Review: microTera — Waveshaping the iPad Synth World

VirSyn’s microTera is an excellent iPad synth app that offers its own take on the world of iPad sound creation. Essentially a smaller version of the miniTera desktop softsynth, which I used on Church of Hed’s Rivers of Asphalt album (“Painted Desert and Mountain Sky“), microTera features an intuitive interface with a unique and powerful synth architecture based on waveshaping. A top notch sequencer/arpeggiator and a robust effects engine round out the package.

microTera for the iPad Features

  • Waveshaping Synthesis with a Touchscreen Control
  • Three Sine Oscillators
  • Four LFOs and Four EGs with Tempo Sync
  • 16 Voices either Monophonic or Polyphonic
  • Programmable Sequencer and Arpeggiator
  • Five Effects (Chorus, Phaser, Distortion, Delay, Reverb)
  • 150 Factory Patches
  • Support for Audiobus, Inter App Audio, CoreMIDI, Virtual MIDI, and more
  • Available at the iTunes App Store for $9.99

microTera’s unique synth engine positions it as a standout in the crowded iPad synth app scene. The powerful sequencer and graphical waveshaping interface make this app a must download for synth fans.

Waveshaping Synthesis for the Masses

microTera’s interface is spread across four main screens, covering waveshaping, envelopes, arpeggiator, and effects. A menu bar at the top navigates between the screens along with providing patch management and other functionality. A functional touchscreen keyboard lies at the bottom of the interface.

microTera Waveshaper Screenshot

microTera’s waveshaper interface offers an intuitive touch-enabled interface. Screenshot by author.

Clicking on the pair of dice in the top menu bar randomizes a patch, offering a great way to dive into the microTera’s unique synthesizer architecture. Just tap and go.

microTera features three sine oscillators that get fed into the waveshaper. Detuning the oscillators against each other creates interesting harmonics and noise in the waveshaper, which also sports a graphical display that can be manipulated in real time. The Chaos level knob introduces noise using a feedback loop, adding to the general sonic mayhem.

Envelopes, LFOs, and a Modulation Matrix

Four envelopes, each with an intuitive graphical touch interface, help to make patches breathe. A simple modulation matrix is built into the waveshaping screen, providing control of the oscillators, waveshaper input, Chaos level, amplitude, and panning. It’s a powerful setup.

In addition to using the envelopes as modulation sources, microTera also provides four LFOs able to join in the fun. Each LFO is syncable, with a standard selection of waveforms. Other modulation sources include pitch, velocity, aftertouch, mod wheel, pitch bend, and more.

Effects added to the Mix

microTera’s architecture has five separate effects each powered by an intuitive interface. The phaser especially provides a nice sheen, and the BPM-synced delay adds another measure of motion to synth patches. The distortion effect includes both tape and tube options.

microTera Effects screenshot

microTera’s effects engine adds nicely to the sonic mayhem. Screenshot by author.

The chorus and reverb serve well in providing patches with a sense of space as well as creamy sonics. My only real complaint about the effects is that their parameters apparently can’t be modulated.

An Intuitive and Powerful Arpeggiator

microTera’s powerful arpeggiator is one of the best available for an iPad synth. Effectively a sequencer, it is possible to easily create patterns of up to 32 steps with control over notes, accents, and more by using finger swipes (take note Cakewalk Z3TA+). Yes Virginia, odd time signatures are possible.

microTera Arpeggiator Screenshot

microTera’s powerful arpeggiator provides the icing on the cake for this excellent synth app. Screenshot by author.

Pairs of dice lurk all over the interface, meaning most everything in the arpeggiator can be randomized. Your patterns are savable which is especially useful when randomizing patches on the fly. This combination arpeggiator and sequencer serves as the final piece of the puzzle, making microTera one of the top synth apps for the iPad.

Don’t let your unfamiliarity with waveshaping synthesis scare you from picking up microTera. The patch randomization feature and easy to follow interface make creating your own patches a breeze. Throw in one of the best arpeggiators on the iOS platform, and it becomes easy to recommend microTera.


  1. […] Synth includes the excellent VirSyn arpeggiator/sequencer also found in their miniTera app. Creating weird time signatures is a breeze — a big plus in my book! Each patch saves its own […]