Waldorf Nave: One Synth To Rule Them All?

Waldorf, Nave, wavetable synth, iPad

The number of iPad synths available nowadays is truly mind-blowing. What’s more astonishing is that, while some see these merely as toys, the sound quality is often quite good. Or so I thought. You see, among all the little iSynths who would be king, there is one who stands a bit bigger, bolder, and downright more beautiful than the others: the Waldorf Nave.

This is a serious heavy hitter, packing a punch that knocks you out right from first boot with a slick animated intro. Then, you hear it. “I am Nave,” it says “and I do synth.” Indeed you do, and how!

Nave isn’t just easy on the eyes, though. It’s deep. Complex. It takes time to get to know. First of all, it’s a wavetable synth. So already, you know there is a lot going on under that pretty exterior. What’s a wavetable synth, you say? It’s different than all those other single, double, or even triple oscillator synths out there – it reads. Wavetables, mostly. With an oscillator, you get one wave. With a wavetable, you get a bunch of waves, stacked on top of each other, changing over time, producing a unique waveform with peaks and valleys jutting out all every which way. Confused? Perhaps this will help:

“The wavetable is in essence an array of N values, with values 1 through to N representing one whole cycle of the oscillator. Each value represents an amplitude at a certain point in the cycle. Wavetables are often displayed graphically with the option for the user to draw in the waveshape he or she requires, and as such it represents a very powerful tool. There is also the possibility of loading a pre-recorded waveshape as well; but note that a wavetable oscillator is only a reference table for one cycle of a waveform; it is not the same as a sampler. The wavetable has associated with it a read pointer which cycles through the table at the required speed and outputs each amplitude value in sequence so as to recreate the waveform as a stream of digital values. When the pointer reaches the last value in the table array, it will reset to point one and begin a new cycle.” http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Sound_Synthesis_Theory/Oscillators_and_Wavetables

Nave knows this makes for some interesting sounds. Give this girl a wavetable or two, and it will tell you all about them, forwards or backwards if you like. You can choose from an extensive bank of included wavetables (86 in all), create your own, share with others, load other people’s wavetables…the possibilities are really endless. There is even an onboard speech synthesizer, so you can make Nave say whatever you want, then use that as a custom wavetable. Editing these 3D wavetables on the iPad is a joy, as you can render them fullscreen, twist and turn them around in space. Sculpting with your fingers is more fun than with a mouse, though it’s not as easy as smudging the shape directly, which would be cool but not as precise I suppose. You still have to select areas and control parameters with faders, but it’s pretty intuitive, and the colorful interface is really what gives Nave its pizzazz.

Obviously, I’m impressed by the graphics, but the sound is what really blows me away. It’s thick. It’s tasty. It can be totally weird, in a great way. And it’s extremely versatile. You get leads, pads, percussive sounds, natch – but then there are atmospheric, alien, bowed metal, horror sfx possibilities as well. The presets alone number over 500, and include contributions from sound design rockstars like Smite Matter, Sunshine Audio, and Richard Devine (who created 95 patches).

Nave’s brain is a dual wavetable engine, with controls for both the wave (tuning, startpoint, speed, play direction) and the spectrum (transpose, add noise, brilliance). In addition, there is an oscillator section, with a special Uber-Wave function, which adds up to 8 tune-spreadable oscillators. The mixer allows you to balance the levels between these and offers ring modulation.

Waldorf, Nave, wavetable synth, iPad

Next there is a rich filter, envelope, and drive section. Following that is an assignable modulation matrix, pitchbend, mod wheel, and XY pads. You can choose between a regular keyboard, (which has a strange scrolling ability that might take some getting used to; while you hold a key you can slide left or right through the octaves), a ‘blade’ keyboard, which adds scale, key, and chord functionality, as well as assignable modulation to sliding up/down or left/right on a key, and, finally, an additional set of programmable XY pads. Then there is an FX section, with phaser, flanger, chorus, delay, reverb, EQ, compression, and an arpeggiator.

Waldorf, Nave, wavetable synth, iPad

If that wasn’t enough, they threw in a 4-track recorder (similar to Animoog) with an adorable reel-to-reel tape interface, timeline, and mixer (with pan!). You can also run Nave through Audiobus to an external recording app, sync with other devices using WIST, or put it into background audio mode and switch to another app to play on top.

Waldorf, Nave, wavetable synth, iPad

Phew. While I could possibly accuse Waldorf of packing TOO MUCH into Nave (I mean, it’s just a silly iPad toy, right?), I can’t think of anything they left out, at the moment. Maybe you should try it out yourself and let me know.

Download Waldorf Nave $19.99 

Arturia iMini Review + Demo [Video]

Arturia, iMini, Minimoog, iPad, synth

When Arturia first released iMini, it was already quite impressive. To have a faithful, rich sounding Minimoog emulation running on your iPad for just $9.99 should have been a miracle for most. But of course, it is just our over-priveledged nature to hold an amazing human achievement in our hands and still cry about what it lacks. No Audiobus? Wahhh!!!

Arturia was quick to respond to this oversight, adding the inter-app audio capability in version 1.1, along with a few other bells and whistles. Now, there is truly no reason to complain. You can plug iMini into Audiobus, you can even plug external audio INTO iMini for God’s sake! And that’s not all:

“background audio advances mean that iMini is always live, yet will still respond to MIDI and be able to run its arpeggiator when working as a background app. And on that very note, whenever iMini is making no sound itself its CPU usage drops dramatically — another neat touch that helps keep things running smoothly when running multiple music apps.

Moving onwards and upwards, expanded MIDI support lets those up-to-date iMini users pick and choose from multiple sources; moreover, inter-app MIDI support — which establishes MIDI messages that enable two iOS devices to identify and enumerate each other — makes it much easier for cool controller apps like Audanika’s SoundPrism Pro advanced MIDI controller for iOS to individually control multiple iMini instances while running in the background on the same iPad, for instance. Let’s talk, in other words!” – Arturia

Yeah yeah, that’s all well and good, but what ELSE does iMini do, you say? Let’s take a more in depth look…

Arturia, iMini, Minimoog, iPad, synth

iMini has three tabs: Main, Perform, and FX. In the Main tab, you see a wood-panel framed, familiar synth layout. Choose from a large library of sorted presets, tune it up or down 2 octaves, set the Glide (Portamento) amount, adjust the Mod-Mix (between Osc.3 & Noise), and you’re off to the races.

The Oscillator Bank contains three oscillators, each of which can be tuned over several octaves. If you hold your finger on oscillators 2 or 3, further coarse tuning is revealed. You can also choose a separate waveform for each, from triangle, saw-triangle, sawtooth, square, wide rectangle, or narrow rectangle. Set their volumes in the Mixer section, along with Noise and External Input. The Modifiers section offers a tasty 24db per octave filter, with Cut-off, Emphasis (Resonance), and a Contour setting that controls how the filter responds to the Envelope Generator. There is also a Loudness Contour with amplitude envelope controls. In the Output section, you set the main level, volumes for the Chorus & Delay effects, or switch to Polyphonic mode.

The Keyboard is pretty straight forward with pitch bend and modulation wheels. But that’s not all: if you hold down the small settings icon next to the iMini logo, you get some additional controls, including the ability to change the octave, scale, and key.

Arturia, iMini, Minimoog, iPad, synth

The Perform tab is really where the action is. Here, you have the Arpeggiator and two XY pads. Get that sound throbbing, then give it the two-finger attack tweak. The default filter and contour controls are pretty fun, but you can set any of the controls from the Main page to the XY axis. Add a little Chorus and or Delay in the FX tab to fatten up your sound.

IF THAT IS STILL NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU, go ahead and fire up Audiobus, add some effects from your favorite app, and record that ish! While the sound of iMini is pretty rich and warm, I like to run my keyboards through guitar pedals, so the free GuitarTone app from Sonoma does the trick for me, (although it is a bit buggy with Audiobus on my iPad 2). Loopy HD, another invaluable offering from Audiobus’ maker A Tasty Pixel, is a cool way to lay down ideas on the fly and let them loop on top of each other ’til you’re dizzy.

Here’s a video of me making some noise with these toys:

Download iMini

“With all this talk of added support, it’s good to know that Arturia will make a donation to The Bob Moog Foundation for every iMini sold in recognition of the groundbreaking instrument to which it owes its very existence. In turn, this supports the dream of building the MoogseumTM (Bob Moog Museum), the convergence of The Bob Moog Foundation’s goals of inspiring and educating people through electronic music.” –