Addictive Pro review – VirSyn go pro with their latest iOS synth app

Download from iTunes App Storeaddictive-pro-logo-1VirSyn are one of the software developers that have fully embraced the iOS platform. They have gradually developed a very impressive catalogue of iOS music apps many or which – Tera SynthmicroTERAHarmony VoiceAddictive Synth, Tap Delay, Emo Chorus, Posiedon Synth, Voxsyn and Arpeggist, for example – I’ve reviewed here previously on the Music App Blog.

As I mentioned last week, the latest addition to that lineup – the hotly anticipated Addictive Pro synth – has now arrived. It arrives with Audiobus support (including State Saving, IAA, Core MIDI, MIDI Learn and support for alternative scales via the virtual piano keyboard. There is no Ableton Link or AU support as yet, both things it would be nice to see in a number of VirSyn apps at some stage. That said, without giving the game away too early, Addictive Pro does sound extremely good…. :-)

Addicitive Pro - the simple surface hides a very powerful synth.

Addicitive Pro – the simple surface hides a very powerful synth.

Mini me, bigger me

And, as you might have guessed from the name, Addictive Pro has gown out of the original Addictive Synth (itself updated in the last few days) and, while the ‘Pro’ version is both bigger, better and ‘badder’, it can import presets from Addictive Synth if you have patches you would like to move across.

The synth engine in Pro is described as a ‘hybrid’ in that is includes elements of wavetable synthesis, noise spectrum synthesis, virtual analog synthesis and both FM and ring modulation synthesis. However it’s done, it is impressive; even from a quick wizz through the presets, it is clear that this is a virtual synth with some great sounds in the locker.

The app ships with some 300 presets... and there are some excellent sounds to be found....

The app ships with some 300 presets… and there are some excellent sounds to be found….

The app is launched with an introductory price of just UK£8.99/US$11.99. This is  40% off what will becomes the eventual price (so grab a bargain while you can). The app is a very modest 40MB download, requires iOS8.0 or later and is iPad-only at present. So, whether you are looking for a first serious iOS synth, or perhaps already own more synths that you can actually remember, should you be considering ‘going pro’ with Addictive Pro?

Inner addiction

There are many familiar graphical elements within Addictive Pro for those that have used other VirSyn iOS music apps. As such, you get a menu bar at the top of the screen that includes tab buttons for switching between the various sections of the controls – Wave, Mod, Arp and FX – provides access to the preset system, the internal recording system, the global settings menu (where, for example, you can enable the MIDI Learn system if you happen to be using the app with a suitable external MIDI controller) and the ‘help’ menu. The latter is quite useful but I wouldn’t mind a full PDF manual at some stage also….  the synth engine is certainly deep enough to justify a bit of a reference guide.

Fancy drawing your own wavetable? Then get started....

Fancy drawing your own wavetable? Then get started….

Along the bottom of the screen is VirSyn’s standard virtual piano keyboard. This includes all the usual features we now perhaps take for granted in our apps such as scale-specific displays, a key hold switch, options for resizing the keys and the ‘key quantize’ button. This latter option toggles between two behaviours when you play a note and then swipe left or right. When on, you get ‘normal’ keyboard behaviour with individual notes sounded. When off, however, left/right swiping provides a very effective pitch-bend control with continuous pitch change across the notes that you pass over.

The upper/mid portion of the screen is where you see the rest of the control set and what’s shown here depends upon which of the four main tabs – Wave, Mod, Arp and FX – is selected. In terms of the sound sources for the synth engine, the Wave screen is where to look and this, in turn, has five further tabs.

You can touch and swipe in the Spectrum displays also....

You can touch and swipe in the Spectrum displays also….

The Easy Control screen provides you with two user-customisable X=Y pads, some very neat randomise buttons (so you can roll the dice to see what sounds might get thrown up) and Drive and master volume dials. Once you have loaded or programmed a patch using the rest of the control set, this screen is great as a ‘performance’ page as the two X-Y pads provide some excellent real-time sound modulation options.

It terms of creating a basic sound, the Wave A and B and Spectrum A and B tabs are where the action is at. The two wave/spectrum pairs can be morphed between and you get a whole range of oscillator configurations to pick between (and, as shown in the screenshot, this includes FM and ring modulation options) that alter how complex (or otherwise, the basic oscillator configuration is; more oscillators – and more detuning – generally means fatter sounds.

Addictive Pro comes with a number of pre-configured oscillator options.

Addictive Pro comes with a number of pre-configured oscillator options.

There are all sorts of options available here for creating your own sounds and, as well as preset waveform and spectrum options, you can also ‘hand-draw’ your own on these various screens as well as simply hitting the randomise dice and seeing (hearing) what happens. Yes, it probably does take more time than I’ve currently spent with Addictive Pro to really master what’s going on here but, even for the novice programmer, it’s not such a stretch to simple experiment and see where that takes you.

And, with some 300 presets to get you started, the odds are you will find a suitable sound that you can try and fine-tune. Those presets are well worth exploring in their own right though. There is something distinctive about the sound of VirSyn’s synth engines and Addictive Pro is no exception….  but there are some big sounds to be had here if that’s what you are after and plenty of great examples in the lead, pad, bass and keys categories for you to explore.

Pro moves

Of course, the oscillator section is only part of the sound story; Addictive Pro also offers a range of sound modulation options, including some rather nice filters, all accessible via the Mod page. In accessing these controls, the upper/mid portion of the screen is actually split into two strips. Along the top are the key controls arranged in nice separate panels but, if you tap on any of these, the bottom strip then displays a whole host of other ‘sub-controls’ for that section.

The Mod section has plenty of scope for sound shaping.... This can get deep but the controls are well laid out and easy to access.

The Mod section has plenty of scope for sound shaping…. This can get deep but the controls are well laid out and easy to access.

There is a heck of a lot of potential here and you may well need to toggle on the ‘help’ option to start getting your head around what each of these controls does and how it is linked to what is happening elsewhere (this modulation section is perhaps where a PDF manual would come in really handy?). This section is perhaps a little less ‘newbie’ friendly and, while you can just carry on tweaking, there is some work to be done to master the numerous possibilities. That said, more experienced programmers will, I suspect, find plenty to keep themselves occupied with Pro’s inner workings; this is a pretty deep engine with plenty of sound shaping possibilities.

Each sub-panel of the Mod section has its own set of detailed controls available....

Each sub-panel of the Mod section has its own set of detailed controls available….

Pro FX

The FX tab uses the same upper/lower arrangement to give you access to separate sets of controls for each of the seven effects sections. These can be individually toggled on/off although I think the order of the effects is fixed.

Each of the effects, while fairly conventional in nature, does a good job and offers a decent control set.

Each of the effects, while fairly conventional in nature, does a good job and offers a decent control set.

Of the seven effects, I liked the distortion, delay and reverb options the best. The reverb offers lots of control (and I suspect might be based upon the engine within VirSyn’s AudioReverb app) but all of the effects do a pretty tasty job in a conventional format. If you want something a bit more left-field, then you might need to look to process Addictive Pro’s output through something like Turnado or Flux:Fx of DFX (for example).

Don’t keep ‘arping on about it

No, I haven’t forgotten about the Arp tab….  and, for me, this is actually the icing on a fairly impressive cake. It features a four-part polyrhythm engine, and while I’m not sure I’ve got my head around it all as yet, it really is very impressive. Yes, my keyboard playing does suck…  but it sucks a lot less when you start to fire up Addictive Pro’s arp function….  so check out the second of the videos embedded below to get a taste of what it can do.

Oh my! This really is very good indeed....

Oh my! This really is very good indeed….

However, even though I don’t think I quite understand it all as yet, it is just brilliant. If you just engage one of the four arpeggiator tracks, then it is very much like a ‘normal’ arpeggiator. However, you actually get up to four independent arpeggiators and, not only can these be running sequences of different lengths to each other (you can set different step loop points from the main sequence for each of the four tracks), while each uses the same ‘core’ synth sound, each track of the arp offers a set of ‘Quick Edit’ controls to customise elements of the sound for just that arp track. In effect, you have up to four ‘sub-sounds’ of the master sound that can be playing back at the same time.

OK, of you don’t know what you are doing (that’s me then!), things can get a bit messy quite quickly but, equally, if you start simple (or using one of the many arp presets), the potential is very obvious. This is a hugely creative element within the app and, once you have seen this ‘multi-track’ take on an arp for the first time, a normal arp is never going to be quite the same….  Expect to see the idea popping up in one or two other synths some time soon :-)

Play together

VirSyn are obvious very experienced when it comes to iOS music app development and, as you might expect, in terms of MIDI, Audiobus and IAA use, I had no problems with Addictive Pro in my own testing on a large-format iPad Pro. Indeed, the app was a pleasure to use on the larger screen and, given some of the excellent sounds, I could imagine keen keyboard/synth players, finding it a lot of fun in a live performance context. The sounds can certainly big enough to do the business in that sort of context.

Addictive Pro worked very smoothly for me under Audiobus.

Addictive Pro worked very smoothly for me under Audiobus.

OK, we would all love to see support for Ableton Link – and this would obviously be a plus for sync’ing the arp with tempo in other apps – and AU but don’t let that stop you from appreciating that this is a heck of a lot of virtual synth for a very  modest price….  and, at the launch price, an absolute bargain.

As with a number of other top-end iOS music apps, adding AU support is not going to be a trivial task. Addictive Pro has a pretty hefty control set and squeezing these into a small AU sub-panel within a host such as AUM or Cubasis, while still retaining a familiar workflow from the stand-alone app, might prove to be quite a challenge.

The app also worked well via IAA in Cubasis (as shown here) or within AUM.

The app also worked well via IAA in Cubasis (as shown here) or within AUM.

I do wonder if VirSyn – and other virtual instrument developers – might go down the route of having a ‘performance-only’ UI for use with AU….  essentially where you can just load up a preset and tweak a few key controls while used within an AU host…  and leave any more serious programming to be done only in the stand-alone app. This certainly might be a pragmatic solution until the iOS incarnation of AU gets all its ducks in a row….  but I’m speculating here and have no insider knowledge to indicate that this might come to pass.

Addictive Pro includes a useful IAA transport panel when used via that route.

Addictive Pro includes a useful IAA transport panel when used via that route.

In summary

Addictive Pro is very much a step up from the original Addictive Synth. This is, therefore, much more than just an update; it is a re-design, overhaul and enhancement of the original concept. Oh, and that arpeggiator is a stroke of genius.

I suspect the somewhat heavyweight nature of the the engine might be a bit intimidating for the synth novice. VirSyn have done a decent job of making things accessible to the new user (although a manual would help further here) and the presets and random options mean that you are never too far away from a great sound anyway….  but getting to the stage where you can just imagine a sound and then create it in Addictive Pro? Well, that’s perhaps something that requires a bit of programming expertise. That said, even if you just close your eyes and swipe, it does sound great…. :-)Addi

Anyway, Addictive Pro is available now with an introductory price of just UK£8.99/US$11.99. This is a launch price that is 40% off what will becomes the eventual price so, if you are an iOS synth junkie, I suspect you are going to be very tempted to add Addictive Pro to your collection….  if so, now is the time to grab a copy so hit the download button :-)

Addictive Pro

Download from iTunes App Store


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    Comments

    1. ConfusedKitten says:

      Thanks for the brilliant review John it was nice to find out more about this new synth from VirSyn, many thanks!

    2. Reading your review I get the impression that you can have 4 arps running the same patch with each one slightly tweeked? You can’t have the arp running 4 totally different patches at once?
      Have I got that right?

    3. You can!

    4. No, you can’t. Same patch but with a few tweaks to the sound is possible.

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