standard waveforms, noise options and a simple decay envelope, the iElectribe delivers a staggering range of sonic flexibility with only a few parameters, which are quite easy to master. As for sequencing, the iElectribe is based on the TR-808 approach, with the standard row of 16-step toggles allowing you to see what’s going on at a glance. Real-time sequencing is also available by simply tapping the relevant drum pad as the sequence cycles. For added complexity, there’s also motion sequencing, which lets you quickly add knob twists to your patterns without disturbing the groove. This is fantastic for adding slick automation to your sequences and is a breeze to manipulate. What’s more, the app overcomes the tedium of the original’s complex interface, which required numerous button presses to edit patterns and move data around. In software, these features become a lot more intuitive, even on an iPhone screen.

The original ER-1 included a simple global delay that could be selectively applied to individual drums in a pattern. Here, iElectribe steals a page from the EMX-1 offering additional effects including reverb, chorus/flange, and lowpass, along with a formant filter and distortion/bit-crushing. These can also be motion sequenced.

In terms of iOS amenities, pretty much everything is covered, including Inter-App Audio, Audiobus, Virtual MIDI, and the ability to upload your patterns to iCloud. Also included is Korg’s WIST wireless synchronization standard, which is handy for impromptu iPad collaborations. If you’re a heavy-duty iOS user, you won’t have any quibbles here.

The iElectribe is yet another testament to Korg’s mastery in crafting compelling iOS apps. If you’ve got an iPhone 6 or 6s, you owe it to yourself to check out this app: Air travel and waiting rooms will never be the same.

Snap Judgment

PROS Spot-on re-creation of the original ER-1 sounds with numerous enhancements. Expanded effects options deliver polished results. Motion sequencing adds complexity to even basic grooves.

CONS Requires an iPhone 6 or newer to make the most of its interface.

Bottom Line

Another must-have iOS app from Korg.