Development studio, 4PocketsAudio has been steadily making a name for itself in the serious iOS music making app world, and by that I don’t mean they take themselves too serious (at least I don’t think they do), but rather that their growing collection of apps are aimed at music makers that are looking for comprehensive features, and expect decent results.
If you aren’t up with 4Pocket’s back catalogue, it’s worth a look as there is something in there for most musicians, from tone generators and spectrum analysers, to virtual guitar amp and effect boards, multitrack DAWs, and music composing and sequencing software. The later genre was initially represented by 4Pocket’s Aurora Sound Studio, which appeared back in 2010.
This app has been joined in the same category by the recently release, Synergy Studio for iPad. And while there are certainly similarities in the look and features of both apps, this new release offers greater musical creativity and advanced options, while at the same time still being accessible to musicians at all levels of experience.
Rather than draw direct comparisons between the apps, here are my initial thoughts on Synergy Studio since I’ve been playing with it for a few weeks now.
Anyone familiar with the grid-based or step-time sequencing, or in fact Yamaha’s ill-fated Tenori-on digital instrument, will already feel right at home with Synergy’s main interface which is mostly made up of rows of dots, with the vertical lines representing beats in a bar, and the horizontal lines representing notes on a scale. By touching a dot it turns blue and becomes active, so if a sound has been assigned and you hit play, you hear it. It’s a highly visual way to create music since you can not only ‘see’ the music gradually coming together as you activate more and more dots, but it encourages experimentation because if a note is off or out of time, simply touch the dot to remove it.
The main idea behind building musical arrangements this way, is you create individual ‘patterns’ or ‘loops’ such as an intro, verse, chorus, solo section, break down, etc. Once these smaller sections have been created, you can easily put them into a longer song format, by playing around with the order of the patterns until you find a combination that works best.
Synergy Studio allows you to create up to 64 unique patterns per song file, and each pattern can be up to 64 notes in length, which is more than enough to let your creative juices flow.
Like Aurora Sound Studio before it, Synergy Studio includes a library of instruments, including 11 drum kits covering most genres of music. The collection of musical sounds are divided into three main categories – analogue synth sounds, sampler instruments, and synth pad sounds. The main difference between them being the way the sounds have been created and the available editing options to not only adjust the existing sounds, but also to create your own new patches.
In addition to over 100 included sounds and patches, 4Pockets will be offering free downloadable instrument packs (the first pack is already available), plus additional sounds will be available as optional in-app purchases. At the moment there doesn’t appear to be any to purchase though.
In addition to entering notes on the grid one by one, there is also a two octave virtual keyboard and a dozen pads you can opt to use for more real time performance based pattern construction.
Two other main features, that I’ve yet to really play with, are the arpeggiator feature which of course if perfect for producing unique and intricate note sequences, and then there’s the controller section where you can quickly and easily automate a wide variety of settings across the instruments, mixer and effects section.
The mixer takes the form of a traditional 16 channel in line mixing board, offering the standard volume, mute, solo, and pan controls, plus 3-band Parametric EQ, and 3 effects sends per channel. I haven’t played a great deal with the effects section, but there is a chorus, tremolo, stereo delay, reverb, resonant filter, and atomiser which are all tweakable and some include a handful of presets, though I haven’t found anywhere that you can save your own custom settings.
Couple of other features of note include MIDI support for controlling external digital sound sources, giving you the option of just using the sequencing features of the app to control other MIDI compatible hardware. Plus there is also support for WIST, should you wish to sync Synergy with other compatible apps on other iOS devices wirelessly, such as 4Pocket’s own Meteor. You can use the app in master mode to control start, stop, and playback speed.
There are some handy exporting and audio copying options for getting your mixes out to services like SoundCloud, Dropbox and into other apps, but’s that’s being coming standard in most music creation apps now anyway.
I really haven’t drilled too much further down into Synergy Studio’s other finer details at this stage, but this about covers most of the key selling points. Which brings me to the price next. 4Pockets Audio hasn’t been shy in the past about putting premium price tags on their music apps, with Aurora Sound Studio HD still hovering around the $40 mark. While the true value of apps can really only be accessed at a personal level by the user, in my opinion, Synergy Studio at $19.99, presents great value for money. It offers an all-in-one music creation environment, that is accessible for budding music makers, yet still houses some powerful features for those looking for additional tools to finely tune their musical masterpieces.
If you’ve downloaded the app, I’d like to hear your thoughts. So feel free to post a comment below.
For the latest on Synergy Studio, hit the official site
Developer: Limelight Software
Rated: 4+ Price: $19.99 Download Here