I’ve reviewed a number of iOS music apps from Klevgränd Produktion here on the blog over the last year or two – Vandelay, Squashit, Svep, Roverb, Enkl, Weeel, Korvpressor, PressIt, Esspresso, Jussi, Haaze and Pads. A number of these are also available in an AU plugin format for these working on an OSX desktop system and Klevgränd took a pretty bold step a few months ago when the also added AU support under iOS; it was great to see… and, in every case, I’ve been hugely impressed with the creative possibilities that these apps provide. In addition, the novel – and very streamlined – user interfaces are ideal for the AU format.
And, as I posted at the end of last week, Klevgränd have launched a further app – Baervvag – to add to this collection. This is a further synth app but, on this occasion, it features an FM-based synth engine and, for a Klevgränd app at least, quite a few controls :-) As with all their recent releases, Baervaag is delivered in formats for desktop (AU, VST) and iOS (standalone and AU). Again, no Audiobus or IAA; Klevgränd see AU as the future and so are focusing on that format. This is an attitude that I think is generally correct but it may, of course, disappoint some potential users….
Under iOS, the app is universal, requires iOS9.1 or later, is a 41MB download and launched with a special discounted UK£4.99/US$4.99 price tag. Of course, iOS is not short of synth apps, including some very good FM-based synths. So, is Klevgränd’s take on an FM synth – and which follows their usual KISS UI approach – worth adding to what might be your (already) extensive synth app collection?
Even a quick glance at Baerveeg’s main (er… only) screen will let you know that the mechanics of this particular synth engine – at least in the sense of the control set you use to interact with it – have been kept well in ‘minimalist’ territory. This is, therefore, a synth for those that don’t generally indulge in too much programming or, for those that do, something when you simply want to give your grey matter an easy ride. OK, there are more controls here than generally found in a Klevgränd app, but still not that many :-) It’s an approach that some (many?) will appreciate while other may not…. It’s fine by me as it happens but, of course, individuals can make their own call on this front.
Baervaag – where the name is derived from a Swedish word for ‘carrier’ – is a fairly simple FM synth. You get a single signal carrier and a single modulator. The carrier oscillator can be modified via the Carrier XY pad where you can adjust the shape of the waveform on the Y axis (from sine to square) and the pulse width modulation on the X axis. The carrier also has an ADSR envelope although, via the Vel Mod switch, you can also control the attack time via MIDI velocity which is a nice touch.
The Modulator XY pad operates in the same way as the Carrier XY pad but its ADSR envelope interacts with the Carrier ADSR. The Modulator also offers a ‘multiply’ button that adjusts the Modulator frequency relative to the note frequency. In between the two XY pads is the Feedback slider and this controls the depth of modulation produced with higher settings meaning greater amounts of modulation. Engaging the Vel Mod switch for this control brings an element of velocity-based modulation control into the sound also and can be very effective.
Other features include a low pass filter with standard Freq(ency) and Reso(nace) controls and, again, a Vel Mod option (which impacts of the filter frequency). It’s perhaps not the most sophisticated filter you will ever encounter but it does a decent job and adds extra sound-shaping possibilities. Between them, the Wbl Speed and Wbl Depth sliders add a subtle (and it is quite subtle; no Dubstep bass sounds here) ‘wobble’ to the sound by varying the pitch and amplitude. Finally, you get a gentle chorus to fatten things up a bit and a master volume control.
You can use Baervaag as a standalone app and I also ran it as an AU plugin within Cubasis and AUM. Technically, I had no issues other than, in standalone mode, I found scrolling through the presets a bit fiddly for those categories that included more than a single page of preset sounds. I’m not complaining too much though; the presets are great to have and, divided into various obvious categories, they do a great job of demonstrating that Baervaag is actually capable of quite a wide range of sounds.
I particularly liked some of the bass and lead sounds while those in the ‘Short’ category would make great candidates for sticking through an arpeggiator. As you might expect, given the single oscillator synth engine, perhaps the sounds in the Pads category are not as deep or involving as you might find on a more complex synth engine but, even so, there are plenty of useable tones here.
On a technical level, Baervaag worked happily with a connected MIDI keyboard via standalone or AU. And, of course, the AU format means multiple instances. As this is a compact app – both in controls and, I think, in terms of CPU resource demands, you could easily imagine building a project with several instances of Baervaag doing their respective thing.
For some iOS musicians, the fact that Baervaag is a Klevgränd app will be enough to ensure a purchase; the developer has embraced the platform fully and their minimalist designs and simple(ish) apps have found a lot of friends. For other, the fact that the app is AU from the off will also be enough; most iOS musicians would see the benefits that the AU plugin format is bringing and, again, would want to support a developer that is getting behind that trend.
If you already own another FM-based iOS synth app (for example, Phasemaker, TF7, Mersenne or FM4), then maybe you might not be inclined to add another one to your collection. It is, after, sometimes an acquired taste in synthesis terms. Given the compact format and AU support, perhaps Phasemaker is the most obvious and direct competition so check out my original Phasemaker review if you want to compare the details and listen to the sounds via the demo videos. Of course, at their respective prices, lots of folks will just buy both and enjoy the variety :-)
Where Baervaag will really score is with potential users who like Klevgränd’s minimalist approach to synth front-ends. In reality, this synth is a doddle to use as the control set follows the KISS approach that Klevgränd usually adopt in their UIs. For those that don’t want to get tied up in programming but want just enough control to roll their own sounds before getting on with actually creating some music, the design is right up your street. If that sounds like you then check out the video below and hit the download button and grab the app at the special launch price….