Syndt review – Klevgränd add a new polyphonic synth to their ‘Kanvas’ iOS music app collection

Download from iTunes App StoreI’ve reviewed a number of iOS music apps from Klevgränd Produktion here on the blog over the last year or two – Vandelay, SquashitSvep, RoverbEnkl, WeeelKorvpressor, PressIt,  Esspresso, Jussi, HaazePads and Baervvag amongst others.

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.

Klevgränd have launched a further app today – Syndt – and in this case it is another addition to the streamlined instrument options with their ‘Kanvas’ UI backdrop. Syndt features an polyphonic synth engine and, for a Klevgränd app at least, quite a few controls that are actually spread over three (yes, three!) screens :-)

Syndt – still with the ‘Kanvas’ look, but a much deeper control set than other instrument apps in the series.

As with all their recent releases, Syndt is delivered in formats for desktop (AU, VST) and iOS (standalone and AU). Again, there is no Audiobus or IAA; Klevgränd see AU as the future and so are focusing on that format. The app does run in stand-alone mode but that version doesn’t support external MIDI (there is a virtual MIDI keyboard in the UI when used stand-alone) or IAA.

Under iOS, the app is universal, requires iOS9.3 or later, is a 28MB download and launched with a special discounted UK£4.99/US$4.99 price tag. Of course, iOS is not short of synth apps so, is Klevgränd’s take on polyphonic synth – and which follows their usual KISS UI approach – a suitable contender for this week-end’s pocket money purchase?

Minimalist…  but not quite so

While all the ‘Kanvas’ AU instrument apps that Klevgränd have released for iOS have come at a pocket money price, their uber-streamlined control set hasn’t meet universal favour. As a platform, iOS and the App Store have perhaps made the merits of simple software a ‘thing’ again and, while I’m all for powerful, all-singing, all-dancing, software in the right context and for the right job, the ‘this app does one thing’ approach is also a good thing.

However, a few hardened iOS musicians have voiced the opinion that some of Klevgränd’s apps have perhaps taken that a touch too far; they sounded great, but maybe some folks wanted a bit more depth and flexibility to the programming options.

Syndt is the latest addition to Klevgränd’s iOS instrument collection.

Well, if you were one such person, then maybe Klevgränd can tempt you back into the fold with Syndt? Rather than a single screen with a few carefully chosen controls placed upon the water-paint-styled backdrop, Syndt has controls spread over three main pages – Voice, LFO and Global – and you tab between them using the buttons located bottom-left. It’s still an synth engine that is going to be approachable for the programming novice, but there is certainly a bit more going on for those that wish to dig a bit deeper.

Speak to me

The Voice tab gives you controls for the Oscillator in an XY pad with the Y axis moving between pure sine and pure square wave while the X axis controls the pulse width. To the right of this are two mini-LFOs that can be used to modulate the oscillator settings. The NoteOn Sync switch allows you to force the LFOs to re-trigger with each new note (or not).

The Voice tab is one of three pages of controls within Syndt.

To the right again are high and low pass filters with frequency and resonance controls and a couple of sliders that control the attack of the low pass filter. All of these controls can have velocity-based modulation toggled on/off and, with it on, that obviously adds the option for sound shaping based upon your playing dynamics.

The Voice tab is rounded off by a set of graphical ADSR controls.

More modulation

The LFO tab shows a set of controls for the synth’s main LFO and this can be used to modulate a number of different parameters within the overall engine. The LFO can also be tempo-sync’ed to your host. The controls here are pretty straightforward and you can set the LFO speed, attack time and phase as well as (again) toggling on/off the NoteOn Sync option for reseting the LFO.

The four dials at the base of the tab show the four potential targets for the LFO – the two filters, the gain and the pitch – and there are a few options here. Note that there are also four ‘Wheel’ on/off buttons. If these are switched off, then the value set on the dial is used as the modulation amount for the LFO to the target parameter and, of course, set to zero, no modulation of that parameter occurs.

The LFO tab provides you with a selection of sound modulation options.

However, if you toggle the Wheel switch on, you can then control the modulation amount via your MIDI keyboards mod wheel control from zero up to a maximum value set by the dial. This works very effectively for hands-on sound shaping and you can have all four parameter under mod wheel control at the same time if you so wish.

Going global

The Global tab brings us three effects – delay, chorus and EQ – plus a master volume control, pitch-bend range setting and a Legator on/off/Glide control (so you can make Syndt into a mono-synth for some juicy bass lines for example).

The Delay is actually quite impressive, allowing you to colour the tone of the repeats via the LP and HP filters and enhance the stereo nature of the effect via the Width dial. It will, of course, also sync to the host’s tempo.

The Global page has a range of effects with a particularly good delay option.

The Chorus does – well, chorus – although, as someone who is not a great fan of over-cooked chorus effects, I loved the more subtle settings but would happily live without the more extreme settings that can be generated. The three-band EQ sliders are a bit odd graphically but, if you think of the central position on each bar as ‘EQ flat’, the deviation shown away from that indicates the EQ cut/boost in each frequency….  and it works fine.

In use

As noted above, you can use Syndt as a standalone app but I spent most of my testing time running it as an AU plugin within Cubasis and AUM. Technically, I had no issues other thanI had to access the preset sounds through Syndt’s own preset browser (located top-right) rather than the ‘standard’ preset browser that is part of AUM or Cubasis.

On a technical level, Syndt worked happily with a connected MIDI keyboard when used via 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 Syndt doing their respective thing.

Syndt is really design to be used via AU and, as shown here within AUM, will happily support multiple instances in that format.

Of course, you would only want to do that if the synth sounds offered were worth using. And, in this case, I think Klevgränd have a bit of a winner on their hands here. There are around 70 presets supplied and these are divided into a number of obvious categories. There are, however, some real highlights in almost every category and what this suggests is that, despite what is still (by modern synth standards) a pretty modest control set, Syndt is actually capable of both a wide range of sounds and, equally, some very impressive sounds.

So, for example, drop into the bass category and presets such as Beko or Fatty and big and solid but without getting so OTT that there is no room for anything else in your mix. In the Lead category, Fine Lead is great for all sorts of synthy noodling while the Cotton preset will get you feeling mellow and dream.

Multiple instances also ran nicely within Cubasis.

Perhaps most surprising (well, to me anyway) was the Pads category. Given the fairly modest oscialltor arrangement the engine is built upon, there were some surprisingly good pad sounds available. Again, perhaps not something where you can play one note and the whole composition is then sorted for the next 30 seconds (although I’m not actually sure that’s a good thing in some synths) but more than useable and even better when layered as run run a couple of instances of Syndt in your host.

There are some excellent sounds amongst the 70 or so supplied presets…. but rolling your own is also very easy.

And, yes, there are also some good sounds to be found in the other categories….   but what these examples do demonstrate is that, in Syndt, Klevgränd have perhaps created something that is much more versatile than some of the other ‘Kanvas’ instruments. In that sense, it is perhaps more on a par with Enkl rather than, for example, Tines or Pads. What’s more, they have still done it with a fairly modest expansion of the control set; I like their minimalist approach but the slightly less minimalist design choices made here will certainly make this a more widely attractive software instrument.

Like Enkl shown here, Syndt offers enough controls to be considered a ‘proper’ programmable synth; not a ‘mega-synth perhaps, but still very capable.

In summary

For some iOS musicians, Klevgränd are a company they have a great affinity for; they embraced the platform and have developed some truly innovative iOs music apps with easy-to-use interfaces. They are also one of the few iOS developers who have subsequently made a successful expansion from iOS to the desktop. The fact that Syndt is a Klevgränd app will, therefore, be enough for some to ensure a purchase. For others, the fact that the app is also AU from the off will also be enough.

Should everyone consider it a ‘must have’ synth? Well, I suspect that if you already own more iOS synths than you can shake a stick at, maybe there are no really compelling reasons to add Syndt to your app collection. Sonically, it perhaps won’t cover ground you don’t already have in hand. However, given the compact format, AU support, and the fact that is offers some genuinely good sounds, perhaps that’s not really the main issue? At this price, you can hoover it up without really over-thinking the issue.

Of course, if you are still building an iOS music app collection, and especially if you are more in to synth playing than synth programming, then Syndt comes highly recommended. The UI might be slightly whimsical (and not the ‘high-tech’ that we often expect from out software synths) but this is a more-than-capable instrument that, with multiple instances, could easily be used to build a complete instrumental bed for a track.

The bottom line is that Syndt is a synth that is a doddle with some very cool and useable sound . The launch pricing – which might only be available for a few days – pretty much places it in the casual purchase category. Tempted? Why not….  just get in quick to get the launch price….   Check out the demo video below and then hit the download button to find out more via the App Store.

Syndt

Download from iTunes App Store



Comments

  1. As always your comprehensive review sheds light. Unlike the developers promo video, which is rubbish. What’s with the Hawking style voice over for much of the demo. Surely, it would’ve been better to show the app in action? I’ve bought their apps in the past, and will always be interested to see what they do next, but this one is not for me.

  2. Just didn’t sound that great to me from their video. How is it better than Alchemy (which comes with Garageband which is now free), Sunrizer, Thor, Nave, Poison, DRC or any of the other great poly apps out there now? The market has become too crowded for throwaway purchases. If it’s not extraordinary enough to justify my time investment in it, it doesn’t go on my devices. I need to hear a lot more from this before I’d buy.

    • It could be that I’m missing why people rate these synths… I tried the Pads one and it had the most boring presets I’ve ever heard. Jussi is OK i guess because it has the vocal element.

      I’m reluctant to buy this because it could be another “pads” experience for me.

      As you say there are plenty of amazing synths… Why buy one that isn’t amazing? Or is the amazing part hidden? Are people “loving” these synths because they’re minimalist? Is it like a trendy minimalist fashion statement? I don’t know. If someone could explain the appeal I’m open to learning.

  3. It doesn’t appear to be universal at the moment. When i click the iTunes link to the app it tells me it is only available for iPad.

  4. This app is iPad only, not universal. Too bad as the UI seems pretty basic like their other apps, even with three pages. Doesn’t seem too processor-heavy from the description, but if that’s the reason for no iPhone version – my iPhone has quite a bit more power than my iPad Air.

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