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Sugar Bytes Thesys

Just last month Sugar Bytes released the astounding port of Turnado for iPad and today they bring us another direct port of their powerful Thesys sequencer! Once again all the features of the VST are here plus: Audiobus, JACK, VirtualMIDI and even a synth!

Thesys iTunes Description:

Thesys is an extremely powerful and intuitive MIDI stepsequencer app, giving you control over just about all aspects of your favorite MIDI devices. Use Thesys to create varied and organic bass lines, screaming leads, pulsating chords, and organic pad sounds in the studio or on stage.

For live musicians, Thesys provides an extremely versatile palette of performance options which can be triggered right from your MIDI keyboard: you can transpose, manipulate, twist up, mutate, and mangle your patterns without even getting near your iPad. No other MIDI sequencer plugin offers you the ease and power of Thesys. It is 100% MIDI compliant and therefore provides the ultimate MIDI sequencing solution.

iPad Edition Features:

  • Midifile Export
  • Integrated Synth
  • Audiobus Support (Sender)
  • Full Midi Support (Virtual, Network, Extern)
  • Midi Clock Sync (Master & Slave)
  • Action Section (Gatetime, Looper, Slowdown...)
  • Pattern Sequencer
  • Jack iOS Support
  • Zoom

Buy Thesys on iTunes: $14.99

I was playing with Thesys quite a lot this morning and I'm blown away by the amount of creative control offered here. Although it is designed for sequencing only 1 synth/app/misc. gear at a time, it does so with control over 8 assignable MIDI CC modulations, tons of performance controls for immediatly changing up your patterns, and even supports polyrhythmic sequencing. Polyrhythms are created when you have different sequence lengths playing against one another. This means that you could have a sequence of 8 notes, but a modulation sequence of 32, so that 1 bar pattern would evolve and change over the course of 4 bars. The performance controls can also be sequenced in an elaborate way that would be difficult to describe, so I advise you just hit the Random button on the side for a quick demo of how much can change in your patterns there.

Unfortunately like Turnado with great power comes great UI hurdles, and manipulating the tiny on-screen controls can be tricky. It's a trade off; they either give us all the goodies or gimp it for iOS. I think they made the right choice by offering us the complete package, and we'll just have to get used to using the Zoom function. The power of polyrhythmic sequencing is something we haven't seen before in iOS sequencers, and I'm very excited to explore this with iPad synths! Since Thesys has Audiobus support (as an Input) you get the Audiobus connection panel controls to start or stop your sequences from inside other apps!

There are no iPad specific demo videos yet, but here is a tutorial for the PC/Mac version to help get you going.

Reader Comments 40

Oh bollocks. I was hoping for Effectrix on iOS next. Not this. Back to clunky Loop Twister.... :(

June 27, 2013  | person_outline tom_tm

Thanks for the insights Tim! Much appreciated!

I'm not going to buy this; while I like SugarBytes releasing their plugins for iPad and have Turnado which is superb, the controls on that are just too small and fiddly for me to use with any degree of success!

If Nave is available for £2.50 less than this and has a superb touch interface why doesn't this?

Sorry guys, but I for one don't want to buy and say this is ok, because I really don't think it is!!

June 27, 2013  | person_outline Baddcr

i don't mind zoom really, but I think putting shift, control alt buttons is a bit much!

June 27, 2013  | person_outline RMG

The Shift, Control, & Alt feature allow for finer tuning of sequencing.

- Click and drag on a step to create or change a value.

- Shift-click on a step to edit for finer adjustments.

- Alt -click a step to create a straight line across all other steps.

- Ctrl-click and drag a step to move the whole sequence up or down.

- Cmd-click a step to assign a CC via MIDI Learn

- Cmd -click to delete steps.

- Shift-click and move an active step to spread (copy) that value with the mouse.

- Alt click to increase a step value; alt + Cmd -click to decrease the value.

- Cmd-click a step to assign a CC via MIDI Learn

June 27, 2013  | person_outline JMSexton

Of course, those controls JM Sexton lists are for the PC/Mac versions, not the iPad, right? That video above is not for the iPad either, as Tim says.

June 27, 2013  | person_outline Mike Grant

No. The Alt, Shift, Ctrl, and Command are all in the iPad version at the bottom! The only difference between the two versions is the iPad has iPad things like Audiobus, and VirtualMIDI. Everything else is all here and in order to use it all you need those extra buttons.

Yea the PC keyboard buttons needs to go. It's not like a 1 hr thing where they just took the PC version put it in some wrapper thingy, recompiled it for iOS and shipped it to apple. There's obviously quite a bit of work done with the iOS port in terms of connectivity, a synth etc. So it's a bit weird that they didn't redesigned that part atleast

June 27, 2013  | person_outline ChrisG

Well Thesys floats my boat. I can work with the fiddly bits because the power and control is superb.

June 27, 2013  | person_outline Trueyorky

Thesys rocks! I'd demoed the AU version when I bought Effectrix two years ago and Thesys was priced at €99 or so. At £10.49, this is an absolute steal. I like the fact they didn't faff about trying to redesign it for iOS. If you have used the VST/AU version then it makes sense to port it as is. The power of this thing is so cool and I find it far more useful to me than genome MIDI which I love but the variations this thing is capable of makes it a super super app. It's workflow may not suit everyone but I have small fingers and I can deal with zooming. The power of Thesys far outweighs any down arrow points.

June 27, 2013  | person_outline Medo

How is the chord thing implemented? Is it fast/easy or more fck it I'll just do the chords in another app ?

June 27, 2013  | person_outline ChrisG


Agreed on all fronts, Thesys is just about the most badass step sequencer you can get, just like Turnado is for real-time crazy effects. So glad Sugar Bytes is going hard to the iOS hole! :)

June 27, 2013  | person_outline gatearray

lol, well, that's the most creative way I've ever heard 'glad they are focusing on ios ports' said!

June 27, 2013  | person_outline RMG

PS- JMSexton, when you typed /pasted all that in relation to using an ipad app.. that doesn't seem off to you?

I have experienced a bug actually, where ctrl-clicking seems to clear a whole sequence, and any sequence loaded thereafter- requiring a restart. They just need to add one more key and I could ctrl-alt-del that sucker

June 27, 2013  | person_outline RMG

A question about the shift, etc. buttons, do you have to hold them, or can you just tap them to activate them on or off?

Might seem like a silly question, but I've seen my share of silly app design.

June 27, 2013  | person_outline Jesse

@jesse you have to hold them, just like you would with a PC and a mouse.

June 27, 2013  | person_outline Bianca

Thanks Bianca.

Seems a bit too awkward for my taste. I'm usually holding my iPad in one hand, and using the touch screen with the other. Apps that require both hands at once don't work too well for me. I really wonder if there couldn't have been a tap/swipe solution in this instance. Oh well, cool that they brought this over at all I guess, just not for me.

June 27, 2013  | person_outline Jesse

Not sure I need this but it reminds be of the old Sonicbytes Phrazor. I loved that app....sob

June 27, 2013  | person_outline Charlie

agh, this is reminding me why I'm so frustrated by ios music.

love the app but using it with other stuff without timing issues is a pain. using this to control a synth, recording into loopy or cubasis via audiobus results in audio that's just off the beat. loopy's twist-to-correct isn't precise enough, and cubasis 'grid off' still moves in too large an increment to correct the timing. apart from that, who wants to manually correct the timing of every recording they make?

I thought thesys' timing correction feature would solve it for me, but I guess it only applies to audio the app makes, rather than the midi notes it sends out? I did a comparison of it in cubasis with comensation on min and max and noticed no difference

i dunno maybe my ipad2 isn't up to the task, but the cpu meter in cubasis isn't going mad, there's no audio crackling. do subtle timing problems on ios drive anyone else mad?

June 27, 2013  | person_outline RMG

Some part of me wants to check this out. And the other part is telling me that the engineer in me will spend hours and hours with something like this, playing with all kinds of options, and ultimately ending up with music ish patterns that have no soul to then at all. I love technology. And music. And when they come together. But when creating music starts to look more like data entry, I think it loses something. Is this app like that?

June 27, 2013  | person_outline Joe

Step-sequencers in general can be like that, Joe. I struggled with that for a long time.

"That drum machine ain't got no soul."

At some point it stopped feeling that way. I'm not sure why or how, but over time I learned to appreciate and actually enjoy the engineering challenge of not over-engineering step-sequencing! It is a matter of listening to the patterns within a step pattern, and thinking of creative ways to accentuate or contrast with a given sequence.

At some point it stopped feeling that way. I'm not sure why or how

If the revelation of why or how ever comes to you (or anyone else I guess), please share, because I still struggle working with sequencers. Yet I very much like listening to sequenced music, in particular jungle and dnb. I don't know, I think it's something about hearing the persistence of patterns over and over that kind of gets under my skin. I suppose getting over that is something that will just take some dedication and perhaps finding a good workflow so I can, as you say, get creative with patterns rather than be overwhelmed by them.

June 27, 2013  | person_outline Jesse

the simple answer is: ya can't program 'feel'.

June 27, 2013  | person_outline a1

Does this play nice with Thor, Sunrizer, nLog & iMini? I got that it only sends out one channel, just wanna know if people have had time to use any of those synths with Thesys yet

June 27, 2013  | person_outline ChrisG

@ChrisG- Thor, Sunrizer, nLog all yes. wasn't able to get iMini to respond even though it showed as being 'connected'.

@Joe @Tim
re the mechanical nature of step sequencing etc.,

June 28, 2013  | person_outline a1

Besides saying Thesys is great (!!) I wanted to point out that Arctic Keys has polyrhythmic sequencing.

June 28, 2013  | person_outline Fletcher Kaufman - Sunsine Audio

Thanks a1!

June 28, 2013  | person_outline ChrisG

Slow to the party as usual, but if it can only run one midi channel at a time what are you guys getting out of thesys?

June 28, 2013  | person_outline Kobamoto rin

Yep, I think that's about where my head's at, Tim. Its compounded by the fact that (in my opinion) there's a lot of sequenced/beat boxed music in the mainstream that just isn't done all that well. But I could also site some examples where I think it's done VERY well. If I'm noticing a sequencer when I listen, that's a pretty good indicator to me that the producer should have thought twice. :-)

For me though, it would take me significantly longer to create a drum pattern that I like with a step sequencer than it would to bang it out on an acoustic or electronic drum kit. And I am really not that great a drummer, either. Maybe like you said, over time, it will feel more natural. There's definitely incentive to get comfortable with it for convenience sake. Drum kits are a pain to move around.

@a1 - thanks for the links. Those were a fascinating read!

June 28, 2013  | person_outline Joe

@Jesse- repetition is only half the battle, variation is its complementary half. read Schoenberg (free-at link, or try amazon for hardcopy).

as part of a workflow, sequencers are handy once you create a pattern you're satisfied with, you can quickly audition voices from a number of different synth apps. also for exporting midi files/clips that you can catalog and arrange.

June 28, 2013  | person_outline a1

The trick to achieving realistic drum parts is to combine a sequenced part with parts played live. That is if you want to use a step sequencer or beat box software. If I'm in the mood, I will use a sequenced part to get my track going but I will always throw dirt on it to ensure it doesn't become robotic. Then again some people want a tight integration of drum parts. With Thesys, the trick is to combine its endless variations with parts played live. The other important thing is to use is music theory (rhythm) and break the rules whilst you are at it. The best drummers have an incredible tight on and off rhythm style and feel but this is not always available to bedroom musicians. This is where great drum sample loops help. Also the type or style of music you make will affect your drum tracks. Sometimes, juxtaposing things help the drum track to jump out of the mix. My two pence.

June 28, 2013  | person_outline Medo

The video above sounds like a dodgy new wave band from 1981,Im a old punk rocker who prefers chaos & disorder in my sounds if possible instead of spending alot of money on a app that will take me hours to workout just so i can play complex sequencers that i have no interest in at all.

June 28, 2013  | person_outline andre

Thanks a1!

June 28, 2013  | person_outline Jesse

Is it just me or did Sugar Bytes miss that the presets won't save in the synth?

June 28, 2013  | person_outline ChrisG

@ChrisG- eh? ("...in the synth?") sequenced presets save ok. tap the default name field, tap the user folder, tap save, enter name, tap ok.

June 28, 2013  | person_outline a1

@A1 - the internal synth has presets also...

June 28, 2013  | person_outline JMSexton

@JMSexton, @ChrisG- yup. the synth presets (and changes you make to them) save with the sequence, but no, there is no user folder to store new synth presets.

June 28, 2013  | person_outline a1

Ok, no biggie , yet atleast. What Sugar Bytes really needs to implement is a slider or something that determines haw fast you need to double tap for the zoom function to kick in. OMG it's constantly zooming in and out whether I want it or not, same problem as Turnado. But in Turnado you could disable the zoom, here in Thesys you really have to zoom since everything is way tiny. It's great that they're porting stuff to iOS, but it's a rush job. Get on it Sugar Bytes, this app needs a lot of interface "fine turnings"..

June 28, 2013  | person_outline ChrisG

* Fine tunings

Besides the thing with the zoom (and zoom is not a feature sugar bytes, it's a fail in design), a small window that pop ups next to your finger when changing values is one suggestion that will make things easier.

June 28, 2013  | person_outline ChrisG

jesus, yes zoom is freaking annoying. the way I would solve it is to ignore 'zoom input' taps if you tap on a parameter. so you can tap close together parameters without zooming back out every damn time.

it really needs an undo as well, if you tap two places at once it levels all the values to one of the taps, obliterating carefully tweaked values. so you can guess what I did by accident

June 29, 2013  | person_outline RMG

You are full of good reads, a1!

"Swing" has always felt extremely unnatural to my ears, but sometimes the rhythm really needs something else going on. For my own purposes, and only when I need it, I'll crank it down to the point of it being barely perceptible and then take it down 1 notch below that.

My favorite approach to adding variety to sequences is a repeating semi-random velocity pattern. This is especially helpful on hats, but I think in all percussive sequences it adds just a little touch to keep it from becoming boring to the ears.

You can hear both of these techniques in my last two songs.

In Market Correction I've sequenced a Marine Corps. marching drum pattern, and to give it some humanizing I added a tiny bit of imperceptible swing.

For Know Shame the drum sequence is a pretty typical house pattern, with some minimal-funk change-ups. To keep things interesting I have have this quasi-random thing going on with the velocity on the hats, which repeats something like 16 or 32 bars. I think this sounds good and I may be subconsciously playing on the concept explained in the first article you linked to.


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