Animoog works with what Moog are calling their ‘Anistropic Synthesis Engine’, which is designed to have the power to create hugely varied sounds with much less fuss and modulation than ‘traditional’ synths. Rather than giving you a bunch of spices that never come out of the rack, Moog have chosen to keep it simple when it comes to effects; there’s just a delay and what Moog call a ‘thickness’ suite, of bitcrusher, drive, and detune. Instead, Animoog’s genius is in its modulation capability.
The main screen of Animoog features a large oscilloscope, but more than that: that green grid has a secret which forms the heart of Animoog. You see, that entire area functions as an X/Y pad, but it’s not just your finger that can move the hit point; you can set up a path for it to follow and an orbit for the hit point to circulate around. Of course, both of these parameters can be played with in real time, with rates, direction of path, and shape of orbit manipulatable. The visualisation of these settings looks gorgeous – Animoog might be an app that non-musos get just to look at the pretty colours.
The visualisation of the settings looks gorgeous – Animoog might be an app that non-musos get just to look at the pretty colours
Notes are triggered with easy to hit keys that sit side by side rather than following a traditional keyboard’s raised semitones. Moog aren’t the first to do this but hopefully other manufacturers start to see how much more sense it makes on a tablet device than a traditional setup. The keyboard can be set to a huge amount of scales, from standard major and minor to blues, pentatonic, and exotic scales, and the keys have some play vertically to allow you to slide a modulation while playing. There’s a pitch and mod wheel that’s hidden by default too, and as well as the standard glide knob there’s quite a cool key correct knob that adjusts how strongly the keys and scales are forced. Turned up just a little bit it does that ‘fragile’ sound very well.
There are one or two UI issues, as the keyboard slider is a bit fiddly and the push>hold>release style of menus isn’t as easy to use as menus that are tapped to open and tapped again to select items. While we’re talking about issues, perhaps a couple more effects – notably reverb – might have been included, and there’s also a bit of a learning curve that’s not really helped by the way there aren’t any tooltips or help pages in the app.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Animoog is the fact that its design is slightly obtuse. It’s easy enough to figure out the paths and orbits by simply tapping around, and the filter, thickness, and recorder settings are all in easy reach – as are the scales and envelopes. It’s the actual sound generation that’s a puzzle when starting out, with the confusing Timbres page the only thing to go on. How it works is quite simple in the end: eight timbres can be selected, one for each row of the X/Y pad. The 16 columns select varients, or ‘evolutions’ of the timbre, so in theory there are 128 different sounds ready to be triggered and morphed between in any one patch.
We’re not sure whether Animoog really is the first professional synth app designed for iPad, as Moog state, but it’s definitely one of the best.
We may have to do a video review of Animoog when the new studio’s set up to show you how mesmerising it looks and sounds. In the meantime, Moog’s demo sounds are below; they’re all just from the Animoog app.