Retronyms are one of the longest running developers in iOS.
I still remember downloading one of their first apps “Dopplerpad” at 2 am outside in the freezing snow at the only hotspot I could find back in July 2009!!!
I enjoyed the app as it was cutting edge at the time and when Nanostudio arrived , I’d focus heavily on pasting grooves from Dopplerpad into it.
There’s something about the charm and simplicity of those old school apps that still appeals…
So, based on the fact that my time freezing in the snow for Dopplerpad was worth it, I always pay close attention to anything Retronyms do.
I’ve found them responsive and cordial , what to speak of visionary.
Their Tabletop app has been around since July 2011 and has been sorely misunderstood by some core iOS bloggers and their fans.
New comers to iOS music apps should know that before Audiobus and interapp audio, there was Sonoma Wire Works Audiocopy and paste, also the general pasteboard. Many users would bounce loops and sounds back and forth from app to app and were happy to do so.
Retronyms took this further by creating Tabletop and slowly and methodically started to add instruments and fx to it via iap and thus creating its own Eco system. They included Audiocopy and paste , so it was a great thing to have on the iPad.
These developers have been commissioned by Akai and Arturia to create ports of some of their hardware and did a great job. These instruments once purchased as standalone can also be included in the Tabletop environment or be used via interapp audio routing.
Phase84 is their very latest iOS synth, and I was on the fence about it. I watched the youtubes and read the reviews. I have so many synths so I needed to know how Phase84 would actually benefit me and not clutter up my iPad!
I saw how it has an amazing arpeggio system and that was its selling point. Because most iOS synths arpeggiators are poor.
They do not give me the power and flexibility I need to bring forth extremely abstract or melodic synth grooves. And the implementation has always been poor in this regard, complex to design them too.
So I desperately hoped that Retronyms pulled this one feature off and they did!
You just dial in the shapes in the boxes provided and that’s it!
Simplicity is very beautiful to me, and the arps I can now generate are intense , especially if I change chords rapidly or hold multiple keys down! I don’t have to get mathematical about it, it’s so ingenious that Phase84 relies heavily on symbols!
It certainly helps that the apps design is simple, uncluttered and crisp. Design is as important as playability and result to me.
Not only that, the included delay is very unique…you don’t get the pingpong kind of delay or crunched up compressed delay like in some apps, it’s almost as if this specific delay has married reverb and had a ghost child..hard to explain but it’s not your usual delay and it certainly adds to the patch you are creating.
The 3 lfos are ideally suited for serious psytrance or dubstep preset creating, dnb too. Add the excellent wave shaper and start tweaking, very soon you WILL get some very dangerous and sharp sounds. Sounds that have character and move in strange but exciting ways.
Add the filter and start moving the brilliantly animated XY pads ( the other one has pulse width and a/b mix on it) and craft your own arp in the aptly named “groove gate” and off you go!
Although this synth is ideally suited for the darker EDM styles, you can go all out ambient with it, just make the waves less “angry” and perhaps route via IAA to a reverb app, turn the bpm down, you get the idea..
I’m relieved, money well spent and a new long term friend has been made.
Getting lost in the vast sea of synth apps that at times, can drown you in complexity and clutter might be a thing of the past if Retronyms put out more synths..
As far as I’m concerned, Phase84 is a simple no frills pure EDM synth. Yet despite its simplicity it accomplishes almost anything I need for my own production.
The only complaint ( and I’ve told them and received a reply ) is that there is no hold button!!
For those of you that are on the fence because this app doesn’t have Audiobus, don’t be! Phase 84 works just fine in Cubasis or the likes of Audioshare. Maybe try merging the two routing protocols according to your needs and tastes.
Retronyms have their own reasons for not adding Audiobus sdk to their apps, but that doesn’t mean the apps should be dismissed based on sentimental loyalty to certain developers, or dependancy on one set workflow either.
If a tool is good, and can be recorded and exported, that is the only consideration you should have. It actually frustrates the hell out of me that a small percentage of iOS users try to blackmail or demand features from apps that are so cheap compared to desktop ones or hardware. It actually makes the iOS music scene look highly unprofessional and immature.
Only a few years ago, people were freaking out because Propellerheads Figure app didnt launch with ACP! Some even jumped to the premature conclusion that Figure was actually Reason and were angry as hell that it wasn’t.
I took the heat for defending those developers and I rightly said based on my faith in them that they would add acp and they did. Now look how highly regarded that app is..
Retronyms even rescued ACP after iOS 7 crashed it and even launched a free app to help out.
Their commitment to iOS music is almost unparalleled in my book and their senior status is undeniable.
So, for me, Phase84 is a great example of what apps should be like- apps, not software but packing as much punch as hardware even.
Phase84 is such an app, simple in design, potent in execution and blissfully pleasing to use.
Lets see what Retronyms bring out next, I’m certainly hopeful of more great stuff from them.
You can purchase Phase84 here: