iVCS3 Recreates The EMS VCS3 Synthesizer For iPad


apeSoft has introduced iVCS3 – a software version of the classic EMS VCS3.

The VCS3 was created in 1969 by Peter Zinovieff’s EMS company. The electronics were largely designed by David Cockerell and the machine’s distinctive visual appearance was the work of electronic composer Tristram Cary.

The VCS3 was one of the first portable commercially available synthesizers (portable in the sense that the VCS 3 was housed entirely in a small, wooden case).

The VCS3 was popular among progressive rock bands and was used on recordings by The Alan Parsons Project, Jean Michel Jarre, Hawkwind, Brian Eno (with Roxy Music), King Crimson, The Who, Gong, Pink Floyd and many others. 

The official info on iVCS3 covers the original VCS3, as much as it does the software version:


The VCS3 has three oscillators (in reality, first 2 oscillators are normal oscillators and the 3rd an LFO or Low Frequency Oscillator), a noise generator, two input amplifiers, a ring modulator, a 18dB/octave (pre-1974) or 24dB/octave (after 1974) voltage controlled low pass filter (VCF), a trapezoid envelope generator, joy-stick controller, voltage controlled spring reverb unit and 2 stereo output amplifiers.

Unlike most modular synthesizer systems which use cables to link components together, the VCS3 uses a patch board matrix into which pins are inserted in order to connect its components together.

DK1 keyboard controller

Although the VCS3 is often used for generating sound effects, due to lack of built-in keyboard, EMS made external keyboard controllers for melodic play.

The DK1 in 1969 was an early velocity sensitive monophonic keyboard for VCS3 with an extra VCO and VCA. Later it was extended for duophonic play, as DK2, in 1972. Also in 1972, Synthi AKS was released, and its digital sequencer with a touch-sensitive flat keyboard, KS sequencer, and its mechanical keyboard version, DKS, were also released.

Here’s a video introduction to iVCS3:

iVCS3 is available in the App Store for US $14.99.

If you’ve used iVCS3, leave a comment and let us know what you think of it!

24 thoughts on “iVCS3 Recreates The EMS VCS3 Synthesizer For iPad

  1. this is a very cool thing indeed but the gui designer needs to calibrate his monitor or something because these yellow make the whole interface monochromatic.
    i understand the vintage look but take another try at the palette please, this is hard on the eyes.

    not to be an a-hole but can we get something like this?

    1. it looks more like nicotine stained gear instead of vintage synth patina.
      apparently i am in heavy minority hear so no matter.
      as far as sound goes it seems to have the best character on an ipad synth yet.
      definitely getting it either way.

  2. For the life of me, I can’t do basic FM, like I can on my Synthi. What’s up with that? What’s going on with audio frequencies of the modulator?

  3. Any of the iVCS3 beta-testers here? Did you test basic Osc-to-Osc audio frequency FM? Did you do any side-by-side comparison with a real Synthi or VCS3?

  4. Would have been helpful if there was some commentary on the video to explain to us novices what the hell you were doing!

  5. The shade of yellow on a synthi’s front panel determines the amount of high grade sensi that was consumed through time by space cadets using the instrument. If your panel is white, you simply aren’t off your face enough. Instead, try wearing super-cool dark shades so you look like Sonic Boom. This usually helps.

    1. here in Austria, it’s still €13.99. maybe you clicked on a link to the NZ app store? i think it’s NZD18.99.

  6. Just FYI folks: There’s been some waveform analysis done over in the iPad Musician FB group by several people and there appear to be some oddities in the FM implementation just at the moment, which leads to some interesting still, but not quite “right” sounds.

    Hopefully we can communicate that to the devs effectively so it can be helped along in upcoming versions. All to the good though, and, still a wonderful release of a classic synth at version 1! 😀

  7. Great sound, a few useabiity issues I hope can get cleared up in next release. The keyboard is extremely intrusive and frustrating — would be much simpler to have dedicated screen icons always present in the bottom row – one for keys, one for main panel, one for pin matrix, one for sequencer/dk. The moving keyboard is nice if you want to use it, but a giant pain for when you want it out of the way. Yes, I know how to shrink it.

    A few concessions to modernity would be appreciated – like octave switches on the main keyboard.

    I was hoping for something that captures the sounds, but it a bit more controllable than a vcs3. We’ve got the first half, now. Needs to be a bit less, trainspotter- and unix-y. Massive achievement, great sound, just a bit too high on the frustration meter in ver.1.0. Congratulations to apesoft for persisting and delivering!! Chapeau!

  8. OK folks, devs responded *already* personally. (Thank you – go team). 🙂 They are aware of the FM problem and it will be fixed.

    Now, if only Arturia would be as responsive… I emailed them about the stuck note MIDI problem in iMini too – weeks ago! (Can we all please nudge Arturia in the right direction about that? Mmmmm? They make great emulations too, and iMini needs that fix.)

  9. Fun synthesizer that takes you back to proper space music sounds…. Nice addition cos it’s very unique… Will be using this a lot for FX sounds.

  10. Have got this and tried it for a couple of days,- but one problem for me occurs:
    Have anyone tested it with bluetooth-speakers?
    My Bose minilink won’t play on this instrument, it plays on anything else on the ipad,- just not the ivcs3, so I assume the problem lies in the app itself?

    I wasn’t able to find any supportpage or contact details to send a message about it,- so I hope someone responsible will pick it up here, thank you.

  11. I’m struggelin’ a bit with this one as well. To use it fully I decided to connect it to my BCR2000 MIDI-controller – using real knobs – and then use the iPad for the matrix only. Which would be nice, because it expands on the iPad screen.

    I’ve simply hooked it up via WiFi and the great Tobias Erichsen MIDI-driver into Windows and Cubase 7.5. Now getting the knobs to work – no problem, it responds quite nicely to CC – and the learn mode is a doodle. But then I read the manual – and it says only CC is supported. Surely it should – as any other app also accept note-on/note-off?? – but then again – this I have yet to get working. Am I overlooking something??

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