Moog Music’s synth Animoog is out today. Synthtopia gets full credit for being first; James concludes with the question “time to buy an iPad?”:

Moog Animoog – The ‘First Professional Synth For The iPad’?

I’m looking forward to playing it and having some time to work with it, and fully expect to make some actual music with it, which is the whole point. I can already see that it has some interesting ideas, and it seems an eminently sensible approach to iPad synthesis. It builds on Moog’s software models of their filters, delays, and whatnot, but exploits the iPad’s touch design by assigning morph-able timbres and polyphonic pitch shift to the X/Y pad of the iPad. The results should be terrific fun to play with, and I don’t think I have to test it to assume it’ll be worth a dollar. In fact, given the pricing of computer soft synths, I expect it’ll be worth $30, too.

Significant points: unique synthesis, MIDI in/out support (even so-called “virtual MIDI” with other iOS apps reportedly works), and polyphonic operation, all at an absurdly low price.

http://www.moogmusic.com/products/apps/animoog

Moog video tour

This is already looking like absolutely the sort of synth you’d hope Moog would release. It has some characteristics in common with their hardware, it uses code that we’ve already heard producing great sounds in the Filtatron app, and it also remains different from their hardware, tailored to the iPad. Centering it around an X/Y plot for control is also fitting, as that was the central innovation around with the Minimoog Voyager was built as the modern-day successor to the original Minimoog.

Wired has a review (see video); Moog has posted sound samples, below.

Wired’s Michael Calore concludes:

WIRED A varied instrument capable of both subtle and wild sounds. Excellent sound quality. Plenty of presets to explore. Hours of fun, even if you’re not very musical. This is what the iPad was made for. On sale for $1 — which is a steal, people — for a limited time.

TIRED Advanced features are quite complex, and you’ll need to RTFM. Keys are tiny — you can make them bigger, but that reduces the range of notes. And you thought it was tough to wrestle the iPad away from the kids before.

Moog Debuts an iPad Synth From the Outer Limits

Animoog by moogmusicinc

Here’s where I start to lose the plot. It’s only my opinion, but I imagine I may be giving voice to some other folks who feel similar frustrations. My concerns are partly about Moog, but largely about the growing hype cloud around synths for the iPad.

I think it begins here: something about the video above sets my teeth on edge. It’s not entirely Moog’s fault, but it means it’s time for some reckoning with this whole, uh, iPad thing.

In short: the app is sonically terrific, but it’s past time to properly evaluate the usability of the iPad. And saying this is the first “professional” synth, or that you need a synth from Moog just to make music on an iPad, simply isn’t fair.

The iPad Shares Some PC Strengths – and Failings

The iPad clearly deserves credit for what it does beautifully. I spoke to a major music software pioneer last month in San Francisco who shall remain nameless, and I talked to him about why he was so excited about the iPad. He cut straight to the crux of the matter: by allowing you to touch the interface, you more directly interact with a software instrument. (I’m paraphrasing. I think he said it better.)

Here’s the thing: the iPad is then a better version of a software synth, but not a better version of a hardware instrument. It’s a different beast, but it is on some level an evolution of software. (I would argue this is why my ongoing criticism and praise for the iPad, whether or not you agree with it, has been consistent. I was initially concerned about software lock-down or consumption-focused applications because I was judging the thing as a computer – and likewise found things like MIDI input and output equally useful. That is, I’m certainly biased, but I try to be at least consistently biased.)

And as a result, something about the teaser video above looks horribly, terribly wrong. The modern Moog Music is the brand that, more than any other, more than any boutique modular vendor or blog or synth builder or eBay find, has stood for the beauty of hardware design. This is wrapped up with lots of mysticism among their fans about the sound of analog – some legitimate, some not, some misunderstanding the role of digital circuitry in making analog gear work, and some very real. But more than anything else, it’s about the value of designing hardware that integrates sound-making with physical control.

Having spent the better part of the summer having design discussions about what individual knobs should do, I can tell you first-hand that designing hardware is radically different from designing software. I enjoy each uniquely for this reason: software lets you do anything; hardware forces you to make choices.

If we had simply fetishized beautiful Moog gear with its wooden endcaps and such, then this criticism would be unfair. But I’m assuming it isn’t just nostalgia that makes us appreciate those designs.

Framed by that beautiful gear, artist Marc Doty looks frankly ridiculous tapping away at a screen you can’t see. It looks wrong for two reasons: one, because you know that the experience of the Moog hardware is so very different, and two, because the effect of playing the iPad is somehow incongruous, too.

Now, obviously, our friends at Moog I’m sure aren’t suggesting that we switch from their hardware to iPads. But it’s worth saying why I think the two things are so different, because in the celebration of the cheapness of software, and Moog’s own marketing blitz for their new app, it might otherwise get missed.

Tap, Tap, is This Thing On?

Of course, computers look ridiculous. We all know this. Seeing someone behind a computer is a problem precisely for the reason that watching someone play a video game is ridiculous: the human is involved in an essentially abstract activity in which physical motion only makes sense with visible feedback from a screen. People repeat this criticism to me when I see them the way that people repeat greetings like “Good Morning.”

Illustration:

“Mornin’!”
“Hey, you doing?”
“Pretty good, you?”
“Can’t complain.”
“Weather’s nice today.”
“Yeah, winter’s coming.”
“How’s your work going?”
“Busy.”
“You know the problem with computers? They lack the kinetic experience of connecting a physical gesture to a sound, because of the natural abstraction of software. The keyboard/mouse interface paradigm introduced in primarily with the 80s Macintosh and copied from the XEROX PARC GUI research was never intended for musical use. The convenience of the computer is unassailable, but we have this fundamental interaction model problem. Audiences are therefore un-engaged in laptop performances, because all they see is a person behind a glowing laptop screen with the Apple logo. They could be checking they’re email.”
“Yup. Laptop music sure is f***ing boring. Guess you’d better by a f***ing fader box for fifty bucks. So, see you tomorrow?”
“Ciao!”

The problem is, tablets (okay, iPads, since that’s all anyone at the moment is buying), while they look different than computers, can also look just as absurd. Somehow, they’ve escaped this criticism, perhaps because of their newness. Well, dear iPad, it ends now. The laptop has stood up to these complaints, and we know why we use them anyway. We make fun of them, and they’re tougher for it, and we still love them. Now it’s your turn. We may still use you, but you’re going to have to play with the grown-ups now and start to answer how wildly un-musical and un-usable your plain glass screen can be.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m fully aware of my own checkered past. I spend large amounts of my time looking silly. (This extends to a great many things in my life, but let’s focus for now on how stupid I look a lot of the time making computer music; lest this post become the size of Wikipedia.) I’ve spent years looking silly and strange using a laptop, since I first played with a computer in 1993. I did it enough that I knew, each time I heard someone reflexively complain about musicians “checking their email,” I was exactly the sort of person they meant. I have seen the enemy, and it is me.

But I have enough expertise in looking stupid to have a sinking suspicion that we must be very, very fast approaching the day where we start to (rightfully) make fun of the iPad, too.

This is not to say you should sell all your computers and trade them in for modular synths – though I do know some people reach that conclusion. I think software is a wonderful thing, in case that wasn’t blatantly and painfully obvious. It allows us greater flexibility of use, and the ability to create sounds you haven’t heard before.

The iPad is a terrific, new marketplace for such synths, because of a voracious consumer base and easy distribution. I doubt the Moog synth would single-handedly motivate an iPad purchase: you either want one or you don’t, and if you don’t, there are so many other ways of making sound I seriously doubt you’ll be genuinely missing out. If you do, you’ve probably already loaded up with other synths, and this one could provide extensive good times. And that is a good thing.

The danger is, in the understandable enthusiasm for embracing this market, we might lose sight of the fact that the iPad shares a lot of the same problems as the computer. To be fair, you can connect MIDI input and output to the Moog app, thus adding more tangible control. And X/Y touch works very well for continuous control, on the iPad as it did, once upon a time, on touch sensors on early Buchla synths.

But Moog, uniquely and more than any other iPad developer anywhere, had better start to think about how they will distinguish between the message about their iPad app and the rest of their hardware, especially since their hardware costs a lot more than 99 cents – and rightfully so.

I really wasn’t joking earlier today when I said I’d trade in my iPad to have a Moogerfooger ClusterFlux instead.

To be clear: the Animoog app benefits greatly from X/Y touch navigation, and you can replace the keyboard with MIDI input to make it far more playable. The issue is simply that what you wind up with is a different – if also powerful – experience from what you get from Moog hardware. And the actual programming outside of the X/Y pad can still be tricky on the iPad’s screen, which has been the ongoing issue with mice on computers.

Good Times Ahead

The big picture is brighter than the iPad alone. Musicians are finding ways of keeping their laptops onstage, but focusing on their performance – of instruments, of controllers, of vocals. Computers themselves can disappear, without losing their flexibility, as we saw with DJ sniff’s display-free Mac mini rig. And the same embedded technology that powers the iPad is finding its way into other tools that are more musician-friendly, even if they lack Apple’s magical, consumer-inspiring tech. Chris Randall’s Beepcat project proposes using the BeagleBoard embedded platform as open hardware for distributing all the power of software synths, without the clunky computer. (More on that soon.)

The iPad, too, can be a useful tool, so long as we appreciate and work around its limitations, as we’ve learned to do with the computer.

This is, of course, the beautiful thing. It’s not about whether you choose analog or digital, iPad app or Ableton Live on Mac or Pd patch running on Linux, hardware or software, knob or switch or touch ribbon or Theremin. We have a wide spectrum of possible choices. There’s great experimentation on the iPad, and the best way to appreciate that experimentation is to realize how many people are tackling it, in many different ways. The iPad synth developer is given a radically imperfect device with all sorts of problems; that’s what makes their solutions so interesting. Because the iPad looks so silly, it’s important to make it sound really, really good, just as the mouse and keyboard and office machine rig that is the modern computer has been transformed by software that can make you love the thing.

First ‘Professional’ Synth?

So, on that note, one final criticism. I’m disappointed that Moog marketing chose the phrase “First Professional Synth Designed for the iPad.”

Yes, this is the sort of thing marketing people do all the time. But it’s no less unfortunate. And I thought it was a bit funny to see in comments on Synthtopia’s excellent preview people saying that they were excited about it because it came from Moog.

Don’t assume that for a second. Assume the opposite: the Moog name means it better be damned good, or you should get your pitchforks. (That’s even truer given that the Moog brand was in the hands of some less-than-stellar owners once upon a time.) We love Moog the way we love the New York Yankees – we love their achievements, and we’ll spend the extra money, in order to celebrate those victories – and be equally savage if they don’t live up to their name. My sense from the people I’ve talked to at Moog is that they’re aware of these expectations, and the expectations, not the assumptions can be what’s motivating.

Independent developers have done some fantastic work in iPad synths, work that obviously influenced the creation of the Animoog. Implying their work was somehow not “professional,” when this synth is built on that work, is insulting.

I’m not holding a grudge here, because the people I know at Moog are uncommonly supportive of the work of other creators. It’s the Moog marketing department’s job to say their thing is the “only” or “first” pro tool. It’s my job to say it’s not, and to pay just as much attention to developers you’ve never heard of as the ones that have. And I know when people feel I’m not doing that job well – whether I think that criticism is fair or not – I hear about it. (Oh, do I.)

We love the Moog name, we put it on t-shirts and drink beer with it on the label and get tattoos and go to festivals named after it because we love the designers who built them, and the feeling of using their designs, and the sounds they make when we plug them in, and the music we produce together with and made for people we love.

Apple? Moog?

Just a brand.

And in the end, if we’re willing to pick up the thing and look really silly tapping away at a piece of glass, we’ll know that the software is very, very good, indeed.

Now, let me update my iTunes credit card information.

Since CDM doesn’t have an editorial board, and this is just me talking, we really do welcome your feedback. Am I pulling too many punches, and you want to go further? Do you disagree, and want to write up an op-ed? Fire away in comments, and if someone would like to write a response / rebuttal, we’ll publish that here or link to your own site. Also, if you think I look silly, you may feel free to call me names; I’ve only ever deleted really rude comments. -PK

  • KimH

    I don't know where your apparent gear guilt complex comes from. I noticed it a long time ago- with the pointedly grudging iPhone coverage in the beginning. 

    Not everything has to have wires hanging out of it or run a custom Linux kernel to have value/street cred. 

    The nicest  thing would be if you simply reported about these things on the merits – instead of these overarching apologias/prescriptions for the tone of coverage.

  • starving student

    one of the best editorials that I've ever read of yours, thanks for your honesty, common sense, and integrity. and I'm sure Marc has nightmares about that video already. The ipad

    is a wonderful to and instrument and I myself am on the verge of getting one and filling it with music apps but seriously if music or and the art of performing music turns into nothing more than 'window washing' A phrase coined by a friend of mine the great Math Baps

    then I will eat my hat and cut off my ears :(  !!

  • http://actuel.fm actuel

    i feel ya KimH. I could've done without everything below the SoundCloud player. 

  • Peter Kirn

    And there we have two opposing viewpoints.

    @KimH: I would take issue only with the idea that I was apologizing for my own coverage.

    If Moog shows their iPad app in front of a whole bunch of their things with knobs on them, isn't that cause for commentary?

    And if they claim they're the "first" professional polyphonic iPad synthesizer, doesn't that cause for questioning what either the word "first" or the word "professional" means? (I hope to have a short list of some of these posted this week.)

    You're of course certainly welcome to disagree with the conclusions.

    I don't expect people to agree, but I will defend the substance of what I've said, and I'm confident of my own motivations. Some of my "grudging" concerns about iOS (lack of an SDK, MIDI I/O support) were directly addressed, and I credited Apple when they did so (at some length, even shooting a video at one point). I don't know that complaining about MIDI hardware support is the sign of "guilt" about covering iOS. Some of the other concerns – that Apple's control of technologies like multi-touch could lead to extended patent fights that would restrict other products – turned out to be prescient. Apple even recently was denied an attempt to trademark the term "multi-touch," which had been used on CDM prior to the iOS release and in description of other products.

    But absolutely, as I say, you're welcome to draw different conclusions. My rough impression is that you'll have no trouble finding the announcement today. This above is an editorial.

  • http://Www.nk-e.com nk:e

    Wow. You got some real passion around this. I don't perform much -laptop or otherwise- but it seems to me that with traditional instruments folks are looking at the interaction of the performer with his or her instrument. Could not the same happen with using screen projections in a visually appealing way to show interaction with the software instrument? This would need to be more than simply projecting a GUI and going about one's business. Instrument designers would need to think about a "performance interface" that is both useful and visually engaging to an audience. (Spectrasonic's Orb is getting there.) Musicians would need to think about integrating this with their show to bring an additional dimension of performance. Granted, ultimately the audience is still looking at someone standing there poking at a screen, but there is an opportunity to be engaged a bit more with the musician-instrument interaction. Might help a bit address the "email" thing.

  • Dave Onions

    Have to agree with KimH.

    "In short: the app is sonically terrific"

    Followed by 200 lines of hand-wringing.

    Marc looks 'Frankly ridiculous'. But he's clearly absorbed in how good the app sounds and how well it functions.

    I personally think that cardigan wearing men with beards playing overpriced boutique grid-matrix button controllers cross-legged in a warehouse look ridiculous – the difference is, they also look bored.

  • Peter Kirn

    All designs come with tradeoffs. So, I'd propose that what you get from the iPad is cheap app delivery (once you have the hardware), and all of this portability, and an X/Y controller and modal interface the hardware doesn't have. The hardware has the design restriction of having to choose specific parameters to control, and then getting tangible results. I don't care much about how I look – that's why I note that I was okay with looking silly. My assumption is that the interaction mode works well for some things and not others. What I'd like to investigate is where the line might be drawn, and so that means following a line of criticism to explore that. I'm certainly not the first person to wring my hands over those questions. I suppose I'm just surprised this kind of criticism would be off-limits. Or do people want to answer the criticism directly?

    Perhaps what we see is that the iPad and things like it is simply part of the way, but not all of the way, toward becoming the kind of instrument that, say, a Minimoog was?

  • Peter Kirn

    @nk:e – I'm waiting for video, but this wound up being the discussion with Martin Kaltenbrunner. And it's a perfect example, because his solution is just that – he projects the image of the Reactable.

    I actually argued for the advantage of the portability and low cost of his Reactable software (Android + iOS, though of course most will run it on the iPad for a tablet). He talked about what he missed from the tangible version, even though it costs a whopping EUR 10,000.

    The next question, then is — do *you* feel engaged playing or not (we both felt less engaged on the tablet), and then what do you want your audience to see (which may or may not be specifically what you're doing)?

  • Yoknot

    I think the Ipad really is a true paradigm shift. to me it goes roughly: 1963-1980/1985 analog synths, 1980/1985-1995 digital synths, 1995-2010 pc software synths, 2010-20?? software synths for portable computers with touch interfaces.

    I always used 100% dedicated hardware and not even a daw till half of 2010. all because of the bad marriage between the hardware and software in pc's and daw/vst combinations.

    with the Ipad I finally could use some of the benefits of the software synths and other musical software because it was finally playable and enjoyable to use. also with the ipad independent developers have acces to just about the same exposure and distribution as the big boys. making the ipad a platform with a real creative software developing boom. the quality of the ios software is sometimes underrated, with people just looking at the cool tablet.

    I agree that it has significant short-comings still though.

    about moog marketing, they have been doing some distasteful stuff ever since the little phatty I think. the product itself is still great though.

    and now I'm going to go fidget with the animoog.

  • http://twitter.com/cymatics cymatics

    I think you're really stretching to create a problem here. 

    It's all just tools to make music with. Moog produce hardware, they also produce software for touch-screen hardware. Arguably touch-screens allow for some of the most (to use a smutty steve-ism) 'intimate' experiences you can have with software (ie. I think touch screen interfaces can be as close to hardware as you get in software without dedicated controllers).

    Doesn't it follow that a hardware company would choose such a platform to dabble with in software? And that all other conjecture is just ancillary to (and at worse obscures) what should always be our main concern: does this tool enhance or detract from the process of making music?

  • KimH

    >>> "And if they claim they’re the “first” professional polyphonic iPad synthesizer, doesn’t that cause for questioning what either the word “first” or the word “professional” means?" <<<

    Oh geez. I know you mentioned this, but please also don't imply that this is anything but obligatory mktg-speak. Critiquing it is just a distraction.

  • Peter Kirn

    Heh, I'm amused that I can always tell within minutes when I've written something poorly. No editors, no going back; just immediate clunking sounds.

    I'm surprised by this:

    We're seeing a parade of iOS apps without, in my view, a genuine discussion of how playable they are or what is lost from hardware. Seeing one visibly *in front of* that hardware for me makes it a relevant time to bring it up. You gain something else, which this app does attempt to exploit, but it's crucial to me to work out what may be lost.

    I said that in far too many words above.

  • http://rfieldin.appspot.com Rob Fielding

    I don't get why everything still offers 1 tiny octave-and-a-half of actual playable range; because this is so obviously where the iPad is not being fully utilized, and it's such an easy problem to solve compared to writing an efficient synthesizer. It does sound pretty good, but that doesn't matter at all until you can actually play the thing. So ironically, the keyboard you plug into it to just make it playable probably has equivalent or better sounds because it runs a real-time OS designed for signal processing.

  • http://www.digitalmediajockey.com Kevin Hackett

    Watching anyone perform with a computer or iPad is about as exciting as watching a dog take a crap.

  • Martin

     I think that there are two completely different issues here : 1. What makes a good interface for making music, and 2. What looks silly, and to who ?

    Humans, like monkeys, are fairly used to (multi)-touch gesturing and are actually fairly good at it, especially when that interface involves moving something with your paw while tracking it with your eye(s) and when you have tactile feedback from your paws which correlates with information from your eyes. Acoustic instruments have this. Physical electronic instruments have part of it : ie your eye tracks your hand turning a knob but there is very limited tactile feedback compared to acoustic instruments.

    Keyboard and mouse driven computer have none of it. You look at a screen and move another physical object a meter a way that is represented on the screen. This is about as bad as it gets.

    Ipads and other tablets, while having no

    tactile feedback, at least re-establish eye -

    paw coherence and this is really no small

    thing. Plus they are MULTI touch. One reason mixing with a mouse, while, contrary to much opinion, it most definitely has its own advantages elsewhere, is that you can only do one thing at a time which is an absolutely massive limitation.

    Touch, and multitouch, despite the absence of tactile feedback, is a massive step forward over mousing for electronic music making, and I would be very, very surprised if there were as many people making music with a mouse in ten years time as there are making music with a Commodore 64 today.

    What looks funny ? My guess is that this is basically culturally dependent. I bet there are a few people in New Guinea who might find a sousaphone ensemble a riot, that some of Mozart's audiences might have thought that Coltrane or Hendrix were comedy acts, and that the band from the star wars taverna might have had a chuckle at Simon and Garfunkel.

    If an iPad was the size and shape of a piano keyboard would it be less funny or funnier ? I don't know, but hopefully we'll find out soon.

    Personally i think the bloke in the Moog spot looks like a bit of an idiot because of the editing and the set design, but maybe thats just me.

    Finally, just want to say that I am extremely happy to be able to read Peter's thoughtful and often thought-provoking articles/posts/rants even when, as is often the case, I disagree with him. I suggest that those people who get annoyed by content other than spec sheets and soundbites can probably find them elsewhere.

  • http://benxtan.com Ben X Tan

    Guilty as charged for instantly buying anything in the app store branded by the likes of Korg, Korg+Gorillaz, Moog, Propellerhead, etc. But when it costs 99 cents? There really no hesitation at all. Played around with it, its pretty fun, but then I went back to playing with the iMaschine, and I had a lot more fun with that.

    I think the iPad definitely has potential as a real musical instrument. Personally I haven't found a way to put it into my normal workflow of composing just yet. So far I"ve just been using it as a "toy" for jamming around. Most recently, I was using it with a Novation Launchpad and a Korg Nano Kontrol. Having the iPad was just like having an extra instrument, and I have to admit it was really fun. Sure it would be much cheaper to just buy another Launchpad, but the iPad offers me portability as well, and flexibility. I can compose on the train and bring it home and load it into Live if I wanted to. I can buy a new synth for 99 cents where I can interact directly with the knobs, sliders and keys, as opposed to using a keyboard and mouse and configuring each component to a hardware controller. I think thats a big plus.

    I've seen Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater use it live, and also a DJ that came out in front of his desk and held it like a guitar playing a drumpad. Both of which are more entertaining than someone stuck behind a laptop.

  • eshefer

    ipad tradeoffs? relative to what? hardware? which hardware?

    we are still in the early stages here. the ipad has been around for less then two years. we are only starting to see musical applications that truly try to exploit what the platform has to offer. we are barely scratching the surface.

    all these skeamorphic interfaces, all those virtual kbds, x-y pads are really just the first stages. lets wait a bit before we condem the ipad as a novelty, shal we?

  • Peter Kirn

    No, this was the idea. I do consider at times whether to keep my opinions/rants to myself, but what typically puts me over the top is the hope that we start a discussion precisely like this – and again, because the beauty of a discussion is hearing perspectives other than (my) own. So please, do carry on.

    Other questions I think about, and curious to hear what other people think: a MIDI input solves some of the playability issue, but at that point, how different is the iPad from your computer? And what should sound programming look like on a tablet? Can it have advantages over the hardware?

    Also, which synths for iOS would you view as competitive with this?

  • Jamsire Ernoir

    All I can say is that I drank the Green Kool-Aid a month ago and bought an IPad after the miserable failure of the Entourage Edge Dualbook. Yes, I like the iPad.

  • KimH

    A suggestion: Don't try to wedge an editorial into a product review.

  • digid

    All the demo sounds I've heard sounds terrible. Cold, cold, and as sterile as a technician from the Chernobyl plant.

    Is the app better than the demo sounds? Why the awful demo sounds, if it's actually better than this? 

  • digid

    Which do I prefer? The iMS20. Sure, it's a rip-off, but it sounds infintely better than the sounds from this app.

  • http://www.matthewadams.de Matthew Adams

    Well.. I used the iPad for basically all purposes except sequencing so far. Most of the synths are fun to look at, but unfortunately I found many of them to sound more or less the same under the hood, though there are a few interesting concepts floating around (most of them covered were here on CDM of course).

    I've only played around with Animoog for a few minutes this morning, but I found the sound itself quite convincing (a lot of iPad based synths sound rather thin imho).

    I also wish there were a few more FX-units like the Moog Filtatron which works quite nicely chained in with other effects in the studio (with an external usb-soundcard attached to the pad)

    I tried to incorporate the iPad in my 2 live-projects for quite a while now. One of the projects is based on Ableton, but for some reason I ended up getting back to the hardware controllers which – probably due to size and tactile feedback – seem more suited in a live situation, where you need to act fast and a touchscreen – due to the sensitive nature and size of the touchscreen itself – just doesnt seem suitable. 

    The other way I tried to incorporate it was as a synth. But I gave up on that for now – probably because I had to stuck to the CCK-USB-Adapter which doesnt really suite that enviroment. An Alesis IO-Dock or Akai Synthstation would probably give this whole thing a second chance. 

    I'd really like to see some sort of modular knob thing where you can attach knobs to the iPad screen and thus have more tactile feedback. 

    Or maybe some piece of hardware similar to the Novation Remote Keyboards (with descriptions beneath the knobs) wired to the iOS-synth.

    Maybe it's just me, but I still do miss real knobs for some reason. (having a keyboard attached to the ipad and playing on real keys instead of the screen is something I took for granted when saying all this)

  • Peter Kirn

    @KimH: I believe I went to more than ample lengths to identify the above as an editorial. 

  • Martin

    > KimH – a suggestion : don't assume that your personal preferences are universal. There are many places where you can read classic "let us pretend to be objective" "product reviews". In fact there are hundreds of such places. If I find myself spending much more time in this particular location than in those others it is probably in great part because of all this terrible 'wedging' that seems to upset you so much.  Just saying.

  • RobS

    The real question here is why Moog have decided to produce programs, sorry I mean "apps" (I'm beginning to hate that word), for the ipad all of a sudden when they have had a luctrative PC/Mac market available for years (Ok, they probably had some kind of deal going on with Arturia but they missed the boat when it came to computer music making). Yes the ipad's got a touch screen but so what, without the power to run multiple synths or fx simultaneously it's no good as a DAW and without a proper (and I mean at least a four octave) non-touch screen velocity sensing keyboard it's less useful and more expensive than a laptop. So that would make it a toy and an expensive one at that.

  • Henny

    The reason the guy looks goofy/boring playing with it is that it's a poorly produced video. They should be showing what's going on onscreen in addition to showing his reactions and letting us hear the sound.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Henny: The video is a teaser, so they intentionally hid the screen. But what you have as a result is, to me, a more realistic view of what the app looks like when it's used and what the essential mode of interaction is.

  • Randy

    I'm not a fan of the smaller (Minimoog and under) Moog instruments, might as well say that up front. I think most of the stuff is way over-priced for what you get. I really want to buy a tablet 'though, although I'm not an Apple fan either. I've been hoping for two things to happen, an iPad 3 to come out so the Apple suckers will flock to it and I'll be able to get an iPad 2 cheap, and a really killer app for the iPad. Haven't seen either yet. I also think the iPad is too small, I'd rather have something bigger. Hopefully, Windows 8 will catch on and we'll have some decently-sized tablets to play with soon. I would like to see someone develop a series of apps that duplicate the functions of a big modular, basically one app per module (like the Nord G2X app I suppose). You could run four or six on a larger tablet, put together four tablets, with four or six modules on each, maybe one of your tablets is for filters, one for oscillators, one for envelopes, one for modulators, etc. Make sure the modules are aware of each other, and you can drag patch cables from one to the other, across different tablets. Then we have a true, virtual modular synth, without the size and considerable expense. It would still be expensive but less so than a similarly equipped actual modular, and the tablets could face the audience so you could patch live and make it part of the show. You could even put some modules in the audience, get them into the act.

  • http://dancerobotdance.com Brian Biggs

    I read CDM because of Peter's opinion mixed with his "review," which this post wasn't. Synthtopia and Matrix announce without commentary. Lots of sites "review" without teeth (god forbid we upset the advertisers), many more sites review without perspective (god forbid we look like we sold out).

    I'm in line with the idea that a "professional" anything for making music is overstated. Great musicians make music with anything. What's that app with the singing robot, BeBot or something? Silly, for kids, terrific awesome saw wave and very playable.

    Whether or not Moog markets using the phrase is not that important to me, since Moog sort of exists, like many other higher-end synth makers, on the idea that you have to have their gear to be a pro. Whatevs.

    I don't have an iPad, don't plan to get one no matter how many good $5 synths are available. I'm surrounded by Apple gear as I write this that's full of good music software, and I have synth and guitar stuff all over a bedroom at my house. Don't need it, don't want it.

  • http://soundcloud.com/high-voltage-1 High Voltage

    @digid

    Finally!! I was wondering if i was the only one who thought the actual SOUND of it was really terrible and harsh.

    I couldn't care less for the interface or the brand if the main purpose is a failure.

  • http://noisepages.com/members/gunboatdiplomacy/ justin johnson

    peter, i generally agree with what youre saying, both about the ipad and the app.  and i see merits in the dissent you've aroused.

    i think that a great deal of the angst that comes out of having a computer/tablet on stage is that it gives the impression (especially to people who know what goes into the apps) that the artist isn't really working that hard.

    i feel a little soul-less when i used to load midi clips into my MPC.  thought: shouldnt i just be playing this?  no matter how emphatically i trigger the sample using my monome or ipad or mpc, i get this pang of "i should just be playing the instrument" and when i see somebody doing that on stage, i feel "that guy/gal should just be playing the part."  

    now, i dont always feel that way.  i think it would be fun to see edison or daedelus play.  i've seen brian crabtree play and i enjoyed it; the amount of thought he put into a performance was far more 'fun' that watching Holy Fuck jump around and twist knobs (think of it as "anybody can read poetry, but not everyone can *read* poetry so well that you want to listen to them").  but i know i'm guilty of pressing a button and letting 4 bars plays over and over and i know that a lot of computer musicians are 'guilty' of that as well and that 'guilt' is how a lot of these discussions get started.

  • RobS

    What can you REALLY do on a tablet that you can't do with a half decent laptop with usb midi controller though? Yes, the ipad has a multitouch touchscreen BUT you are limited by the user's input devices, i.e. their fingers. We're not all built the same so any interface on a tablet is going to have the limiting factor of having a user interface that can fit on its relatively small screen and still remain usable. Therefore for real useability a standard PC and midi interface combo is going to beat a tablet hands down, for serious music making at least. Besides which, these music making programs are merely marketing tools/toys to advertise the companies real goods or a band's new album, they're fun but ultimately a fad.

  • r

    1st professional synth thing is silly, but yeah, that's just the marketing dept. 

    Re: the rest – I agree with KimH and David. It works? Sounds good? Fairly priced? That's what should matter to a musician.

    worrying about how "cool" you look playing it? eh… maybe it just needs the right performer to pull it off, but so what? I also didn't hear these complaints when you wrote about the "boutique" lemur controller. You criticize "analog" fetishization, but there seems to be another kind of irrational fetishization going on in this rant. Nothing wrong with having preferences, but just don't pretend like there's a real argument behind it.

  • http://music.boxoftextures.com/ Seth Elgart

    Peter,

    I have about a million thoughts on your Apple/Moog thoughts. First off, I love hardware, and I also love Moog hardware. I bought my first Minimoog in 1980 and I still have it. I now have three other Moog synths as well as two Moogerfoogers , a volume pedal, and the desktop sample and hold module for my Model D. And I also actually play the keyboards, although I'd never claim to be a Rick Wakeman (although he's where I first "discovered" the Moog). I also have a bunch of other hardware synths, including analog, digital, and modular gear. So to sum up, I'm a hardware guy and I don't just make odd noises with my synthesizers (although I'm sure some might disagree with that last bit). And I read both CDMu and CDMo.

    All that being said, you very often really annoy me! Which I want to thank you for as nobody should be allowed to get too complacent. I honestly understand your Linux/free software/roll your own approach, but I sometimes find your "why aren't there any decent Apple competitors?" rants a little, well, draining. From my perspective, the reason everyone uses Apple gear is that it's just better. 

    But none of that really matters as what we're talking about today is the Animoog. For 99¢ it's a steal, but I would have paid $30 for it. MIghta grumbled a little but still would have done it. And sure, a lot of it's because of the Moog name, but having only played with it for maybe 10 minutes total I have to say that I was blown away. I almost don't want to do a mini-review yet as I haven't really dived in fully yet, but I can see a lot of potential. But here's the thing, you're right, it's not a hardware synth and there's no real knobs. But I can totally see using it live, and I can *definitely* see using it for rehearsals. 

    In some ways I'm two different people, synth-wise. On the one hand I'm a keyboard player and on the other hand I'm a synthesist. The first plays piano and organ sounds with the synths used for textures. For that guy the Animoog is perfect. Dial up a sound, provide audience with massive textures. For the second guy, though, knobs are very good. That's the modular synth guy, the Minimoog sound programmer guy. That's where I'd like to see how far the Animoog can be taken, and I also realize that it may not be quite as flexible as a modular synthesizer. 

    But, in  a sense, what I'm basically saying is, "who cares?" Sure, thousands of "amateurs" will download the app for 99¢ and make all sorts of crappy noises and hopefully have a great time with it. But for me, I can see using it live as yet one more sound module. And the true beauty of it is that it'll fit in my backpack. I remember playing shows in the '80s with a Wurlitzer piano, Korg CX-3 organ, Minimoog, and Casio CZ-101. That was a ton of gear to haul around to just make $20! With iPad soft synths I can do sound programming during my lunch hour. Animoog, Sunrizer, Bassline, and plenty of others are making me very happy. In fact, I'm even thinking of getting a second iPad used. You could probably get a pair of 8 GB WiFi iPad 1s off of craigslist for around $500 or $600 for both, just to use as synth modules. 

    So, bottom line, I'm definitely a hardware guy, but software is good too. If I'm using a MIDI keyboard to play music, the audience is not going to care that the sound is generated by an iPad or by my Waldorf Q, and only the synth nerds will be able to tell the difference anyway. 

    We had these same discussions when software synths and laptops started to become common, and before that when people were arguing about analog vs. those new digital synths, and before that about string sections vs. synthesizers. It's nothing new. So I guess my true bottom line is to just go out and make music using whatever tools you have at hand so long as they inspire you.

    And oh yeah, I totally agree about not liking the marketing hyperbole from Moog. But on the other hand I have a funny feeling Bob would have approved. He did have a sense of humor, and I submit the name "Little Phatty" as the prime example.

  • Ned

    One problem I have with iPad apps is that I have a first-gen iPad, and I'm already starting to see apps appear that only work on iPad 2. iOS updates and minimum requirements may well mean I can't run future apps or updates. Indeed, I was obliged to upgrade my iPhone 3G to iOS4 to run certain apps, but iOS4 made my iPhone much less responsive and usable. So I had to choose between the apps and the general usability of the phone.

    I had a Kaossilator for a few months, and while the iPad hammers it in just about every area, a Kaossilator will always do its job. My Moogerfoogers will always do their jobs. But I really don't expect my iPad to be doing its job particularly well in eighteen months or so, unless I 'freeze' it in its current state and forego any future developments.

    That's always been an issue with software, of course – the editor that wasn't upgraded for Windows XP, the plugin that never got an Intel version – but based on my experience with the iPhone, iOS can really accelerate the process. So I'm more than happy to buy this Moog app for 99p – I'm sure it's excellent – but I'd never make any kind of substantial app purchase on the iPad.

  • Peter Kirn

    @r: In 2006, when I reviewed the Lemur for Keyboard in the pre-iPhone era, I wrote this:

    “The Lemur suggests fantastic possibilities for certain tasks. It’s unparalleled for surround panning and X/Y timbral control, particularly if combined with another hardware controller like a keyboard or ribbon controller."

    "X/Y timbral control" – which is what the Moog app does (as do a number of other synths, and the Omnisphere app).

    Some of my concerns about the Lemur were in fact addressed by the iPad, which unlike the Lemur, is a computer with sound-production facilities and not just a display controller.

    ". . . For now, the challenge is that the Lemur’s features lie somewhere between a computer display and music controller, without effectively supplanting either one. The Lemur sacrifices the sensitivity and tactile feedback of physical controls in the name of flexibility, but that payoff is limited by the restrictions of its pre-built interface objects and the difficulty of configuring new layouts and assigning them to software controls."

    The iPad addresses that, but I also pointed to the difficulty of manipulating knobs without feedback, using an undifferentiated piece of glass, and I specifically called out the need for tangible controls when you need, for example, to play notes.

    As I said in that review, the issue is "tradeoffs" — getting one thing by giving up something else — which I think is the essence of the issue here. 

    I'm not worried about whether people look cool playing it or not — as I said, the question was whether the way it *looks* is an indication of the mode of interaction into which the design forces you by necessity.

    I can't find that original review because of ongoing issues with the Keyboard site, but the headline was "Programmable Multi-Touch Control: JazzMutant Lemur." Ironically, that's the "multi-touch" term for which Apple was denied a trademark.

  • Peter Kirn

    Yeah, I would hope that apps have a longer life cycle — iPad, January 2010; iPad 2, March 2011 (that's just the unveilings, so your product life could be even shorter than that) — Moog does support iPad 1 and I should start listing that compatibility.

  • Chris Thorpe

    The app emulates a Moog synth, for the most part. The on-screen keyboard is very reminiscent of the touch keyboard from a Buchla Music Easel (which is a good thing – much truer than pretending to be a row of black & whites)

  • mister-rz

    @peter

    It's good to get your thoughts out even if it boarders on ranting as it opens up discussion, as we all have differing views on music making and tech. Personally for me i've gone through 3 major shifts during my music making adventures and seen the same arguments again and again as each shift is in its infancy. I started out in 92 with outboard and the trusty old atari st, I knew people who played instruments who said this way of making music is cheating and has little skill involved, using sequencers instead of playing live, sampling instead of playing your own chords, drums etc.

    Then during the late 90's early 00's I moved over to pc's, which at first was a nightmare until 3rd parties like steinberg sorted out asio, vst's and the like. Again the same criticism's reared it's head this time from people using atari's and outboard. It's cheating as you don't have to tune each sampled drum loop by ear to get the timing right, you can load a whole project up at once instead of getting out the floppy disks, hoping that disk 2 of the multi disk set isn't corrupt. The sound is thin compared to outboard gear, you don't have to learn sampling or synthesis as the computer does it all for you.

    Then my favourite shift so far, cheap multi-touch tablets, for me it was the ipad. It's a toy, it's not as professional as desktop daws or software synths-effects, your an apple poser locked into a walled garden, it's a consumption device, your cheating. Yet on nearly every occasion the people who make these comments usually end up defending what was once a monstrosity to them just as the next shift happens. I'm not saying all these criticism's have no merit, as some of the things I thought myself, it's just amusing seeing people defend the familiar in the face of the unfamiliar that's somehow going to dumb down music creation.

    I'm happy as can be atm, ipad is now my favourite and one of my most versatile music tools, io dock to link it into my studio so it plays happily with my mac, pc and outboard gear. I do agree with you about one thing, 'first professional ipad synth' I rolled my eyes, it's nearly as common as ipad killer. Professionalism isn't about the tools you use, it's more about how you use those tools and how committed you are to your craft.

  • Jack

    Great article.

    I think if you follow the music tech industry too closely, you can get very skewed in your thinking about what you need to make music. And this kind of marketing from Moog just adds to that neurosis. It is grating that Moog have said this is a "first" and an "only", as if you need THIS piece of software. Sure, this is the marketers job, but Im disgusted with it. Eff them. 

    But for the software itself….Im thankful. 

  • Joe McMahon

    I love the AniMoog, and will definitely be using it in my quest for a really portable performance setup. I think in this case that the marketers got to run away with the campaign. The video is so obviously a "hey, let's tease them with this cool stuff coming out of the iPad by having someone play it but not show the interface yet." cute, but seriously, this isn't a situation where you can rush a clone to market in a week. 

    Playing the iPad or even the iPhone can be made into a musical experience if the performer invests in adjusting the presentation to make it engaging. We did a couple pieces at Different Skies 2010, and I will never forget the thrill of doing a piece that included me conducting while playing on an iPhone app: I was able to face the phone toward the audience so they could see what I was doing – the involuntary exclamation from the audience of "he's doing that on his *phone*!" wouldn't have happened otherwise.

    In addition, having played a number of other iPad synths, the AniMoog is *less* "professional" than a lot of them because the insistence that no one know anything about it seems to have worked both ways: the developers don't seem to have been up to speed with what's been happening in the informal consortium of other serious iPad synth developers, leaving the "professional" claim looking kind of bogus. 

    I bought it, I love, I'm glad I have it; now I hope the Moog guys stop just trading on their name and algorithms and try to become contributors to the ecology instead of pretending they are the ecology.

  • http://www.eigenzone.org Geert Bevin

    This video gives a brief overview of the Animoog's features and also shows how expressive it is when played with an Eigenharp Pico over MIDI using poly-pressure.

    The Eigenharp and Animoog seems like a match made in heaven since the Eigenharp is able to send three independent detailed per-note performance data streams and the Animoog is able to react to this on a per-note level. Also, the visualization of the sound on the Animoog is marvelous, it gives a great representation of what your sound is doing.

    The iPad is hooked up to my MacBook Pro using USB MIDI from the Alesis iODock, the Eigenharp Pico is also hooked up to the laptop and sends MIDI from the EigenD application to the 'dock' MIDI port. This uses a small MIDI-only Eigenharp Pico setup that loads very quickly and provides 16 MIDI playing keys with poly-pressure and three independent data streams for each key (pressure, left/right, up/down), as well as two 3D controller keys that are somewhat similar to little joysticks and are sending each three independent streams of MIDI CC data also.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cH5M0ap5PV8

  • eshefer

    mister-rz:

    +1. like. RT.

    or in other words: you nailed it. I couldn't agree more.

    I don't think that the ipad will come instead of the hardware, much in the same way analog synths didn't kill traditional instruments, digital didn't kill analog (well… it almost did), and software synths didn't kill hardware synths.

    all those developments did bring us MUCH more choices, thou (and cheeper). some of those choices might not look much different then conventional solutions, and some will look totaly apeshit different. (I think the animoog is more conventional then not, but it does some things that you can't do without the touchscreen interface – the kbd changing to indicate the scale for example).

    as I said, this is just the begining.

  • r

    @joe I'm pretty sure they aren't oblivious. The guy behind the app is most likely Chris Wolfe aka Hemicube. He's the developer behind the amazing, ground-breaking Jasuto modular synth (and so-so physically modeled violin yumi). He got snagged by moog to do the Moog filtatron app.

    So yeah, at least the dev knows what's going on. Marketing dept, not-so-much.

    I understand the hurt feelings, but at the end of the day, this seems like way too much hand-wringing …

  • Peter Kirn

    @r: Which hurt feelings? (not mine, if I gave that impression somehow)

    Too much … possible; tomorrow's another day.

  • DenLab

    Excellent observations, great article – thank you! I, too, had the exact same feeling about the marketing hype – it's completely unnecessary and worse, inaccurate. It is not the "first" or even the "first professional" – (Korg iMS20 if you mean "professional company that makes hardware). But I consider several of the most recent synths – Sunrizer, Addictive Synth, NLog Pro, SampleWiz to be _very_ professional. As far as the iPad hype – yes it is wonderful, yes, it’s about touch, but it’s just another instrument in my arsenal (yes I have an old MicroMoog + more) – not better or worse than hardware instruments . On the other hand, there are a few iPad developers that have produced some very non-traditional sound generating programs that do not have a corollary to anything you can buy at Guitar Center – check out CP 1919 and Donut from The Strange Agency – these do not rely on the “traditional” keyboard/Osc/Filt/Env paradigm and hint at the power that the iPad can bring to audio production.

  • noisetheorem

    I bristled at the 'First Professional Synthesizer' bit too.  I found it completely ignorant of the great work by Korg and others to make the iPad into an instrument.

  • John

    Check out my review of the iOS 5 I really love it! <3
    http://sexyurl.co/a5

  • synthetic

    Yeah, "first professional synthesizer" was a marketing misstep the same way "Jupiter 80" was. To me a professional electronic instrument is either one that can be played with virtuosity (Minimoog, etc) or has deep sound design possibilities (Synthi, modular, etc.) I don't see either from this or any other iPad app so far. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/styrofoammusic Arne

    I've skipped through the editorial and discussion above, but after having just spent an hour on the train diving into the AniMoog I downloaded this morning before leaving home, I can't really be bothered with most of it. Why? It just sounds so damn good and above all is very playable and extremely musical. So far I haven't encountered an iPad music app that allows for so much expression in (live) playing. Customisation of the keyboard is great with various zoom-in and scaling features and modulation possibilities allow you to really sculpt the sound while playing. Anyway, I'm not trying to turn this into some sort of gushing pseudo-review, my main point is that I'm terribly impressed with this App.

    I've struggled with integrating various on-the-surface cool looking music apps for iPad into my studio workflow, but with this one I have the feeling I could just hook it up to my mixer like I would with any hardware instrument/synth/keyboard and start playing it and recording it into Ableton Live. Real performance style. I don't think controlling it from an external MIDI controller would do the app justice, it really seems to me like it's designed to be played live. Know the feeling of playing a well kept Wurlitzer piano, retriggering one key and being amazed how each note sounds slightly different and how lively the sound is – that's the feeling I was having earlier on while playing this. My studio is a healthy combination of hard- and software but the strange thing is that somehow this App doesn't feel like a soft synth to me – it feels like an instrument with a personality and (some good, some not so good) quirks as well. Hook it up with a cable, put it through some pedals maybe, into the mixing board and start playing and recording.

    One comment. Delay on practically every preset? Really?

    Also: looking forward to the update where we can import custom waveforms.

    It would also make sense to mention that the X-Y animation and its sonic possibilities reminds me a lot of the morphing pad in Logic Pro's Sculpture synth.

  • r

    @peter referring to the claim of "first pro synth" as being unfair to other ios devs. as i said, i think that's a fair critique of the marketing campaign.

  • http://www.musicofsound.co.nz/blog tim

    Maybe Moog could release a filter for removing marketing hyperbole? There would be a huge market – I know I'd buy one…

    But I personally expect more from someone like Moog, their marketing has always been nicely grounded & a little tongue in cheek, I get the feeling this is farmed out or an entirely different company…

     "Animoog captures the vast sonic vocabulary of Moog synthesisers…"

    Somehow I doubt that…. 

    But lets face it, this iPad app is just a gateway drug – crack for $1 anyone?

  • x23

    WTF is the "XEROX SPARC GUI"? … you can't be serious.

    did you really conflate/confuse the Sun SPARC microprocessor with the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center?

  • mister-rz

    @eshefer

    Totally agree, for me the ipad is the perfect partner for other studio gear, I think in the next couple of generations it could become a self contained powerhouse, some people are using it as such now, I just love having hardware knobs and sliders too.

    I get a bit miffed when people pass off the ipad as a toy or fad, especially those who have never used one, I have an roland jp8080 and sunrizer on the ipad and I love both of them for their sonic potential. Having played with animoog tonight, I have to say I'm blown away by it, for me it's on a par with any of my hardware or software synths, this thing is a beast of many colours.

    The strength of the ipad imo, is it combines the music friendly nature of osx, with things like wi-fi midi out of the box and the vast selection of music software which is one of windows strengths. The price of apps (69p for animoog:) and tactile nature of multi-touch makes the ipad an exceptional music tool. I'm going to keep my ipad 1 on ios 4.3 so I can keep all my old music apps that don't get updated running sweet, as I've built up quite a collection. I doubted the ipad at first as it didn't run osx, but having owned one for a while I know I was wrong to have that opinion, my only problem now is I've become an app junky.

  • Peter Kirn

    @x23: Typo.

  • Peter Kirn

    @tim: Part of that "vast vocabulary" claim is that there is some shared design here. I think it's fair.

  • http://www.black-chamber.com fractured

    First, let me say I haven't loaded this app yet as I haven't moved my iPad to iOS5. I will this afternoon, but I'm being cautious. I have a substantial number of hardware synths, as well as a good number of softsynths that I have purchased. I also own many iOS synths and DAWs. I use few of them with any regularity because I have yet to see the performance and improvements the iOS apps make over my trusty MacBook Pro.

    What am I missing? There are great sounds available in all three realms. I love tweaking my hardware for hours, trying to create something that inspires me. I used to work very quickly on my hardware sequencers when building a song. When I'm on the go, I open my MBP and create in Logic. In both places, I'll usually open a default, plain patch and build something from there. Logic is very intuitive and has sped up the music making process. In iOS, there doesn't seem to be any strong driver to create in this way. Most of the interfaces don't really beg to be used.

    Perhaps I'm just getting old, but I like immediate feedback from my sound generators. I can loop a segment of a sequence and tweak the knobs of my Microwave XT, Nova, MS2000 or JP 8000 and the sound shift is immediate. The music responds. The AU interfaces on my Mac can push the limits of my patience. moving a cursor to the small knob on screen that I want to adjust feels slow. Setting up a controller for a specific parameter (filter cutoff, track volume, left delay feedback amount) on the fly is slow. The multiple pages of my iOS apps and the lack of immediacy from their interfaces try me. The fact that they don't seamlessly become a part of my whole musical project push me over the brink. How can I justify an environment that requires me to copy/paste between apps just so I can hear what my bassline sounds like with drums and a lead?

    I'm not complaining. I just feel that mobile music is still in its nascent state. I need to make music now, so I'm sticking with things that work as quickly as I do. This is the reason I choose instruments and mixers with dedicated knobs, buttons and sliders. I don't think there isn't serious potential in the iOS world, but I'm not finding things are there yet. I love some of the interfaces for modifying sounds in a broad sense. It's like playing a theramin, but having more timbral control. The ability to touch any point on the screen to tweak parameters of sound or music is a game changer. It puts software back in the running with hardware, in terms of the ability to select what you modify. It just hasn't hit that sweet spot where the concept has been realized to a useful environment for me.

  • http://www.youtube.com/automaticgainsay Marc Doty

    I'd just like to point out that I'm a musician with an extensive experience of synthesis, and especially analog synthesizers.  I am a major proponent of using synthesizers as musical instruments where there is a physical interaction between the user and the device.  I spent over a decade programming synths with sequencers and presets, and abandoned all of it so that I could physically interact with synthesizers and be expressive with them… make intentional choices which reflect the music I intend to portray.  Software synths, thus far, have put a lot of barriers between the expressive physical musician and the device making the music, which is why I've basically had little time for them.  

    When you see me  ::ahem::  "looking ridiculous" in the video, what you're seeing is my honest and heartfelt response and excitement about the really startling expressive capabilities of the Animoog.  

    To be honest, I think your gripe is ridiculous.  As a person who is absolutely BENT on expressive physical experience, let me just tell you that the "useless" iPad provides an insanely expressive and potentially creative interface.  As an exclusively key-pressing guy, I am saying this. 

    While you go on and on about how stupid the interface is, you should know that these keys that you're so willing to immediately replace with a shitty MIDI controller (and thereby totally ruin one of the best aspects of this app) are based on a design by Bob Moog himself… the MTS keyboard.  He worked for years to build this extremely expressive keyed device for John Eaton.  The result was something really special, but never marketed to the public.  The physical interface of the iPad allows for the same intentional level of control that existed in the MTS, and it WORKS.  In addition to being able to control a stunning variety of aspects of the sound with the keys alone, you also have access to the x/y wavetable, which has it's own expressive capabilities.  I am absolutely baffled as to how you could dismiss the iPad as a lame interface with all of these functional capabilities.  

    You will NEVER see me playing a soft synth with a stupid plastic shit MIDI keyboard or some TRULY ridiculous knob-twiddlers filter-sweep generating device, but you will definitely see me playing an Animoog next to a Minimoog in live settings, in videos, and more.  Is it because they both say "MOOG" on them?  Not remotely.  Is it because they have really anything in common at all?  No, not remotely.  It's because both of them are extremely expressive and great sounding musical instruments.  

  • Jonah

    A piano is an abstraction too. Think how ridiculous that would look to a cave man. There could be magical spirits working for all they know.

    Not saying there are any great touch music interfaces yet, but I (and doubtless many others) are working on it. 

  • teej

    Before I share any of my own feelings on the app, I'll first share an event that happened just this morning, mere minutes after I read this article. 

    I read this post on my wife's iPad first thing this morning. Yes, CDM is part of my morning "news". :) I read the title and the first line or two, didn't even watch the video, immediately shot off to the iTunes store to plunk down a buck for Animoog.

    I'm sitting on the couch jamming away on it (up and running around the UI within seconds btw), headphones on, the wife is in the next room getting ready for work. She must have called out to me a handful of times before coming into the living room to say "Helloooo, I'm asking you a question!", when she sees yours truly hunched over the coffee table, tap, tap tapping and slide, slide sliding away on her iPad, and sidles up beside me to ask "What in god's holy name are you doing?!", to which I replied… well, nothing, because I was pretty far lost in my own world with this little app. It took her physically removing an earbud from my skull to actually get my attention.So yeah, we might look like idiots. But I honestly haven't that much fun looking like an idiot in a while.

    I'm not going to say it's the "first professional synth", because really, what the hell does "professional" mean anyway? Does it wear a suit and tie to work or something?

    But, I will say that this is indeed the most… 

    1. Intuitive (i had the UI figured out immediately)

    2. Immediately musical (great presets out of the gate, f'reals)

    3. Immediately useful (as in, I could instantly see myself using this for "real" work)

    4. Expressive (felt like an instrument, plain and simple)

    5. Inspirational (i was designing and saving my own patches, writing melodies, etc straight away)

    … iOS music-creation app I've used to date. It's not a major revolution, and doesn't do any single thing which we haven't necessarily seen done before. But whatever it's doing, it just feels right. And I think that might be due to some things which we can't actually see.

    There is a level of detail in Apple hardware and software, especially in the OS, which is the real unsung hero of what makes the iPad so special. Apple has a few thousand employees who work solely on chip design, even though they use 3rd party chips in most of their hardware! That says a tremendous amount about how they feel about optimization, and how a relatively low-power device can perform with such speed and smoothness. From the physics of a switch, to the feel of flicking and swiping, there is a ton of thought behind every minute interaction that creates the whole experience. Bottom line: When 3rd party apps aren't designed with that level of detail, it shows, and breaks the experience. And a LOT of 3rd party apps aren't designed with such attention to detail. But this one just feels as though it was. 

    Only a week ago I was practically drooling while my copy of the Alchemy Mobile was downloading to the iPad. The Alchemy desktop plugin is no doubt my favorite audio tool, period. I literally couldn't do my job without it. But I was largely underwhelmed with the iOS version. It just didn't feel right. I will still use it as a controller for the plugin, but I'm not reaching for it to create with on its own. 

    Regarding hardware emulation in the GUI: This is a thorn in my side. The first time I installed Ableton Live v1 about a decade ago (OMG!), my whole take on software music GUI was changed forever. NOT trying to make software look like hardware, just for the sake of it, was a revolutionary move in my eyes. And in the decade since, I've continually grown less and less fond of software which adopts the faux hardware look. Because, well, why the hell would they do that? Why emulate the look of something that doesn't even exist anymore?

    When Reason first came out, it made sense. It was literally emulating a rack of hardware synths, samplers, drum machines, cables. These were things that were literally taking up space in our apartments, annoying our girlfriends, and keeping our electric bills high. The metaphor was literal, and helpful, and made using Reason easy and impressive.

    But now it's 10 years later, and they are still using the same faux hardware UI. I think it's pretty safe to say that just about any young person who is starting to make electronic music in today's world has never seen or touched a hardware sampler. Hell, most probably haven't even used 1/4" cables much, let alone control voltage! Why bother? In some ways, like signal routing, connecting devices, etc it still makes sense. But it doesn't do anything in terms of moving things forward at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. How are you taking advantage of progressing software technology when you are trying to emulate the UI of hardware that hasn't been manufactured in 10 years? Pressing a button or turning a knob makes sense on a VCR-sized box that is sitting in front of you. But struggling to negotiate a mouse to engage a microscopic button on a software sampler is just dumb. These kinds of interface choices, and lack of consistency between different pieces of software, force people to constantly shift between using different parts of their brains, which ultimately just hinders the creative process. 

    Now having said that, the Moog app is perhaps a little different, and maybe not as guilty of this as others. Why? Because it's emulating hardware UI elements that actually DO still exist. They aren't emulating imaginary buttons that exist only in an imaginary pixelated world. Moog hardware still exists, it still looks like this. Is turning a knob the most efficient way to interact in a touch environment? No, probably not. But I'm not going to crucify them just yet for it here as I do so many others.

    I like this instrument. That's what I'm calling it, not "app". Because it feels like an instrument, which sets it apart from so many others I've tried.

  • pulsn

    Thank you Peter, its a very refreshing point of view you are putting out here. +1 from me.

  • http://rfgarvock@gmail.com Ryan Garvock

    The fact of the matter is if the Lemur was a legitimate controller for music, then the iPad is a better, next-gen version. And after Peters multiple rants about iPads and other decisions Apple has made in general, I don't think he is a reliable source on matters such as these. I don't think I will be visiting this site, or digital motion for that matter, for these reasons. I don't come here for your skewed opinion on computer companies, I come here for interesting articles about creating music with new exciting tools. Get back to writing about people making DIY controllers, and less about why you dislike certain companies.

  • Peter Kirn

    Just to clarify, I'm not a reliable source on my own opinions, or you can only be objective if you refrain from criticism?

  • r

    @ryan Everyone's taking this rather personally. I disagree with the editorial (clearly) and I'm glad that Marc has responded directly. However, let's not get into arguments about Peter's biases. Of course he's biased like everyone else, but we can discuss the merits of his arguments without getting angry.

  • http://itsasecretmusic.tumblr.com/ pETer planET

    I do appreciate the editorial, as I do all the information on the CDM site, however, I don't think we need to think so much about what tools we use to make electronic music.

    I downloaded Moog's Animoog synth this morning and find it to be a sonic masterpiece. Thanks Moog for the email this morning!

    I have used Minimoogs, Moog Model 12 Modulars, etc. and I really don't have a need to compare Moog's hardware to their new iOS app. It's not important. The fact that Animoog sounds good (to my ears) is enough for me.

    If one thinks that laptops or iPads don't have visual appeal onstage, then simply just jump up and down while playing. At least your audience will wonder what was so exciting about that email you just received!

  • KimH

    >>> > KimH – a suggestion : don’t assume that your personal preferences are universal. <<<

    @Martin – a suggestion: don't assume that I'm proposing any kind of universality. My opinions are my own.

  • http://rfgarvock@gmail.com Ryan Garvock

    Peter, 

    Its not that you can't have opinions. Its actually what many of come here for. And when you bring up valid points, I listen. But when you try to say that the hype for an app for the iPad is going to far, or when you get upset about Apple moving to a digital video connection (the "editorial" on mini display port/unibody MBP's) I have a hard time seeing it as anything besides a chance to complain for the sake of complaining. The articles you write about new products or projects we are all working on more informed and more well rounded than any of the editorials you've put together about Apple products. 

  • http://whitherwalter.blogspot.com Mike Taylor

    Hmm…interesting how threads develop and then devolve! This was a great discussion and a pleasure to read. From my biased perspective (amateur music maker who doesn't perform), the iPad is nearly perfect and I even love my crap plastic key MPK mini for Logic 9 use. 

    As for performing, I remember seeing JM Jarre in the late 70s performing for Bastille Day and now realize that all that twiddling, jumping and jamming was at most one or two tracks of all that I was hearing. Most electronica or synth performing seems to involve tons of pre-set sounds and is in some ways artificial. 

    I think Emerson looked equally ridiculous with the Ribbon controller phallus in the day but that's an opinion :) Key-tars anyone?

    But as for iPad synths, soft synths, etc., it has put an incredible arsenal of sound within my very limited budget and I'm having a blast (whether or not what I produce is any good).

    I also value the opinions and rants on this site particularly when they result in such spirited (and usually thoughtful) discussion.

  • http://www.bebetterstudios.com Ethan Sager

    What's interesting is no one's brought up the merits of using the iPad in the studio. Why does an instrument only have to be considered great if it can be only be used live in an visually interesting way? Sometimes I hear an average music listener complain about computer music performances as being boring, but they have no problems listening to 'computer' music while at the office. My point is I think the average music listener isn't going to not like a track from an artist just because he would rather not go out on Saturday night to see them perform. 

    To me the Animoog or the iMS20 or any iOS app like that can be an inspiring tool in the studio. Anything that can help or inspire you to finish a track in the studio should be welcome and the production of these types of tools encouraged. Especially if it's only going to sell for $.99. Has anyone else had days when you stare at your modular synth or stack of keyboards and then had nothing, so then you pick up your iphone & jam out a melody on the Filtatron for which you base a whole new track on? Or do most people always have to have as much fun jamming like Bernie Worrell before they consider anything they make music?

    I watched an interesting interview with the artists Plaid the other day and they brought up how 10-15 years ago you could impress an average listener just by playing them electronic music. The shear sonic mark that was left on them for that experience was impressive enough for a person to consider a computer music show a good night out. Now-a-days it's not enough so that people have to create all these controllers & bring in hardware instruments to bring some performance back to synth-music.  Maybe one solution to this 'musical' conundrum is to bring back some inventiveness in the sounds and styles of music we make. If the iPad can help or influence in the creation of these sounds or styles of music, that should be enough reason for it to be considered valuable musically. 

  • RichardL

    I find it fascinating that "the first professional synth" for the iPad costs … [drum-roll] … one dollar. [insert pinky into cheek a la Dr. Evil]. 

    It's absolutely absurd. It's like the Shoe Event Horizon from "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". A comic parody about the end of the world and the collapse of the universes' economy where all they did was make new styles of shoes. Only in our case it's apps. 

    The character in the video is going to buy an iPad to play his Animoog. Apple makes $650. Moog makes $0.70. 

  • http://rfgarvock@gmail.com Ryan Garvock

    RichardL, I think you heavily underestimate the power of a $1 app, with the Moog name, only available for iOS. 

  • r

    @RG I think the broader issue he's lamenting is how developers are supposed to make a living off .70 cent apps. And yes, moog may be able to pull it off based on an economy of scale, but how are indie devs supposed to compete with that?

    I don't have a good answer to that. On one hand, you can't really force Apple to impose a minimum price on apps, on the other hand it's almost impossible for devs without the resources of Moog to reach the same scale to compete+make a living.

  • http://www.jhhl.net/iPhone jhhl

     AppStore app prices tend to fly around a lot to attract attention. It costs just a dollar _today_ … that is a move just as telling as "1st professional iPad synth." – which I hereby claim was my own Srutibox. 

     Animoog can do 7 note polyphony, and drops its waveforms through some really yummy sounding filtering. At that, it's not super confusing and has a pretty useful sound path. It doesn't do everything – a good instrument should have limitations – but it looks and sounds pleasant enough, and the xy controller aspect of it gives it some oomph, although since it's not multitouch, it's really a kind of fancy joystick controller.

     I don't like knobs that change value when you slide them, but it's kind of what Moog customers expect.  

    The appeal of a generated multitouch interface is that it doesn't have to show things you don't need to use, and lets you make imaginary controllers that won't succumb to hardware decrepitude, like cold solder joints, rusty pots, frazzled cables, blown resistors and diodes, and cruddy keyboard contact points. 

    The 'pad lets developers like me write thought experiments, which I hope will result in more musical discoveries. There's lots of room for romance and serendipity just as there is with a big banana plugged modular. 

  • Peter Kirn

    @Ryan: Right, but what makes some opinions of mine valid and others invalid, exactly? ;)

    The opinion here was that hype about the iPad as a novelty was somehow making it immune to the same criticisms that other multi-touch displays and laptops have had to withstand for years. So, I explained – I think – what I thought those disadvantages might be. I don't particularly hold Apple responsible for whether or not their hugely-successful, beautifully-designed, mass-market device works for the tiny fraction of us trying to turn it into an instrument. I view that more as our own problem.

  • http://Wordsoundpower.org Midihendrix

    Peter, and many others….I see a knot problem here. I downloaded this app 24 hours ago, flipped out on it, come back now and see endless arguing over theory and ideology (much of which is actually unrelated to this synthesizer). I respect your views and work, but i find it hard to believe you have spent nearly as much time PLAYING the actual synth as writing about it. Myself as an artist and not a philosopher find it very inspiring and FUN, pretty good sounding, and I KNOW I will use it a lot! What else matters?

  • Leslie

    @Midihendrix, spot on comment, couldn't say it better…

    Also everyone please keep in mind that this app is 99 cents fgs. You can't even get the fart piano app at this price point.

    Bottom line is, it is one of the best (if not the best) iPad apps out there. Brilliant…

  • riccardo

    Have we gone full circle? Is the HW vs SW diatribe finally over? 

  • cobaltage

    I don't think it's really fair to look at the iPad (or any tablet) for its value as a general purpose synth controller. The fact that it can host such powerful synthesis software, support external hardware controllers, and provide a multi-touch interface for some parameters is what makes the iPad great. I view the onscreen interface as a compromise aiming at versatility. I.e., it's useful to be able to access all of the parameters and the software keyboard for doing things like making presets, etc.

    The weakness of the iPad is the limited ways of attaching hardware interfaces to it. On the other hand, a notebook PC doesn't exactly provide any knobs or keys either, although it is relatively easier to attach hardware interfaces to a notebook, and it is much easier to host disparate synthesizer and effect modules running simultaneously. Theoretically at least, that would mean that the iPad is somewhat superior for live performance of a single instrument: it hosts a single instrument, supports control of that instrument using MIDI attached hardware, etc. The iPad is also a versatile tool in combination with other instruments as a MIDI/OSC interface.

    Those who are skeptical of the iPad (in general, that is, as a piece of personal technology) are always comparing it directly to notebook PCs. "Why should someone get an iPad when you can get a notebook instead?" But that's really a false comparison. The iPad does certain things on its own — different from what a notebook does. In conjunction with a notebook, it does other things — act as an interface, a second screen, and so forth. Because an iPad is not just like a notebook, you get more versatility from owning both devices. Is a Moog synth on the iPad worth $30? Well, that's expensive for an iPad synth. But a Moog synth in VST format would also sell for $30. I've spent hundreds of dollars on VST instruments and effects that are no better than the cheaper alternatives on iOS, but that can be better used in a VST host than in no host at all on the iPad.

    In any case, Animoog is obviously worth the $1 introductory price for anyone who likes to fiddle around with synthesizers. I don't think anyone would question that.

  • http://rfgarvock@gmail.com Ryan Garvock

    Peter, what makes someones else opinion "better", for lack of a better term, is being unbiased. Whenever Apple, in particular, makes a move in direction that is not instep with what you think, it seems like you beat them up. Yet I've never seen an editorial on other companies who make actual poor design decisions (Korg, Dell, etc etc). 

    As far as the economics of the 99 cent app, there are thousands of indie developers who owe the ability to make a living inventing these apps to the iOS app store.

    Apologies for coming as such a fanboy. 

  • RichardL

    @Ryan Garvock "there are thousands of indie developers who owe the ability to make a living inventing these apps to the iOS app store."

    I would really love to see some facts to back up that claim.

  • http://www.valhalladsp.com Sean Costello

    @Ryan Garvock: If you crunch the numbers Apple has provided for the App Store, and divide the total $ of App Store sales by the number of apps in the store, the average iOS app makes <$6K. So I would argue that the majority of developers AREN'T making a living off of 99 cent apps.

    That being said, and all ridiculous press release hype aside, congratulations to Moog for the release of the Animoog. In my experience, pretty much everyone who is even slightly involved with electronic music is a long-time fan of Moog Music, and whatever it takes to keep Moog successful and in business is a good thing.

  • TJ

    Hmmm. Well, rather than walk into the bog …

    The sound is delicious. Of course, else it wouldn't say Moog on it. Sounds better on the video than the 'real' Moog I patched for months in 1980. That thing cost as much as a new car. This is $1.00. Just let that echo for a while

    echo for a while

    echo for a while

    Now as for the interface: to each his own. I have many gripes with all DAW/Sequencer designs I've used extensively (three). The constant flipping between creative mode and technician mode -definitely- kills off much of the joy of music making. No wonder Big Names hire technicians to make things work and do setups.

    BUT. The iPad hardware is a tinkertoy. And the eensy size of it makes playing it just a bit like playing all the little itsy bitsy plastic keyboards for 5-year-olds that every thrift store is full of. This thing is an instrument like SIRI is Artificial Intelligence. NOT.

    We all know the day will come when this toy will have evolved into something much bigger, and much more sophisticated. And this toy makes us realize how insanely great such devices will – one day – be. But "an insanely expressive" interface? No. We all want to have gesture controllers for EM that let us be as expressive as Isaac Stern or Hendrix or whatever. Bravo for Moog's efforts in that direction, and I hope they keep working on the problem (which all the old-guard CEO's of the industry agree IS the problem).

    In the end, the music that gets made on the iPad is the only thing that counts. I await being proven wrong.

  • http://www.valhalladsp.com Sean Costello

    @Ethan Sager: It is interesting that you bring up Bernie Worrell. I keep thinking about his skills on the Minimoog, and wonder if he could play with a similar amount of fluidity on the Animoog, or any touch screen based instrument.

    Obviously, instrumental skills are not a prerequisite for playing electronic music. I never learned how to play the keyboard beyond basic Gary Numan levels of proficiency, and yet I still enjoy my vintage synths (when they are working, that is). I like playing simple notes, and I love playing the knobs! However, part of the charm of something like the Minimoog is that it can be used by knob tweakers to create abstracts sounds, beeps and boops, while also being capable of beautiful virtuosity in the hands of someone like Bernie Worrell. From my experience playing iPad instruments using the touch screen, the latency and response time is significantly less than a standard piano keyboard type instrument.

  • http://www.valhalladsp.com Sean Costello

    As a follow up to what I just wrote, others have pointed out that the Animoog interface looks a lot like the various touch controllers put out by Buchla over the decades (a comparison could also be made to the Serge TKB). Buchlas and Serges are awesome things, but have arguably been used for far different purposes than Moogs and Moog influenced synths (ARP, Sequential, Oberheim, most other synths of the 1970's). A Moog/Buchla hybrid is a great idea, but touch controllers in general have yet to achieve the levels of real-time note-oriented musical performance that are easily achieved with conventional piano keyboards.

  • http://yaktronix.com Kyle Evans

    The heated discussion your article has ignited shows that your are on the right path here Peter. This is a wonderful discussion and I wish there were more critical reviews of products out there like this one. Thanks for the insightful read.

  • r

    I've been playing with the app and the interface is very nice.

    @peter imo that's a straw man argument. Some people love apple products, yes (I'm not one of them, I just use them). However, nobody is claiming that other interfaces don't have any advantages over the ipad or that the ipad is superior to all user interfaces. Complaints about tactile feedback or the audience not being able to see what the performer sees aren't exactly earth-shatteringly novel here.

    There are some things this sort of interface is good for – interactive visual feedback, continuous note changes, expressive continuous gestures, and having used the app a bit I must say that the app exploits those strengths beautifully.

  • Where is my comment?

    Well, for $0.99 there's not a lot to lose so I went for it even before finishing reading the article.

    And about usability of the iPad, I don't think any app in it(or any other table for that matter)can/will beat a hardware feeling but the real advantage lies in the small package, we can detach ourselves from the regular computer/laptop weight and still have some of the same power available either as a controller with great results(TouchOSC) or as the sound brain, just hook up any midi keyboard and get the sounds you need out of the ipad, more than good enough for me and way easier than carrying around lots of hardware synths ;)

  • http://www.direwires.com Adam Young

    I can't play an instrument I have to look at the entire time. (IE to see where my fingers are in relation to keys.)

    It's for that reason that it's hard to picture it being a serious instrument.

  • Ryan

    I’ve spent quite a lot of time figuring out how best to use the Animoog, and I was at first puzzled by how best to utilize the functionality of a synth on an iPad.  However, given my own experience, reading your editorial makes me think that you haven’t really delved deep enough into the app to really understand its potential, or what Moog was trying to do.  

    That’s not a knock on you, and I think your insights and criticisms have a lot of validity, especially with regards to marketing and branding.  But as an instrument, I’ve been really surprised, in a really good way.  When you said that it is helpful that you can attach the Animoog to a MIDI controller, this is precisely the point at which you are starting to miss out on the unique functionality potential of a synth on an iPad.  If moog wanted it to be primarily MIDI controlled, they would have released it for regular computers, and not exclusively as an iPad tool.

    While I initially felt that the keyboard in Animoog was clumsy and not that functional, I would encourage you to really explore its potential.  You can create gestures, control color on individual notes, and shift ranges very fluidly, and to me, this has really gotten me out of the ‘composing on a grid’ mentality of MIDI composition.  In other words, the keyboard isn’t really a keyboard, but something else entirely.  It feels more like working with a theremin, in a strange way, and THAT is very moog.  

    There certainly are limitations (especially from a visual performance perspective) to working with an iPad, and you covered them very eloquently.  However, purely as a tool for helping you break out of the keyboard/midi limitations that we are so used to with synth controls, this is a fantastic step forward, and I hope that you’ve had some time to delve into it further since you wrote this.

    Cheers!