SynthProbe in Review – gravitational music creation

Following the creative success of GravSynth, Kayac have levelled up their iDevice skills with SynthProbe. Like its precursor, SynthProbe still amalgamates music and gravity, but SynthProbe adds many finger-friendly options that weren’t previously available for synthesiser fans. The effect? A more complete, if meticulous experience.

SynthProbe and GravSynth offer similarly addictive software interaction. But SynthProbe’s smaller touch pad allows the app more real-time tweaking space. In fact, users can simultaneously get on with tone maps, loops, gravitronic grooving, and gnarly presets.

Next to the touch pad is what I will dub, the ‘loop box’, a basic equalisation routine space which adheres to user-specified settings. This area is the meat and potatoes of SynthProbe. Here you create and master loop presets which depend on the following meticulously governed settings: tempo, oscillator, oso2fine, glide, filter, modulation, delay, volume env[elope], and filter env[elope].

Each preset is governed by up to 8 tones which are affected by effects in the settings menu. A little bit of tweaking can change sound quite a bit – a lot can do real damage!

SynthProbe is so completely ‘you’ that it treads perhaps too closely on established musical grounds. You can spend minutes or hours tweaking loops and tempos to create that synth which just ‘does the job’; or, you can do the same thing and come out with spooky, scary, or freakin’ awesome tunes. SynthProbe rewards experimentation so well that the iDevice might as well be knighted Sir Unexpected Musical Instrument.

But, setting parameters are only one portion of this app. Playback is SynthProbe’s true joy. The touch, which you will nudge or hold, controls pitch and volume. Here, tunes are bent, volume pitched and yawed; here the whole show gets underway. It’s pretty technical. To make the most of SynthProbe, you will need to be comfortable with a lot of disassociated touching: one finger will caress the touch pad, while another flicks through preset loops and the other tone maps on the bottom of the screen. To top it all off, gyrating your body (or arms) will also have quite an effect on your music.

Now to the growing pains: SynthProbe is a 1.99$ app which I think is worth far more than its asking price. Problem one: users may see a 1.99$ app and think they will just ‘have at it’, but SynthProbe takes time – a lot of time to master – which may be wasted on users who are looking for a quick whistle. While this isn’t a fair strike against SynthProbe, the App Store is a brutal place where people complain because their screen is cracked; SynthProbe could catch a bad edge because of the shallowness of some of its user base.

This wan't a particularly good sounding loop...

The second problem is one of content. There is so much stuffed under the bonnet and so many opportunities to make amazing music, but no way to save it for later. Honestly, re-adjusting every time isn’t a realistic option because it would take too much time and if you have gyrated for that extra effect of gravity, you’ll have to video tape your movements in order to reproduce the effect. You cannot save or export which is a shame as this app deserves those two options which would put it over the top.

SynthProbe is one of those rare apps which stabs waaay higher than its asking price. It is deep, inventive, and 100% best on the multitouch iDevice. In fact, I will dub it an important reinvention of the iDevice as a musical ‘instrument’. But without save or export, your tunes are either left to memory, ad-hoc videography, mind-enhancing… substances, that amazing piece you created earlier will be left waiting for your return, perhaps forever.

App Summary
Title: SynthProbeDeveloper: KAYAC Inc.
Reviewed Ver:1.2Min OS Req:3.0
Price:$1.99App Size:0.6 MB
  • Incredible synth engine
  • Great use of iDevice controls and input
  • Creativity and perseverance are the only limiting factors
  • Output can be amazing
  • Redefines iDevice as musical instrument
  • Labour intensive – be prepared to learn
  • No functions for save, load or export

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There are loads of good music apps out there. Below are a few:

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