Animoog is a Moog Music Inc. app and to say something more on who created it out, would be superfluous. We will focus only and exclusively on one of the latest products by Moog. During our tests, we will try to figure out if Animoog is a niche software, dedicated to the synthesis most inquiring fans, or a sound creative product.
An innovative sound synthesis
Animoog is a synthesizer for Apple devices. It is not meant as an emulation of the existing hardware products. It is a software-only synth, developed by Moog, specially for iPad/iPhone.
The sound synthesis technique used by Animoog is based on the concept of Anisotropia. This kind of technique has been called ASE (Anisotropic Synth Engine).In a concise and effective way, Moog defines the anisotropic sound synthesis as a dynamic animation of waveforms that occurs along a path defined within a x/y grid.
Actually the Anisotropic Synth Engine introduced by Moog can be considered as the evolution of a previous sound synthesis technique trough vector, called Vector Synthesis, introduced towards the end of the 80s by Sequential Circuits.
The Animoog x/y grid: 16 waveforms and 8 timbres
To understand the basics of Anisotropic Synth Engine, let’s consider the space identified by a pair of Cartesian axes x/y, let’s suppose to draw a path inside it, and finally let’s imagine playing the synthesizer keyboard. The notes will follow the track designed and will withstand a sound modulation defined by the composition of the x/y grid. This is exactly what happens playing Animoog.
In Animoog the x/y space is a regular quadratic 16×8 grid composed of 8 timbres (y-axis), and 16 waveforms (x axis). Growing within this kind of x/y space, the sound generated by Animoog is a polyphonic vector.
The 8 timbres, so the y component of the polyphonic vector, are selected by the user from a list of 57 timbres derived from classic Moog synthesizers such as Voyager, Little Phatty, MF-103 12 Stage Phaser, MF-105 MURF, and others. Each of the 8 timbres can be static and so may contain a single waveform, or dynamic and contain up to a maximum of 16 waveforms. The evolution of the waveforms is the x component of the polyphonic vector.
The timbres audio quality is extremely high. Surely what has a negative effect on the Animoog audio, is the evident limitations of the iPad jack output. The use of Animoog alongside a good quality sound interface, makes the distinction between some tones of a Little Phatty and an iPad difficult in a mix.
The Animoog x/y grid: motion along the path
The polyphonic vector is represented on the grid x / y by the motion of a colored cursor along the traced path (every note generated is a cursor with different color). The sound produced by the synthesizer will be a combination of timbres and waveforms, which evolves along the traced path.
The sounds generated by this method are further enhanced by a traditional synthesis architecture in a Moog style consisting of ladder filter and overdrive. This architecture lets you calibrate both some more traditional synthesis parameters such as cutoff, resonance, delay, thick, and some of the parameters that influence more directly the motion along the path, such as orbit, path and rate.
Each path is anchored to a small green circle within the grid x/y. Through this anchor it’s possible to move the path within the grid thus obtaining, for the same path, new combinations of timbres and waveforms.
This is one of the most distinctive features of Animoog and allows to have very dynamic performances. The sounds can evolve in a very fluid way, simply by dragging the small green circle in the grid with one hand, and playing the keyboard with the other one.
The Animoog look
Avoiding any excessive detail about the Animoog menu, submenu, knobs and switch, as this short review has no intention to replace the excellent instruction manual (available on the Moog website and within the app) , we will provide here the guidelines to configure and modulate the anisotropic sound synthesis.
For a clearer description, let’s split the window Animoog into 3 sub sections:
A. Monitor section , consisting of a series of tabs, the content of which will be visible on the Animoog main screen. At the bottom of the screen there are menus for the presets and time (BPM) management.
B. Modules section, two sliding slots divided in modules with severals knobs and parameters in order to configure the sound modulation.
C. Keyboard section, containing the keyboard and some menus for its management.
A. Monitor Section
At each start up Animoog uploads the default preset and displays the contents of the first tab, located in the upper portion. By pressing on the name of each tab, it will show its contents.
Represents the main window of Animoog and is constituted by the grid of 8 timbres and 16 waveforms. The notes generated by the keyboard are represented by colored cursors that follow the path traced inside. The type of cursor movement along the path can be defined by the Path and Orbit modules located in two knob’s slots in section B (modules).
Further characteristic of the X/Y Pad, is the presence of an oscilloscope over of the grid that shows the waveform evolution depending on modulations and traced path.
This is the menu where you can select, from among a list of 57 timbres (56 + 1 mute timbre defined Silence), the 8 that make up the y component of the polyphonic vector and that represent the Moog anisotropic sound synthesis oscillators. To the list of 8 timbres correspond, from top to bottom, the 8 vertical cells of the X/Y Pad. On this menu you can listen to a preview of each timbre.
What I think is missing on this menu, it is an immediate feedback of the waveforms of each timbre. In the configuration of the anisotropic sound synthesis, you can only interact with the y component of the vector polyphonic. It is possible to choose the timbre, but you can not know if it contains one waveform or more. The only chance to have this type of information is: either hope that the name of the timbre could give you some indication or hear the timbre preview; navigate to the tab X/Y Pad and observe the oscilloscope.
On this menu it’s possible to define the envelopes curves for AMP (amplitude), FILTER (filter), MOD (modulation). Clicking on each individual curve you can zoomin for a more accurate drawing of the attack, decay, sustain and release phases. To the right of the envelopes there are the parameters for the LFO (Rate, Sync, Shape, KB Trig) management, which constitutes one of the possible modulation sources. In the lower portion of LFO, there are 4 modulation slots, each of which consists of three sections:
- Source – (OFF, LFO, MOD, Psition X-, Y-Position) it is the modulation source. When the Source is set on OFF, the control section becomes the modulation source. It has a bipolar konbb of Amount (-100, 0, +100).
- Control – can be the modulation source if the Source slot is set on OFF, or be a control instrument of the selected source through the selected Control parameter (OFF, Poly Pressure, Chan Pressure, Velocity, Key Pitch, Mod Wheel, Pitch Bend ). As for the Source, it’s equipped with a bipolar konbb of Amount (-100, 0, +100).
- Destination – it’s the object of the modulation (OFF, Filter Freq., Res Filter, Filter WTSA, Filter Drive, Rate Orbit, Orbit WTSA X, Y WTSA Orbit, Path Rate, Path Origin, LFO Rate, LFO Shape, Thick Detune , Pithc 1 Semitone, Pitch 5 Semitone).
This menu allows you to select the Root Note and keyboard Scale. The latter can be selected from a list (chromatic, ionian, dorian etc.), or customized at the user’s will checking/unchecking the buttons to make them active/inactive . The menu also contains the controls for the voices management (1 or 4): Mono, Legato, Phase Reset. The key Legato takes effect only if the Mono button is active.
With both keys Mono and Legato in the active position, the voice is reactivated when detached notes are played; the voice is not reactivated when overlapped notes are played. The Glide is activated with the overlapping of adjacent notes and not.
With the Mono active and Legato off, each new note played generates new phases. The Glide function is active only for adjacent notes.
With Phase Reset active, ASE oscillators generate identical phases when new note are played.
In this tab there are some general settings:
- Midi – settings for MIDI connections (Wi-Fi or usb.) It should be noted that by default only messages midi-in can be used, the midi-out function is instead activated exclusively through the purchase of special expansion pack There is also a Refresh button to update the list of available MIDI connections, a Panic button, to send messages All Note Off (in the case of “enchanted” notes).
- Presets – Allows the Import/Export presets via iTunes, it also offers the possibility to create New Preset, or Random Preset (completely random in the composition of all parameters), and delete existing presets with the function Delete Preset.
- Configuration – contains settings for the displays managing such as turn on/off the Pithc Bend, the Modulation Wheel, and the oscilloscope overlapped on the grid, but also the settings of the audio in background (very useful if you work with more music apps ).
- Manual – allows to browse the manual Animoog.
By clicking on this tab you can access a sub-menu that allows to download additional content. The expansion pack can include both sets of additional timbres, and midi implementations. To purchase any of the expansion packs, a version of Animoog updated to the latest release is requite.
Preset, Bpm, Tap
In the lower portion of the monitor section, we can find a menu to select the Presets (combinations of sounds and waveforms) created by Moog, and sorted in groups: Bass, Efx, Hits, Keys, Leads, Pads, Plucked, User.
The presets can be modified and saved with a new name in the User group. On the side of the preset menu, we find the Bpm monitor and its TAP button that allow you to determine the execution time, which you can synchronize the parameters of the sound modulation to.
B. Modules section
To the right of the Monitor section there are two sliding slots containing 3 modules each, which manage various synthesis parameters.
Only two modules are visible at the same time, one for each slot. By pressing the arrow on top and at the bottom of the modules displayed, you can scroll through the slot to display the following modules.
In the left slot modules there are Filter, Path, Orbit, into the right there are Delay, Thick, Recorder.
Filter (left slot)
It is a resonant filter that can be set as the LP (low pass), BP (band pass), HP (high pass). It Influence the Anisotropic Synth Engine amplifying, attenuating, or throughs letting the frequencies established. It allows to Adjust: Drive (frequency level pre-filtered), Env (bipolar modulation control of the filter), Frequency (cutting frequency), Res (resonance around the value of the cutoff frequency).
Orbit (left slot)
It is a low frequency oscillator which affects the nature of the polyphonic vector, and so the Animoog’s voices, modulating the position of the colored cursors during their motion. Increasing values of the X and Y Amount create orbit movements of the cursor along the traced path. The value of Rate determines the speed with which the cursors performs the orbits. The Sync function synchronizes the time rate to the time indicated on the BPM monitor in as its divisors or multiples.
Path (right slot)
This module lets you to trace the path that the colored cursors will follow within the grid x / y. The Edit switch enables/disables the editing the path (from 1 to a maximum of 14 lines connected by a maximum of 15 points). The Clear switch clears the paths. The Mode selector lets you to choose the behavior of the cursor along the path (Loop, Back / Forth, Once). The Rate switch sets how fast the cursor will walk the path. The Sync switch lets you to synchronize the time rate with time indicated in the BPM monitor in terms of its divisors or multiples.
Thick (right slot)
This module controls and allows the determination of the following parameters:
- Crush – adds distortion effects.
- Drive – adds saturation effects.
- Detune – manages the offset and the pan of 2 or 4 selected voices through the switch Unison.
Delay (right slot)
Delay management module that allows you to adjust the Mix, so the balance between the original signal and the delayed one; the Feedback, so the amount of mixed signal that comes back as delay input; the Time, so the delay time; the Sync, so the synchronizing value of time to the specified value in the BPM monitor as its divisors or multiples.
Record (right slot)
It is a virtual recording module. It allows the performance recording, even on multiple levels. It’s equipped with a Play/Stop switch, which allows you to listen and stop the registration; a Record switch, which starts new recordings; an Overdub switch, which when activated, allows to record new audio levels on the same performance; two Buffer switches (copy and paste) to save the performance as a .wav file and their management; a Clear switch, which removes the last entry in the buffer.
Despite what one might think, controlling precision’s level of the various modules knobs, it is not to be underestimated. Touching a knob, you can move your finger up and down along the iPad’s height to rotate it. Is not necessary to make a circular motion with your finger then. The same situation occurs when you use more fingers on different knob.
One finger will always control the same knobs until it loses contact with the screen of the iPad.
C. Keyboard section
In the upper portion of the section we can find a green Slider witch allows to interact with the keyboard’s size and range
Moving to the right or to the left position of the slider, changes the position of the keyboard through the octaves. Stretch or shrink the slider to resize the keyboard leads to increasing or decreasing the number of visible buttons.
The surface of each button is a vertical controller, equipped with a bright indicator, wich can be used as a Control in the 4 slot modulation tab Env / Mod.
On the left portion of the keyboard there are the controls for the Pitch Bend and Modulation Wheel, which are also equipped with a light proportional to the control value. The two controls can be enabled or disabled through the Setup tab.
On the right side of the keyboard are the knobs that regulate:
- Volume master;
- Cor, the pitch-correction;
- Glide, the portamento control.
Animoog V2 – update to the latest version (2.0.0)
With the latest update, issued on 20/12/12, Moog further enhanced Animoog, making it an even more efficient instrument. The news on last update will be illustrated below, consideranding the 3 sections A, B, C.
A. Monitor Section
In this section some functions has been implemented in the tab Env/Mod, KB Scale, and Setup. It was also introduced, a new tab: 4 Track.
In this tab some interesting features to the 4-slot modulation has been introduced. In the Control parameter we can find the following new items: accel-x, accel-y, accel-z. It’s therefore possible to use the iPad’s accelerometer as a modulation’s control.
The controlling of the Y-X Amount parameters of the Orbit module respectively with Accel-x and Accel-y, was the most exciting among the tests carried out. Moving and orienting the iPad in space to control the orbit of the sliders along the way, gives the impression of having the Animoog’s notes in your hands, and being able to move them.
To emprove this configuration, I suggest to add the control of Thick Detune parameter through the accel-z, and then moving the iPad up and down.
In this tab a keyboard Lock function has been added, to preserve the scale settings of the saved presets, and preventing accidental changes.
In the Midi section of this tab a button to define the Range of the Pitch Bend has been added, and a Map CCs button that allows to map (with CC messages) all Animoog’s knobs and controls. It’s also possible to save/load existing mappings using the button Save/Load CC Map.
This implementation could be extremely useful. It allows you to map Animoog with a midi controller, and so use real knobs. You can get a parameter management, in the two sliding slots, more accurate than you could get with the iPad’s surface.
In addition to this, by mapping all Animoog knobs, you can simultaneously control parameters that belong to the same slot, therefore it should be managed independently. For example, without a properly mapped controller, it would not be possible to simultaneously manage Frequency and Orbit-Rate cause both of them belong to the left slot.
Controlling the filter and the orbits of Animoog with real Moog knobs (such as those of a Little Phatty) was a fantastic experience that it recommend to try.
This tab opens a multitrack sequencer (up to 4 tracks). It allows the creation of musical projects in which to record the result of playing and modulation. After starting a recording, it is therfore possible to return to the X/Y Pad window.The 4 Track tab offers:
- transpose controls such as Play, Pause, Stop, Rec, Back;
- commands of Loopl, Mute, Solo, Arm, Volume for each track;
- master Volume management;
- Metronome management;
- Cut, Copy, Split, Loop, Color for each recorded clip;
- Load Clip (from the iPad library), Paste Clip (from other tracks), Clear Track;
- Project registration management;
- compatibility with the AudioCopy/Paste protocol.
At the moment the 4Track tab is only a tool to record ideas and suggestions, or to send some recording taken during a live performance. It does not allow to redirect the 4 tracks on different outputs instead.
B. Modules section
The upgrade to version 2.0.0 has not made any changes in this section, except for the mapping via CC of all knobs and switches of the two slot modules through the Map CCs button (Setup/Midi tab)
C. Keyboard section
On the two sides of the green Slider, respectively to the left and to the right, the update added an iPad battery status Indicator and a Hold button for the keyboard (if the Mono setting in the KB Scale menu is activated, the hold button affects only one key at the time). The Hold button allows to use both hands to set up the sound modulation on the X/Y Pad.
To get an idea of what has been described, and especially to better understand the features of the latest update (2.0.0), it is highly recommended to have a look at the following video available on the Moog web-site.
It’s hard not to be excited about Animoog. Understanding the exact functioning is definitely the first and uneasy stepto take, but it also means sharing and being aware of every single word of the Animoog definition given on the Moog web site:
“Animoog is the first professional synthesizer designed for the iPad. Powered by Moog’s new Anisotropic Synthesis Engine, Animoog captures the vast sonic vocabulary of Moog synthesizers and applies it to the moderntouch surface paradigm, enabling any user to quickly sculpt incredibly fluid and dynamic sounds that live, breathe, and evolve as you play them.”
Probably Animoog is not the first synthesizer designed for the iPad, and will not be the last one, but, what about the professionalism, it will be very hard to find an other at the same level.
It is worth emphasizing also the note on the user’s manual:
“Animoog is a professional polyphonic synthesizer that carries on Dr. Robert Moog’s exploration of touch-surface technologies to create new and expressive musical instruments.”
I believe that if Dr. Robert Moog had a chance to see his research in this area come to life and materialize on the iPad, he would be very proud.
This kind of technology is perfect for the Moog Anisotropic Synht Engine.
The timbre assortment achieved through a touch screen sound modulation, is enormous.
A professional sound interface provides the Animoog timbres and presets a very impressively sound quality. The comparison of single timbre with the Little Phatty or Voyager sounds, lets Animoog down a bit. In this comparison, the Animoog sounds doesn’t have the same features of the analog sound. If the terms of comparison become its preset and polyphonic sounds (consisting of 8 timbres and many evolutions), then Animoog becomes a very interesting and challenging product, even more compelling than a Little Phatty.
Regarding the changes introduced in the latest Animoog version, the possibility of using the iPad’s accelerometer as a control of the modulation is very important.
The Animoog sound modulation has a completely different aspect thanks to this feature. It is an implementation that places the anisotropic sound synthesis in a three-dimensional context, allowing a 360° spatial control of timbres and waveforms.
The new Map CCs function, thanks to which you can map all parameters via midi with a physical controller, gives the impression of playing a real hardware Moog synth, and improves the accuracy and detail of sound shaping.
In my opinion the new Tab 4 Track is the least important implementation. Having repeatedly remarked the Animoog characteristics of professionalism, I think that using a multitrack sequencer (software or hardware), in order to manage the composition of clips, tracks, and musical projects, can lead to similar results, with a superior quality.
A criticism that can be done to Animoog, is about the user’s perception of the waveforms. I think that obtaing a clearer understanding of the timbre’s waveforms, it would be a great support to the polyphonic vector composition, as well as to the three-dimensional sound modulation planning.
It would be very useful to add a menu to the tab timbres, which show (as well as a names list, or as a graphical representation), the waveforms of each individual timbre.
Last but not least: currently the cost of Animoog is 26.99 € for iPad, and 8.99 € for iPhone. Occasionaly Moog has put the app on sale for € 0.70 (or slightly more). I’m not part of the users that have taken advantage of the offers, but I can guarantee that despite being my highest paid iPad’s app, Animoog is worth every cent. It should also be remarked that the versions for the iPad and iPhone are not the same app: the first is called just Animoog, the second is called Animoog for iPhone instead. The update history indicates that the two apps follow a development path that is not perfectly identical. The iPad version, as we have observed, has come to the 2.0.0 (Animoog 2) release. Animoog for iPhone is instead now in the 1.1.1 release. Even implementations inevitably follow a different path. More information on this is available on the Moog website, or on the page of the Apple store.
Pro (all the feature described should be enumerate)
- high audio quality;
- big opportunity to modulate the sound;
- easy access to the user’s manual;
- look extremely detailed;
- stability (the app has never crasched during the tests)
- uneasy first approach
- reading the user’s manual is realy recommended;
- high price;
- not clear x component composition (wavefor) of the polifonic vector;
- the qualty of the iPad’s jack restrict the high level quality timbres.
Constructor: Moog Music Inc.
Model: Animoog V. 2.0.0
- Animoog – 26,99 €;
- Animoog for iPhone – 8,99 €;
- Expansion Pack – from 1,79 € to 4,49€.
- iPad Camera Connection Kit (usb).