Borderlands Granular Synthesizer For iPad Now Available

Developer Chris Carlson has released Borderlands Granular – a new musical instrument for the iPad.

Borderlands Granular is designed to let you explore, touch, and transform sound with granular synthesis, a technique that involves the superposition of small fragments of sound, or grains, to create complex, evolving timbres and textures.

Here’s an example of Borderland Granular in action:

Borderlands Granular emphasizes gestural interaction over knobs and sliders. You can create, drag, and throw pulsing collections of grains over a landscape of audio files, or use the built-in accelerometer to ‘sculpt sound with gravity’. The app also lets you record and share performances on the web.

This video is a quick tutorial introduction to Borderlands Granular:

NOTE: Borderlands Granular is designed for iPad 2 and 3. It will run on the iPad 1, but with slower performance due to the heavy requirements of the audio processing.

Borderlands Granular is available now in the App Store for $3.99.

If you’ve tried out Borderlands Granular, let us know what you think of it!

49 thoughts on “Borderlands Granular Synthesizer For iPad Now Available

  1. My boss just walked by as I was listening to the App:
    What is that? Radio? (puzzled face)
    No, granular synthesis.
    Granular synthesis? (puzzled face)
    Yes. Granular synthesis
    (puzzled face and a chuckle)

    And left.

  2. I downloaded the app there. It is good but putting in your own samples is awkward. You have to create a playlist called Borderlands in iTunes and sync it. This is not great at all. It would be much better if it had audio copy/paste and load from Dropbox as options.

    I have not tried it but I typically do not like syncing from iTunes as it copies over all my music files as well and I just don’t have the space for them on my iPad. I am not sure if I can just only the Borderlands playlist or if it will sync all my files which would mean I have to go in and delete all the files I don’t want off my iPad.

    1. AudioLemon

      It sounds like getting sounds into this is clunky – that’s an app problem.

      But you can control pretty precisely the music that iTunes syncs over. For example, you could make a playlist that’s the most recent 1GB of music and only sync that.

  3. Really nice app and the gravity works great but playing with it a little more I would like run in background, Dropbox, audio copy/paste, a few effects would be good, audio bus eventually.

    It would also be nice if there was a musical mode for the parameters so that instead of milliseconds on the duration you had bpm and that instead of just numbers for pitch you had cents and semitones.

    As it is it sounds great but I feel I will not use for much until the method for using your own samples is updated.

    The gravity mode is really sweet, better than in the video. Creating lovely bubbly percussive sounds with the Perc envelope and 1 or 2 voices is really nice, the general feel of the app is excellent and it is user friendly. For €3.00 I have no reason to complain and I am looking forward to feeding it through the modular for lots of processing and filtering. Just hoping to see an update on the file import method sooner rather than later.

  4. Cool app! And this is a perfect example of what modern interface design should be. Emulating knobs and sliders is extremely limiting, and this app shows exactly why. All elements in use are known, they clearly relate to each other in specific ways, and it’s easy to change parameters in meaningful ways. Well done all around!

    1. Recording does freeze my ipad1 consistently though. s well as too many grain collections. Never had an app restart my ipad before. I was prepared for this but still hopeful that it will one day run smoothly on my first gen.

  5. it is cool. i’ve been waiting for this.

    as people noted, the itunes (cap-sensitive for playlist name) is cumbersome. audio paste would be great.

    also, it loads in the *whole playlist*. i’d much prefer to be able to pick and choose samples that i want to use on the fly. i was surprised it didn’t allow you to load from a list.

    also . . . is it just me or does it not change orientation with the paid? (i like the button on the right, not the left). can’t seem to change that.

    great start. enjoying what it does.

  6. First off, its exactly as I thought it would be great interface, intuitive and great for live play. BUT! And it’s a big but. It _needs_ copy’n’paste. Every devs need to implement that. So please implement that asap. It should also turn with the ipad. As of now, seeing as I use the Mareware ipad case, its upside down for me.
    The loading of the whole itunes list is also not a good thing. I depend on choosing which sample to use at every time.

    But all in all, congrats on a great granular synthesizer that really shows what granular synthesis can be:)

    1. Hmmm….. Tryed to make a playlist as instructed and put in a few songs from my ipad library. All songs longer then 1 minute. It resulted on Borderlands crashed on startup.

  7. You’d think an app designed for exploring and manipulating multiple layers of waveforms would have a fast and easy way to import audio. This potentially great app will be hobbled until the devs address the import issue.

  8. This is a beautiful app that does something no other iOS app does in the specific way that it allows audio file manipulation. While I do hope for coming features that will make audio import/export easier, Borderlands is also wonderful as it is.

  9. Just bought it, and I absolutely love it except for the sample import issue. I have no idea why the decision was made to make sample import so damn complicated and inconvenient, but it is a fundamental flaw in an otherwise absolutely excellent program.

  10. Doesn’t seem to be aware that I have it in an Alesis iDock. Sound still comes out the iPad speakers only. Playlist import is a bummer. Hopefully all this will be fixed soon. Looks like a great sound tool.

  11. Poor Mr. Carlson! It seems that everyone wants so much to love this app, but has real world needs from something they have purchased. His design sensibility is marvellous, but theres for sure some coding left to do! Active discussions also at discchord and kvr.

  12. Hey everybody – thanks for the enthusiasm and great comments so far!

    RE: sample management concerns – i really appreciate everybody’s feedback and i completely agree. it is an important feature that will make it into the app eventually.

    here’s the reasoning behind why it isn’t in there now – borderlands necessarily must load all samples into RAM. on my device, when loading anything above 50-100 MB of audio, the results can be very unpredictable. furthermore, the available ram fluctuates quite a bit depending on the apps running int he background. apple strongly suggests that you don’t try to load anything over 20MB, so Borderlands is already pushing it a bit. given various challenges this presents along with the need for additional infrastructure and interfaces to deal with this facet of the app, i didn’t feel like i would be able to get something reliable ready soon enough. ultimately, i decided that it would be better to release something you guys can start to use rather than postponing the app for months while i developed a full fledged sample management system. the lack of this capability factored into the pricing of the app, which hopefully is reasonable for most people.

    that being said – better sample I/O and set loading/saving have been and will continue to be HUGE priorities for V2 (along with gesture recording, etc.) i can’t promise that these features will appear overnight, as i am the sole developer, it is my first app (so i am learning as i go), and i am only able to work on this in my spare time, but i’ll do my best to keep the momentum going.

    again, thank you all for your enthusiasm, for trying out the app, and for the great feedback so far! i will continue to work hard to resolve any crash issues/bugs in the near term, so please continue reporting problems via the google group or the email listed the website. thanks again for a great first day for Borderlands!!!

    1. Insanely awesome piece of work, Chris. I cannot help but mention how ‘Minority Report’ the interface is and it’s not only beautiful to behold, it is sooo organic feeling to use!
      Cannot wait for the improved file management is incorporated (hoping for Dropbox or copy/paste…)
      But in the end I’m sure whatever is used will be great. Thanks sooo much for releasing this and NOT waiting… Been anxious to get this for a while now!!!
      And lastly- super Congrats on this being your FIRST app !?!?!???!!! WOW!!!

    2. Chris thank you so much for this App, i really enjoy playing around with it and i will include it in my upcoming productions.There is always room for improvement but for a first start i think its all good and it gives me a great Scotty Enterprise Feeling 🙂 here in the studio.
      Once again keep up the good work.

  13. Hello Chris

    Congratulations the release of Borderlands. Quite a magnificent piece of work.
    I couldn’t help but remembering my university days at Simon Fraser U and the granular system we had running there. A two room endevor, one the control rom, the other the ‘computer’. All one needed was time. Time to wait for the cutting edge system to spit out a sound. Those were the good ol’ days back in 1987.


  14. first, chris, thanks for coming on and saying hi. so great to hear from developers like yourself.

    completely appreciate your time. the app is very cool and i look forward to what you do with it in the future.

    if it’s a quick fix, let me lobby for doing a change on the screen orientation. seems like it’s an issue for a lot of us and would make things better for the way i (we?) work. the other stuff can be worked around somewhat easier for the time being.

    great app . . .

  15. Indeed, congrats on a glorious creation – many minds shall be blown with Borderlands! I am so glad that its possibilities will be espoused upon. We could all come over to your house and jam, I’ll bring beer!

  16. Thanks for your respons Chis:)
    And let me say I amnextremly happy you decided to launch it as is now insteed of waiting for perfection. Becourse since I first saw it, I have been waiting. My initial response to the first look on this was:” engeniuos! THIS is where granular synthesis can really shine.”

  17. Nice app and great idea just needs a more streamlined audio import and it will be a huge hit! Program should have ability to flip around for people with cases but I would keep this toggle-able because if you’re playing with the gravity screen flipping constantly would be a real pain.. Some effects would be great especially tempo synced.. Oh and BPM would be cool instead of weird number speed slider.. With all these changes the app could fetch 10$ easy.. Nice work guys! Keep going!

  18. Just bought it today and after several hours of use throughout the past 14 hours, already love it. Seriously, for $4 it can’t be beat. Sure, at that price there are plenty of things it doesn’t do, but no complaints. It even yields stuff I’ve already prepared to drop into tracks. This baby is fun AND practical. Many thanks to the developers!

  19. Great app! In addition to sample management and set save/load mentioned above, the ability to get the digital audio out (via the 30-pin like is done with the Alesis iDock and other D/A hardware) should be a priority, digital-out results in much better sound fidelity and lower noise than the headphone-out.

  20. Beautiful, beautiful app. You can create fantastic soundbeds to jam over. All it needs now is audio import to be improved but for £3 – 9.5/10.

    Would be lovely to be able to output the screen for live visuals.

  21. Yes, pretty amazing app !! Like everyone else, sample I/O isn’t perfect, but still usable. I’ve alreday used it yesterday night on one of my upcoming project. Real fun to play with and you can come up with wonderfull results.

  22. Am i the only one who has trouble loading samples on? I followed the instructions perfectly and tried numerous times but i always end up with the default samples… anyone?

  23. Would you recommend it to people using an iPad1? I hate how long i waited for the app to find out it does not function well on my gadget. Thanks.

    1. sounds like it’s working better than expected on most people’s ipad 1s. the main limitations are reduced RAM size, and probably fewer grain clouds before audio dropouts start happening. if you do buy it, let me know how it goes!

  24. Having trouble using this app with the Alesis ipad dock. Borderlands will not play through the docking station. Anyone else have problems with that?

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