Has The iPad Made Digital Synth Keyboards Obsolete?

Yamaha DX 7

Has the iPad made digital synths obsolete?

That’s the question raised by a recent MatrixSynth post:

All digital synths are software based. I’ve stopped lusting after them ever since I picked the first gen iPad and Sunrizer and compared it with my Roland JP-8000.

I picked up the JP-8000 new for about $1100 back when it came out. I picked up Sunrizer when it was called Horizon Synth for $4.99. $4.99 for a full blown VA and it sounds great.

You can’t replicate analog, so maybe we will see more of that. As for full blown digital, I can see each having it’s flagship synth for the pro musician on the road, a flagship controller for the iPad, and apps to go along with it.

I think there will always be an audience for each, but there is no denying the iPad has become the new breed of digital hardware synthesis.

This echoes predictions we made when the iPad was introduced:

The iPad will be immediately useful as a musical tool, because it runs countless existing iPhone apps.

As developers adapt their apps to the larger real estate, though, the Apple iPad will come into its own as a new platform for music.

Since then, we’ve seen reaction to our iPad-related posts evolve from complete rejection (aka, the rename the site to ‘apptopia’ comments), to skepticism with interest, to many readers embracing it as new platform for music. And posts related to iPad music apps, including Animoog, Auria, PPG Wavegenerator and Magellan, have been some of our most actively discussed recent stories.

Do you think there’s a bigger trend here? Interest in analog synths is going strong as ever, but readers seem to be less excited about recent digital synth keyboards.

Has the iPad made digital synth keyboard obsolete? Are powerhouse VSTi’s to blame? Or do digital synth keyboard manufacturers just need to up their game?

Image: rockheim

143 thoughts on “Has The iPad Made Digital Synth Keyboards Obsolete?

  1. let’s not forget that ipads are still computers. they will not hold any value or be supported at all for any real length of time. i bought a desktop evolver when it came out and a new laptop the same year. the laptop cost 2x the evolver. i could still get close to my original investment out of the evolver. i would have to pay someone to take the laptop off of my hands. don’t believe reality distortion, computers are awesome but they’re not the same as dedicated hardware.

    1. The Desktop Evolver doesn’t really fit into the digital synth keyboard category – esp with its analog oscillators, filters, VCA’s, etc

    2. “let’s not forget that ipads are still computers”

      So are digital hardware synthesizers. You haven’t made the connection that the iPad is hardware. Think of the touch screen on the KORG Oasys, Kronos and Jupiter-80. Now imagine being able to pull it off and take it on the road with all your patches to another studio or just on road to make music. That’s what the iPad is. If the processing power isn’t here now, it will be soon enough.

    3. 1 – The iPad as a computer will probably last longer than the equivalent hardware put into a keyboard
      2 – An “old” iPad can freeze it’s OS and apps and “become” a dedicated set of instruments, and thereby continue to function in the same was as a hardware digital synth for years to come
      3 – In 10+ years you could find tons of iPad 1 replacement parts/units for dirt cheap, where as most digital synths of the same age can’t be repaired because nobody makes those parts anymore, and there weren’t enough units sold to leave a used base to draw from
      4 – Older software can easily be updated or virtualized to run on newer hardware. Old digital synths are stuck as what they are.
      5 – All of this is moot anyway because the cost to effectiveness ratio guarantees that synth manufacturers won’t both spending time and money that will be wasted making dedicated hardware anymore when a more powerful and affordable general purpose device is already present. So it doesn’t matter if you prefer hardware synths because there simply won’t be any to buy.

  2. It’s just new, it won’t replace… I think tangibility (even if its just a midi contoller) is still key, and synths like Massive, FM8, omnisphere, and other CPU heavy softsynths will still have a place for a long time, because are you really going to get that sidechained sub-bass from Sunrizer or Cassini? And I get that core-midi is huge in app development but something about using a hardware controller in conjunction with iPad still seems a little wonky. I’d rather use the ipad synths as a sound source for samples, and the actual surface for midi control with the likes of Lemur or TouchOSC

    1. You need to think of the price of digital hardware synths. Apps on the iPad are more affordable. As for PC soft synths, why bother with digital hardware synths? Think of the screen on the Jupiter-80 and KORG Oasys. That is the iPad. Dock it in a good controller and you have the digital hardware synth.

      1. If the tool is worth the price I am willing to pay for a desired result, do I really need to think about it? I’m the last person here to rant about app price vs plugin price vs hardware price, frankly I don’t give a damn. If I feel touring a Voyager, a Tritan, NI’s Massive TAL’s U-NO and my $.99 copy of Animoogwho cares, I’m not trying to be some bedroom musician who relies on cracked copies of Ableton and NI Komplete. I work hard in the music industry, to make my living. When I make a decision on a gear buy I research it, then save for it, knowing my end goal. I want everything to get more awesome, so I fully support those that make it happen and if that means I need $100 for FabFilter Twin that’s what they get, if I need to give Access $1,500 for the new Virus TI so be it, if Moog comes out with an exact replica of the voyager with selectable color schemes and a 4th osc that can be used as a second LFO with all the routing of the LX on iPad for $100… Guess what my next buy would be….

  3. “Has Y replaced X, OMG?!”, I’m getting a little tired of comments like that to be honest since they pop up again, and again and again. It would help if people making those comments would first look into a subject and some of its history before commenting on it.

    Simply put: no it hasn’t and it also won’t. Just like DAW’s haven’t made hardware synth’s obsolete, just like Reaktor hasn’t put Max out of business, and the list goes on.

    Can an iPad provide certain advantages over digital synths? Yes, that I’ll easily believe. Just like it’s my opinion that DAWs in general also provide certain advantages over hardware synths in general.

    But thinking that it can make them obsolete is in my opinion quite narrow minded thinking, to be honest I think its plain out silly. For example: I still have Novation’s Ultra Nova high on my wanted list. The iPad can’t make a one on one replacement for that critter. While I have no doubt that it can mimic the /functionality/ one must not forget that there is more to digital synths than merely the software.

    The pressure sensitive knobs, the keyboard itself, the USB power connector (automatically now only providing power but also allowing full synth control right from your DAW) ?

    Heck: the option to /feel/ that you’re now touching the 3rd knob from the left thus controlling a filters cutoff ? I don’t see the iPad coming close with this simple bit of functionality.

    The iPad can’t obsolete digital synths, the idea alone is IMVHO preposterous. What the iPad can do, and I honestly have no doubt that it does, is /expand/ on the field of digital synthesis.

    1. ““Has Y replaced X, OMG?!”, I’m getting a little tired of comments like that to be honest since they pop up again, and again and again. It would help if people making those comments would first look into a subject and some of its history before commenting on it.

      Simply put: no it hasn’t and it also won’t. Just like DAW’s haven’t made hardware synth’s obsolete, just like Reaktor hasn’t put Max out of business, and the list goes on.”

      Interesting points – but I think you have to admit that people aren’t wowed that much by digital keyboards anymore. The biggest digital keyboard introduction in recent memory has been the Roland Jupiter 80, and it seemed the biggest complaint people had about it was that it was a digital keyboard.

      Software synths are getting more sophisticated than hardware synths, so the main advantage hardware offers is tangible control. And the iPad makes expensive tangible hardware interfaces a lot less attractive.

      1. @Seth

        Oh, I agree there. To be honest, I have always favored soft synths ever since I started with synthesizers in general. The thing is; even back then we’ve had comments and discussions like these, and we still haven’t seen much developments fully replacing the other.

        I think the one thing many people are forgetting is that the “synthesizer scene” (to give it a name) works differently than, say, a specific software market. Take Java IDEs, there are quite a lot of them. And indeed; over the past years some IDEs managed to overshadow others, thus eventually making people lose interest after which they faded away.

        Difference being: that software aims at a common single goal, in this case making it easy to develop in Java. There isn’t really much room for variations since the goal itself is a given.

        ‘Synthesis’ otoh doesn’t work this way. For starters the different sound engines being put to use; the different way things work and most of all: what allows me to make good music can very well turn out to be a nightmare for you.

        As such my comment above; I can easily see the iPad enhance many people’s workflow but I don’t see it obsoleting stuff anytime soon. Its not so much the iPad, its the way the ‘music market’ works.

    2. < Ultranova

      There's also a niche demand for compact-yet-powerful VA hardware keyboards; just picked up a miniAK for that purpose. Seems like there's some interest for the MicroX for similar purposes. Attach to a laptop or iPad = lightweight, portable rig.

    3. I freakin love my UltraNova, but it like other digital synths in its range, tends to sound a little brittle. But with the right EQing and compression it sounds awesome. Esp when run through an amp and mic’ed rather than through a pair of DI’s or straight into an interface…

    4. ” It would help if people making those comments would first look into a subject and some of its history before commenting on it.”

      If you honestly don’t think I’ve done my research you really need to check out my site. I do agree with you to a certain extent but honestly I’m not so sure. Think of how analog synthesis died off and how it is back and and then ask why. The reason why is it can’t be replicated. Digital on the other hand can. Of course it depends on what a manufacturer can bring new to the table and where they decide to make it available. If they don’t chose the iPad, then you will have to buy the hardware if you want it. What will ultimately decide it is supply and demand and profits for the manufacturers. If you read my post you’ll see that I state hardware manufacturers will focus on flagship digital synths. That actually more or less is already is the case I’m guessing due to the PC soft synth market. The big question for them will be where they can make the most money and who will they be competing with. The reason why digital hardware synths still exist despite PC based software synths, which are much more affordable, is because PC based software synths do not have the same tactile interface as hardware. The iPad does. If you look at say Yamaha’s current line of hardware synths you get performance controls assigned to hardware controllers and deeper editing available through menus. This isn’t better than an iPad coupled with a good hardware controller. It’s all relative thought. The real point of my post was on the price of synths on the iPad vs. the equivalent in digital hardware and the fact that the iPad is hardware unlike PC bases soft synths that rely on the mouse and keyboard. No disrespect to soft synths on the PC. I’m just focusing on hardware digital synthesizers and how affordable they have become on the iPad.

      1. An example is Jazz Mutant’s Lemur. The hardware version ended shortly after the iPad arrived. It’s now available on the iPad. You can argue they the devices were essentially the same, but then ask yourself what is the difference between the hardware of an iPad and a hardware digital synth and then ask what’s really needed to bring the iPad closer to what’s missing. When you find the gap, you then have to ask if the difference is cost is worth it.

    5. >The iPad can’t obsolete digital synths, the idea alone is IMVHO preposterous. What the iPad can do, and I
      >honestly have no doubt that it does, is /expand/ on the field of digital synthesis.

      Right! And the computer didn’t replace typewriters, the mobile phone didn’t replace land lines, phones didn’t replace the telegraph, the internet didn’t replace tv, books and newspapers, the computer based DAW didn’t replace tape decks, the CD didn’t replace the vinyl record, planes didn’t replace trains, and for god damn sure the iPad isn’t going to replace hardware synthesizers, just like it hasn’t replaced so many other things!

      Don’t look at what the technology can do now. Look at what it will do in 5 to 10 years. The hardware synth doesn’t stand a chance. If I were a synth manufacturer today, I’d put all my money and effort into controllers and software.

  4. ”a flagship controller for the iPad”

    I’m still waiting for a FLAGSHIP CONTROLLER for VST’s on PC/MAC – Most of the keybeds/controls in the current crop of ‘controlers’ are crap. Will some one please make a high quality 88 note controler keyboard, and yes, IPAD connectivity is nice- but with apple about to change the dock conector, I would stick to USB or how aboutt Ethernet/Wireless/OSC

    1. Bingo. That is precisely the point. Soft synths on the PC will never be free of the mouse and keyboard for deep editing. If you consider the Yamaha FS1R or E-mu Morpheus, the PC is better. If you consider the iPad, the iPad is better. It all depends on the design of the synth and the controllers on the iPad of course. The gist is you have the Roland JP-80, KORG Kronos or OASYS but the synth engine resides in the screen and it is detachable. Think about it a bit.

  5. VST’s have killed off most of the need for digital synths. iPad synths are the nails in the coffin.

    Bread and butter digital synth keyboards are dead. But I think two types of synth keyboards are going to keep going strong – big performance oriented keyboards and new analogs.

    There’s also a lot of room for evolution in keyboard controllers. I use an old Yamaha keyboard as my MIDI controller, because I have’t seen anything so compellingly better that its worth spending hundreds of dollars on.

  6. If you replaced “iPad” with “Desktop computers, laptops and some tablet devices” then yes, that’s a true statement. I saw a discussion on a board recently about somebody comparing a TX817 and a DX7 and all I could think was WTF? Why on earth would you buy a hardware digital synth like that when you could get FM8 or something like that that’s a lot easier to program, is much more flexible, likely costs less (if you already have a good computer) and is less suspectible to breaking down?

    The iPad specifically? Meh – I keep trying to integrate it into my setup, and I’ve tried the various work-arounds available to make up for what’s a fundamentally broken experience, and it’s still clunky. I love Animoog and I’m very excited about the PPG app, but for actual digital music making withI use laptop-based softsynths/VST’s 99.99% of the time still.

    1. I actually just bought a TX-216, and it’s nothing like a VST. Part of it is the DACs I’m sure, but there’s something meatier to the sound. I think computers can replace newer digital synths but not older ones.

      1. This! The signal path is always important, not only in analog but also in digital synths. Some older synths and sample players have noisy, low resolution DACs, quirky ways of mixing voices (think one DAC per voice followed by analog gain stages and mixing) and generally odd circuitry measured by today’s standards. Digital is not necessarily about clean HiFi sound. There should be more research and develoipment into building software instruments that mimic the behaviour of those old digital machines just like there is tons of research into emulating the Moog filter or tube amps.

    2. I think there’s a lot to be said for tangibility in this instance. I’m not sure if I reflect the opinions of the majority of people on this, but I think it’s very difficult to come close to the feel of reaching out and tweaking on a hardware synth, digital or not.
      For instance, my Korg Z1 is technically bettered by software in almost every regard (higher polyphony, better fidelity etc), but the fact that it’s got a physical front-end panel designed around its operation, and you can reach out with your hand and immediately tweak a parameter makes it, at least for me, much more immediate, creatively gratifying and fun than programming in software.
      It’s a niche thing I suppose. I’m sure for most people it’s a non-issue, but at least for me, I feel it makes a real difference. It’s no co-incidence the one synth I’m really looking forward to right now is Mutable Instruments’s Ambika 🙂

  7. This is a pointless debate. I have an MPC 1000 which is obviously a digital sampler. Is it obsolete because there is a Beat Maker app? Of course not. Even though the sampling engine in Beat Maker is probably objectively “better”, and it may even have a bigger feature set, musicians will continue to use a variety of tools to craft their sounds. The creative process is about so much more than what software or CPU is running under the hood, and sometimes the quirks or even glitches of older machines are what creative people most appreciate about their tools. I’ve been using a Yamaha DX-200 a lot lately, and it sounds absolutely amazing. While the DX-i app that you have pictured here is also a great FM synth, if you compared the two in a mix, the DX-200 is so much more clear and present and alive sounding. I suspect a lot of this just has to do with the fact that iPads have horrible D/A converters, and since I personally don’t yet know of a great way to solve that problem, I will continue to use the DX-200. And I think that most other “pro” or even “semi-pro” musicians will continue to use “pro” quality gear, whether it be analog or digital.

    1. I was thinking of getting a DX-200. The problem is I don’t want to run the antiquated software editor. Is it still worth it? Can I get most, if not all, of the capabilities out of it from the front panel?

      1. Here’s a couple of DX-7 iPad editors that work with the DX-200:

        http://m.matrixsynth.com/2011/02/touchosc-dx7-editor-for-missing-link.html (worked for me)
        http://m.matrixsynth.com/2011/05/idx7-v12-wireless-ipad-editor-now.html (haven’t tested it)

        You won’t get the sequencing and extended functionality, but if you are looking for something to edit sounds they do the job. I believe The Missing Link one does require The Missing Link hardware as it’s probably mapped for sysex via OSC to MIDI. TouchOSC does not support sysex, so you need something to translate from OSC which it does support to MIDI Sysex. I’m not sure if there’s an editor available for Lemur yet. If you are the type to tinker you could probably make your own.

  8. I love that I can now afford to buy synths, that I used to dream about owning, and that they’re so inexpensive.

    triplizard is right about usability and workflow, though. The iPad is just two years old and I think developers are still figuring out what problems the new technology solves and what problems it introduces.

    In my opinion, the best iPad synths don’t just replace digital synths, they introduce capabilities that digital synth keyboards don’t have. Animoog and TC11 are a couple examples. If iPad synths leave you feeling ‘meh’ then you might want to check out a few more or dig deeper into the ones you have.

  9. >>>> Heck: the option to /feel/ that you’re now touching the 3rd knob from the left thus controlling a filters cutoff ? I don’t see the iPad coming close with this simple bit of functionality.

    It hinders one’s real musicality to take some kind of more engaged TOUCH out of the equation. You don’t interact with a pad in anywhere near the same way you do with keys, knobs or strings. “Synthesis” means to assemble from a variety of components. Arguing for one over another seems dubious. Aren’t we supposed to focus on those things which draw us the most strongly and explore them? You’d think people had their synth-loyalites tied to the size of their privates. So far, I’ve heard very little but covers, sqwaunking or dubstep tweedles from directly-played iPads. The field has yet to find its real voice, so the idea of obsolescing decades of the more established tools is, um, real cute, but not yet fully baked.

    1. Is that ‘feel’ of touching the third knob really worth an extra $1,000 or so per synth?

      For most people, probably not, at least not after you have one good performance keyboard.

      1. “Is that ‘feel’ of touching the third knob really worth an extra $1,000 or so per synth?”

        Honestly, for me, yes. It is. Quality of interaction is hugely important! You could have the most stunningly beautiful synthesis system ever conceived, but if it was contained within a plain box with no way of controlling it, it would be completely useless.

        Which is, to say, there haven’t really been any major breakthroughs in new forms of synthesis for a while now. Most synths, both hardware and software, have somewhat comparable features in terms of their sound-generating capabilities. A lot of the time you’re paying for a good interface, and it can make or break a synth.

          1. >>> I prefer controlling my Pulse+, Prophet VS and Rhodes Chroma over wireless with my iPad.

            There ya go. Synthesis. I have a pal who works IT all day and hates the idea of coming home to another screen, so he trumpets his hardware synths and their stability over the fretful soft-world. He’s sure not wrong! I used to have 8 hardware synths. I’ve since trimmed it down to 3 of those and Logic Studio. I love my carefully-chosen handful of plug-ins, but I’d never discard my 2 STABLE workstations and the connection I have with their feel and particular sounds, several of which would be poorer if merely sampled. If you can afford hard-synths AND an iPad, the debate becomes moot.

      2. No but it’s worth splashing quite a few gigabucks into materials research, so they can cover touchscreens with controllable feedback dough – just to make ridges around keys on the screen keyboard etc.
        I’m waiting eagerly, but it might be a while…

    2. >It hinders one’s real musicality to take some kind of more engaged TOUCH out of the equation. You don’t
      >interact with a pad in anywhere near the same way you do with keys, knobs or strings.

      Wow! I totally disagree. As someone who plays both keyboard and guitar, the iPad is the first and only really new “expressive feel” technology I’ve discovered in decades! Being able to play a synth sound in realtime but do so with the slides, vibrato, etc of a guitar is so very liberating. Don’t get me wrong, I love the feel of both traditional instruments too, but the iPad bring something truly unique and equally expressive to the mix (assuming you aren’t just emulating standard keys in the app, of course).

      And while I’m on about it, I’ve never felt the “magic” of turning a nob to be any better than sliding a mouse or finger to adjust a parameter. Either approach requires getting the feel down, and after that it doesn’t matter, and in the end the mouse always wins for me if nothing else because it keeps me from bending all funny to reach knobs for hours.

      1. Hey, that sounds perfectly well-reasoned to me. I’m certainly with you about reaching for a mouse rather than a knob, although having a few assignables on my hardware is still expressive and handy. I am not quite satisfied that the iPad is as responsive as *I* want it to be, but again, the tech is new. Its not bad now and it’ll get better. I can see buying one within the next 3 or 4 generations. Just don’t play “Stairway To Heaven” or “Jump,” please.

  10. Oh and I still love my Zoom ST-224 sampler too. How’s that for obsolete gear, LOL. And while I do plan on checking out the new PPG app, I highly doubt anyone would argue that it makes an original PPG Wave obsolete!!!

  11. @iMan: +1 for TC-11

    @Fungo McGurk: Mostly agreed, although there are apps that are pushing said evolution forward. Using the surface as a plane instead of as truck-flattened control surface has possibilities…

    1. tubagirlftw – yes!

      Making users ‘twist a knob’ when it’s really a fake 3d representation of a knob displayed on a flat touchscreen is a little crazy.

      TC-11 does an interesting job of just starting from scratch and seeing what the new technology is capable of.

      1. You can also jump between values via a touch interface. Try that with hardware knobs and sliders. You can also create controllers on the iPad not physically present on existing hardware synths. Think complimentary to your existing synths here not vs.

  12. Ironically iPads 4-operator FM synths don’t reach the pictured 6-operator FM synthesizer from 80’s.

    Although iPad synths are soft synths, to me iPad is like third wheel between hardware and software. I like the musical nature of iPad synths tweaking, a well as being able to buy new interesting engines, as well as easy portability and immediacy. To me, if anything has become more obsolete, its the software synths(although not them either completely, but I feel that iPad is making software synths obsolete in couple of iPad -generations)

  13. I will always love gear. I like to combine vintage and new tech into my workflow. If I like it and can afford it I will pick it up. Plus I rather have the real thing than a emulator any day.

  14. Well, I can still play my ESQ-1 anytime I want. I can’t really say that about any music software I had back then. I still love sitting down at my M3 without a computer turned on and simply playing or composing using the on-board sequencer. There is definitely an immediacy to using a full blow digital synth or workstation. However, I still love working with softsynths and the power and variety they bring. The same can be said about iPad synths…an incredible variety with the added benefit of the touch screen interface (although my M3 also has a nice touch screen – not AS nice but still great.) I think there is always a place for a variety of instruments including full on digital keyboards, especially for gigging musicians (though maybe not as necessary for bedroom-only producers)

    I love Animoog, Magellan, Nanostudio and the rest, but I would never trade in my M3 for them.

  15. Just throwing this out there. Is it possible that the iPad might actually increase the interest in hardware synths, as it lowers the entry barrier, allowing people like myself to explore and learn about synthesis technologies without making a huge financial commitment? Either way, I think that the assumption in both scenerios is that you really need a physical controller — as the ipad will never provide the tactile quality that a physical controller can (apart from xy pads and some of the other more exploritory UIs). I do wish that there was some better options for really good MIDI controller however. Even the top of the line MIDI controllers pail in comparison to some of the professional quality keyboard synths that are available.

  16. I agree with a bunch of these comments. The iPad is a CPU. If it replaces anything, it would replace a desktop or laptop computer. But like a desktop or laptop computer, it is not hardware dedicated to or specifically purpose-designed to be a musical instrument. It is a multi-use platform for apps. Sure, there are people who have eschewed hardware synths and gone completely softsynth, but there are plenty of people who still prefer dedicated hardware solutions.

    And yes, the concerns of how an iPad (or computer) fares as time goes on is a very real one. As system requirements, software compatibilities, and heck, even data connections and protocols like USB & FireWire change, the prospect of a “vintage” softsynth or iPad rig gets pretty questionable.

    I hope that manufacturers will introduce more ways to elegantly integrate an iPad into a music-making rig – but I’m not holding my breath. After all, people have been using softsynths for decades now, and there are few elegant or well-integrated controller solutions out there.

    One important thing that is in play here is whether a product is designed and built to do one specific thing, or whether it’s built to do wide variety of different things. As you move further toward a product being able to do a wide variety of different things, it becomes more difficult for it’s design to really work well for one specific thing. The iPad is genius and I own more than one – I’m a big fan – and while it’s awesome to be able to buy new synths at incredibly low prices, they aren’t my go-to instruments.

    But will iPads replace desktop and laptop computers? They already are.

  17. By now everyone knows that I am a hardware man. I have and use an iPad with synth apps on it. My only concern is that it will not still be running in twenty years where a Virus or a Blofeld will. In fact I don’t think you will even be able to edit sounds on your UltraNova without keeping an obsolete computer running in the future. That is why I am getting off of the endless upgrades of the software world and concentrating on building a set of quality hardware that will still be running for decades.

    And I still think the StudioLogic Sledge looks like a worthy piece of gear, apart from the headache inducing yellow frame.

    1. It’s a Waldorf synth… were you expecting muted navy blue or charcoal black? 😉
      I jest, but I do have a real soft-spot for Waldorf’s garish colour schemes.

  18. I have been thinking about this recently, but not necessarily in terms of the iPad.

    I have come to the conclusion that there is no point (for me) to purchase any hardware that’s not analog, as the sound can be exactly replicated on my laptop. The only digital that I would be interested in is something like the Meeblip that offers a unique interaction and sounds at a DIY price point.

    1. If I were starting from scratch, I’d probably invest in the best analog keyboard I could afford, and then add an iPad or a laptop with soft synth. Soft synths like Omnisphere already blow away what most digital keyboards do.

      The best keyboard I’ve got in terms of feel, though, is an older Kurzweil. I don’t think any current analogs synths can match it.

  19. i dont think so, hardware is just fun. an ipad has always the same interaction which is touching a flat surface. touch technology is awesome, but the experience differences are souly based on the app.

    i think if the VST didn’t kill digital synths, the ipad wont either! but i could be wrong.

  20. Simply put, the advent of cinema didn’t make real theatre obsolete. The same for TV vs cinema, or digital pianos vs real pianos etc. There will always be guys who like to hook up a masterkeyboard to an iPad and play. And there will always be guys who prefer something that *is* an instrument in itself.

    Hell, there will also be guys that don’t even have an iPad, or even a mobile phone for that matter.
    Like me.

    Also, sometimes it’s fun to use something definitely dated and still get useful results out of it, even if there is newer stuff that you know can do the same.

    You can talk about this forever.

  21. “Instruments sound interesting not because of their sound but because of the relationship a player has with them. Instrumentalists build a rapport with their instruments which is what you like and respond to. If you were sitting down now to design an instrument you would not dream of coming up with something as ridiculous as an acoustic guitar. It’s a strange instrument, it’s very limited and it doesn’t sound good. You would come up with something much better. But what we like about acoustic guitars is players who have had long relationships with them and know how to do something beautiful with them.

    You don’t have that with synthesisers yet. They are a very new instrument. They are constantly renewing so people do not have time to build long relationships with them. So you tend to hear more of the technology and less of the rapport. It can sound less human. However! That is changing. And there is a prediction that I made a few years ago that I’m very pleased to see is coming true – synthesisers that have inconsistency built into them. I have always wanted them to be less consistent. I like it that one note can be louder than the note next to it.”

    -Brian Eno

    1. Great quote – Eno is almost always brilliant.

      I love old synths – but I’m still amazed at how people obsess about synths of the past, instead of asking manufacturers to make better instruments.

      A lot of vintage synths are built with some pretty crap technology – like Pro One keyboards, the user interfaces of 80’s FM synths or those membrane panels that companies used to get prices down. And probably none of them will last as well as a decent classical instrument. The biggest reason people are nostalgic about old synths is that so many of today’s keyboards are just hunks of plastic with a computer chip in them!

      How about building some amazing instruments that really blow away vintage synths, in terms of capability, playability and build quality for a change?

    1. I say that as an analogue fan who doesnt see the point of paying several hundred pounds for something that doesn’t sound any better than a £4.99 app does on my iPhone.

  22. the physical interface adds to the unique work flow. add a massive controller to your tablet which covers everything from an electribe to a moog 55, and maybe you’ll come close to the creative groove your hardware provides. let’s wait a few more years to see whether tablets completely replace the mouse and keyboard, let alone hardware.

  23. Hey! Don’t forget about the nexus!!! Cheaper device and now there’s some great synths available for it! Please come defect with me!

    1. Until Google can get a lot of Android users running at least Jelly Bean, there’s won’t be enough potential buyers for music app developers to take the platform seriously. Almost all Android devices are still running version 2x, which is hopeless for electronic music software.

  24. A lot of people are saying that software can’t ever replace hardware, but the only digital keyboards mentioned are the UltraNova and Virus.

    What other digital keyboards still really stand out, compared to software synths?

    1. Novation KS ,Roland jp8080 ,Korg Z1, there are a lot of great hardware synths out there.
      The I pad is a joke, I burst out laughing when some showed me a music app on it. The idea that they are a serious music machine is really lost on me.

  25. is there anyone else out there that finds trying to manipulate a 5mm virtual knob a less than satisfying experience?…. not to mention the limitation of an onscreen one octave keyboard…. I think the future will see more integration of the Synthstation variety…. but hopefully better and less mythical…. in the same way we like control surfaces for DAW’s….. we love the apps, but love our rotary dials and sliders too.

    1. Regarding the 5mm knob, that depends on the implementation on the app. Many either treat them as sliders so when you touch them you slide instead of turn to edit, or they give you the choice. On those that give you the chose you can typically move your finger off of the knob and turn around it giving your more flexibility. On TouchOSC once you select a slider you can move your finger anywhere on the screen to move it. You can’t do that with hardware and you can’t jump positions in hardware. From a fully technical point hardware knobs and sliders are more limiting in that regard. Regarding a keyboard that’s what a controller keyboard is for. Same applies to soft synths on the PC, but with an iPad you get closer to the Jupiter-80, Korg OASYS and Kronos experience.

    2. An xy pad on an iPad screen is a lot better for manipulating filter cutoff and resonance than a pair of hardware knobs. But app developers do need to up their game and make their synths more immediate.

    3. IMO we need to completely ditch knobs and faders and start using truly modern UI for music apps. And we need to ditch the emulation of linear tape too. It’s been decades… let’s let it go and start using software more effectively. A node based DAW with a well designed UI would revolutionize the industry from top to bottom.

    4. I played a set last night with a friend – he was on his all-hardware analog rig (Monomachine, SH-101, JoMox Xbas 09, etc) and I was playing Magellan and Animoog on the iPad while running Reason on a laptop. I did envy his ability to grab real knobs linked to real devices, but I also loved the fact that I had essentially 8 synths and 2 drum machines in a 1-foot-square space. And the people out front didn’t care either way – they were dancing and drinking and having a great time.

      (I don’t love the tiny fake knobs, though.)

  26. Hell no it won’t. Yes, all digital KB’s are software based but a DX-7, Roland D-50, Nord Lead 1 (and 1 only), Roland JD-800 or Kawai K-5000 are more than the sum of their parts. Especially with something like a DX7 or D-50 not software emulation I’ve ever heard can touch them. And if you can’t hear the difference, even in a mix, you need to head back to the proverbial and actual woodshed, my friends.

    I haven’t really been all that blown away with any of the iPad synths. Which one should I check out.

  27. And yes that is a good quote earlier from Brian Eno. I totally agree: People have only recently begun to really tap the potential of classic 80’s digital synths. They often sounded like shit in the 80’s because FM or LA synthesis were brand spankin’ new.

  28. I’m not a big synth head, but i see some light with the hardware synths.

    New analog synths like Minibrute are affordable and build for quality.
    Minibrute and some others are really “special” sounding and you don’t need to go vintage.
    And again from Arturia (but they are not alone) you can get an Arturia Origin with a nice concept and build quality too.

    In digital hardware synths, the concept is better than anything else.
    That’s why there are less workstations on stage (dropped for various VST hosts), but you can still see a lot of Nord modulars, even older ones 😉

    For sure, if synth makers make something REALLY new, there are buyers.
    I will buy an iPad (mostly as sketchpad and controller) but i still dream about an hardware synth anyway 😉

    Variety of choices is sometimes seen as negative because the obligated way of making things was easier to accept : there was no choice.Now there is a lot of choices.
    And choice is sometimes difficult and painful.

  29. Music and sound is about feel. Hardware, digital or analogue, can feel better to a musician or sound designer than software. Software is more practical, but it is hard for it to emulate that feel. I have an iPad, love it and use it for many practical things. That being said, it feels different. Even if sounds the same to the listener, the hardware just makes me personally feel better, so I am willing to pay more money for it. Nothing wrong with either way, just some of us need that feeling.

    Computers and touch devices have another feel hardware can’t emulate. iPads and computers mean we now have the option to have more things that, even if they sound the same, give us different feelings and ways to work. Now the sounds become cheaper and more available, so those who can’t afford hardware can get the sounds, and those who value that feeling of hardware and can afford it can have it. All is good.

    It is more than knobs and buttons, it is the feeling of a dedicated object, a tool made for a
    task, not a general purpose device.

  30. Can we please just have ONE day without an iPad mention? Seriously guys, this is getting odd – and I say this as an owner of two iPads.

    1. I discovered this site because of its iPad music app coverage, and I keep coming back to this site because of its iPad music app coverage.

    2. Choosing to ignore a vibrant platform offering innovative softsynths at ridiculously low prices seems to be a bad idea for a synth site. I’m just saying…

  31. Tools, only tools. Nothing more nothing less. If the shinny new hammer does the job for you, great!. If the old time country one is best for what you’re trying to express, great. Tools only tools.



  32. As with many here I agree that the discussion is rather stillborn. Both VSTs and hardware instruments have their own place and serve their purpose. Someone wants to make a full blown blues/rock album and they will use analog hardware instruments. Then someone would want to just sample some notes of the said instruments, and they will use a VTS. Both formats have their own pros and cons and it’s up to the musician to decide for him/herself what their own modus operandi would be.

  33. Dear lord. The level of butthurt here is astonishing. Use whatever creative tools work for you, and don’t hate on tools that work for others!

  34. At first I was not going to jump in and comment, but I thought of an interesting analogy.

    Think of analog/early digital as an early VW bug and software/iApp as a new VW bug.
    The old one will get the job done and you can tweak it and tune it and make it hell on wheels! Super customizable to each individual owner depending on what he/she wants to do with it.
    The new one is more efficient is shiny and new and you don’t dare mess with the internals and even has a place for you to insert your iPod. Tries to copy what the old one did and tries to give you the ‘same’ experience as the old one.

    Basically if you really want to get under the hood and understand what makes something work from inside out, you can’t replace the ‘Experience’ the original can give you. If you want to just play around with sounds and find the ‘Experience’ is not worth the hassle than run your ass to the app store.

    Personally I am STILL learning from the old hardware. Studying the old PCB’s out of early digital synth’s and samplers is a great way to understand how early engineers tried to do as much as they could even with severe technology limitations.
    It boils down to true learning and experience. Either way you go one should lead to the other and back again!

  35. OK, time for me to disappear back into MATRIXSYNTH land. For the record, I love my digital hardware synths and will never give them up. New digital hardware on the other hand is a whole new ballgame.

  36. For one, here’s hoping that the next Logic Pro will have some kind of
    Ipad integration. At the very least, it is a great xy/ribbon controller that is
    very expressive. Also, what may be so attractive to many about the Ipad music apps is the easy scale/key settings. You can play in C#minor without even looking, just going with the sound…

    1. I love when people come to sites like this where one of the main points is debate the merits and demerits of technology as applies to music and tell us to stop debating. Do you think musicians avoided debating the vast improvements of the piano over the harpsichord while bemoaning the fact that a certain harmonic richness was lost in the transition to equal temperament? They debated heartily and vigorously up until… oh wait, musicians still engage in that debate.

      There’s always a similar reply every time I post on GS where someone says, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, bro. No one can tell a difference anyway!” Wait, I though the point of these sites is to sweat the small, subtle, tedious, generally-unnoticeable-to-most-people stuff.

      1. I would have to agree. This kind of ongoing, yet varied dialog is what continues to sharpen my opinions and knowledge base applicable to the gear I use, and the gear I might potentially purchase. It is easy to to tell everyone to stop the silly debate, or go make some more music, or make a sweeping statement like (in the other post) that 99% of the vst’s the user had tried were deemed the worst synth they had ever used. Those comments just reiterate the redundancies in our conversation. If someone thinks this to be trivial and that the solution is to not worry, and to go and make more music, then I strongly encourage anyone who feels so inclined to do so. I’ll see the rest of you back here.

  37. I am an uk music producer, making techno acid and electro under various names.
    In the last year I have had 11 track committed to vinyl, by labels in Germany, America and Belgium.I have was filmed recently for a forthcoming documentary about acid music. I have spent the week arranging for some vinyl re presses of some trax , for a French based label. Working out mastering and artwork etc I have trax scheduled for release in the next months.
    I use only hardware. I would love to know what actual finished tracks are coming of these silly I pads.This site is becoming a joke. Lets hope there will be a return to discussion around synthesizers, not rendered pictures of synthesizers used to get our attention for some wank supposed emulation.
    By the time the sums are done, I could have some great reliable second hardware synth’s for the stupid prices charged by apple. This site should perhaps have a hardware section and software emulation section. A lot of us actual producers use actual machines,hence we look at new gear, there have been many times my attention has been caught by an advert only to find it was something that wasn’t a standalone machine just another load of crap.Moog really did a great job of looking stupid with the animoog. I will get on making more tracks for clubs and headcases who like fucked up synthesizer music. I will continue to use hardware synthesizers . It is embarrassing to see the fetishisation of the I pad, A dx100 must be over twenty years old and they work fantastic,can we really take seriously the i pad people who think they have their finger on the pulse?
    A slave to the rythm is one thing, a slave to cheesy marketing is another.
    No seperate outs?, no touch sensitivity?, no midi ins or outs?, no memory card? no thanks.
    PS It is like the idea a dj with two records can make music,
    one serious serious joke,!!!!
    Does anyone remember Vince Clarkes use of 5 cz101’s in Music Technology?It would be nice to actually hear about the music that influences our I pad friends rather than the fact they could afford one and they where not allowing any douby or criticism of their purchase ( or purchasing power)

    1. Good post, but let me say, Moog didn’t need Animoog to cheapen their legendary name: they already did that with the Voyager and the Little Phatty.

  38. Lest see, after doin some thinking on this topic. Hardware Digital Synth vs. iPad.

    Can the iPad as a whole (loaded with multiple synth apps etc.) be more valubale to a musician than a digital synth hardware keyboard? Maybe yes

    Can the iPad running any 1 synth app of your choice be more valubale than, lets say a (Work Station) like the old Roland Fantom X6 fully loaded with 16 SOLID midi tracks, sampling, sequencing, synth modeling, and upgradable/interchangable sonud library? Or even a Old Triton? I don’t think so.

    Those 2 old digital keyboards I mentioned does what they were made to do well. Mastering either one and connecting either one to your sequencer of choice or even using the internal sequencers have produced many hits, so i guess its about what exacly a “digital synth” is capable of when putting it up against the iPad, because I have yet to see a iPad “synth” app being sequenced with 16 useful midi tracks to any daw.

    Put it like this. Name one app that could put a Fantom X6 Keyboard to shame.

    1. Hey, workstations are Freaking Workstations! They aren’t juts synth..
      But you can sequence 10 or more (I don’t remember) iPad synths with genome, also beatmaker 2 also can have smth with other apps etc etc – iOS music creation world has improved MUCH since 2009…

  39. I collect digital synths because I like the 90s sound. I don’t collect analog. Maybe I am just odd. I have not purchased an ipad because I spend on those old digital synhts.

  40. to define a digital synth is to look at its sound generating circuitry, what ever happens before and after(analog filters) doesn’t make a digital synth a hybrid or analog, that would be the case if you have seperate digital and analog oscillators that one combines into one signal or mixed signal(like the Spectralis 2 from Radikal Technologies). So a “digital” synth uses, by definition digital oscillators to create a signal….

    you can’t compare the ipad to “digital” synths, even though the sound generating parts may be done by discrete circuitry, that circuitry will always differ from one synth to another, sometimes even between batches of the same synth. in older digital synths before the oscillators and after the oscillators one will find a lot analog circuitry with “long” physical signal paths; try emulate wear and tear and fluctuating resistance (thus temperature fluctuations) and smoke residue on an ipad. you can emulate digital circuitry, but you cannot do a “perfect” emulation. so that is where the comparison will always fall short. every digital apparatus and carried signal will have to eventually be converted into sound, an d/a to be exact. an ipad has one type of d/a, digital synths usually have different converters between models and sometimes, as said between batches.And i haven’t even touched the physical differences….that DOES lead to different creative outlets (for better or worse).
    circuitry wise the ipad will by definition be a one trick pony, you can use different theoretical setups for different sound generating schemes (PD, FM, etc etc etc.) but the hardware will always be the same. That is fine, perfect and more than acceptible, i love my wife’s ipad for music making stuff. I am just trying to point out that the discussion is futile since you are comparing apples to pears….

  41. Ipads vs synths is like the synths vs plugins debate. I have a Nord Lead 2, which, sure it’s a keyboard with a little computer in it running software, but it’s not a VST. There is value and usability in burning software into a dedicated piece of hardware. In my case, it’s that the hardware is a non-moving target, so I can quickly program a patch on my nord without even looking at the knobs.

    I think part of the reason folk are choosing plugins and ipads over dedicated hardware is that instrument makers are misfiring in their product design. Many new keyboards have very little personality as instruments in and of themselves. In competing with software, many modern synths have become too generic or gimicky. Few stand as solid instruments, with their own unique personalities. Those that do will continue to sell (if not in the numbers we saw when _everything_ was burned into hardware.)

    There will always be a market for solid hardware synths though. The combination of dedicated hardware and usable sounds in a stable firmware package is just too useful. Hey, they still sell digital pianos – perhaps the most basic iteration of such a product. We make music with our hands and our ears. The ipad is predominantly aimed at the eyes. A useful tool for music making, but not in itself an instrument.

  42. I think there still is room for outstanding hardware digital synths, which have great design and added value such as kronos, virus and some others. But quite soon it may change.

  43. What makes the iPad better than a computer, to have the privilege of being the first device which made the digital synth keyboards obsolete? The interface? That’s only half of the story. The other half is in that software engine and A/D converters. AFAIK, iPad hasn’t got professional quality converters nor ultra powerful software like U-he Diva or NI Massive, etc…

    Also, try to play with your ipad after 10 years…you won’t even be able to turn it on by then.
    Simply put, tablets are not there yet. The lack of a proper power source option (except battery), their weak CPU power and their consumer level converters makes them “luxury disposable devices for the masses”….not professional musical instruments.

    Users might be less excited about digital keyboards nowadays because of computer programs and cheap professional audio interfaces…not because of tablets.

  44. Alex, have you seen the Tascam iU2? This gives the iPad a mains power option while using MIDI, quality DA converters and a digital out (so you can either upgrade the DAC or bypass it completely and record direct from digital).

  45. All a tablet is is a non upgradable, throw a way portable computer, with a touch interface. As are midi keyboards and controllers of the past. I see Tablets and Smart phones as been a fancy midi interface / controller all be it with out after touch and expression . If VST Producers start to write apps for them to intelligently and interactively control there big synth / fx / software then we will have the correct balance . I see running a synth on a table as a good doodle tool for ideas and for composition / improvisation but not for recording or stage shows.

  46. Anyone who disagrees with the Apple iPad becoming a major professional music making tool for studio and stage is either:

    A: Pissed off because they spent thousands of dollars on hardware synths

    B: Don’t know how to work a synth app.

    The iPad is more powerful than anything the Beatles have ever recorded on in the 60’s.

  47. Even with using an IOdock – the ipad output still sounds compressed – testing the Sunrizer app back to back with a JP8K – the JP walks all over it – & that is before the pleasure of using the Roland’s controls is factored in. The iPad is a wonderfully control surface for midi & a great sonic notepad but to promote it as replacing hardware with the current physical state of the hardware is more than a bit naive. There is also something horribly reductive in the app for everything situation – clever though it is. Having said that – we lost vinyl to CD – CD to Mp3 etc & fidelity in the bargain so if the market is seen to dictate change – so be it.. It will be a sad day if h/w synths become a boutique only option.
    One of the issues with synth development is where to take the sound next as it seems there is now nothing new under the sun, just new ways of presenting it. Witness the complexity of the Kronos concealing the fact that nothing actually innovative is being brought to us in the sound generation itself. Even the leftfield OP-1 is not sonically cutting edge in this respect. I do wonder if we have reached the end of the road & are just walking up & down it in different boots now.

  48. I was laughing a lot on the comments. I’m just telling my story. I’ve found Nanostudio (for ipad, iphone, mac/win) recently, and I was shocked & amazed how incredible intuitive and detailed the interface, the synths, the drum machines. it’s about $4.99 and I felt more creative and expressive than with ANY software before (and I’ve tried everything from early trackers on 8bit computers to professional DAWs in the last 15 years).

    Nanostudio (for IOS) turned on the inside composer / music maker of me so much I totally dig into the subject. I couldn’t imagine a tool like this until now.

    I’m very sorry about the people who are unable to see the potential an IPAD as synths, controllers or a combination of both. The true potential of this device is still just unfolding.

  49. I made this little song IN THE LAUNDRY from stratch last week.
    I’ve used only my Ipad / Nanostudio.
    It never happened with me before, like I feel I composing music in the laundry while I’m waiting, I’m downmixing it to wav, & uploading to soundcloud right there as the dryer finishing.


    it can digitally write to the SSD ANYTHING you want. The quality will depends only on the algorithms used by the software and NOT limited by the hardware.

  50. Are mobile devices the future of music making? No.

    iPad and other similar IOS devices have 20ms output latency minimum. The situation on Android is similar (some old devices had a minimum of 100ms!). You simply can’t play those things tight in real time, sorry. Your notes come out late, which destroys your timing. Compare with 2ms latency on a properly setup PC with Asio or Wasapi drivers, and potentially even lower latency on IRL hardware synths.

    Not to mention the inadequacies of touch input. Yes, touch input is intuitive and nice. But it’s not particularly precise (compared to a mouse) and has significant latency (probably 50ms or so – they have to filter out the signal, wait to see if it’s a touch or a multi touch, etc). Plus, it lacks the tactile feedback of knobs and keyboards. Even moving a virtual knob or slider on a PC using a mouse ends up being faster in the long run (because of the lower latency and higher precision).

    So yeah, the PC wins easily in live settings (due to latency) and in sequenced settings (due to much faster input and multi-screen).

    Oh, and on IOS, Apple specifically prohibits apps from installing code plug-ins. This rules out anything like VST synths and effects, and castrates any potential professional application – if you have a nice sounding synth app, and a nice sounding drum app, you will never be able to have them play together. Let alone combining your favorite sequencer with your favorite synths with your favorite sampler with your favorite effects.

    So yeah, mobile devices make awesome musical toys – where you’ll do something nice sounding and all. But as a _professional_ tool, they incredibly far behind the PC. Play around with an iPad synth for hours, I’m sure the synth sounds good and you’ll have fun, but once you have to score something like a video game, you’ll want to kill yourself if you try to use a device like that instead of the “boring” (but extremely productive) PC.

    1. the ipad has 3ms system latency not 20ms
      i use it with elektrons machinedrum and latency is not audible

      even when playing nlog cassini ims20 and addictive synth in parallel via virtual bg midi and background audio, on an ipad2 btw

      i see no problem of using the ipad as a musical instrument

    2. What IPad latency have u ever used one? There is no latency u can sense and no it wont fuckup ur timing.
      If u use Animoog or Wavegenerator etc u can get pretty dynamic expression with aftertouch by just playing keys on ipad. But overall sound of ipad can not touch sound of nord virus moog….Ipad can never sound as huge and massive as dedicated hardware

      1. “Oh, and on IOS, Apple specifically prohibits apps from installing code plug-ins. This rules out anything like VST synths and effects, and castrates any potential professional application – if you have a nice sounding synth app, and a nice sounding drum app, you will never be able to have them play together.”

        Soo… have you not heard of Inter-App Audio or Audiobus? Cause I can make a whole bunch of synth and drum apps play together… and run them through effects,,, in *realtime*… and record it into a sequencer… which has even more efx… all while using a midi sequencer on the ipad to control a hardware synth… and record it back into the iPad… just sayin.

        Also, WRT others’ comments about sub-par converters: this can be avoided with third-party hardware. And while it’s anecdotal, I don’t know of any studios that use the stock soundcard that came with their “far superior” desktops.

        The iPad doesn’t yet have enough fuel to truly go the distance in terms of processing power. But things will change.

        It may always be a disposable piece of technology, but it will also be about 1/2 the cost (or less) of a well-tuned desktop audio machine.

  51. When PC’s and Apple IIs first were used for synthesis, we heard the same naysaying about their ability to produce state-of-the-art results. Maybe not now, but apps for tablet computers will catch up with the rest of the industry. Remember, this is in its infancy. The things you are comparing it to are not.

  52. Musicians will use whatever instruments interest them to make music. Other musicians will tie up network and biological bandwidth debating which of those available instruments other musicians should use to make music, when they could be making interesting music.

  53. Naturally the iPAD will not take over the place that synth’s, organs, pianos and keyboards earned themselfs over the past 15 or 25 years (or longer). Its polyphony makes you use multiple numbers of iPAD to get the same effect, however that will evolve also. If I play my iPAD2 with Alchemy and I listen to it well, then I know that in some years time the iPAD and equivalents will earn their place next to Roland, Korg and other synth manufacturers. The question is will Apple stay amongst us for such a long time or will their well dry out and wil they loose their battle with Android, now that’s more likely……

  54. The iPad is already being used as an instrument to make professional music. So, it’s not a “toy”.

    It also has introduced to the masses new ways of manipulating sound – Animoog is a case in point.

    Does it replace an analog synth? No way.

    Does it replace a digital synth? Sometimes – but the keyboard is so small that you need an external MIDI keyboard to be expressive across a wide range of octaves, and specifically when compared with playing two handed polyphonically.

    Does it replace a drum pad? Or a controller? Again – sometimes.

    Talking of expressive – if you are used to a “real” analog (i.e. guts and wire and wood and metal) intstrument’s expressiveness – then nothing compares with that on an iPad. The best digital synths with nice weighted keyboards and a full set of octaves get a long way there: I use them and like them. But just like digital instruments haven’t replaced traditional instruments, so the iPad won’t replace digital keyboards.

    Nevertheless, the iPad has given me new ideas as a musician and the multitouch interfaces of a number of iPad synths have allowed me to be more expressive than I could have been with the equivalent VST and a mouse.

    Android is not a runner. Maybe it will be soon, but it’s nowhere yet because of latency.

    So, I like the iPad as a usable instrument, but as a replacement for a digital keyboard? No – no way.

    I am not an Apple “fan”. I use Linux, Windows and MacOS – all for music production and a whole host of other reasons, but I do think the iPad has done some very good things for musicians.


  55. This is like arguing about which music is better: classical or noise? It is kind of pointless. We can all agree that we like making electronic music. Don’t discount the technology of the past because that is what got us to this point. At the same time don’t be ignorant of new technology and new methods. Investigate new and old without prejudice. the vast option of platforms and options out there speaks to the diversity of workflow preferences we all have.

  56. Ultimately, these are tools we are talking about. The musician should determine what we do with the tools, not the other way around. With the right kind of creative thinking we should be aiming to make anything that’s available to us as a tool useful… Whether its a “toy” or a vintage piece of hardware. Why limit yourself to traditional technologies? Bob Moog didn’t. Delia Derbyshire didn’t. Let’s not fall into the trap of rock musicians who will only play out of an original silver face fender amp.

  57. C’mon. The answer is ‘obviously’. 🙂

    I still reckon there will always be some space for innovative or really well designed/thought out hardware digital synths. I can not imagine buying one though.

    The iPad is what that rackmount ‘VST player’ thing from years past always hoped to be. But! WITHOUT RUNNING WINDOWS. 🙂 And really, that’s a huge part iOS’ success. An immensely simplified OS.

  58. Good for the kid who wants to be a music composer when he grows up, or , for the adult who wants to start doing music. That is my view on the ipad. I grew up with an instrument in my hand, and worked my way into composing digitaly. I can’t see anyone doing anything else other then mixing live(thats where you beat match into your next track for people who are new to this all). I saw the video where a guy is playing a bunch of riffs on que with eacother….but thats kind of it. I’m that musician that haves to have the musician setup but if you’re into DJ’ng this is a great way to start off. if you’re looking into producing electronic music then the ipad isn’t good to start with(id suggest synapse orion platnum or fruity loops for beginners). Someone who’s done music for a loooong time would get a kick out of this, but wouldn’t take it seriously, which is why you don’t see tiesto, skrillix, bt, or any other big name wipping out there ipad on stage.

  59. and also…if you really took the time to make the ipad great enough to become a producing tool, you’d soon discover even more possibilities with music tools other then the ipad like the access Virus TI keyboard and the vci 100 ean golden eddition. I’m just saying, if you really fight that hard to make an ipad that great, you should see how much greater you are on something that was engineered for music.

  60. There are some people who are quite obviously disappointed that there is no improvement
    on the action or the piano sounds, but to make advancements on these would require a significant hike up in the price.
    You also need to check digital piano reviews for weighted action and touch sensitivity.
    It suits practically any interior decor, and occupies
    much less space than most coffee tables.

  61. Some great sensible comments and some very ignorant ones too! Those who doubt would be surprised what is possible if they actually knew…

    What has been missed here is that this isn’t a replacement, it’s a completely NEW kind of instrument; we have had skin stretched over wood, wires brought to high tensions plucked and struck, wind instruments, other percussive instruments, ebony and ivory (and synthetic counterparts), electronic sound generators, software synths, electronic drum pads, etc… Etc…

    But never before have we had an instrument that combines software with a glass multitouch infintely variable surface; it’s completely new, it’s totally different, and the possibilities are huge!

    Musicians will find ways to make sound however that may be and I for one find the iPad to be an extremely versatile, very playable, great sounding musical instrument that allows me to compose anywhere, anytime…

    As for the notion that you can’t have more than one thing running at once, that’s absolute horseshit, I regularly knock up a quick jam with a drum machine with a pad synth, a bass and a lead, all running perfectly in time with each other, even without syncing them via midi, oh and it’s pretty darn easy to sample any of these in real time and get them looping, allowing for layering and switching between parts too.

    Of course it’s quite easy to make it sound like crap, out of time and flat too… and when I first started using it I did this quite a lot, but as with any new musical instrument, they can take years to master. If you haven’t mastered it yet, it doesn’t mean it’s not professional or a real musical instrument or any of the other ridiculous things people say, it just means you are currently unable to use it effectively.

  62. The White Elephant in the room here is the question of , Are Musicians intended to be Programers?? Does one in his or her craft of musical expression need to step outside their box and develop other skills like quantizing sound bytes on an amoled screen?? Or delving into coded binary language to create subtle digital instrument expressions for a particular voice or patch? I do understand the world of virtual instruments and the overwhelming marketing going into them..I also understand that some Musicians do like the fast reeling world of VST’s..These VST’s will now and forever be here with us and in our art of creating music..As far as VST’s, Ipad’s, Soft Synth’s. making Digital synthesizers obsolete , I disagree with the notion..In the end it is all about the Music, and those who have an absolute passion for nothing more then the music and the only satisfaction to that end is the absolute focus on the music, not on the virtual peripherals available..If one is going to concern themselves with other parameters of making music, then they are diluting themselves….We Pianists and keyboardists are not programers, we are players, we are Artists..All we need is all our timbers in one tangible apparatus and time to concentrate our efforts on that object to become are best at our art..

  63. So it is now 2017 and the iPad has taken the world !!
    There is not more synthetizers either instruments
    and computers are obsolete !! ?
    Now there are bands and Orchestras of people playing with
    Their iPads and all of them pay royalties to Apple who
    Became a new church…
    Ha ha ha
    All I want to say now is that no tech will replace talent and dedication.
    And there are good apps but they are just that : applications
    And the world is very wide for everybody !

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