Review: SynthMaster 2 is Another Top iPad Synth App From KV331

We previously covered the desktop and iOS versions of SynthMaster One, top notch software synths from the folks at KV331 Audio. Notably, the mobile edition essentially featured the same powerful sonics and control as its desktop brother. Now KV331 effectively repeats this trick with SynthMaster 2 for the iPad. As a result, this synth app belongs in the library of any mobile musician.

SynthMaster 2 Features

  • Essentially an iPad Version of the Desktop SynthMaster 2.9
  • Dual Layer Architecture Provides Two Synths in One
  • 8 Oscillators Supporting Cyclical Waveforms and Samples
  • Additive Mode Allows the Stacking of Oscillators
  • Wavetable Mode Features Wavetables With 256 Frames
  • Vector Mode Allows 4 Oscillators to be Mixed in 2D Space
  • The Flexible Use of Modulators Supports FM Synthesis and More
  • 6 Different Filter Types With Distortion
  • Supports Importing Wave Files to Use as Samples
  • A Flexible Massive Modulation Architecture
  • Arpeggiator/Sequencer With up to 32 Steps
  • Effects Engine With 13 Different Types, 5 Inserts Per Layer, 2 Global Sends
  • 4 Graphical Skins
  • Runs Standalone or as a AUv3 Plugin
  • Requires iOS/iPadOS 11 or Above
  • Available at the App Store for $24.99

Needless to say, SynthMaster 2 sports a feature set and architecture rivaling any other iOS or desktop synth app. The sonics also rank at the top of mobile synth world. Let’s dive into the details to see why it makes sense as part of your collection.

A Massive Synth Interface That Fits on Your iPad

Once again, SynthMaster 2 for the iPad essentially includes all the features and functionality of the desktop version of the synth. Depending on the size of your iPad, expect some extra navigation to access the controls you need. The app works in standalone mode, as well as an AUv3 plugin in container apps like AUM. In the latter case, navigating the interface naturally requires additional effort, but it adapts to the available display space as noted in the second video in this article. However, having a massively powerful synth on a tablet computer more than makes up for any minor UI hassles.

SynthMaster 2 for the iPad
SynthMaster 2 for the iPad in action. Screenshot by author.

Of course, using the iPad’s touchscreen to manipulate the controls of SynthMaster 2 provides its own set of benefits. The major achievement of wrangling the entire interface and sonics of a top desktop synth into the limited screen real estate and computing horsepower of an iPad cannot be overstated. So let’s further explore SynthMaster 2’s synth architecture and UI.

The top of the screen contains a standard toolbar providing patch library navigation, access to the effects engine, app settings, and “About” information. Knobs provide volume control for the overall patch and its two layers. Yes, SynthMaster 2 features a dual-layer architecture that’s essentially two synths in one. Two buttons let you select either layer to program while a pair of switches let you turn both on and off.

SynthMaster 2 within AUM
Note how the SynthMaster 2 interface adapts within a container app. Screenshot by author.

The rest of the interface easily adapts based on your preferences, with buttons effectively serving as tabs for selecting a synth module to edit. Oscillators, modulators, and filters reside in the row below the upper toolbar. Notably, certain modules, like the filters, provide a real-time graphic representation of their operation.

The synth also displays a numerical reading of currently controlled parameters in the patch window box at the top of the screen. KV331 also provides four graphical skins to change the synth’s look based on your preferences. Check out this video of a quick first exploration of SynthMaster 2 for a basic idea of its sound and functionality.

These Aren’t Your Grandmother’s Synth Oscillators or Filters

Options for oscillators abound, with an array of classic waveforms, wavetables, and importable samples. Additive oscillators include eight basic oscillators running simultaneously for huge sonics. Vector oscillators provide an X-Y interface to indulge in vector synthesis between the four oscillators.

FM, phase modulation, ring modulation, and a free oscillator mode all exist. The first three leverage the even more basic oscillators known as modulators. Knobs provide control for oscillator sync, key tracking, drift, detuning, and more. Each main oscillator includes a variety of synthesis algorithms for extra sonic manipulation. It’s the most stunningly deep and complex part of the SynthMaster 2 architecture.

Each SynthMaster 2 layer includes two filters, each with its own six algorithm categories. Those include digital, virtual analog, ladder, diode ladder, state variable, and bite. Options for low-pass, high-pass, bandpass, and others abound. Of course, the standard array of filter controls – cutoff, resonance, key tracking – exist, while other controls vary depending on the algorithm used.

Users also enjoy routing options for the filters accessible from a tab below the filters. Again, the detail and complexity built by KV331 simply stun. Peruse the over 1000 presets to get a feel for the sonic power of this synth’s filters and oscillators.

SynthMaster 2 Provides Deep Modulation Options… and Effects!

Beneath the oscillators and filters lies a section with a wide array of functionality. Four each of ADSR envelopes, multi-segment envelopes, keyscalers, and LFOs serve as modulation sources for each synth layer. Macros (Easy Parameters) and X/Y pads also serve as a source. Simply long press a potential source or destination to set the opposite pair. You are able to add multiple destinations to a single modulation source. A tab to access the detailed modulation matrix lurks at the bottom of the screen. The ability to add modulation pairs from the matrix itself would be nice.

SynthMaster 2’s robust effects section includes 13 effect types with five inserts per synth layer. Two global sends also exist. EQ, distortion, LoFi bit mangling, reverb, phaser, and chorus highlight the effects engine. There’s even a vocoder. Of course, the effects serve as nice modulation destinations.

As noted earlier, when using SynthMaster 2 within a container app like AUM, the user needs to experiment to find the right view. Check out the Broken Highway video below to see different views in action within AUM.

The Most Complex iPad Synthesizer?

All this complexity means little without great sound. Thankfully, SynthMaster 2 offers high-end sonics that easily rival any other iOS or desktop synthesizer. Again, just browse the massive number of presets to get a sense for the nearly limitless sonic possibilities.

Check out this video featuring a SynthMaster 2 jam with three instances of the synth within AUM. It’s a bit of a Berlin School exploration that highlights the inspirational nature of this synth. As noted earlier, the app provides different views of each synth within AUM based upon what I needed to tweak during the jam. This flexible interface definitely helps when considering the limited screen real estate of an iPad.

SynthMaster 2 simply ranks among the best synthesizer apps, desktop or mobile. The fact KV331 fit the desktop version into an iPad remains an achievement to be celebrated. Sure, it’s highly complex, but definitely rewards any deep dive into its robust sound design possibilities. I heartily recommend the iPad version for any iOS musician. Electronic explorers also need to check out the desktop version.