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.” –

Rob Papen Limited Edition EDM & Urban Synth Bundles

Rob Papen, EDM Synth, Urban Synth, synth bundles, Predator, Punch, Blade, SubBoomBass

World-renowned Dutch soft-synth designer Rob Papen has two LIMITED EDITION software bundles available UNTIL 3/31/13 ONLY, so get on this deal QUICK!!!

Rob Papen, EDM Synth Bundle, Blade

The EDM Synth Bundle contains 3 virtual instruments to shake that dance-floor. Blade is an additive synthesis engine loaded with sound sculpting effects and a programmable XY control pad. The schwanky graphical interface is clean, futuristic, and has a bad-ass blade up top! What more do you need to make cutting edge sounds? (ugh sorry couldn’t resist pun). Anyway, you actually need a lot more, and thankfully, it’s all here. Papen has packed Blade full of so many options, it’s a veritable sonic swiss army knife. At the core is what Papen has dubbed the Harmolator – an oscillator system that allows precise, varied control of harmonic content and timbre. Next there is a mangling section that offers 21 distortion and 14 filter options. Then there is a sequencable arpeggiator, where each pulsing note’s pitch and velocity can be finely tailored. The centerpiece of Blade is the aforementioned XY control, which makes it possible to inject that oh so important human element. You can record modulation, then loop it backwards and forward, adjust and sync speed.

Rob Papen, EDM Synth Bundle, Urban Synth Bundle, Predator

Common to both bundles are Predator and Punch. Predator is a classic triple oscillator synth with filters, LFO modulation, arpeggiator, and a whole slew of effects. Also included is the PredatorFX plug-in, which allows you to use all these functions as a sound processor in your DAW. Punch is a drum synth/sampler/groove-machine. You can mix and match preset sounds or add your own to create a custom kit. Tweak, filter, add envelopes, LFO’s, and modulation to each individual sound. Trigger built-in key-mapped sequences, all programmable on a grid similar to the arpeggiator found in Papen’s other instruments.

Rob Papen, EDM Synth Bundle, Urban Synth Bundle,  Punch

Finally, SubBoomBass replaces Blade in the Urban Synth Bundle. As the name clearly states, this synth brings some serious sub to the equation! SubBoomBass features dual oscillators (each with sub-oscillation), pre-filter distortion, two filter stages, amplitude, envelope, LFO, a mappable modulation matrix, and of course, Papen’s full range of FX (if your bass isn’t quite phat enough). There are several different play-modes: mono, legato, poly, and seq. This brings us to the sequencer that seems to be the running theme of Papen’s suites. The 16-step pattern sequencer offers detailed control of each note, as well as “swing” and “slide”, to make your sub more slanky. This is perfect for building groovy bass-lines or rhythmic parts with some of the included sub-tuned percussion sounds.

Rob Papen, Urban Synth Bundle, SubBoomBass

The bottom line is all four of these instruments are seriously function deep. The sonic possibilities go way beyond my simple descriptions, but the way they are laid out makes everything intuitive. You can easily play around for hours just trying out different combinations, or start with the already great sounding presets and quickly fine tune them to your taste.

Both EDM Synth and Urban Synth bundles cost €199.00 EUR/$239.00 USD/£169.00 GBP (a combined savings of around 45%) and can be purchased online at http://www.robpapen.com

Arturia SparkLE Shines

Arturia, SparkLE, drum machine

I’m a sucker for sparkly things, and the Arturia SparkLE is certainly no exception.

SparkLE is a sleek hardware/software hybrid drum-machine that is bound to light up your life (nyuk nyuk) in a few different ways. Spaceship-LIGHTshow aside, this little beatbox is LIGHT, weighing in at only 1 kg (2.2 lbs.). And of course, it will simply deLIGHT you. (End of horrible pun.)

You can build beats using the step sequencer buttons or pound them out in realtime on the pressure sensitive pads. Throw down a groove with the Looper and then introduce variation with the touch sensitive XY pad, which can control 8 filter modes (including the classic Oberheim SEM filter) and 7 different Slicer modes. Engage the TUNE mode and play a synth melody on SparkLE’s 16 keys, or simply add pitch to a percussion sound.

SparkLE, Arturia, hardware software hybrid drum machine

The SparkLE sound engine boasts a wide range of ever expanding sounds, with layering, Virtual Analog, and Physical Modeling for further tweaking. The software component offers a Mix view, effects, automation & editing capabilities, and can be used as a standalone program or AU/VST/VST3/RTAS plug-in (without the hardware connected). Alternately you can map the hardware to control your DAW via MIDI, or use the included templates for Ableton LIve and Reason.

All this functionality is built into a seriously compact (284mm x 171mm x 17 mm) and portable (comes with a travel case) package. SparkLE is a truly versatile tool for a musician on the go!

Arturia’s SparkLE is an obvious competitor to Native Instruments’ Maschine Mikro. In the race to get smaller and smaller, it wins; the Spark drum controller is thinner, takes up less desk space, and the price tag is lower ($299 vs. $399 for Maschine). Although Maschine might fair better with MPC drum pad enthusiasts, I must say I prefer Spark’s keyboard/’TR’ style layout. I’d love to get the two of them in a room for a real sonic shootout sometime.