iSymphonic Orchestra caused quite a stir when it was first launched by Crudebyte back in August and I did a full review of the app about a week after it was released. Priced at UK£37.99 and with a fairly hefty 600+MB download, it perhaps wasn’t going to ever be a casual purchase for your iOS music app collection but, if Crudebyte’s description of the app was correct, it promised to deliver the best orchestral sounds currently available from iOS.
Did it deliver? Well, yes… but also perhaps no. The original version shipped with just 10 patches – dominated by string sounds – so perhaps describing v.1.0 as an orchestral library was a bit of a stretch; no separate brass, woodwind or percussion sounds were included.There was support for IAA (and, of course, Crudebyte’s own JACK) but not for Audiobus. However, those patches that were supplied were very good indeed and certainly had a depth to them that was superior to anything else currently available in an iOS format.
For those wanting the best string sounds available on an iPad, the UK£37.99 asking price might not have been such as issue. For others – those just wanting some occasional (albeit high quality) string sounds – then I suspect a ‘wait and see’ attitude will have been adopted.
Well, if you have waited to see what might come next, that wait is now over; v.1.1.1 of iSymphonic Orchestra appeared on the App Store over the week-end. While there are a number of minor bug fix types issues address (always welcome to see) the headline features are all to do with sounds. A set of 14 new patches are included within the base app (so 24 patches in total) and, if you want more, there is a further set of 19 sounds available in the Pro Sound Set iAP for UK£15.49.
Of the sounds included within the app itself, there are some variations on the original string sounds – different versions of the spiccato/legato, slow and sordino strings, for example. However, there are also some totally new patches such as ‘full strings’ and – most welcome – some brass and woodwind sounds. So, we now get a couple of ‘all brass’ patches, a trombone section patch, a cello+woodwind patch and a horns+strings patch. No, it’s not quite yet what you might describe as a ‘full’ range of orchestral sounds covering all four sections – strings, brass, woodwind and percussion – in an even and full fashion, but it is a very good step in the right direction.
If you are happy to cough up for the IAP, you can take yourself a little closer still. This gives you various French horn patches, a couple of additional ‘all brass’ patches, a bassoon/flute/oboe patch, a full brass/strings patch and then a collection of ‘Baroque Ensemble/Orchestra’ patches. There is still no percussion but at least there are some brass and woodwind sounds now available.
I haven’t (yet) stumped up for the IAP myself but giving the new sounds available within the base app a run through they are as impressive as the originals and, while you only get a limited number of brass and woodwind sounds, those that are here sound very good indeed.
Incidentally, as you scroll through the various patches, all of them, including those from the IAP, are listed. However, if you have not yet purchased the IAP, when you select one of those patches, the orchestral graphic shows the players slightly greyed out and you continue to hear whatever patch you had previously selected. Tap on the greyed out players in the graphic and you get offered the opportunity to purchase the IAP…
This update is a big step forward for iSymphonic Orchestra. Having more than doubled the number of default patches – and at least made a decent nod to non-string sounds – the app is a much better proposition for those wanting access to some high quality orchestral sounds on their iPad.
How your own ‘need vs want’ argument will pan out against the other demands placed upon your credit card, I’ll leave for you to decide… but the app does now represent a much better balance between features (patches) and price. It will be interesting to see if there are further IAPs added to expand the sound set. Equally, it will be interesting to see how the pricing for iSymphonic Orchestra sits alongside the pricing Korg start with for Korg Module when that is released. No, the latter is not aimed at orchestral sounds but as another high-end (well, high-end for iOS) sample-based virtual instrument, the comparison will be interesting.