Yamaha’s MX88 synth turns your iPhone into a real instrument

I hate, hate, hate computers and phones/tablets on stage. To me, a Macbook sitting next to a keyboardist or percussionist is just asking for trouble. Computers freeze, apps crash and sometimes you forget to turn off notifications and now everyone in the audience knows you got a new Facebook message. And frankly, they’re not very “rock ‘n’ roll.” So imagine my surprise when, while using the Yamaha MX88 keyboard, I found myself launching the FM Essential companion app — on my iPhone!

The $ 1,299 (You’ll really only pay $ 999) MX88 is the latest member of Yamaha’s entry-level MX lineup. But the keyboard’s sounds and weighted key action are that of far more expensive synthesizers. The instrument ships with over 1,000 voices (instrument sounds) from the company’s more expensive Motif series of keyboards. Quantity is great, but quality is far more important for a musician and the MX88 delivers with its piano and organ recreations.

It’s also nice that the polyphonic instrument can handle 128 simultaneous notes. It allows you can layer sound after sound to the keys and never worry about losing any of the notes.

But if you insist on playing the synth with your fingers, the weighted keys are a delight for an instrument in this price range. The action is quick and gives the player more control over the dynamics of a note when the key is hit.

The controls on the keyboard are straight forward with a small display for voices and more complex control over the synth. The more readily used features like voice manipulation, keyboard splitting, and top level sound menus are all available via a knob or button on the face of the MX88. But there’s also that app.

The FM Essentials companion mobile app, on its surface, is an adequate facsimile of a synth with a tiny keyboard and various voices. It ships with drum loops so your creations have a back beat. But it’s when you plug it into the MX88 that you see the real value. With it, you can control the voices on the keyboard and manipulate them with the on-screen oscilloscope (a visual reference of the waveform). That’s where the fun comes in.

I was able to take normal voices, flip on the arpeggio, adjust the options like cut off, resonance, modulation and make them my own right in the app and much quicker than I could on the keyboard. Plus, once I was done with that, I could play music from my iPhone directly though the keyboard via the same USB port. So I could accompany something I had recorded earlier, or play along to my favorite song.

The only drawback is that you have to buy Apple’s $ 30 Lightning to USB camera adapter cable to get it to work. You can’t just plug into the device USB slot (which seems like where you would plug in your phone). Instead you have to use the host USB slot.

Whether or not I would use this setup live is still debatable. iPhone apps crash just as often as computer applications. But, it has made me a believer than when done correctly, connecting your instrument to a computer isn’t that horrible and in the case of the MX88, actually enhances the experience of an already wonderful synthesizer.

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Korg brings the iconic ARP Odyssey synth to iOS

Synthesizer companies have a knack for bringing digital versions of analog gear to mobile devices so hobbyists and pros alike can get creative with ease. Earlier this year, Moog released a $ 30 app that brought the legendary (and massive) Model 15 to the iPad. Korg already has synth apps under its belt, including a more mobile version of its M1, and now its introducing another. Based on the iconic ARP Odyssey, the company built the appropriately-named ARP ODYSSEi mobile software for iOS.

This $ 20 iOS app houses versions of all three ARP Odyssey analog synths. Yes, that includes the 2015 reissue that offered an updated take on two well-respected instruments. Korg said it wasn’t content with just reproducing the sounds of those synthesizers for the app, so it put its Circuit Modeling Technology (CMT) to use so that the sounds you’re able to make with your iPad or iPhone are as close as possible to the physical gear.

The three filter types and Drive function from the 2015 model are here on the digital version of the ARP Odyssey, but new effects, a voice assign mode and a programmable arpeggiator expand the functionality of the instruments even further. This new ODYSSEi app can be put to work with Korg’s own DAW software and GarageBand if you’re looking to do more than just tinker with the virtual controls to make some noise. The company says the $ 20 price is “introductory,” so you might end up paying more if you wait too long to commit. For now, you can hear the app in action via the video below.

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Electro-Harmonix brings ’80s synth sounds to your iPad

The likes of Korg and Moog have their own synthesizer apps for iOS devices, and now there’s a new option for loading up a virtual instrument on those mobile devices. Electro-Harmonix has released a version of its Mini-Synthesizer EH-1600 for iPad and iPhone that delivers a digital re-creation of the ’80s analog gear. The original had pretty basic controls, but it was responsible for some fairly iconic synthesizer sounds like you’ve heard from Rush, Van Halen and more.

The app comes with 22 presets and offers users the ability to store any custom settings as well. While the original Mini-Synthesizer was a monophonic instrument, this digital version is a polyphonic synth, meaning that you can play four notes at the same time rather than just one. There’s a switch to toggle between modes though, so you can still get the classic tones alongside the new functionality. The company also expanded the keyboard to a full 88 keys, too. In total, there are 12 sliders and 9 switches for tweaking pitch, filters, delay, reverb and more inside the app that has a look that closely resembles the physical instrument. And yes, you can use the mobile software with connected MIDI devices.

If you’re looking to give it a shot, the app will set you back $ 2.99 for the iPhone version and $ 4.99 if you’re looking to use in on an iPad. Don’t worry Android users, the synth will arrive for Google’s OS in late September. For now, you can hear what the app is capable of in the video below.

Via: Fact Magazine

Source: App Store

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