Review: Z3TA+ is a Cakewalk among iPad Synth Apps

First earning fame as a plug-in for Cakewalk’s Sonar DAW software, Z3TA+ recently saw its debut on the iOS platform. This incredibly deep synthesizer immediately becomes one the most powerful music apps on the iPad. Featuring a robust synth architecture and a ton of useful features, Z3TA+ is a must get for the iOS musician.

Z3TA+ for the iPad Features

  • Synth Architecture includes 6 Waveshaping Oscillators
  • 6 LFOs, Rich Envelope Generators and Filters
  • Robust Modulation Matrix and Effect Engine
  • Powerful Arpeggiator with over 250 MIDI Patterns and Gates
  • Touchscreen Functionality include X-Y Pads and Virtual Keyboard
  • Support for Audiobus and Inter App Audio
  • Available at the App Store for $19.99

Z3TA+ establishes itself as one of the top iPad synth apps, up there with Waldorf Nave, Propellerhead Thor, and the Animoog. A clear user interface with three main pages helps the understanding of the synth’s operation. Its deep feature set and great sound quality will make it an important part of any musicians’ tablet synth arsenal.

Z3TA+’s Detailed Synthesizer Architecture

The core of Z3TA+’s synth architecture is made up of six independent oscillators each capable of a robust number of waveforms. A graphical waveshaping interface on the iPad’s touchscreen adds to the fun. Each oscillator also sports a multimode spawning eight more oscillators for a total of 48, but make sure you have a newer iPad model as this uses up CPU power.

Z3TA+ iOS Screenshot 1

Z3TA+ for the iPad sports a powerful, detailed synth architecture. Screenshot by author.

Reverse engineering any of the 500 presets is the best way to figure the best oscillator combinations — a standard practice with any synth — but supremely useful given all the options of the Z3TA+. The synth architecture also includes six LFOs and six EGs which really come into play with Z3TA+s convenient modulation matrix.

Two filters are capable of dual or parallel operation with a host of standard filter types and some more esoteric options like comb or formant. A collection of automatable controls for all synth sections (OSC, LFO, EG, and Filter) rounds out Z3TA+’s main synth page.

A Powerful Modulation Matrix and Arpeggiator

Z3TA+’s modulation matrix reminds me of Thor, offering up to 16 sources and destinations to truly leverage the synth’s detailed architecture, especially the six LFOs and EGs. The matrix’s range parameter is controllable with a finger swipe — a convenient use of the touchscreen interface. Once again, reverse engineering one of the app’s many presets is a great way to get modulation ideas for your own patches.

Z3TA+ iOS Screenshot 3

Checking out Z3TA+’s modulation matrix and arpeggiator. Screenshot by author.

The powerful arpeggiator sports over 250 MIDI patterns and gates in addition to the standard arpeggios. Hopefully, the ability to program your own patterns is added in an update. I found my fingers drawn to the arpeggiator interface hoping to change things up. I don’t know if this capability exists in the desktop version of Z3TA+?

A Robust Effects Engine

Z3TA+’s effects engine finds its home in the app’s third main page. A whole host of effects are included, most notably three independent delays. The Mod effect includes a variety of choruses, flangers, and phasers.

Z3TA+ iOS Screenshot 2

Z3TA+ for the iPad features a robust effects engine. Screenshot by author.

Most effects parameters can be used as destinations on the modulation matrix, and their controls are automatable. Check out the little routing sub-page which allows for changing how the effects connect to each other using drag and drop. This is a nice touch!

Z3TA+ definitely establishes Cakewalk on the iOS platform. This is a stunningly deep and powerful synth capable of a wide array of sounds suitable for electronic music and beyond. It deserves our highest recommendation, belonging in the library of any synth aficionado with an iPad.


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