Sensual Sax launched – Embertone deliver some smooth sax tones in an iOS app with AU support

Download from iTunes App StoreCreating realistic sounding solo instruments from samples can be quite a challenge. On the desktop, that process is made easier (from a technical perspective at least) by using multiple samples to simulate changes in tone with the dynamics of the performance and for different performance articulations (long nots, short notes, bends, vibrato, slides, etc. depending upon the instrument being emulated). For iOS, however, multi-GB sample libraries are more difficult to justify given the restricted storage space available.

That’s not to say we are not seeing some advances on this front though and we do have some excellent sample-based virtual instruments available in apps such as SampleTank and iSymphonic Orchestra (for example). When it comes to brass sound, we also have the excellent iFretless Brass and iFretless Sax from Blue Mangoo. However, today sees a new contender in this specific area  – Sensual Sax – and, while the app is released by Embertone, Hans Anderson and the Blue Mangoo development team were involved in the development process.

Feeling sensual and ready for some sax? Embertone might have just the app for you….

Sensual Sax was originally released as a desktop virtual instrument for Kontakt around three years ago. Embertone have now ported the instrument to iOS and Blue Mangoo have been involved in the  work to take the original samples and convert them – alongside development of an iOS-specific engine – into an iOS app format. Hans tells me that he is excited about the release because this is a new engine and not based upon the code from his iFretless series. It uses a more sophisticated approach and shares elements of the sampler technology found in the recent Drum Session app.

Sensual Sax includes AU support from the off…. great to see in any new app.

At a technical level, the app is universal, supports MIDI in/out and offers Audiobus, IAA and (yay!) AU support from the off. It is priced at UK£3.99/US$4.99 (so not too much of a stretch for the more casual purchaser) and a 166MB download. Hans tells me they have already had a few user comments re the somewhat suggestive tone of the UI (although this is directly inherited from the desktop version) and that might get toned down at some stage…..

I’m not sure exactly what the sampling details are under the hood but, even from a brief play this morning, it’s clear there are multiple sample layers handling the MIDI velocity response. You also get a choice of three performance articulations – legato, sustain and staccato – all of which do pretty much what you would expect and offer velocity response when used via an external MIDI keyboard. I couldn’t see any keyswitch options to move between the three articulations via your keyboard (you have to use the onscreen switch I think).

The ambience options really do open up the sound for those gentle – and very smooth – sax solos.

The controls themselves are fairly simple. A button top-left allows you to configure the MIDI in/out, while the large central rotary control (yes, the ‘Sex Knob’) actually controls a number of parameters at the same time to add more ambience to the sound. However, if you tap on the green LED button beneath this control, it opens up a further pop-up panel where you can tweak away at the individual settings.

These offer reverb, vibrato and delay (so, if you want to get all ambient and moody, then Sensual Sax can do just that – think ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael). However, the really interesting control is the Sensuality switch. Engage this and you get all sorts of pitch ornamentation added to notes when playing the legato patch. These simulate the bending into motes that a real sax player would use when playing slower legato phrases and, once you have a feel for how the sound engine responds, this is actually very effective. It doesn’t work so well for faster passages…  but for slow, moody, sax solos, the results are pretty good.

Anyway, a full review will follow but feel free to check out the promo video below (don’t smirk too loudly at the ‘Sex Knob’ control) and then hit the download button to find out more…..

Sensual Sax

Download from iTunes App Store


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    1. Nathan Brazil says:

      There has been a thread that was closed down on AB forum over the interface of this great app. Mostly down to one person determined to be offended. The vast majority could see and more importantly hear that this is a FANTASTIC sounding app. The way of the future, I hope, where equal quality instruments will be ported across to IOS.

      • Sometimes you just have to try so hard to be ticked off by something don’t you? Bit sad really….. Still, the developers do seem sensitive to the reaction it has caused in some quarters so I suspect there will be some simple graphical changes implemented at some stage…. best wishes, John

      • …. Oh, and agreed here also…. My initial impression is that, while niche, it does sound pretty good for that niche…. Best wishes, John

    2. Only a complete attention-seeking moron would be offended by this app. I purchased and the sound is indeed excellent and I like the vintage porn-style interface.

    3. Embertone makes excellent plugins for Kontakt and this adaptation for IOS is very successfull even if the interface symbol is not as light as a feather and doesn’t seem pro :-) I hope they will adapt other great plugins !

    4. Have I understood correctly that you can’t change the timbre and vibrato without adding reverb…..can I disable the reverb?

      • Nathan Brazil says:

        Tap the small blue button at the bottom of the Sex Knob. A panel should slide up, revealing more controls. You can zero Reverb there.

    5. Great fun – I play alto sax, but as with iFretless Bass I can see valid uses for this in recording, along with other virtual instruments, especially when mixed with ‘real’ or traditional ones. iOS music is coming along in leaps and bounds. Thanks for your good work!

    6. Nathan wrote: “Mostly down to one person determined to be offended. ”

      Not entirely true.

      Many people in that thread said they didn’t like the interface. Some said it was just annoying, some said it was tacky, some said they didn’t want to perform live with it as people might see the big “sex” button and get the wrong idea, and one person said it disturbed her as she had been sexually assulted.

      I felt she was drawing a long bow to link the “70s sleaze” design of the app to real life sexual assult, but I don’t think she was lying, making it up or being ” determined to be offended. ” It was her reaction to the design of the app.

      We are not all the same and we don’t react to things exactly the same. And calling her “a complete attention-seeking moron” as Raf is not good.

      None of us knows what this person went through. Maybe she is overstating things, maybe not. You don’t have to agree with her, but you don’t have to attack her either.

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