iPhone App Directory

Modal Pro, a first look and some other thoughts on modular synth apps

Modulars are never easy let’s face it. Some people love them others just don’t get them, but one thing is for sure, they represent a very good way of getting a better understanding of the building blocks of synthesis. So, why is that important? Good question. Simply as it can help you when making your own patches in a variety of synth apps, whether they’re mobile apps, desktop apps, or even hardware. Of course, there’s a downside too. Lots of people say that using modular apps is just the first step to getting into modular synths, and I can say from personal experience that it is tempting, although so far I’ve managed to resist the temptation on the whole.

So, what’s so good about Modal Pro? There are a small number of modular type apps on the app store (and I’m only going to focus on iOS for the moment). Within that small group there are a number of varying types of app that can be broadly classified as follows.

Visual patching modular apps

In this category I’d include Modal Pro, Jasuto Pro, Modular, and Audulus.

Other Modular apps

The three above of course are not the whole story. There are a number of other apps which have a modular component or deliver modular capabilities in a different way from the more traditional ‘patching’ concept. In this category I’d include:
  • Sunvox: of course it’s much more than a modular, it’s a full fledged production environment, but its approach to synthesis is very modular)
  • TC-11: A very unique interface and a very powerful app that deserves a whole review of it’s own.
  • Thor: An excellent modular environment

So, those are my very high level categories, and probably need another whole post to talk about the whole modular app thing, but for now I’m going to concentrate on Modal Pro and try to not get lost in modular rambling, which is always a danger.

So, what’s different about Modal Pro? Well the easiest thing would be to start to compare it with the other apps in the category I’ve put it in. Modal Pro is a relatively simple app when compared to Jasuto and Audulus. That’s not to say that it’s just a simple synth. It isn’t, but when compared to these two it is. That’s from the perspective of getting to grips with what modular synthesis is and how to start constructing patches.

The first thing I noticed when I opened up Modal Pro was the ‘getting started’ tutorial, which I have to say is excellent. For anyone who wants to not only understand the app, but also get a grasp of how to construct a modular patch this is excellent. In fact, I can’t stress enough how useful I think this feature is. The tutorial explains the modules and how to connect them to each other. It also explains how to adjust the parameters for each module to achieve what you want to with your patch.
Once you’ve gone through this tutorial, using the app is very simple and straightforward.

The app has all the normal elements you'd expect in a modular app, like oscillators, ADSR, Amplifiers etc. Each element or module for creating patches can be connected using virtual cables, and you can make some pretty complex patches using Modal Pro.

Overall I think it’s an ideal app for getting started with either learning modular synthesis or if you wanted to learn the building blocks of synthesis itself. Whatever you motivation you’ll get a lot out of this app.

The app costs $9.99, which isn't bad at all for a complex app like this.

1 comment:

keynell said...

I like the fact apps like this are more widely available. So far i used Audulus in ipad & it's fun but everything takes time. Every few years i come back to Pure Data and learn it, to do something meaningful with it. I hoped somebody would port it to ios (libpd is only a library) but maybe app like Modal pro or Audulus will suffice for now.

Btw. did you know about http://www.mobmuplat.com/ ?