Can An iPad Synth Match The Sound Of Hardware?

Synthesist Marcus Padrini shared this series of videos, comparing the Korg ARP Odyssey to the company’s software alternative, Korg ARP Odyssei for iPad.

Padrini notes:

  • The position of the sliders is not identical on both. To sound similar, small adjustments need to be made. The result of the video is the best I got using my ears 🙂
  • This video does not seek to discuss analog vs. digital. The experience of using them is completely different, which leads to very different sound and creative results. Here we have just a simple comparison of a specific patch, created initially with Arp Odyssey (hardware).
  • I would not exchange the Odyssey for the app, but Korg did a great job on both!

Can an iPad synth match the sound of hardware? Check out the comparisons and let us know what you think!

29 thoughts on “Can An iPad Synth Match The Sound Of Hardware?

  1. The biggest issue would be sound interface and there is also question of how much horsepower the app takes.
    Plus the comparison would be good if the listener is in studio and now home computer speakers.
    But the sound of this demo sounds very close

  2. Nowadays – it’s not the tool, it’s the talent. This video just confirms that.

    The average person would just set the knobs in the same position and then slag on the software when it doesn’t sound exactly the same. Padrini’s patches are nearly indistinguishable, because he tweaked them with his ears instead of his eyes.

    Hardware synths are way more fun, from my perspective, but today’s circuit-modeled soft synths do a great job of nailing the actual sound.

    1. Agreed. I think it’s important to distinguish that there is technical talent (experience/skill with gear) and musical talent. And people who have good ears and skills can make a wide range of gear (and budgets) sound glorious.

  3. There is no difference by the time the synth’s sound gets into a track. By that time it doesn’t really matter in my experience. These iPad synths are the Daddy. Great demo and enjoyed the attention to detail by the artist here. I’m leaning more towards soft synths myself and they’re far more efficient at getting tracks done for me.

  4. Killer. If you just listen as opposed to watching, they are nearly indistinguishable. Congratulations to Korg for such a great job on the modelling. I’m buying that app, and I have the keyboard!

  5. The only perceptible difference I could hear is that the real synth has slightly more upper harmonics at the top “fizzy” end of the sound. I’m sure a Fourier plot would easily confirm that.

    That’s always a problem for software synths that need to manage anti-aliasing.

    The filter seems to be very accurately reproduced which is technically difficult and pretty awesome.

    And obviously, it’s not really in KORG interest to make a software synth that exactly replicates their hardware gear (not to mention polyphony!), sales margins are rather different!!

    1. so you’re saying the audio compression of this youtube video doesn’t have the same problem and allows you to still hear that difference? i’m skeptical.

      1. the fact that you can hear the difference–listen to the ipad’s artifacts in the high end during the sustain stage, especially without reverb–through the audio compression of the youtube video *confirms* that the difference is noticeable. It’s even more noticeable in person. And those minutiae do add up when you start recording 10-20 layers of the stuff.

        Not a rag on the ipad synth–fwiw I’d much rather hear a cool multitimbral patch with both of them playing together than a shootout though.

  6. pointless comparison the real korg costs less than a ipad + software.
    so just buy the real synth not apples software ,and your purchase may increase in price while the ipad will depreciate a lot faster.
    so the choice is yours a real instrument for cheaper
    or software emulation that is second rate despite what this video shows you.
    think critically always ,in this case the ipad+software costs far more than the real instrument…

    1. Your very first statement is blatantly false. Odissei runs flawlessly on the 350€ iPad 5th, which also adds polyphony and infinitely more other sounds as added value. The additional hardware such as master keyboards and DAC can also be repurposed, and the total price still doesn’t exceed the 800€ required for the hardware Odissey.
      Source: one who thought critically.

    2. I would rather pay for the iPad. The Odessey app works in Korg Gadget, where I can compose an entire song with as many Oddeseys or whatever synth I want. Can’t do that with a two voice synth without spending more money on the studio to record it with. Ive been a hardware guy for for over 20 years, but am having a blast using Gadget and Caustic. I have an original Odyssey, 2813 model that doesn’t get as much attention as it once did.

  7. > Can An iPad Synth Match The Sound Of Hardware?
    Can a Synthtopia blog entry match a Keyboard magazine article?
    No also.

  8. (developer of the Ton app here)

    I definitely think we’re at a point where iPad synths can match hardware, this video clearly shows it. The real question is, are all manufacturers ready to embrace it? The profits you can get from an iOS app VS a dedicated machine are not the same, and I wonder if actually providing the full power of a hardware synth on iOS is a wise thing to do (from a business perspective) for most big names out there.

    As for adding the price of an iPad to the price of the app… Well, would you say Facebook costs $300-$900 because it runs on your phone? I doubt it. iPhones/iPads/computers are multi-purpose devices.

    1. Thanks for your post, Jeremy.

      Your question about hardware manufacturers embracing the soft synths market is a good one.

      One hardware end, we will continue to need rugged, flexible and innovative controller designs. At the intersection, manufacturers are using smart devices to offload some GUI tasks, and patch management (a la DM12, etc).

      Lots of people prefer having real knobs, sliders, cursor diamond, scroll-wheel, to semi-responsive screen tapping (and re-tapping) and rubbing (and blocking the display while you interact with it).

      While there are so many great hardware emulations of subtractive synths. For some reason there is not a good sampler for iOS. (Yes, some will mention Beatmaker 2 & 3, SampleTank, Thumbjam, Bismark, etc, but all of them have huge limitations and deal breakers.)

  9. I have the real thing and I have the App: I worship the first and use the second… except when I’m making new presets, which is far more easy using the real thing.

  10. lol whatever. I just got another iPad and am loving the power in these little guys. I have 3 studios full of gear, tons of synths, FX, modules, multiple computers blah blah and TBH I fucking love my iPads. Using 2 vintage iPads, 1 second generation, and iPad Air 2, a mini 4, and just picked up the larger iPad Pro. All these little guys are going into a mixer and then straight into sound forge where I wreak all kinds of sonic havoc.

    I have docks a for a few of them as well, but either way they are all the most versatile “sound modules,” I have ever owned and I have owned a shitload of modules I used to have 3 TR-racks and 3 WavestationSR all at once plus gobs of E-mu and Roland mods, I did keep my awesome XV-5080 lol. I actually still have a real WavestationSR from ny gearaholic days and for me the iPad app blows it away on every level. I have a JP-8000 currently in the closer lol, cause for me the old Sunrizer app gets more use and is way more fun, and with endless presets for days.

    I use literally hundreds of apps and there is so much inspiration every day I turn my iPads on, the ease of use and portability with all my iPads is just another plus. As a landscape photo guy I have lots of downtime time waiting for sunrises and sunsets and my music apps let me create stuff and do field recordings anywhere off the beaten path out in bumfuckanywhere. I program my JP-80 with an iPad and TBH I could care less about how close any of these synths are to the original, its what you do with them in the end and I quit being a vintage gear snob years ago. JMHOs of course

  11. I hate when they do these comparisons with the sounds that are most easily emulated by software. How about a bubbly-resonate-percussive-analog-fart-noise? Are they the same then?

  12. Have both, do not full yourselves… the iPad and everything coming out it… still sounds way less 3D than a real analog instrument. Not sure how to put this in any other form that 1011011 still don’t replicate the “realnesss” of it… not the extent to use on a professional setting… iPad stuff still sound rather “thin” to me.

  13. No, of course not. Also, the junk will crash given half a chance, just like software driven devices have been doing live on stage for decades. Try crashing something built entirely from analog hardware or hardware logic.

  14. I think the app sounds great. Of course the difference is there, and will undoubtedly be more pronounced in person, and with different settings. The app captures the essence of the real deal though, and that will be enough for most people. It’s great to make music tools like this so accessible. If I was in love with the Arp sound, I’d buy the synth, but since I’m not, its nice to have the app at a fraction of the price.

  15. FAR FAKN OUT!!!!!!
    How good does it sound?
    I’d rather the real thing tho.
    But the software will do in the meantime…

  16. I have an iPad 2017 and a number of ‘soft synths’. I use my Matrixbrute as a controller and midi sync with it’s sequencer. Most of the time the Matrixbrute sound is turned down. When I turn it up, you can hear the raw power and the ease of tweaking sounds and a knob per function are a real luxury but……….I rarely turn it up, why………because the soft synth variety and textures and polophony, are such a pleasure.
    I wouldn’t sell the Matrixbrute, because sometimes it’s great to feel your ears bleed with sonic analogue goodness but most of the time I want my ears tickled.

    It’s a very cost effective way to own a Moog, Korg, Waldorf etc etc.

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