Review: A Venerable Chord Organ is yours with iOptigan for the iPad

The Optigan brought the chord organ concept into homes in the early 70s. Backing patterns, recorded in a variety of genres onto optical discs, were part of the allure of this early sample playback instrument. Now you can enjoy those halcyon days of yore on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, as the Optigan is now available as an iOS app, imaginatively called iOptigan.

iOptigan Features

  • Dead-On Simulation of the Classic Optigan Chord Organ
  • 25 of the 40 Original Optigan Discs Included
  • The Other 15 available with an In-App Purchase
  • Virtual Reverb
  • MIDI I/O and MIDI File Support
  • Built-In Sequencer
  • Inter-App and Background Audio Support
  • Available for $4.99 at the iTunes App Store

The app definitely sounds authentic and some of its stranger backing tracks may be useful in your own music projects. If classic chord organs are your thing, iOptigan is the closest you’ll come to experiencing their joy on an iOS device. The app was developed by Waldorf Music’s CTO, Stefan Stenzel, as a side project from his day job.

Simulating the Interface of a Classic Chord Organ

The iOptigan interface works well at capturing the original chord organ’s look and feel. An array of chord buttons provides major, minor, and diminished options for a set of root notes. Five rectangular buttons are used to trigger backing beats, in either a one-shot or looped mode depending on where the button is pressed.


The iOptigan app with the virtual keyboard displayed. Screenshot by author.

Four buttons lurking in the top left of the screen are used for accessing settings, controlling the internal sequencer, or displaying the organ keyboard. Virtual knobs control the unit’s tempo, reverb, and the balance between the backing tracks and the organ. A virtual power switch also offers some musical use in a hip-hop DJ fashion.

A Bizarre Collection of Backing Tracks

25 of the original Optigan collection of 40 optical discs are included with the app. The other 15 are available through an In-App Purchase. The lo-fi backing tracks span a range of inoffensive genres popular in the 70s – everything from the samba to acoustic guitar pop is in there.

The sound of the organ is great, especially with the included virtual reverb at full bore. Thankfully, the app supports MIDI, so use a keyboard controller with the iPad set to the left for a true Optigan experience. If old school kitsch is your thing, iOptigan definitely warrants your attention. It definitely belongs in the “curio” section of the iOS app library.


  1. […] a soft spot for their STVC string synth, also announced at NAMM 2018. When I shared my review of his iOptigan app with Waldorf’s Stefan Stenzel, designer of the Streichfett, he mentioned the soon-come […]