Monday, October 17, 2011

The Animoog; a new type of synth of iPad

A friend at Moog (thanks Amos) connected me with their latest creation, the Animoog. I have been playing with the RC for a bit over a week now. It is publicly available since yesterday. It is priced promo at 0.99 and will revert to 29.99 in a month. If you have an iPad go get this app, the sounds coming out of it are quite impressive.

Anyway, I will be dropping a first song built around the animoog very soon.

TL;DR: a very cool synth. New sounds and approach. A fantastic UI design, very functional and intuitive. It is a new instrument for me.

2D Wavetable synthesis
At the heart of the synth is an interesting synthesis concept, Moog calls is Anisotropic Synthesis Engine. A rather fancy name to describe what is a strack of wave tables or a 16x16 table. Each cell is a sound. Each row a wavetable. You select each row as a 'timbre'. Then you can move through that. If you move vertically, you move through those waves/timbres, if you move horizontally you move through the wavetable itself. This is rendered as a grid and occupies most of the screen. You can have 4 voices or dots going through the grid. The moving dots make for very pretty effects with colors and trails.

Orbits and Path
You can then easily program a path through that grid (and still use your fingers to modulate). You can sync to BPM for fraction of notes effect. If you have very different timbres then the change will be dramatic. If you have slowly evolving timbres then you will program evolution of your sound just through the path. At each dot of the path you can program an elipse (x-y parameters) with a frequency, further allowing you to automate variations through the grid.

poly-touch and after touch
The keyboard is rather nice. It is at the bottom of the screen and depending on where you put your finger on the key it will consider it pressure and aftertouch. This is very helpful as input for modulation and a very intuitive way to work with the surface.

Subtractive filter
The architecture is rather trivial as it features a simple subtractive module. (LP, HP, BP). It comes in a look that reminds one of the classic Moog hardware designs. It sounds nice but I have found the buttons hard to use in a 'live recording" way, my fingers being more occupied by modulation.

This part of the arch is rather nice and impressive actually. You have 4 modulations you can set up. You can use any type of input (LFO, x position, y position, key, touch etc) and route that signal to pretty much any thing you want. I like the ones based on touch position on the keyboard as it gives you a very tactile way to generate rather rich sounds.

Rather straightforward reverb and chorus, nice sounding, no comment.

Midi connection and DAW
I have connected mine through the simple out mini-jack and that is good enough to record. I have bought the ioDock from Alesis but find it very disappointing for my needs. That will be collecting dust very soon. I have also gotten the camera IO adaptor for the iPad which exposes the coreMidi and (supposedly) get the IO sound out? I had to order a USB-USB cable so haven't tested it yet but that may be the right way to hook up my animoog.

No custom Wavetables
First thing I wanted to do was to load up my own wavetables, I just want to load up V-Synth GT timbres and use the Animoog as a fancy 2D wavetable sampler. I got in contact with Amos and the feedback was "not yet". The reason is that they want the instrument to sound nice. I can see that people would shoot themselves in the foot with the raw engine mixing timbres that really shouldn't be mixed together but I think this thing will find his rightful strides the moment people start building custom timbres and thus custom patches.

Overall: 9.5/10
All in all, what most impressed is the ASE engine and mostly the UI. The combination makes for a VERY rich sound and a VERY VERY intuitive use. I use a lot of evolving pads and textures in my music so this fits naturally in the way I work. For folks that love only drums this will not be helpful. It is a very melodious and evolving instrument and it is meant to be *played*. Moog drives the point home that even in this day and age of VSTs, an instrument is also the UI and the way you interact with it. While the ASE is a fantastic sounding idea (2D haptic movements) it is really the keyboard modulation and movement through grid that make it for me. A very intuitive way to get the sound to evolve. As a VST in a DAW, it just wouldn't be the same. It is the fact that it is an iPad that is interesting. I don't think they will release as VST due to piracy and they should stick to iPad since it almost guarantees them the sales. And at $30 I predict a grand slam. Moog's done it again.

Here is piece with the animoog. Root of Evil.

Root of Evil 3.2 by marc fleury

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