So, you’ve assembled a nice collection of synthesizers. Maybe there’s hardware – some KORG volcas, a MeeBlip or two, or even modular. And of course, you have software synths, as well. Playing each individually – that’s kind of limited. Why not treat these as the digital instruments they are?

That’s the idea behind Polymer, a new Mac app out today on the Mac App Store. It can turn multiple monophonic synths into a polyphonic synth – making a “giant mutant polysynth” out of devices you’ve got. In fact, you don’t even have to use hardware exclusively – it works with software apps, too. Having covered hardware earlier today, many of you complained that you don’t have the money for hardware. Here, a couple of cheap monosynths can be a polysynth; a MeeBlip and Massive can turn into a hybrid software/hardware instrument.

Basically, if it uses MIDI – hardware or software – you can now treat it as one instrument. This was certainly possible before, sure. But it’s never been quite this easy.

CDM got an exclusive advance look at the app. Our full review and some demos will come shortly, but I’m already really impressed.

Here’s how it works:


First, select the inputs you want to use – software or hardware.

Then, select the outputs you want to use – again, software or hardware. Each gets a nifty colored circle, which animates as you use the app so you can see what you’re using.

What’s really cool about this is that after just those few clicks, notes are routed to any combination of synths as if they were all one instrument. You simply choose to route notes polyphonically, or via voice stealing, one note per synth in the order they’re played. (The latter I quite like, as it emulates one of the nicest features of the KORG Mono/Poly.)

You can also choose direction: forward, reverse, or random, and distribute notes either by rotating from the same voice each time, or cycling through them round-robin style.

Of course, this isn’t limited to monosynths, either; you can create interesting cycles of notes across polysynths or massive stacks.

When Polymer first released some teasers, many folks expressed some skepticism about whether this was really needed. But it’s the speed with which you can configure Polymer that makes it a formidable tool: suddenly, all that mucking about with channels and configuration is reduced to steps that literally take only moments. It’s also a useful way to contend with multiple MIDI interfaces (for instance, a dedicated MIDI interface and one of the MIDI ports you got “for free” on a controller or audio box).

You can control up to 32 channels, merge between unlimited MIDI channels, and send velocity, pitch bend, and mod automatically. All you need is a USB MIDI interface and a Mac running OS X 10.7 or later – sorry, no Windows or Linux version. Another good idea: get a MIDI Thru box like the Kenton – if you lack extra MIDI ports, it saves you money and extra gear in your bag.

It’s easy to imagine some features that Polymer could add, though it’s already great to have this in a single window.

Price: US$19.99.

On the App Store

Official site: http://polymer-app.com


And for good measure, here’s a great video from Shawn aka dark side of the tune, showing off a hypnotic ditty made with modulars.

  • chaircrusher

    Sweet! Something like this could be done in Max 4 Live as well, and not be confined to Mac Island.

    • Jesús Gallego

      Pretty crowded island if you ask me.

    • Martin Wheeler

      If it can be done in Max4Live i’m surprised that it ( apparently ) hasn’t been done then. About a year ago I tried to make a simple ‘hocketer’ that would address different VSTi’s ( or multiple midi channels in an instance of Kontakt) in Live with sequential or random note hocketing ( as this does) I couldn’t see how to do it given Live’s input channel routing setup, but then I am really not much of a max programmer … but it seems to me that if it is indeed possible, then it should be pretty easy, because the hocketing part is simple … but I’ve been looking around for such a thing for a long time and never come across one … so, once again, if anyone knows of a M4L patch like this, ( or can whip one up 😉 ) … please do let us know !

    • chaircrusher

      You should be able to pick channels to send messages to with the Live Object Module. But I’m not very good with Max For Live. This discusses the idea of how to address other channels: http://cycling74.com/forums/topic/route-midi-to-another-channel/

  • Jim Aikin

    Neat idea. Could be done in Pd for free (and cross-platform). Not a new idea, though — the Yamaha TX802 was 8-part multitimbral, and had a rolling assignment mode. (Correct me if I’m wrong on this. It’s been a long time.)

  • Foosnark

    Hmmm. I think it’d be nice to see a simplified version for software, which instanced a VST plugin some number of times, showing the interface from one of them but automatically keeping the others in sync. I guess that could get heavyweight pretty quickly with something like Monark though.

  • Rafael Kasinski

    Does this supplant Live’s instrument racks, or do those essentially allow one to perform the same operation?

    • Jason Grlicky

      Hey Rafael! I’m Jason with Paracosm. While I’m not a Live user myself, from what I can discern, Live’s instrument racks do allow you to layer instruments and set up keyboard splits, but don’t allow the you to get the polyphonic voice allocation functionality of Polymer (outside of a custom Max 4 Live patch). Hope that clears things up!

  • Martin Wheeler

    This looks very interesting to use with multiple hardware synths, and especially modulars, but in the softsynth world what is really needed is a plug in that does this ( but the complexity of dealing with all the different routing logics in different host DAWs makes that unlikely ) Even for Ableton, with all the Max4Live patches out there, I haven’t seen anything remotely comparable. But if such a thing does indeed existi’d be interested in knowing about it … ?????

    • Dude

      I am not sure if it still does, but energyXT was able to do a few things like this. You could run it as VSTi and then setup quite complex routing of other VSTis inside it. I used it quite a few times to create stacked sounds coming from several plugins.

    • j

      this works well but iirc you can’t really get at the parameters of the stacked synths in order to automate

  • bleep eater

    What about running multiple operating systems on one machine that way everyone would benifit
    Which ever os they use

  • -008′

    This reminds me of the Blamsoft “Distributor”
    Rack Extenstion, that I already use in Reason. :)

  • http://flexyvoid.com/ Yanakyl

    This is truely lovely

  • Jonathan

    Off-topic, but that website is beautiful. Excited to mess with this.