WaveMapper, from Wolfgang Palm, is one of those iOS synth apps that I had always been a little hesitant about. I wouldn't say scared, but maybe intimidated. To begin with, it was created by Wolfgang Palm, who literally invented wavetable synthesis. And at the time, I knew nothing about sound synthesis. Sure, I knew a bit about sine waves, square waves and that lot. But then I started reading about "aliasing", and seeing math equations in every article I read. Too complicated, I said. But WaveMapper is set up to allow you to simply create sounds. This app is a great way to dive into wavetable synthesis.
One of the first things you'll notice about WaveMapper is the unique interface. Instead of an array of knobs and sliders, you are met with a grid of 32 "programs". These programs will represent a large portion of what your sound will be, and how it will be affected. Also on this homepage will be 8 icons or "modules", which are your oscillators, filters, and LFO, among others. By placing these icons onto the various programs, you can drastically alter the sounds being heard. I would highly suggest reading through at least the first part of the manual, as the knowledge of what these icons represent will go a long way later on.
Main interface page with program grid and keyboard
It is this unique interface that makes WaveMapper very easy to use. It encourages some "trial-and-error" explorations for the beginner. By simply moving around the icons, you can completely alter the sounds. If it doesn't sound good, move it back or move it somewhere else. The possibilities are huge on what you can do here! My young daughters and I spent an evening going to town on this, and it was loads of fun.
WaveMapper also ships with almost 100 presets, with more presets available for free download here. Some of these presets are created by Wolfgang Palm himself, and also by other notables as Alba Ecstasy, SmiteMatter, and Alex Matheu. These all sound great on their own, but can also be a great starting point for creating your own sound. By exploring how these presets are set up, you can learn a great deal about the app. I recommend checking out presets from various program types to see the differences.
One of my favorite options on iOS synths is the Random function, and this is available on WaveMapper as well. Go ahead, press this a bunch. This will change the location of your icons on the grid. Again, this also helps to see how the location of these icons alter your sound. Of course, you can also just start from scratch and build your own preset.
In the 'Parameters' screen is where you will really get a look under the hood. It is here that you will find the three oscillators, each of which can adjusted individually. You'll also find the options for adjusting the filters, amplifiers and delay. For me, this is where things almost became overwhelming, but it was incredibly satisfying to stick with it.
The parameter screen
I am still relatively new to the world of sound synthesis, but I am familiar enough with most of these parameters to be able to make adjustments where needed. It is a testament to the app in how easily you can get your sound. What worked best for me was to set a simple arpeggiated pattern, and work from the Mapping page. In the 'Init' tab, you can select the overall program to start with. Options include Pads, Bass, Efx, and so on. Starting there, you can move the modules around onto the grid until something starts to sound good. If you'd like, you can select different programs while the arp is running, to test which programs are best suited for what you are going for. From there, I moved into the Parameters, where I started messing about with the oscillators and filters to sculpt it just a bit.
I didn't get involved with importing my own samples into WaveMapper, but there is a whole section here where you can create what are called "Time Corrected Samples". These samples can then be used as part of building your sounds. I'm sure that I will be coming back to that later.
Musician Jon Rawlinson (aka PantsOfDeath) recorded this great track, relying heavily on WaveMapper for his synth sounds. If you're not following PoD on Soundcloud, you are missing out! (click here to correct your error!).
WaveMapper comes with all the features you'd expect in a high-end iOS synth app. It is Audiobus and IAA-compatible. Virtual and Core-MIDI work great as well. The keyboard is customizable to different layouts and sizes.
I'm a big fan of presets on my iOS synths, for a couple of reasons. As said earlier, I'm still learning about how all the parameters effect sounds. Secondly, the people who created these presets are years ahead of me, and they do a damn good job. For most of the synths I own, I've literally never tried making a preset from scratch. But with WaveMapper, that's the journey.
I've never actually sat down with an app before and spent so much time just messing about with the parts that make the sounds. I usually grow very bored with the "behind the scenes" stuff, and just want to make a song. I've spent countless hours here, changing an instrument program here, and moving an icon there. It's an absolute treat to play with, and the sounds are great as well.
I spent more time playing with WaveMapper before writing this review than I have with any other app. This app begs to be explored. Wolfgang Palm has a similar app available called WaveGenerator, which shares many of the same sound engines. I've not used WaveGenerator, but I've heard from many users that WaveMapper is the place to start if you are looking to get your feet wet. I can certainly attest to the ease at which WaveMapper allows you to create a massive array of sounds, in a highly enjoyable way. WaveMapper is definitely worth a look.
If you're thinking about buying WaveMapper, please consider clicking through our App Store link below. Thanks!WaveMapper
Developer: Wolfgang Palm