Open Mic: What Are The Best Software Synths For iOS?

tc-11-fullscreen-0Music software on iOS has evolved rapidly, from being scorned by many Synthtopia readers (remember all the Apptopia comments?) to becoming a major platform for electronic musicians.

While iPad music software doesn’t replace desktop DAWs and plugins for most users, it does offer a useful combination of mobility, multi-touch control and power.

Because of this, it seems like some of the most innovative new software synths are now being released for iOS and the iPad.

If you’re and iOS user, let us know what you think. What are the best software synths for iOS?


130 thoughts on “Open Mic: What Are The Best Software Synths For iOS?

  1. Here are my top 5 synths:

    1. TC-11
    2. bs-16i
    3. Konkreet Performer
    4. iDensity / iPulsaret
    5. Audulus

    Cheers!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5
      • Just saying I would rather user a computer then a phone or ipad. I tend to get more work done. Maybe you have a stake in selling apps .. your name wouldnt be Rudess would it

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 37
        • Hey designworxs, challenge on. Give us a link to your best produced PC track, I really believe you will be hard pressed to beat an iOS creation. I triple dog dare you to show us up. It’s easy to talk crap when you have nothing to back yourself up with.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3
  2. my too favoruite synths are Animoog (obviously) and then Impaktor, a drum synth at its core but its engine and percussion models sound fantastic and have a wealth of parameters to tweak.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  3. Please, please don’t forget SynthTronica! Formant synthesis that will make sounds even Animoog couldn’t dream of… and it’s visually beautiful. I wouldn’t trade this one for an expensive analog modular.

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  4. The IOS synths I use over and over are:
    Animoog
    Sunrizer
    NLog PRO
    Magellan
    And Grain Scienc is pretty fun too.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0
  5. i found most synths I’ve tried to be a bit disappointing… Magellan is nice but sounds a bit thin, Animoog sounds quite fat (thanks to the nice detune) but I find the animation part (whih is what makes is stand apart) a bit too playful and not really that interesting, I mean there’s a lot more potential in there than what they have used. The Korg iMS20 is also nice but a bit too messy to program… I don’t think pots should be translated so literally on touch tablets (though of course it totally makes sense for the ims20 since it wants to be a simulation of the original)

    Most other synths I’ve tried so far are either some standard VA variation or a bit too simple for my taste…

    What I really like is Samplr! Not a synth but still an amazing sample twisting instrument wich totally makes sense on a touch-based computer. Also very nice is Audulus, though it needs something like the presentation mode in Max… But they keep adding and tweaking stuff and I’m sure this will turn into one killer app soon.

    there’s many synths I have not tried yet, so I guess there might be some cool synths out there, but I’m a bit tired to spend money just to check if an app is cool or not…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 13
    • Hey Papernoise,

      Good point about having a presentation mode. Right now, Audulus has a lock mode which locks the position of the nodes so you don’t accidentally move them around (the little padlock button, lower left). Coming soon, you’ll be able to “expose” knobs (and other controls) from sub-patches so they appear on the patch node itself. Combine those two together and I think you’ll get a pretty flexible presentation mode. As always, it would be cool to know your thoughts on this :-)

      cheers
      – Taylor (Audulus developer)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
      • Hi Taylor! I might have to dig in deeper in Audulus… I’ll totally try those things out, thanks for the tip! BTW. subpatches was a great addition to Audulus especially if patches become more complex and I guess if you add that “expose controls” mode it could indeed be quite close to an actual “presentation mode”. My comment originates from the fact that Audulus makes a great and really flexible effects processor in combination with Audiobus or Jack, and this means it could also be really useful for live processing of incoming audio, a looper (like Loopy) or a softsynth. But for this to be really usable you need to have a quick access to the parameters, that’s why I mentioned Max’s presentation mode.

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    • if you like samplr, you might like tc-11, as it has a very gestural interface (no keys at all, just a playing surface).

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  6. Btw I have a question to all of you synthtopia readers: what is your “practical” application for iOS based synths? All I ever do with them is sit on the sofa and play around with it… But I never really do any tracks with it because I find it too messy…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3
    • Ipad sits in my synthstation 49. Audio is fed into my mixing console and the signal sent to my usb audio interface into whichever DAW is running at the time.
      Just more options to choose from.

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        • Works just fine. I also use the 12 to 30 pin adaptor on it to run the lightning ipad. Faster processor = smoother response.
          :-)

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
    • Outputting to a computer as Johnno does is probably the best thing to seriously accomplish a track.

      I do have a keyboard and iodock, but most of the time I use my ipad/iphone on the sofa with headphones… I’m not a good, serious, musician with a great attention span!

      I’m MESSY : need organization, centralization, quantization, piano roll!!

      To get something done that may get close to a song, here’s what I generally do:

      1. Punch a simple drum loop in BearMaker2 (in distinct layers/tracks so I can toggle them on/off)

      2. Sequence a bass line also in BM2, but I might use an external app for generating the sound.

      3. Do some chord progressions on the looped #1#2.

      4. mix n’ match on the timeline stuff from #1 #2 #3

      5. Add/remove: stuff drum fills, effects, filter sweep, variations, ect..

      6: improvise the lead, a lot of time in animoog or nlog with the previous things playing in BG.

      7. If it’s mostly good, record the lead in BM2 as both a sequence with virtual midi and an audio track with audiobus.

      8. Save the project, revisit later.

      It’s the way I found for structuring, making the best out of my poor musical skills and MULTIPLE great synths apps.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
    • For the past 9 months I have been doing all my music making only on my iPad using IOS DAWs, Synths, and Beat Makers. and only recently got a hardware synth. So for me, very practical, portable and great tools for creativity.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
    • and btw. nothing wrong with sitting on the sofa playing around with an iPad without producing and so called proper music! :)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
    • my workflow at the moment is to compose a track in nanostudio, using eden synth to approximate the sounds I’ll finally use. Then I export the midi file to cubasis and record each part using whatever synth and audiobus. I find nanostudio’s editor to be the best on ipad, and cubasis very nice for recording and editing samples (it’s midi editor is clunky unfortunately).

      my go-to synths are: magellan, sunrizer, wavegenerator and iPolySix

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
    • i make a beat with dm-1 bounce that put it in a clean amp model in garage band
      then i recreate that beat in the internal drums of for example ipolysix, and make a bassline, bounce only the synth to garage band too etc

      then i bounce that, load it into turnado use audiobus to bounce it back to garage band

      then i use this beat to build a beat on top of that in dm1, bounce that again put it in an empty clean amp model

      then i start to build the “real” bassline, but often my way to work or lunchbreak is too short to go further :)

      also my gf and i totally stopped watching tv since we both have an ipad, we make beats and record stuff all the time, shes an audio engineer so we both test a lot of things with our machinedrum and analog four. connect both ipads via midi, we hav three midimates and usb hubs and controllers, and the hosts of everything, midi and audio wise are allways our ipads.

      if i wanna test stuff or play around with music for fun, then i for sure wont use a computer ever again.

      i know a lot of people dont like the ipad, and thats a thing that i cant understand, imagine when you where a child and someone would tell you of an ipad and what you can do with it, and now we live in the future, its here, and people seriously have no use for a device like that and call it a toy? i mean how uncreative is THAT ? :)

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  7. How times have changed… It wasn’t that long ago that there were gripes about limited MIDI support on iOS. Now, hundreds of apps support MIDI, Audiobus is all over the place, and there’s a list of great sounding synths that’s as long as your arm. The iPad may have a “toy” price, but it’s not a toy. We’ve come a long way, baby.

    My personal favorites are Animoog, Magellan, and I’ll always have a place in my heart of bs-16i (not truly a synth, but I love the SoundFont sound; ThumbJam sounds great to me too).

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1
  8. +1 ThumbJam
    +1 everything korg!!

    Animoog is awesome:
    Keys with polypressure is very expressive and usable.
    I have some difficulty grasping the whole timbre matrix, but the preset are really good starting points.Using aftertouch midi controllers for modulation is great (channel-pressure in animoog)

    iMini: sounds really really good, but… From the bottom of my heart: FU Retronym for no background audio nor audiocopy, nor audiobus! Tabletop IAP-model feels like greedy crippleware (it’s still cheap) and is way too skeumorphic. This make it nearly impossible to integrate in my pipeline: I hope they update it (iMini, dont give a shit about tabletop)

    nLog: really cool, classic sounds, tons of parameters, runs well in background.
    Midi implementation is ok but not perfect : program changes >001 MSB crashes it, LFOs are not synched with the tempos but represents as second, arpeggiator does not output individual midi notes… Still: Love it and use it a lot!

    Audulus: DIY super-science: flabbergasting! The involvement required makes it an intellectual curiosity for me, and a really strong argument that iOS music is more than a toy.

    Magellan: Great, the key velocity using the gyros is amazing: it works!!!
    Midi: except aftertouch, everything is there: the arpeggiator, velocity, program-changes, synch, everything goes in/out. With the gyro/velocity and various scales: the best soft keyboard I tried. More resources intensive than nlog and probably animoog… But there’s two synths running at once in there!

    Nanostudio: synth sounds great, but it’s a shame it doesn’t play well with other apps: midi is way too basic, no BG audio… This leads me to:

    Beatmaker2: synth sampler mostly bleh, not a synth!! But, the midi implementation of BM2 is the most usable I know: It’s the hub of my iOS jamming! Unlike Cubasis, it supports midi clock/transport: jammed a lot with a friend on an electribe SX, everything IS synched in midi! Mpc-style beatbox with lots of good premade kits, Audiobus support, dropbox, wist, universal, no IAP!!

    It’s not a synth, but it augments so much my experience by sequencing/synching/automatingCC/recording and taking care of drum parts!! This app deserves way more hype!

    GarageBand: it is really good, simple, pretty, nice strings and stuff… I just wish better midi.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0
  9. I’ve downloaded about a dozen and find that the ones I actually use are Animoog and iPolysix. Oh and I also like the Mellotron M3000 – boy does sound big through a PA!

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  10. Top 5:

    1. Animoog (all synths should have a randomize function, btw)
    2. Samplr
    3. iMS-20
    4. Jasuto Pro (please start developing this one again!)
    5. Borderlands (that granular app)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  11. Cassini!!!! WhyTF it has not been mentioned?

    In addition to Cassini:
    -Animoog
    -Sunrizer
    -Addictive
    -Impactor
    -Nlog(would be, I guess, if the iPhone version shared the features with the iPad version. I tried the iPad version briefly, and I want it badly, but don’t yet have iPad and the iPhone version is too far off of the pro version)

    Almost there:
    -Alchemy
    I love its sounds, but would like to see its engine opened a bit more and user samples allowed. Now there’s not enough to tweak.
    -Nanostudio
    My previous favorite is becoming old. And audio tracks wouldn’t save it anymore either, as everyone has some kind of tracker at the end of their Audiobusses. Eden needs new features…and/or new engine besides it. Or preferably completely new app altogether.
    -Figure
    Fun to mess around, but synth is too confined.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4
  12. * BassLine – Easy and fun to use.
    * Synthmate – Simple sound, easy to program, fun to play and love the colors.
    * TC-11 – Much more complex. But, I can spend a long time with one patch.
    * BitWiz – Fun to mess with. Often surprising results.
    * DXi – Easiest FM I’ve programmed.

    Honorable mentions:
    * Audulus – I just got this, but I’m liking it so far.
    * Samplr – Not really a synth, just a great app. E-bow mode is gold.
    * MoDrum – I do most of my drums in this app.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  13. My iPad4 goes in the ioDock ( actually above with the 30pin 2 lightning connector ), audio goes to a MOTU Ultralite mk3 and sounds just fantastic !!
    Most used apps in gigs and jam sessions:

    1. Animoog – because it’s so fat
    2. Wavegenerator – so powerfull
    3. Impaktor – lot fun for percussions
    4. iMini – great leads of course ( sounds better than the vsti version )
    5. Sunrizer – for the Rolandish style of sound
    6. Manetron 2 – can’t do without when we play Berlinerschool sequencing
    7. SynthX – great and fun for good leads ( i’m hoping they soon will bring a ARP for ios out – a Odysey would be fantastic )
    8. Alchemy – perfect sounds
    drums:
    DM1 – iMaschine – Funkbox – Figure – iMPC
    effects:
    Filtratron – csGrain – LiveFX and Echopad

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  14. 1.) Animoog – I actually don’t think it sounds like it’s the best of the bunch, but it’s damn fun to play. It’s just very well-suited for a touchscreen interface.

    2.) Cassini – The interface is clunkier than it needs to be, but the synth sounds really good; at least to my ears. It also allows for incredibly in-depth sound designing. If the interface were not divided across so many pages (a necessity in many ways due to all of the controls at your disposal) then it would be my favorite iOS synth by a long shot.

    3.) iMS-20 – It just sounds good. It also has a wealth of features. From a sequencer to a drum machine, there is more here than just a quality synth. I don’t mess with any of that mess though. I just play synth. It’s only a monosynth… It’s a great app, but it’s only a monosynth. Arturia’s iMini at least lets you put their minimoog emulation in to a polyphonic mode. Such a feature would have been greatly appreciated.

    Honorable Mentions

    Magellen – Honestly, I just hate the interface (it’s just not for me). It’s a great synth, but it’s also never produced a sound that I HAD to use.

    NLog – Read about Magellen

    Sunrizer – Read about Magellen

    iMini – Sounds good, but it’s not the droid you are looking for.

    Audulus – Performance issues are the only reason I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best. The interface is serviceable, though annoying at times as well. However, I do love having a virtual modular synthesizer though.

    Wave Generator & Wave Mapper – Both of these synths produce top quality sounds, but I just don’t get excited about wavetable sound creation. Wave Generator, in particular, is unnecessarily clunky in its approach to UI. Both of these synths are great at producing interesting, rich sounds though.

    iPolysix – I’ve never used a real Polysix, but, man, it just seems like a boring synth. Great app though.

    Super Secret Honorable Mention

    WerkBench – It’s not a synth, rather a sample sequencer, but it’s so fun to use that I feel like I’d be doing any reader a disservice by not mentioning it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2
    • Hey Artifact,

      Thanks for the honorable mention :-) With each release I’m trying to squeeze more performance out of Audulus. I’ve got some ideas I’m working on which will make the polyphonic processing run much faster.

      For the UI, please let me know what could be improved (you can contact me via the support page on audulus.com). I’m always trying to make Audulus as intuitive as I can :-)

      cheers
      – Taylor (Audulus developer)

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  15. Top 5

    1. Animoog
    2. Samplr
    3. iPolysix
    4. Epic Synth
    5. iMini

    Just find I reach for these sounds most of all when tracking and the user interfaces I find clean and understandable making for an enjoyable workflow!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  16. Synths I use the most:

    Animoog
    iMini
    Impaktor

    and (not synths)
    Beatmaker2, DM1 and Figure

    WaveMapper is really cool but I have yet to use anything I’ve made with it.

    At the end of the day, the only way I can get anything done is to stop fiddling with all those and stick with Garageband until I get a song pretty worked out. Only then do I go back and add sounds as needed, then export to Logic. And (donning asbestos suit) I actually like a lot of the synth sounds in Garageband, they’re in many cases close to the sounds i used to get on a Matrix-6…
    But I’m more of a songwriter than a synthesist.

    I *really* wish someone would come out with an effects rack for audiobus that is more like what you’d find in a recording studio and less like a bunch of guitar pedals and amps.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  17. Ranked according to how often I use them to make actual music:

    1. Alchemy (coupled with the PC version it’s just killer)
    2. Sunrizer
    3. Animoog
    4. Addictive
    5. Wavegenerator

    I also reach for the Novation Launchkey a lot. It IS kind of a toy but it’s an amazing toy!!!

    I also have Sampletank but I’m sooo disappointed with it. I have used it a lot, but can’t include it in a list of favorites.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  18. I have bought/downloaded 54 apps of the music iOS music genre and I have to be honest all of them have their own good and bad points but one of the over-riding issues I have is that nothing I have tried actually keeps good time over good old midi. Not wifi not bluetooth I just want them to keep time over midi.

    They drop beats or they are just not suited for a live setup, which is what I want to use them for.

    Standalone – great.
    Audiobus – couldn’t give a damn about.

    iElectribe is the only thing that works for me
    Animoog sounds great and I do twiddle with it when playing live

    Apart from that iPad has been a HUGE waste of money for my live setup. Even the ioDock I bought doesn’t coup with SYSex.

    All in all the biggest waste off money ever. I would have been better off buying one piece of hardware that actually worked and I could trust during a live show….

    ……..sit back and watch the down-votes roll in *sigh*

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 12
    • Guys, why can’t you get over the fact that just because something has an Apple logo on it doesn’t mean it is the answer to everything.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2
      • Most of my iOS music software doesn’t come from Apple, but I do like GarageBand (as well as Apple’s Logic and MainStage on the Mac.)

        But GarageBand does have several annoying limitations vs. several other iOS apps (not to mention Logic), such as not being able to accept input on multiple MIDI channels, and no MIDI output.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  19. I am hooked on Audulus. And it just keeps getting better. I have all the major ios synth apps and Audulus inspires and entertains me more than any other.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  20. Thank you Audiobus for the killer app.
    Animoog – thanks for continuing to develop the app and fixing bugs. The sequencer is hard to use. We don’t need it. I’d rather have an arpeggiator/step sequencer performance mode view.
    (Hope they spend their time on other features or apps like Moog analog effects.)
    iMini – adding the filter-pads is a nice touch and makes the app. Great sound library – but not so easy to surf.
    Mixed together they sound great.

    DM1 and iElectribe – fun, but wish editing sounds and creating kits was easier.

    For the money, Novation Launchpad gets the nod for fun.
    I got Overdub but can’t figure it out and that was kind of a waste.

    Try iConnectivity if you are having midi latency issues. And most of the time, you can ‘fix’ latency issues with timing adjustments. I’m using an iPad 2 BTW.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  21. i was thinking about this thread and it made me realize that there’s one thing i wish many of the synth developers would do: make it so you could e-mail patches to someone else who has the same ios synth. there are a few that don’t have this capability (addictive, animoog, for instance), and it seems kind of annoying.

    maybe some devs will be reading this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  22. I take some of my words back about the Nano Studio.

    Now to think of it, the Eden is still the most powerful synth in iOS if you consider its multitimbrality. Many synths stop after 2 or three instances, but NanoStudio handles 16 and still has muscles to carry two effects for every part + robust global effects section!!!

    And it sounds good too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  23. Let’s all take a step back here and remember that Eno and David Byrne made “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” with pretty much a portable tape deck, some cardboard boxes and kitchen spoons to hit them with. We have what we need…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  24. 1) Jasuto Pro Modular Synthesizer – great for live perfomances, had granular things and sample hell years before of Borderlands and others
    2) Audulus – another modular beast, though imho more “studio work” and less “chaotic”
    3) Animoog – very beautiful)
    4) PPG Wavegenerator, Synthtronica (FORMANT!), DXi – great different synths
    5) TC-11 – what an awesome thing! TRUE touchscreen synth
    6) BeBot, good old BeBot) Still love it (though MorphWiz and GeoSynth nice too)
    7) Borderlans, Curtis, GrainScience – fun fun fun

    Honourable mentions:
    Cassini, Maggelan, Addictive Synth, Sunrizer, TweakyBeat (great drum synth yet simple)a

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  25. No interest in generative music apps, anyone? I could play around with the likes of SpaceWiz, Scape and Aura 2 Flux all day… sometimes all at once!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  26. TNR-i.
    Tenori is a great virtual version of a unique music concept. My favorite music app.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  27. ok, first, no offense but I cant get into synths like MC-11… I just prefer being able to play synth using an onboard or midi keyboard. Also I cant speak for synths I have yet to purchase, but from my arsenal at the moment , the ones I like best are
    1.Imini
    2.Sunrizer (especially the supersaws patch)
    3.Ims20
    4.Magellan
    5.NLog pro
    6.DXi

    I also like some of the synths and keys built into some of the DAWS I use, such as
    1.Nanostudio
    2.Garageband
    3.Beatmaker 2 ( not blown away by the sounds that come with the sampler, but the sampler itself is very cool if you want to import your own sounds and includes multi layering, and having different sounds in different key-zones.
    4.Musicstudio 2 (not the fattest sounding synth, a little GM sounding sometimes, but with everyone else seeming to make analog type synths, it gives me some nice alternative, and it does have a few analog patches)

    I also like the Impc a lot, not a synth, but but very cool, especially that fact that you can paste audio from Nanostio and other apps.
    I cant waqit for Impc to add audiobus. If it werent for it being an MPC app, I wouldnt have brought it. At this point if a synth doesnt have audiobus I probably wont buy it.
    And also, another nice app to check out is Neo Soul Keys!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  28. I know this thread is ‘older’, but after reading all the comments, I just need to chime in. I HAVE most of the obvious ‘top 10′, but some just don’t grab me. I TRY to like Magellan, NLog and Sunrizer, but haven’t actually produced anything with them. iMS20 was so exciting to GET, but it’s just too difficult to program(w/o my glasses).
    I am surprised so few have listed Alchemy. Alchemy and Animoog are used most, by far.
    There are some newer synths, like Modular that are great for ‘retro'(which is when I fell in love with synthesizers) but lots of LABOR. Looking at Thor, PPG and Nave, so still haven’t found The One… Okay- top 5:
    1- Alchemy
    2- Animoog
    3- iMini
    4- Cassini
    5- Addictive Synth
    (Modular Synth is a new toy, so could easily take a spot)
    I also use iMaschine and Yamaha Synth Arp for rhythm and such.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
    • as an addendum, fallen away from the limitations of Alchemy! Magellan turns out to be great and The WaveMapper, Virtual ANS and new Cube Synth are getting a LOT of play.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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