I’ve been a fan of Tempo Rubato’s NLog iPad synth for several years now, so I was expecting big things from Waldorf’s collaboration with Rolf Wöhrmann (the designer of NLog), especially considering that they also enlisted the brainpower of Axel Hartmann, designer of the near-mythical Neuron digital hardware synth from 2003. With a pedigree like that, I anticipated that Waldorf’s new iOS wavetable synth Nave would knock my socks off, and that’s exactly what it did.
PROS: Best-of-breed wavetable synthesis. Ability to create new wavetables via WAV import and speech synthesis. Extremely flexible envelopes. Integrated effects. Four-track audio recording.
CONS: Preset management could be a bit smoother. Requires iOS 6 or newer.
Bottom Line: The current benchmark for wavetable synthesis in iOS.
The core of Nave is a pair of wavetable oscillators with one of the best visual interfaces I’ve ever seen. Imagine a fully rotating, Fourier-style, 3-D view of the wavetable that clearly displays each slice as you scan through the waves, then multiply that by two, and you’ve got the general idea. Each wavetable can be further modified with aptly named parameters like “noisy” and “brilliance.” What’s more, every wavetable includes built-in forward and backward scanning via an integrated LFO. In addition, you can apply one of Nave’s many modulation tools for more customized animation.
If the 80 or so factory wavetables aren’t enough for your sonic endeavors, you can import your own WAV files and have Nave scan them. There’s also a remarkable speech synthesizer that will take any typed phrase and convert it into a Nave wavetable (Navetable?) that recites the phrase as you scan the wavetable. The result sounds like a cross between turntable scratching and Daft Punk robot voices, and gives Nave an unheard of level of flexibility in this area.
In addition to the dual wavetable oscillators, Nave includes an “Uberwave” feature that blends in a supersaw-inspired oscillator with selectable waveform and up to eight detuned instances, which is perfect for festival-ready EDM leads.
Nave’s filtering tools are beautifully designed as well, with lowpass, highpass, and bandpass options combined with two- and four-pole slope options. The filters are solid and sound more digital than analog, but in context that pairs well with the oscillators’ character. There’s also a drive module with five distortion options that can be placed either pre- or post-filter, which is a nice touch.
Nave’s modulation section includes the same attention to detail, with three envelopes, two LFOs, and an array of MIDI and iOS performance tools. The filter and amp envelopes are especially nice, with selectable curves for each segment, making sharp transients a breeze to whip up.
Rounding out the sound design tools are five simultaneous effects including EQ, compression, reverb, delay, and a modulation effect for chorus, flange, and phase. There’s also a capable arpeggiator included for trance fans.
As if all of that weren’t enough, Nave includes a four-track recorder for composing on the go. While these tools aren’t quite enough to create a fully produced track, it’s a great way to experiment with Nave’s features, and then transfer the best results back to your computer for further development in your DAW.
It’s astonishing how rapidly the iOS app scene has evolved, with ever more complex synthesis tools, thanks to the processing power of Apple’s most recent iPad models. With Nave, Waldorf has cross-bred their legendary Wave with elements of Axel Hartmann’s Neuron to deliver a digital synth that goes far beyond most iPad synth apps and is an absolute joy to program.