Is it a new way to explore granular synthesis or an amazing new tool for communicating with the netherworld? Find out in this review! Correction: In the review I say that the sample size is limited to 10 seconds. It can be set to 60!
I don't want to be in the business of keeping track of when Apps are on sale, but I'm making an exception for iMS-20! For anyone who follows my Everyone Can Play Music series this is a great time to grab it! I'll be using it in the next the set of lessons, and it is usually $33. Get it now while it is on sale for $16! Sale ends September 28th.
I have been ignoring Sunrizer for the last couple of months as yet another virtual analog. I needed to request a review copy for a feature I'm working on and I'm glad BeepStreet obliged. They do some very clever things to bring a huge spectrum of sonic possibilities to the subtractive equasion! I was so inspired by it I immediatly produced a song and wanted to do a review for those of you, like me, that dismissed this.
Sunrizer immediatly distinguishes itself from the pack with what it calls Morph Groups. With groups A and B you get to define all of your knob parameters. These can be everything from pulse width to oscilator mix and LFO tweaks. Pretty much everything that is a knob or slider and not a button, so you can't change osillator waves, for example. Once these are defined just start playing on your keyboard and rock on the Mod Wheel! A whole new world of possibilities opens up as you move from one subtractive patch with all of it's filter and LFO settings, to a second patch with entirely different settings.
This is surprisingly easy to get started on, and even easier to play. If you're not sure where to start just select group A and design a basic patch. Hit the B button to flip over to your second group. Now get a little wild and dirty with your patch. Go crazy if you want, the morph blend is seamless! Since the morph between groups is controlled by your Mod Wheel you can easily control when and how much morph you want. This is very handy when playing; you want to keep your hands away from knobs and on the keys. With just the Mod Wheel you can send a dozen or more parameters moving. Note that the screen doesn't update to reflect these changes, until you cross the 50% threshold to switch groups, but you will instantly hear the results with just a minor change on your Wheel.
2 Osc 2 Fewious
In addition to your standard Saw, Square and Triangle waveforms of yore, BeepStreet adds a modern dimension to the classic analog sound with a Supersaw. You get essentially 7 Saws, detuned per the width knob, on one oscillator. This is a good addition, but I found it a little boring and over-used in their demo presets. It sounds good, but not as gritty and fun as other Supersaws you've heard. This will become a very familiar sound very quickly.
A lot of what is offered would have been dramatically improved with the inclusion of a dedicated Sub Oscilator. You can achieve a similar effect with the second oscillator detuned -12 semi-tones, but that greatly reduces your possibilities with the remaining one. I can understand the desire to keep things simple in what could quickly become a chaotic mess of morphs. In what is, otherwise, a modern take on a vintage design this is a notable omission.
An element of warmth is also absent in the sound design. Warmth is possible, but you've got to really reach for it. Sunrizer wants to be cold, and in this way it sets itself apart from a lot of virtual analog efforts that just add distortion and noise. There is a dedicated noise oscilator if you'd like to explore that.
I am really excited by the inclusion of sophisticated Arpeggiators within iOS synths. This adds a lot to the playability of any given synth and Sunrizer is no exception, offering one of the best editors available. Although not quite as intuitive as the Arp in Virsyn's Addictive, it is feature rich. The only thing missing here is a randomizer. There is a global Random function, but it does not seem to include the Arp sequence.
The onboard effects are your basic distortion, EQ, and chorus. Delay is a separate, dedicated, FX unit. This works out great, and I'm glad BeepStreet separated the delay, to squeeze in more effects juice to play with at any one time. The effects knobs are also subject to the Morph Groups, so you can have different Dry/Wet and depth settings for your Morph A and B.
The filters also bring a little extra to the mix. Notch, comb, and even formant are included in addition to your standard LP/BP/HP filters. I've seen a lot of people playing with "talking bass" lately, if that is something you'd like to achieve, the formant filter will pull off the trick. You get two filters to work, each with assinable Envelope Amounts.
There are also a couple of LFOs with lots of assignable routings. They have a tempo sync, but it does not display the tempo time (1/4, 1/16, etc....) for rate adjustments, so this may be puzzling for some.
MIDI! MIDI Everywhere!
A recent addition to Sunrizer is the ability to "MIDI Learn", like you find on computer soft-synths. Assigning your hardware knobs is not only possible, but easy! Just hit the thing you want to assign and then move your MIDI hardware. Done. This is an interesting inclusion that goes above and beyond the call of duty. You can already perform so dynamically with the Morph Groups, but this adds an extra layer for fine control.
Cold, Expansive and Fun
In just a couple of days I've already developed some wild sounds, many enjoying the morph functionality to go from vast pad to dark basement. This is not the typical dirty/fuzzy analog sound you may expect, but it is compelling in its own way, reminding us all of Gary Numan and a time before DubStep.
That is not to say you can't get down and dirty if you try. I got some very mean sounds out of the morphs. Here is a song I performed and recorded in a single instance of Sunrizer, while on the toilet. No additional instruments were added.
BeatMaker 2 is an elaborate studio with loads of effects and hundreds of samples. I ignore both of those facts completely as I go on a wild tear to put it through its paces. Included are tips on Hokusai and all kinds of sample chopping fun. Buy it now on iTunes!
For Jailbreak users that want to eliminate the factory samples (Like a Boss): In Terminal (or SSH): rm -rf /var/mobile/Applications/B07D0261-A778-4737-8808-C389DD967F0F/BeatMaker2.app/library/Keyboard Sampler/
Do not expect any technical support from Intua or me! If something goes wrong just delete the App and reinstall from iTunes. Hell, you probably shouldn't even do this in the first place... but if you do remember to go to your iOS Settings - BeatMaker2 and tell it to update the database so it will only show your samples and none of the missing ones.
A mere thirty minutes after my review of Rhythm Studio went up I got an email from Dan, Co-Founder of Retronyms, regarding my comments on their pricing model for Tabletop. He wanted me to try it out, so he gave me a promo-code with a request for feedback.
This article features all of my impressions; the $5 content is unlocked with the retail price of the promo-code. I have included optional In-Article Purchases offering further consultation, which are not included in the original price, for users who feel they need the additional content.
Tabletop is a sexy App. The navigation is smooth and the interface is well thought out. You can tell they got a real artist in on the project and not the accountant who "knows some Photoshop." Unfortunately the artist missed a trick, which is [Good Idea, In-Article Purchase - $9.99 Consulting Fee]. This is an important facet to any music App, as it should be instantly inspiring.
The included instruments in Tabletop's modular environment offer a fairly good mix. The ability to route audio with a visual wire connection is both intuitive and powerful. There is little that could be asked for here, though I did think the GridLok Pad Sampler would benefit from a [Another Good Idea, In-Article Purchase - $9.99 Consulting Fee], which would greatly extend its capability and fit well in the modular design.
Since I started off on hardware I was immediately comfortable with Tabletop's modus operandi. All of the instruments behave as expected. However, users more familiar with software environments may have a problem with this. I have received a lot of viewer criticism of [Trade Secret, In-Article Purchase - $99.99 Consulting Fee] in technoBox2 and Rhythm Studio, both also slavishly beholden to the hardware they emulate.
As you can see, Tabletop's appeal is obvious with a lot going for it, but to get into the useful stuff you should be prepared to make additional purchases beyond the initial $5 investment.
Retronyms has a lot of passion for the project and are unquestionably dedicated to extending it as a platform. With their commitment to further development it is easy to imagine them patching in [Great Idea, In-Article Purchase - $99.99 Consulting Fee] as a future In-App Purchase. With that achieved, musicians comfortable with both software and hardware will want to make sure that Tabletop is a part of their music making!