The developers Bitcount Ltd. have recently released a new app call AnalogKit. Billed as a "music hacker's paradise", the app aims to please both experienced modular synth users as well as those who just love to experiment. Knowing that I fall more into the latter category, I was eager to take AnalogKit for a spin. From my tinkering so far, it looks like the developers have a winner here. Check out their first demo video, showing some of the sounds and modules:
I've done several reviews for modular synth apps, and I've watched quite a few (a lot, actually) YouTube videos on "Intro to Modular Synthesis. I've certainly got "the basics" down, but find that I usually need a refresher when coming back to modular synth apps. Admittedly, I'm a "tweak presets" kind of guy. With so many great presets available on synth apps, I can usually find the sound I'm looking for in a preset.
But, there's no denying the fun and reward of creating your own patches. As true modular synthesis means that there are no pre-existing connections, you need to put in the work to get even a basic sound out of your speakers. Where AnalogKit succeeds in my mind is that you can choose some simple modules (oscillator, LFO, filter, etc.) and quickly get a basic sound. The app is set up with the modules divided into groups, which makes this easy. The inclusion of demo patches helps to see how modules are laid out on the work surface. The developers have also gone above and beyond with the inclusion of a community sharing option, here called the "Swap Meet". I'll talk about this in a bit, but I love this.
So, I've gotten a bit ahead of myself here already. AnalogKit can be used as a modular synth app, an effects app (usable in both the Input and Output slots of Audiobus), or as a crazy gamemaker (I kid you not). While I personally might not be making my own Flappy Bird clone (the developers did), it shows that these guys are thinking WAY outside the box with this app.
Sporting a very retro look, this app instantly reminded me of the 1984 Steve Garvey-era San Diego Padres uniforms. Brown, orange and yellow, this app has a look. This app is the complete opposite of Audulus visually. Once you've launched the app, you'll see a list of modules that can be used, grouped into categories such as "Effects", "Modular", and "Synths". These modules somewhat resemble guitar stopmboxes, at least the effects do. Minimal in design, each module has some very simple controls. If you're experienced with synths, there are no big surprises here. Your LFO module will have the various waveforms along with speed control. Your oscillator will have waveforms along with and octave dial, etc. I would say that even a newcomer to modular synths would pick all this up quickly.
You'll have a virtual workspace in where to add add your modules. You can either have them all laid out separately, or you can group them all together in "containers" for a cleaner look. It is with these containers that I had a little trouble understanding how to create them and put them into a pretty layout. I did eventually figure out how to "lasso" them and make a container, but this might be a good place for some more help documentation. The developers have already stated that more tutorial videos are on the way, so I'm looking forward to those.
I recently bought a new app for my daughters called The Everything Machine by Tinybop. It is a app geared towards kids, that encourages making machines using modules, like making a machine that flashes a color when the camera detects a face. It's almost like a virtual littleBits kit. AnalogKit reminded me a lot of that app, in that you are given a blank canvas and a toolbox full of different modules to use. This app really caters to those people who might sit down and think "I wonder if I can create...". For example, you can choose from a variety of input controls. Use a traditional virtual keyboard, or use a grid sequencer, a step sequencer, and X/Y pad. Use buttons, or knobs, or sliders, or even the device's accelerometer. It's this kind of freedom that is going to allow users to create some truly unique presets.
And speaking of user's presets, here is where I get into the Swap Meet. After registering and creating a user name, you enter the virtual swap meet. Here is where users can upload their own creations to share with everyone. Already I am seeing a lot of creations from a variety of users. I love apps that provide community sharing. Positive Grid does this with their BIAS and JamUp guitar effects apps, and thankfully the folks over at Bitcount have done the same. This sharing of presets will keep this app fresh and vibrant for some time to come.
So, of course a cool idea and some neat visuals don't count for much if it doesn't sound good. Thankfully, AnalogKit sounds great. Check out the "Terror Drone" project in the Swap Meet for some heavy darkness. Take a listen to some demos sounds from the developer's SoundClound page:
I'm really impressed by this app so far, considering it is still a version 1.0. I had a couple of little issues with the app, such as an occasional hiccup within the Swap Meet, and some instances where I'd have to tap-and-drag a module several times to get it into the workspace. But, I've seen these guys hanging out on the Audiobus forum, actively listening to user requests. One of the first things to be added in the next update will be virtual MIDI and IAA implementation, as well as a manual.
I think Bitcount has found a great pocket of the market with this AnalogKit. This app does feel almost endless in the possibilities. Truly creative musicians will love this. The app can easily just be used as an effects app in Audiobus (it has delay, filter, reverb, overdrive, 10 band eq, phaser and pitch shift modules, just to name a few). But the open sandbox idea here will drive users to create unique kits. I hope that the Swap Meet sharing option is embraced by users, because this can really lead to some marvelous things.
I'm very excited for the future of this app. If you have a creative mind, and the idea of building something unique from scratch excites you, then I would definitely recommend that you check out AnalogKit.
If you're thinking about buying AnalogKit, please consider clicking through our App Store link below. Thanks![app 984597969]