It looks like it might be some sort of synthesis board game. But the grid above is actually a way of using touch to design new hybrid sounds. And it could appeal to both newcomers and synth die-hards alike.

Wolfgang Palm must really like his iPad. The digital synthesis pioneer, the founder of classic maker PPG and credited with inventing wavetable synthesis, has already had a thunderous debut on the iPad. His PPG WaveGenerator has been one of the best-reviewed synths for Apple’s mobiles yet. But, apparently not resting on his laurels, he’s already back with a sequel, the PPG WaveMapper.

The new synth features plenty of functionality, but its titular, visual approach to mapping sound design and modulation is likely to be the big draw. And that visual approach could, in turn, woo some people newer to synthesis and sound design.

We should see the results in the next couple of weeks, and a video is due this week. In the meantime, though, we’ve got some features and screenshots direct from the developer to CDM to gawk at.

PPG WaveMapper isn’t just modular; it treats every single sound parameter as equal, set out on an open visual field you can navigate from the iPad screen – with or without a previous background in synthesis architecture. Most synths treat different kinds of parameters as distinct; you’ve got your waves (the sound sources), envelopes, different kinds of modulation, and they are handled separately.

Not so in WaveMapper. A “module” is simply a module, whatever synth parameter it may represent, from envelopes to waves. Russ Hughes tells CDM, “you can take a piano wave and then drop it on a drum envelope and then modulate it via a string envelope.” Think powerful hybrid sounds, mis-matching characteristics to form new timbres.

Under the hood, PPG touts a new wavetable synthesis engine that it claims improves upon the classic architecture. Given Wolfgang is the inventor of the approach, color us intrigued. We’ll have to test this ourselves and talk more to Wolfgang about that.

The rough idea: take the editing flexibility of wavetable synthesis, but use samples. And you can choose between time compression in this manner or “classic” wavetable synthesis. As PPG explains:

WaveMapper uses a new the synthesis system, which can be seen as a bridge between wavetables and samples. In wavetable systems you have great flexibility in controlling the sound, but sound material is limited to harmonic, noise-free waveforms. On the other hand there are samplers, which have very high sound quality, but very limited editing features. In WaveMapper there is a new type, which we call “time corrected sample” (TCS). This can reproduce a much wider palette of sounds then classic wavetables, but still allows for a total control of the access via an envelope or LFOs.

Oh, and there’s this excellent, cheeky promotional image. Burn.



  • Three synthesis engines.
  • Classic PPG wavetables, if you want them.
  • Visual Sound Mapping.
  • 99 sound “resources,” including instruments and wavetables.
  • Four parameter editor pages.
  • Three Noise generators routable as audio and modulation.
  • 24 dB low-pass filter, overdrive.
  • Dual amplifier, panning.
  • 13 envelopes for pitch, waveform, filter, noise gain, panning.
  • 4 LFOs, five waveforms each.
  • Delay/reverb effect.
  • Step sequencer/arpeggiator.
  • Sound browser.
  • Virtual (inter-app) MIDI and Core MIDI.

If you don’t hook up your own MIDI device, there’s also a “schematic” keyboard you can build with whatever pitches you like.

Price: US$19.99.
Estimated release next month.

All images courtesy Wolfgang Palm.

Twitter @ppgwaveapp






  • rux

    so looking forward to this! but.. why doe it have to look like windows’98 on an ipad?!?!!?!

    • Name

      Because everything must look old and have virtual wooden side panels or it’s not authentic. All the things that used to mean music progress now used for music conservatism.

  • Marc

    I was hoping he’d improve the PPG Wave before releasing another app.

    And the same tiny keys again.

    With 1$ apps like Figure, Launchkey it’s OK that they are limited, or even abandoned, but 20$ should be more like an investment.

    • marc crybaby

      20 bucks is nothing,stop crying..

  • Sa Teeb

    Reminds me of the Plex instrument he made with steinberg 10 years ago, i wonder if it is based on the same technology. That was a great concept for an instrument, you could mix the different sounds together, but for some reason it never saw any updates.

    • demmartin

      probably because the sound was awful :)

    • Name

      It’s not awful so much as the idea is a lot more interesting than the actual sounds you can get out of it. Definitely in favour of trying new synthesis techniques, but then they should really be appraised with your eyes closed.

  • http://twitter.com/iOSMusician iOS Musician Blog

    “WaveMapper – The iOS Maps app you’ll want to get lost in.” …that’s marketing at it’s finest.

  • Sa Teeb

    Ok, i did some searching on google, he did update plex to version 2 in 2011, but windows only. But he did it for free which is very nice. If i had a windows machine i would definitely use it. I was hoping plex might go further into being able to import your own samples with a later version. Now i use isotope’s iris which i guess is what i was hoping plex would have become.

  • http://twitter.com/gesslr gesslr

    Damn. I have to wait a whole month…..