Photophore Brings ‘Flock Synthesis’ To The iPad


Taika Systems has introduced Photophore – a unique instrument that brings ‘flock synthesis’ to the iPad’.

Photophore uses ‘flocks’ of up to 100 sound generators to create rich, organic synthesizer sounds. By controlling the behavior of the flocks, you can make Photophore sound like a choir of synthesizers or, at more extreme settings, a swarm of angry insects.

Here’s a preview of Photophore in action:

Flock Synthesis

Unlike other digital synthesizers, Photophore creates warmth and character in a new way. Instead of modeling analog circuits, it models animal behavior.

Photophore’s sound engine is made up of flocks of oscillators that move through a virtual three-dimensional environment. Their motion is controlled by a behavioral algorithm and physics simulation that keeps the oscillators in tune with each other, but allows for a certain amount of natural drifting and detuning.

You can interact with the oscillator flocks by controlling their behavior – how much they try to flock together, how much they avoid each other, their speed, and how much turbulence is in their environment. Oscillators will ‘flee’ from your touch, so you can create extreme pitch modulation and more chaotic effects by swiping across the screen.


  • Unique flock synthesis engine
  • Up to 100 oscillators per patch
  • Monophonic or polyphonic operation (up to 6 voices)
  • 6 oscillator waveforms (saw, square, pulse and more)
  • Low pass/High pass filter with resonance
  • Dedicated amplitude and filter envelopes
  • Stereo echo effect
  • Arpeggiator


  • Use any iPad-compatible MIDI keyboard to play notes and perform pitch bends
  • AudioBus and Inter-App Audio support for streaming audio to other apps
  • Control Photophore from other apps via CoreMIDI

Tech Requirements:

  • iOS7 or later required

Photophore is available now in the App Store for US $4.99.

If you’ve tried Photophore, let us know what you think of it and the idea of flock synthesis!

26 thoughts on “Photophore Brings ‘Flock Synthesis’ To The iPad

  1. LOL, flock synthesis, really? How about “border collie chasing a flock synthesis”, lol

    Looks like another desperate attempt to create something original.

    1. I guess you’ve never come across ‘flocking’ algorithms before then? It’s a staple of computer programming languages. Been around for years and years. This isn’t new, its just a (seemingly well done) implementation of an existing informatics/mathematics concept.

  2. The synth sounds crisp and clean even with my shitty headphone…I can’t wait to try it out with my good pair at home! I appreciate the concept yet I don’t immediately find a significant difference when compared to other forms of synthesis. I am looking forward to this being developed more though: expanded modulation routings is one upgrade that was apparent to me off the bat.
    I moved my figure across the “pasture” that the “flock” was prancing around in and I couldn’t really tell if it was doing anything radically to the sound. There were minor fluctuations/undulations to the sound but nothing significantly unique from other synths.
    The interface is spot-on in terms of simplicity and ease of navigation. It’s really straight forward and inviting to the user. I was interacting with it as natural as can be.
    Kudos to the development team on this one…let’s hope this will be developed and not a dead-end that I just spent my $5 on!

  3. This sort of thing is why the iPad is currently so interesting as a platform – the developers that come up with apps that are a bit ‘out there’ but use the tablet platform intelligently to do something new.

    You could do something similar on a computer and control it with a mouse, but this app seems like a very natural fit for the tablet format.

    Also – I like that the ‘flocking’ results in interesting-sounding surprises!

  4. The iPad has revolutionized the “interface” aspect to synthesis. But the sounds? I could have created these sounds with any ol’ sampler made in the past 25 years.

    1. How would you simulate the effect of dozens of oscillators, being individually modulated to detune based on user gestures, with old samplers?

      Also, which samplers let you use 100 oscillators per voice?

      If you are dismissing and not considering the synthesis potential of the flocking and multiple oscillators – you’d be missing the point of this synth.

      1. His point was that, even *with* a hundred oscillators, these instrument voices don’t really sound inventive… and he’s right. The instruments used here sound just like the same-old synth voices that have been used in generic EDM for decades. Possibly something more could be done using the app. Unfortunately, we have only these examples from which to form an opinion. The concept might have potential, but it hasn’t been demonstrated here if that’s the case. Also, getting groupies to down-vote legitimate criticism is pretty lame activity, if that’s taking place on this article that shows allot of down-voting of criticism.

    2. ” I could have created these sounds with any ol’ sampler made in the past 25 years.”

      The point of this is not that you can make a sound – it’s that you can control a huge choir of sounds in interesting and musical ways.

      Tell us about how you’d do this sort of thing with your 25 year old samplers…..

  5. This to me seems to be nothing more than Unison detuning, masked in the gimmick of “Flock Synthesis”. While it does sound good, its nothing revolutionary.

  6. Very disappointing. In theory it sounds promising but it only sounds like a detuning effect possible with many IIOS synths far more sophisticated than this. The trick is not make it more flexible and musically interesting.

  7. I like this. It takes the old concept of traditional Osc which usually dealing with 2 4 or 8 etc but instead of having to duplicate the effort on every Osc, photophore takes all that work away and also adds ability to instantly layer multiple copies and treat each one as unique sound generator with its own individual characteristics rather than being just copies which helps create some uncommon sound behavior and richness with less effort than the traditional model.

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