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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