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Photophore Synth – A new “flock synthesizer” hits the App Store

To quote my good friend Ice Cube, today was a good day. I woke up this morning on the West Coast of the US to read about a new app that was just released, called Photophore Synth. This one seemed to come from out of nowhere, and I certainly hadn't heard anything about its impending release. The early buzz (no pun intended) was that it was great. Thankfully, the developer Nick Dika of Taika Systems Ltd. reached out to me with some info on the app. After just minutes of playing, I knew that this was quite a sweet app.

Photophore sets itself apart from the other iOS synths by using what is called "flock synthesis". As seen in the video above, there are swarms of dots swirling around your iPad. These dots are oscillators, and if you choose a polyphony of 1, you can choose up to 100 of these oscillators for your patch. Men-tal. It's not just all pretty visuals, however. The fun here is that you can interact with the flock by swiping at them, which can create wild pitch modulations in your sound. You can also control the flock in terms of speed, their relationship to each other, etc. It's tough to describe, but a blast to play with.

The interface itself is very minimal, which emphasizes the interaction with the flock. Not a lot of clutter to get in the way. Controls are all in drop-down boxes on the top row. These range from choosing from six different waveforms, filters (HP/LP), envelope, delay, and a simple but very usable arpeggiator.

There are some presets included to get you started. I counted 51, but I suck at math, so I may be off by one or two. These are grouped into categories such as Ambient (personal favorite), Bass, Arp, Lead, and Chordal. The "Low Voltage" and "Polar Vortex" presets in the Ambient group had me off and running in no time. So lush. These are a nice starting point for tweaking your own presets.

Photophore_Voices_Wide

 Beautiful minimal interface

The sounds in Photophore are big. There is a surprising range, as well. My first impression was that it was going to be very ambient-based, but you can get gritty and dirty here as well. I'm guessing though that I'll be focusing on some evolving soundscapes with this one in the future.

What's pleasantly surprising here is how good this is right out of the gate. The app is both Audiobus and IAA-compatible, and is (thankfully for many) compatible with iOS 7. I was able to use the Virtual MIDI with StepPolyArp to nice effect, and I had no trouble getting my M-Audio Oxygen 25 to work as an external keyboard. As you can see from the photo above, you may want to consider using either Virtual MIDI or an external keyboard, as the onscreen virtual keyboard is pretty tiny. It works fine if you are setting the notes for the built-in arpeggiator, or doing some simple playing, but it doesn't lend itself well to virtuosity.

For a Version 1.0 release from a new iOS developer, I couldn't be more impressed. From the beautifully minimal look to the impressive sounds, Photophore is a winner. This app fits nicely into a Laplace/Mitosynth kind of vibe for me, which is definitely a compliment. It's a very unique synth, which fills a void in an otherwise increasingly crowded (and similar) environment. If you're looking for something a bit different, I'd very much recommend Photophore. It's launched at a discounted intro price of $4.99 USD, which is just insane. Don't even start with the "But do I need another synth?" jabber and go get this app.

When you're ready to buy Photophore (because I'm not giving you the option to "think about it"), please consider clicking through our App Store link below. Thanks!

[app 937318617]

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