For certain vintage-synth fans, IK Multimedia’s Syntronik could be just the ticket for accessing a wide array of rare gear on an iOS device. Although the desktop version has been around for a while, consistently receiving accolades, the iOS version has been a bit of a sleeper. Last May, it received an update that added five new synths—the legendary Moog Memory-moog, Korg Monopoly, EMS VCS3, and Roland SH-5 and SH-2—as well as a collection of original analog drum and percussion sounds derived from a variety of modular and analog keyboards. These additions make the latest edition worthy of a closer look.
IK Multimedia offers a free version, Syntronik CS, that includes seven presets from four instruments. The first level of the paid version of Syntronik includes seventeen synths, represented by 50 multi-sampled instruments, which can be further edited using the app’s integrated synthesis features. (The Syntronik IAP in-app purchase ($79) gives you access to all 17 of the original Syntronik synths, whereas the Syntronik Deluxe IAP ($99) includes an additional 5 new synths.)
In each of Syntronik’s emulated synths you’ll find an additional oscillator (for detuning effects) and nicely modeled filters (including credible Moog and Roland emulations), but generally they adhere to a similar synthesis architecture; a multi-sampled replica of the original hardware instrument followed by a resonant filter with dedicated AHDSR envelope, an amplifier AHDSR, and a single LFO with independent levels for cutoff, pitch, and panning.
Frankly, this is more than enough for customizing Syntronik’s extensive library, as the original samples already contain a lot of detail and nuance from their hardware sources. Additionally, the multimode filters have formant and phaser modes and variable roll-off slopes across all of the synths, including the ARP Solina, giving Syntronik’s implementations a broader sonic range than the originals.
Even with a huge assortment of beautifully sampled instruments, there are a few considerations that will be of interest to seasoned synth users. Some of these iconic synth patches include their own distinctive analog filter and amp envelopes, which sometimes conflict with the software envelopes. For example, if one of the original sampled synths decays to zero, the app envelope’s Sustain parameter will have no effect. The same issue applies to swept filter envelopes. However, if the original sampled synth sustains at full volume and/or brightness, the app envelopes will behave more predictably. This is understandable in some contexts, but if you’re working with a plucked resonant bass and then adjust the onboard filter envelope, the results may be counterintuitive.
Gary Numan fans should also be advised that his famous Polymoog Vox Humana lead will require some EQ tweaking to match the brightness of Numan’s sound. Fortunately, Syntronik includes a massive collection of fantastic effects for further customization of the library, so preset tweakers will be in heaven.
For iOS-based live rigs, Syntronik provides plenty of useful functionality, with four-way multi-timbral splits and layers, each with their own instrument and effects. Combined with AUv3, Inter-App Audio, and Audiobus compatibility, integrating this instrument into existing setups will be painless, provided you have the available memory: The app’s level of detail requires several gigabytes of free storage. If you’ve got that in place, Syntronik should definitely be on your iOS shopping list.
Large collection of multi-sampled synths. Variety of filtering options. Four-way splits/layering for live performance.
Some instruments respond idiosyncratically to synthesis parameters.
Francis Preve has been designing synthesizer presets professionally since 2000. Follow his field recording adventures at instagram.com/francispreve