Review: Virsyn Addictive Pro for iPad

A great additive synth, made even better
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VirSyn’s impressive line of iOS synths is something of an insider’s secret for iPad-based keyboardists and producers. Tera, Cube, Poseidon and the original Addictive Synth are all unique synthesis tools that provide rich sonic resources. Yet, for the casual user looking for classic analog sounds or common dance-music textures, they may be a tad too innovative.

That’s why Addictive Pro—an expanded version of the original Addictive Synth—is worthy of every iPad keyboardist’s attention. It builds upon the original paradigm of dual additive oscillators, each with its own graphically editable filter curve. The oscillators are based on classic additive synthesis techniques with the added benefit of being able to draw the harmonic spectrum with your finger, which is incredibly intuitive in practice. We’ve seen this before on a few other iOS synths, but VirSyn does a great job of keeping the features succinct and uncluttered, inviting immediate experimentation.

The filters, however, are utterly next-level, as their curves can also be drawn with your fingertip. This allows for some tricky acoustic modeling effects that are ably demonstrated by the factory collection of preset curves with names like String Body and Combo, as well as a handy selection of vowels. While these are great starting points for newcomers, the ability to design your own filter curves in real-time is an impressive effect, considering how fluid and responsive the software is—even on an older iPad 2. Moreover, this app is extremely light on CPU, which is wonderful if your requirements include heavy polyphony and long release times.

Since this is the Pro version of the original Addictive Synth, there are several new amenities that are worth highlighting. For example, the modulation routings are both more extensive and much easier to apply, as nearly every section (oscillators, filters, amp and a few noise options) includes its own dedicated LFO and ADSR envelope. This makes whipping up complex, evolving textures a breeze if you have a bit of experience with synthesizer basics. If not, there’s a nifty dice icon that intelligently creates random presets that don’t sound like sirens or frogs.

In addition to the added modulation features, there is a new effects section with seven processes in series—distortion, EQ, phaser, flanger, delay, chorus, and reverb. Because of the fluidity of the Addictive Pro interface, it would seem natural to be able to drag the effects around and re-order the series, but this isn’t possible in the current version of the app.

Nonetheless, because so many of the presets ably demonstrate the complex and often huge sound capabilities of the app, it’s a shoo-in for iPad-based keyboard rigs. And for on-the-go coffeshop sketches, the app provides a built-in arpeggiator with a ton of step-sequencing options and dual X-Y pads that morph the factory presets in an impressive fashion.

Readers may recall that I loved the original Addictive Synth (which is still available for $6.99), but the Pro version is an absolute steal at $19.99. While its features are extremely sophisticated, the ability to draw harmonics and filter curves in real-time while sustaining a fistful of notes is an unparalleled experience, especially if you’re looking for modern synth apps to use on a somewhat older iOS device. Kudos to VirSyn for advancing this app while keeping it both affordable and compatible with a wide range of iPads.

Snap Judgment

Pros Dual additive oscillators. Touch-based harmonic control. FM, sync, and ring mod. Two filters with user-designable curves. Extensive modulation tools for each synthesis section. Dual X-Y pads.

Cons Effects chain cannot be reordered.

Bottom Line

A great additive synth, made even better.