Like most iOS-based producers, when I’m on the road I use my iPad for light compositional tasks, sound design, and quick edits. But when I’m in the studio, I rely on it for sounds that I simply can’t get from my hardware and software collection.
Over the past year, one of my go-to apps for studio production has been iSymphonic Orchestra 2. While there are numerous sample-based orchestral resources for the desktop, the value and quality that this app provides is stunning.
Synthesis fans may be slightly disappointed that iSymphonic Orchestra 2 is so straightforward to use: There are no filters, envelopes, or LFOs. Here, the focus is squarely on world-class orchestral instruments assembled by Kurt Ader, one of the top orchestral soundware developers for the Korg Kronos.
What iSymphonic Orchestra 2 does provide is 16-channel multitimbral operation, a solid reverb for enhancing the ambience of the stereo samples, and an integrated recorder for sketching arrangements on the go. Notably, you can save and recall snapshots of the settings in all 16 parts, as well as the details of the MIDI recorder, as App States.
The tuning features in iSymphonic Orchestra 2 include a master tuning control and support for static-tuning scales (see Figure 1). Presets for a variety of Turkish and Arabic scales is included, and users can create and save their own. The app also offers Hermode Tuning, which dynamically adjusts the pitch of individual instruments by a few cents based on the harmonic progression. This allows you to create more natural sounding performances by replicating the subtle pitch modifications professional players make. (Learn more about Hermode Tuning at hermode.com.)
As for the sounds themselves, they are absolutely stunning. The app has a strong focus on strings, with a wide range of articulations provided, as well as tasters for brass and unique instrumental blends such as cello and woodwinds, and horns and strings. Although this may be enough for casual users looking for legitimate orchestral material, iSymphonic Orchestra 2 really comes alive when you expand it with in-app purchases, each of which is priced below $20. So, for less than two hundred bucks, you can have a spectacular orchestral-composition resource that will stand the test of time.
Because iSymphonic Orchestra 2 is compatible with Audio Unit V3, Audiobus, and IAA formats, it will easily integrate into existing iOS production workflows. Thanks to Core MIDI and OS X 10.11, you can also connect your iPad to your Mac and use iSymphonic Orchestra 2 as an external device. I’ve taken this approach on several productions this year, with impressive results. What’s more, the app is compatible with iPhones and the iPod Touch, so you could theoretically use a phone as your orchestra.
Priced at $9.99, iSymphonic Orchestra 2 is an absolute bargain for adding realistic strings to your compositions. And if you add a few expansion packs, you’re pretty much ready for any scoring task. It’s that good.
Francis Prève has been designing synthesizer presets professionally since 2000. Check out his new soundware company at symplesound.com.
High-quality orchestral instruments. Affordable in-app expansion packs. App States. Integrated reverb and recorder. Hermode Tuning.
Channel volume only. No synthesis tools.