Pantsofdeath reviews Impaktor from BeepStreet.
I write a lot about AppRegret, that feeling you get after coughing up five or ten bucks for an app and then realising that you have really wasted your money. Probably not an issue for most people, but when you buy as many apps as I do the wasted purchases can add up pretty fast. I am still an obsessive app buyer, but because of all my mistakes I am now a lot more cautious and watch the price drop lists like a cat waiting at a mouse hole. So when Alex asked me to review Impaktor – The Drum Synthesizer for iDesignSound I was very excited because it meant I could try the app for free!
Impaktor comes from BeepStreet, the same developers that brought you the excellent Sunrizer Synth, and the same degree of professional competence and attention to detail can be seen throughout this application. This is a $5 app I would happily have paid a lot more for.
At it’s most basic Impaktor is a drum synth that is triggered by sound coming in the iPad/iPhone microphone. There is no detectable latency and the velocity and sharpness of the incoming sound controls the velocity and sharpness of the resulting drum noise. This is very clever. The idea is that you can play the drum sounds by tapping and slapping the tabletop near your idevice and that noise is translated into input trigger information in real time.
A few minutes into playing with the presets and I was in love, the variation in volume and timbre you can get from this instrument is incredible, high pitched pings from tapping my fingertips, gutsy booms from slapping my hand down, cracking rimshot pops when my wedding band hit the tabletop, this is the nearest thing to a real drum you will find in on iOS, and possibly in any software. It is already being compared to Korg’s Wavedrum, and I have seen it referred to as Wavedrum mini on at least one blog.
As with Sunrizer the presets are plentiful and beautifully crafted, there are 90 of them split into four categories: ethnic, electronic, imaginary and industrial.
The primary selling point of the app is the ability to turn your desktop into a realistic percussive instrument. I understand that VoxKit is selling similar functionality in this space, but where VoxKit is triggering samples, Impaktor synthesizes its sound. It is providing a mass of serious synthesis, and you can control all of it.
On the iPad the app is all set out in a single screen, the iPhone version is split into two screens. Essentially there is a performance / recording section where you can choose your sounds and record patterns, and select and edit your effects. The other section deals with sound generation and related parameters.
|Other drum synths available on iOS (the most obvious examples being Korg’s iElectribe) have a single oscillator with a more or less complete set of ADSR, resonance and cutoff knobs, and some filtering. By comparison Impaktor is a beast of a synth. Each voice/sound is generated by two sound modules. Each sound module has a selection of sound generation ‘models’ available – Membrane, Resonator, Vocoder & Noise, and FM.
Remember that there are TWO of these modules for each voice. By any benchmark that is a serious amount of power! There are plenty of full synths out there with way less sound generation capability than this. Once you have configured your modules you can choose to mix these (module A or module B or a mixture A&B) or you can feed the output of module A into module B. The resulting noise can then be sent through one of 8 filters (high-pass, low-pass, band, notch, etc.) applied to the mix of both sound modules, to either module, or to the transient envelope (I have no idea what that even means).
|There is an ‘impulse’ section that lets you edit the incoming sound you are using as your trigger information, and there is an envelope section you can use to shape whatever insane noise you have generated. Either of these things can be channelled through a pitch section to restrict the frequencies you throw out.Incidentally, the help screen on this app is really good, just enough information to explain everything without bombarding the user with jargon.
The recording section is self explanatory you can record and overdub multiple voices over the top of each other. Completed recordings can be exported using AudioCopy. This is similar to the recording and export functionality standard to many iOS synths (Sunrizer, NLog, Animoog etc.) and iOS musicians will be comfortable with it. The real time quantization will tidy up any rough edges in your performances. I was momentarily confused by the loop lengths – all loop lengths are expressed as n/16, in most drum apps 16/16 would indicate one bar of 16 steps, but here 16/16 is 16 beats, or 4 bars to you and me, one bar of 4 beats is expressed as 4/16.
Now for the obligatory niggles section. I record most of my tracks on the bus and in my lunch hour, as do many iOS musicians, but because the input to this is sound through the microphone that is not possible. You have to use this app in almost complete silence. Given that this is the primary selling point of this app it would be churlish of me to complain about that, but given the amazing sound engine at work here it would be excellent to have an alternative source of input… Using something like Orphion to control this over Midi would be awesome. I would also love to see the recording go to a Midi editor to allow some cleanup before exporting.
Until last month I was frustrated that I couldn’t get more exciting percussion into my iOS recordings, there are some solid drum machines on the platform but the range of ethic, exotic and natural sounding percussion was limited. DrumJam filled a fair amount of that void when it came out a couple of weeks ago, but this app I think solidly fills any remaining gaps. This thing is BIG…. And costs $5! I expect to see some really exciting percussion sounds appearing on the iOS SoundCloud group in the near future!
|You can follow Pantsofdeath on Twitter, SoundCloud or at his Blog|
|Pantsofdeath, or Jon as his family insist on calling him, is a 43 year old Brit living in Sydney. He spent his teens and twenties making music on a collection of junk shop and jury rigged music equipment. Then pesky things like work and children got in the way. The unexpected gift of an iPad at Christmas reignited his passion and he is now a slightly obsessive iOS musician and app fetishist.|