The hits just keep coming. I feel like a broken record, but just when I say "I've got all the iOS synths that I could possibly use", along comes another one that grabs my attention. This one is Zed Synth by Jazz Man Ltd., and it's a beauty. For starters, check out the awesome overview video from the developer:
Zed Synth is a hybrid synthesizer, combing oscillators and physical modelling, along with a few more interesting features. Not only is Zed Synth a sound producer, but it can also be used in the effects slot of Audiobus to add some interesting flavors to other iOS music apps.
As you can see from the video above, Zed Synth has a lot going on, but it is laid out in a way that makes it easy to tweak. With the standard keyboard placement on the bottom of the screen, the rest of the interface is well-utilized by the parameter controls. To access these controls, swiping horizontally across the top section of the screen will navigate you through the different sections.
I found it easy to navigate through each section, as they are laid out in a common sense way. When you launch the app, you'll be greeted with the presets and oscilloscopes, as seen below. There are a very decent amount of presets included here, with a great variety of range. Some very dark, gritty sounds alongside some nice bell-like sounds here. There are some nice physical instrument emulations, and even some crazy "fx" noise patches.
Scrolling through the screens will bring you to the oscillator section, where you have control over each of the two oscillators. Moving to the next screen will give you your Synth Overview page, which shows how all the modules are connected, along with the filters and effects. Tapping on any of these will scroll you quickly to that page, which makes navigation simple.
Some nice features here in Zed Synth are the ability to share custom patches via e-mail, which is made very simple from within the app. Once received, your recipient can simply "Open In" into Zed Synth from their e-mail. MIDI learn is also very easy within Zed Synth, and follows the standard process common to many iOS synths. Simply select "MIDI Learn", hold on the parameter you'd like to control, and adjust the external control knob to set.
A feature of Zed Synth that is unique to almost every other iOS synth (Magellan being a notable exception) is the ability to use it in the effects slot of Audiobus. Using what it calls a "String Resonance Effect", you can turn unpitched sounds (say drums from DM-1 or Gumdrops) into chords or melodies. It's very neat, and can really create some interesting tones.
The Help menu in Zed Synth is very helpful as well. Tapping on the "?" icon, and tapping on a parameter knob will give you a full description of what the knob is and what it controls. This is awesome for those of us who don't intuitively know how everything interacts.
Technical info time: The app is universal, and is both Audiobus and Inter-App Audio (IAA) compatible. Zed Synth does require iOS 8 to run. You can use your external MIDI keyboard, as well as your favorite virtual iOS sequencer. I tested it out with StepPolyArp, Little MIDI Machine, and Arpeggionome Pro, and all worked well.
Here's some audio demos from the developer himself, courtesy of his SoundCloud page:
Zed Synth is an app that I wish I had more time to get into before writing this review. From the time I've played with it, I can tell that it is deep. I've had a stroll through all of the presets, and there are some of these that absolutely snapped my head back. As I'm a big fan of the low, growly and gritty synth sounds, the "Red Sky Detuner" preset is going to work perfectly with my attempts at mimicking Trent Reznor's soundtrack style.
While the interface wasn't as easy for me as apps like FM4 or Laplace, I did find that I was able to get around easily. A little bit of experimentation had me twiddling knobs and coming up with some ugly (in a good way) bass sounds. The visualizations on the parameters really help a novice like me see what's going on.
Zed Synth has a lot of versatility, and is definitely not a "one trick pony". Offering a wide range of sounds, and the ability to customize your sounds by using either traditional synth oscillators or the physical modeling modules, everyone should be able to find something that they like here. The addition of the effects capabilities in Audiobus do bring something very unique to iOS, and I'm looking forward to seeing how others use this in their tracks. Zed Synth is a remarkable bargain for the price (currently selling at $9.99 USD), and deserves a solid look from all iOS musicians.
If you're thinking about buying Zed Synth, please consider clicking through our App Store link below. Thanks![app 947422407]