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Propellerhead Software is a well-known player in the professional music software world, and it’s no surprise to see the company break out one of the synthesizers from its popular Reason desktop application and port it to the iPad. In the process, the studio has created something truly tailored to a touch interface, with many clever tweaks that really shine on the iPad screen – and it sounds simply wonderful.
Thor Polysonic Synthesizer is a highly programmable monster, and it doesn’t take much scrolling through the 1000 included presets to get a great taste of what it’s capable of — which is truly rich, thick sound, even when played polyphonically. From subtle bass and pad sounds all the way to animated, pulsing soundscapes, Thor packs a powerful punch. Listening to it through headphones or decent speakers is a must, as the tiny iPad speaker really can’t do it justice.
The app features three oscillators, each of which can be one of six different synthesis methods — from FM (frequency modulation) to wavetables and more — which are then pumped through some really meaty filters and a decent array of effects. There are three primary screens: Keyboard is where you really "play" the synth, while Knobs are the heart of the programming interface and Routing gives you control over the built-in step sequencer and very deep access to the many modulation routings.
Thor is compatible with the Audiobus app, and while it generally works well, we did run into some stuck notes that make us think an update will be landing sooner than later. You can also export Thor patches from the iPad version to Reason, which is a nice touch. We loved the keyboard implementation, which lets you pinch to change the octave range, as well as some really nice accompaniment modes — like strumming, which allows you to accomplish some bowing and modulation effects that would be quite difficult otherwise.
The bottom line. The iOS synthesizer field has become rather crowded of late, but Thor’s pedigree, extensive programmability, and potent sound give it instant clout — and any serious iOS musician will consider it a great investment.
iPad running iOS 5.1 or later
Potent sound. Tons of presets. Highly programmable.
Encountered some stuck note bugs.