animoogmain screen

Review: Moog Animoog iPad Synth


SPECS:

iPad and iPad 2.

PROS:
  • Sounds superb
  • Good keyboard
  • Built in scales
CONS:
  • No in-app help
  • A little light on effects
  • Fiddly menus
Price at Review: $0.99/£0.69 Animoog is the whole package. It’s beautiful, it sounds amazing, it’s easy to use, and at the introductory price (which lasts until mid November), it’s a no brainer. When it goes up to full price, it’s still one of the iPad’s best, even if is is one of its most expensive too.

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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.

 
Animoog by moogmusicinc

Red Dog One - Arctic Keys

Review: One Red Dog Arctic Keys iPad Synth

At Oh Drat we wish we could say we used our iPad all the time, but the truth is it gets neglected. Not because it’s not powerful, no; it’s because it’s lacking a little in integration with traditional studio gear (check out our review of the Alesis iO Dock to see one of the only pieces of hardware that tries to give it ‘pro’ specs) and because we have it in our ‘fun devices’ mindset, we don’t pay it enough attention when there’s ‘work’ to be done. Shame on us. We’re going to get more quick reviews of iPad gear onto our pages, starting with Arctic Keys by Red Dog One.


SPECS:

iPad and iPad 2.

PROS:
  • Knockout price
  • Sounds thick and warm
  • Versatile, with LOTS of presets
CONS:
  • Some slow UI choices
  • Would like to have seen more oscillator types
Price at Review: $4.99/£2.99There’s a lot of sound for not a lot of expenditure in Arctic Keys – if you use your iPad for music, you should definitely take a look.


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Upon first opening up Arctic Keys, a familiar picture fills the touch sensitive screen of your beloved Apple device. Arctic Keys is a virtual analogue synth, and to that end it sports two saw/square /triangle oscillators with PWM, a low/high/band pass and notch filter, and an LFO. The filter and LFO both have an ADSR envelope, although the amp unfortunately does not.  There are mono and poly modes, as well as a well featured arpeggiator – with a neat feature in the shuffle dial that progressively randomises the order of the arp – and a sequencer that can be triggered by the keys and cycles through note values set by sliders. The EQ and distortion that don’t pull punches (beware your ears with the distortion overdrive!), and a filter delay and chorus section are suitably lively for big atmospheres.

amongst Arctic Keys’ features is a sequencer that can be triggered by the keys and cycles through note values set by sliders

Something I really liked was the clear and concise tooltip displays on the pages, which help you get stuck straight in. That said, there are a couple of UI issues; there’s no way to scroll through presets in the main synth window (although you can bring up keys in the browser to test presets), and you can only cycle things like the LFO destination, filter type, arp type and so on – it would have been nice to be able to select from a menu or at least scroll in either direction. They’re mitigated (although we do hope an update adds in a pop up list option)by  MIDI clock sync, onboard tempo with an intuitive step sequencer, a bunch of modulation options, and really great overall sound. Okay, perhaps a couple of extra oscillator types – such as pure sine  - would have been nice, but a dedicated noise generator, the pulse width mod, ring mod, and osc mix all come together to give Arctic Keys plenty of options.

All things considered, Arctic Keys is a very good app. It has its flaws, but it sounds really good and it also seems to be quite kind to battery life.

You can get Arctic Keys from iTunes (obviously), and go to Red Dog’s site for their official info. Check out their demo reel below for more convincing:

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