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Waldorf is a German synth company with a pedigree that dates back more than a couple of decades, and specializes in a branch of sound generation called "wavetable synthesis," which blends sampled sounds and synthesized filters together for slick sonic goodness. Its new iPad app, Nave, is a bold monster, with tons of deep programmability, and a thick, gorgeous sound that truly rivals hardware synths that cost more than the highest-capacity iPad.
Much like Moog’s Animoog synth, Nave draws from a library of primary samples, or waves – including every single one from the family of Waldorf hardware synths – displaying them with a really slick 3D graphic representation. Total synth newbies will find a wealth of existing sounds in an insane collection of more 500 presets, including everything from basic retro video game sounds to the most luscious, dense, complex tones to ever come out of any iOS synth app.
The basic four-track recorder is handy for quickly throwing together layered little experiments, but it lacks deep editing tools. That's not terribly surprising, but luckily it's largely mitigated by the fact that Nave is Audiobus-compatible, opening the doors to recording Nave directly with GarageBand or any other recording software that works with Audiobus. One thing's for sure – plug your iPad into some real speakers and you will really be impressed by the overall audio quality of Nave. It's right up there with the best hardware synths we've ever heard.
If you're new to the world of synthesis, Nave might seem a little overwhelming; but if you've spent time twiddling knobs on real-world synths, the interface and organization of the controls will make a ton of sense. But there are also elements that have no physical counterparts, like the Uberwave button and knobs – a thickening agent that turns your output into instant Godzilla. If that still doesn’t rock your world, Nave has the single most flexible overdrive/distortion feature we've ever seen in anything short of a full-blown modular synthesizer. It also has extensive support for MIDI, the ability to import sounds to turn into custom waves, text-to-speech (for slick, instant "Mr. Roboto" effects), and a wealth of other handy features.
The bottom line. Spending $20 on a single music app is rarely advised, but it's well worth it here. Nave rules the iOS synth app hill and is downright addictive in use.
iPad running iOS 6.0 or later
Uniquely deep and powerful sound. Extensive programmability. Many good presets.
Might overwhelm synth novices.