Animoog for iPad: touching inspiration




Animoog has been around for a couple of years now. We could have featured it in our iPad Music Making Apps: Classic For A Reason series, but we thought it deserved its own spotlight. Animoog somewhat of a godfather of serious synth apps, partly because of the weight that the name Moog carries, but also from the favorable reviews the synth has garnered over its short life span. It’s award winning and highly-regarded synth engine has recently been introduced into Moog hardware (Check out the Theremini at NAMM 2014)

Animoog is a visual wave table synth. Each sound can contain up to 8 wave samples, that are layered one on top of the other in the XY main window of the synth. You can drag your finger through the eight layers, or record the movement of your finger to automatically move wherever through the layers, to create some movement in the sound. There’s a weird touch-plate style keyboard at the bottom of the window that you can play at the same time as dragging your fingers through the different waveforms. You can slide your finger up and down the keyboard, control the amount of glide and portamento on the note, and how centrally you hit the pitch of each note.

Once you have the sound you’re looking for, you can hit the record button, and the app will record your finger movements on the wavetable as you play. Every time you play a note thereafter, the timbre of the sound will be changed by the pattern you traced on the XY window. It will repeat it for each note you play.

On top of this already fun experience, there are a bunch of fx and modulations to the side of the XY window that have the weight of Moog’s sonic prowess behind it - a delicious sounding filter, delay, 2 distortion types, and modulation elements that affect the movement of the sound through the 8 wave layers.

To the top of the window, you can move from the main XY window to other parameter windows. The K/B window lets you choose what scale you want the keyboard at the bottom to represent, and you can choose which notes are in and out of the keyboard. There is an Env/Mod page that lets you assign LFO’s to several different sources, and envelope the sound you’ve created.

The timbres window enables you to select a waveform for each of the 8 layers in the XY window. There are A LOT of waveforms to pick from.

The setup window enables links with the outside musical world - Animoog supports iOS core midi, so you can attach a midi controller and play away. You can also record and loop sounds you create with a digital 4 track, audio copy and paste to other apps if you wish.

Here's a sweet performance using Animoog in a setup:



Standout element

The team at Moog definitely wanted to take advantage of the multitouch possibilities of the iPad/iPhone. The weird keyboard is for me the most inspiring part of Animoog, with it’s awesome glide, portamento and polyphonic modulation capabilities. So with as many fingers as you can muster, you can affect the tone and timbre of each separate note. you can control glide and pitch with each finger, and as you move up and down the key you can control timbre and whatever other effect is routed to the finger position on the keyboard. Therefore each note can be changing pitch and timbre simultaneously. This is very inspirational to me, and obviously stands out from a regular keyboard synth.

Conclusion

The Animoog is one of my favorite apps when it comes to creativity. The sound quality it goes without saying is excellent. But the way it stands apart from me is the excellent way Moog has utilised the touch screen capabilities of the iPad to enable instant creativity in a different way from normal. I use it as an instrument to turn to when I need some fresh inspiration, and the more typical method I use seems tired. Instead of turning knobs or clicking a mouse you have the sweeps and flourishes of your fingers over the large xy window, and instead of the rigid boundaries of keys, you can control portamento and glide directly by sliding between notes. For an iPad app, it's pricey, running at $30 or thereabouts. But this is a simple yet powerful soft synth, which would probably have cost a lot more had Moog released it for desktop computers. I think it's a bargain for what you're getting.

Find out more about Animoog here

It costs $30 on the App store, but Moog has it on offer every now and again, so it’s worth keeping an eye out.

By Andy Dollerson

iPad Music Making Apps: Classics For a Reason pt.1


When talking of iPad music making apps, the focus is often on the latest and greatest, but doing so we often forget about those apps released time ago, as if they were not relevant anymore. Unlike our usual in-depth articles/reviews, in this Classics For a Reason series we'll try to offer a quick overview of "classic" music making apps, pointing out why they represent a worthwhile addition to the sonic palette of many musicians. For those new to the iDevices, these articles may help answering the usual question "what the are the must-have apps that I should install on my iPad"? For those with (too) many music apps, it could be a chance to revisit some of the good old ones.

Korg iMS-20
A veteran indeed, released at the end of 2010, but still totally relevant. Korg has put lots of effort in making this a rich production tool. Featuring an emulation of the MS-20 synth, an analog-style sequencer (based on the Korg SQ-10), a drum machine, song/pattern modes, Kaoss Pad technology, a mixer with FX, the iMS-20 not only provides many hours of fun, but can be also a valid creative tool - on the road and studio musicians (yes, you can export patterns and songs) can both benefit of its quite intuitive interface and powerful sounds.
Like a good red wine, iMS-20 got better with the time, adding features (background audio, Audiobus, Virtual Midi, etc.) and fixing the inevitable bugs. The problem with an analog-style visual interface is that knobs and buttons are quite tiny and not easy to operate, but many users would probably be disappointed in seeing a modern looking MS-20.
Also, the MIDI implementation could be improved, but despite these shortcomings, the iMS is a fantastic tool, especially for electronic/beat-oriented musicians and noise-makers. While it's definitely possible to use the app just with the built-in virtual keyboard, to get better results we recommend connecting an external MIDI keyboard. Let's face it, it's not always fun to play a synth just tapping on a screen.



At ANR we loved the first MS-20 software emulation released several years ago as a DAW plugin (remember the Legacy Collection?). With the iMS-20, Korg merged its circuit-emulation technique with an extra array of new-old sound toys. Its vintage-style sounds, the impressive list of features and a fair price (currently approx. $20/18€) definitely make the iMS-20 one of our iPad music making classics!

iSequence
Another 2010 release, this time by BeepStreet. iSequence is an all-in-one tool, featuring an 8-track sequencer, lots of instruments and a mixer with DSP effects. A high number of good quality, something-for-everyone sounds (you can add more via affordable in-app purchases), a flexible sequencer, a sampler mode that allows you to import WAV or AIFF samples, and a quite intuitive workflow make iSequence a perfect app to start making music with the iPad. Its layout makes good use of the screen estate and it's very easy on the eyes (some may say it's not 'exciting', but we'd rather have this than an eye-candy). Suitable to a more general audience than the iMS-20, it can be a solid sketch pad for beats and sequences. Current price approx. $10/9€.




Auria
 If music is more than just a hobby and you're missing your DAW when using your new iPad, well, then Auria is an app to put on your list. Released in 2012 by Wavemachine (well known for its Drumagog), Auria is a professional level DAW for iPad, with an tremendous list of features (like 24-bit/96kHz recording, up to 24 inputs and 48 tracks, support for VST plug-ins, full delay compensation, time stretching, support for Dropbox, Soundcloud, AAF, and MP3, etc.).
It basically allows you to record, mix and master your music in the same way you're used with traditional DAWs and it boasts an analog-style interface that will look familiar even if you're never used a computer to record and mix so far (anyone?).
Wavemachine partnered with PSPAudioware to offer Auria's users a quality channel strip that features Expander, Multiband EQ and Compressor, and a MasterStrip featuring BussPressor, EQ and Mastering Limiter. These plugs, together with the in-built StereoDelay and StereoChorus, cover all the basic needs, so you can start mixing right away. Sound quality-wise, if you've used PSP stuff in the past, you'll already know you won't be disappointed. Third party iOS effect plugins are supported as well, and they are also available as in-app purchase. Last but not least (talking of plugins), Auria throws in a convolution reverb plugin with an included IR library. Not bad, ah?



As mentioned for the iMS-20, here at ANR we're not big fans (to put it mildly) of analog-looking visual interfaces, and we still think an iOS DAW should try to "think different". While Auria doesn't (see the mixer, knobs, and other elements), we definitely love its touch-based waveform editing, that makes good use of the tactile possibilities offered by a tablet.
Coupled with a good USB soundcard, Auria can become an extraordinary tool for your "mobile sessions". Sure, you'll have to face the iPad's Ram limitation and some stability issues (especially if using other apps at the same time, try not to), but who would have imagined until 2 years ago to have a pro-level DAW running on a 400 grams device?
Auria comes in two versions, normal and LE (with a lower track count and some features disabled), and they are currently on sale for €45/$49 and €21/$24. If those twenty extra bucks are not an issue, we recommend getting the full version, you won't regret it.

Arturia Microbrute review: analog for the masses

In December we asked two of collaborators to test the Arturia Microbrute, a new and compact analog synth, with an attractive feature/price ratio. Here's what they found out (and why they both ended up wanting to keep it, despite some shortcomings).

A short description 
The synthesis part is rather intuitive even for those who have no experience with subtractive synthesis. The oscillator source can be mixed in four waveforms: triangular, square, saw and overtone with their relative symmetry control. The fundamental frequency can be tuned over 6 octaves with the possibility to reach very low oscillation at the edge of the audible range. Three types of filters are available on the filter module: low pass, bandpass and high pass. Other controls in this section are envelope amount control, resonance and a “brute factor” control, i.e. something like a feedback loop which can boost lower frequencies. In the lower part of the dashboard you can find the LFO module, the envelope module, the sequencer, glide and two expression wheels. On the bottom of the dashboard there is the 2-octave keyboard. The keys are, well, tiny as you would expect them to be, but given we're talking of a monophonic 2 octave instrument and you won't play Wakeman-style solos on them, they definitely do their job.

Sound
The Microbrute gives users the chance to get a great analog “vintage style” sound, even though it may require some work to achieve what you have in mind. While playing with waveforms, it is really easy to enrich the sound with higher harmonics. Here is the first limitation: the filter. In order to balance bass and high frequencies one must cut off higher frequencies with the filter, it is the basis of subtractive synthesis. The problem is that by doing this, the filter saturates quickly and the result may be a bulky sound with a nasal character. This means that it may not satisfy the most demanding users, given it is not comparable with the ‘classic’ ones. Also, it may be not that easy to achieve a pristine sound full of bass frequencies and crystalline high harmonics, but once you have a good knowledge of the Microbrute, things will be much easier. The situation changes a lot when you use the LFO or the sequencer to lighten the sound: the cumbersome character becomes less evident. Of course the problem disappears when playing the mid octave or upper octave range.
An obvious remark about the sound: do not forget to tune it. As every analog instrument, it has to be tuned. Wait one minute after switching on the power supply, the tuning is not stable during this time. Another minor issue is that if you tune the Microbrute transposed in another tonality, the tuning is not precise over the 2 octave (about ¼ tone).


Live and the sequencer.
If you are looking for an analog sound extension for Ableton Live, well, you should know a few things first. Microbrute only receives notes via MIDI. That means that you cannot change the sound with Ableton. Microbrute works exactly like other pre-MIDI synths: no storage, no setting banks and no automation. It receives only notes (CV) and bpm (gate). The same remark is valid for those looking for an analog synth to play live with their band, get ready to some waiting time between songs (it can be a good chance for your singer to interact with the audience)! Sound settings can only be stored in your mind or written on the cards which Arturia provides with the Microbrute. These cards can be placed on the instrument. Old school rules!
The Microbrute also offers a new cool feature (not found in its bigger brother, the Minibrute): a sequencer, which is actually more or less like an arpeggiator that can store only notes and rests. It has 8 memories that you can program on the fly or load/save via USB. Playing with the sequencer is really fun and inspiring. It is easy to program and always in sync with MIDI if you are using an external drum machine. LFO sync is switchable.

Interfaces/communication 
The Microbrute offers MIDI(in), MIDI via USB, CV/Gate. The modular matrix can be used to redirect voltages between Microbrute modules, but also to redirect voltages to external CV/Gate compliant machines. That means you can easily use the Microbrute along with your favourite original vintage synth or drum machine. How cool is that? Last but not least, we should also mention the analog input, which allows users to feed the Microbrute with any kind of line-level instrument signal(guitar, bass, etc..) and filter it together with the oscillators.

Conclusion
We both had good fun with the Microbrute and its features and the price makes it definitely a GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) item! We would suggest it to those who want to add an "analog spice" to their 100% digital setup or who want to approach the world of modular synthesizers: the modular matrix is comfortable and intuitive, even if not as extensive as those found in bigger and way more expensive machines. The LFO and the sequencer are fun to use and always in sync with other instruments - like a drum machine. The expert analog synth user could use it as a portable solution. It could also be a cool new "toy" for guitar or bass players who wants to experiment with different sounds. It sounds great, and it sounds even better if you plug it directly into your guitar or bass amplifier.

Price
300$/€ approx.

Product page

PROS
  • Analog fun 
  • Affordable but with features hard to find in this price range
  • Compact
LOVE IT OR HATE IT
  • Good old classic analog approach = get ready to write down your presets!
CONS
  • If you're looking for a Moog bass kind of sound, this may be not your 'flavour'
  • The tiny keys are not exactly exciting, but they do help keeping it compact

Apogee ONE for iPad and Mac review

Following our previous review of the IK Multimedia iRig Pro, here we find another interface born with the idea of portability in mind. Let me concentrate on the look first: the Apogee ONE looks and feels great in your hands - minimal, classy and rugged at the same time, thanks to the die cast aluminum body and a molded rubber base. It's light and compact (as tall as the new iPad Air in landscape mode), with one big multi-function knob in the middle that lets you switch between modes and set input and output levels. Usability-wise I'm not enthusiastic about the click-action of the knob (it's less smooth than you would expect), but it's something I can live with.

The connections are pretty straightforward: power, USB (that doubles as Lightning and 30 Pin connector, thanks to the cables included) and audio input, via breakout cable. This provides a microphone (XLR) and an instrument connector, both quality-looking. But that's not all when it comes to the inputs. What if your inspiration calls and there's no mic lying around? Here is where the built-in condenser microphone can come in handy. Thanks to the included mic clip it's easy to place the interface on any standard microphone stand. There you go, your song (or podcast) is saved! At the bottom of the unit, you'll find a stereo 1/8” connection for the audio output.


ONE offers up to two simultaneous channels of recording (instrument + built-in or external mic). The quality of the preamps is what you would expect from an Apogee product: plenty of gain (we've tested it with both phantom-based and classic condenser mics) and excellent clarity. They call it "second-generation quality" to differentiate it from the 2009 ONE model; well, I couldn't do a side-by-side test, but you can rest assured that if you nail your performance with the right mic, these preamps will faithfully capture all the details. This means that Apogee ONE gives iPad users a reliable and professional-sounding partner for their recordings, that integrates seamlessly with iOS and its features.

Since we're focusing on the ONE+iPad set-up, a further note on portability. Apogee ONE requires two AA batteries OR its small powered adapter, but at the same, using the power adapter gives ONE users a welcome perk: the unique possibility of charging the iPad while recording/playing. No more "session interruptus"!
ONE requires the use of the Maestro (free) app. The software it's quite intuitive and offers control over all the sound parameters. If more complex visual interfaces (see the powerful but intimidating RME's Totalmix) give you a headache after 5 seconds, there's a good chance you'll appreciate Maestro.

As said, Apogee ONE works also on Mac OS X, and all our comments above apply to the usage with a Mac. Before using ONE on OS X you'll have to install a driver (that requires a restart of the machine, FYI). Apogee also provides a helpful quickstart document, with recommended settings for Logic and Live (Logic allows for a 64ms buffer, against the 128ms of Ableton Live, but given the tight relationship between Apple and Apogee, and Logic's optimisation, that doesn't come as a surprise).

Conclusion
After using Apogee ONE for a few weeks (mostly with an iPad, but also with a Mac Mini and a Macbook Air) I've come to appreciate its pristine and solid performance, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a top-quality sound card for iPad. That said, I would have loved to see a MIDI connector in the breakout cable. It would have made this product a real all-in-ONE, especially for iPad users. It's true, not everybody needs to use a MIDI keyboard with a tablet, but if you want to enjoy those latest synth apps you just got well, you'll have to unplug ONE and plug something else into your iPad. Oh well, I guess Apogee wanted to keep the unit in an affordable price range, and who knows, maybe leave this as an extra premium feature for DUET owners.
If you're looking just for a soundcard for your Mac, the market is definitely more crowded. If you don't need more inputs/outputs or MIDI and quality is a priority, then Apogee ONE is something you should definitely consider. With its alluring price point, 349XXXX, it can be a great start for your home studio, or an excellent option for a mobile set-up.

Price
349$/ 349 Eur / 328 Pounds approx.
If you'd like to support ANR you can buy iRig Pro from Amazon following the links below, and we'll get some cents out of it. Thanks!

Apogee ONE on Amazon Germany

Apogee ONE on Amazon US

Apogee ONE on Amazon UK

Product page

PROS
  • Great audio quality in a compact form
  • Affordable
  • Nice looking and sturdy
LOVE IT OR HATE IT
  • Transparent and detailed, now it's up to you and your recording skills
CONS
  • No MIDI
  • Only 1 output