By Tim Kemp
Open iTunes to buy and download apps.
WOPR is a polyphonic, stereo virtual analog synthesizer with totally unique evolving modulation driven by vintage 1970s cellular automata. It's made for iPad 2 or later only. WOPR puts artificial life in the service of the groove.
It's brilliantly playable: the full-width Wribbon keyboard lets you play pitch-perfect notes every time, then bend them like a guitar god to convey your inner pain to the screaming masses.
It's performance-friendly: you can create customized control panels for comfortable access to parameters. That's much better than contorting your fingers to fit some tiny panel layout.
WOPR is a seriously powerful synth, but what sets it apart is its modulation grid: you paint a pattern of cells into a grid, set the tempo, hit 'run' and let the cellular automata evolve your pattern. You link areas of the grid to any of the synth's parameters and your patches come to life, rhythmically pulsating as the patterns shift with each beat. Constrain parameters to ranges for tight control over rhythmic modulation, or set them free to dynamically breed new patches.
Being a virtual analogue synthesizer, we'd be remiss if we didn't include some allusion to the past. Here it is: the modulation grid is a bona fide 1970s invention called Conway's Game of Life. Look it up, marvel at the infinite variety of patterns, geek out on the math, then put them to work twisting knobs in WOPR.
The core synth engine justifies its powerful modulation. WOPR has:
- 2 pannable oscillators with sine, saw, square and triangle waves. Each oscillator has an incredible range: 32' to 1', with +/- 500 cent detune (a perfect fourth either way). There's also a white noise generator.
- 3 ADSR envelopes, 2 assignable between osc 1 & 2 and the third dedicated to the noise source.
- 2 fruity, resonant 24Db/octave low pass filters, assignable to osc 1 & 2 or to the left and right stereo channels.
- 2 delays, a free-running delay with fine control over low intervals, and a tempo-synced delay running from 32nds to two whole beats. Delays are independent, or can be assigned to feed eachother in any sequence. Howls, rings and reverbs are easy to create; so are good, old-fashioned solid, rhythmic delays.
- 2 octave, full-width Wribbon keyboard: play piano like a guitar, bending individual notes or entire chords. All without losing fixed-key pitch accuracy when you don't want to bend. Best of all the whole width of your iPad 2 is there for performance.
- 6 voice polyphony. If that's not enough (maybe you have tiny fingers), it comes with the best note stealing algorithm on the iPad.
- Modulation matrix: use this to link controls to the Game of Life, or simply use it to define a custom control panel for easy performance.
Feedback is welcome, so please send your requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, what does WOPR stand for? Anything you like. Wave Oscillator Piano Replacement? Wickedly Optimized for Phat Response? Who knows. All we can say is that it's the synth David Lightman would choose...
What's New in Version 1.3.0
It's here! Audiobus, recording, AudioCopy and a looper. Use WOPR with any Audiobus Effect or Output slot apps! You can also record directly within WOPR and build up layered compositions. You can take your riffs and use them in Sonoma MAPI-compatible apps, too, if you prefer. Grab pristine, noise-free recordings using iTunes file sharing and load them into your main computer DAW. Use the loop playback feature to layer recordings on top of each other, building up giant sounds for sampling or simply to lay down a bass line, chords and lead in three passes.
Double-tap "Rec" to start recording immediately, or tap it once to record as soon as you press the first key. Double tap your recordings in the Files window to give them a name and save them. Press "Play" once to play the recording, or press it twice to have it loop.
There's the usual few extra presets for download from within the app too; as before, delete your old system presets if you're upgrading.
Cellular automata used as an excuse to get people to buy crap synth.
This person has zero creativity, its nothing more than a synth using cellular automata as input, but has no real application as all the parameters that are modified are not realtime parameters like envelope release, how do you hear the effect of an envelope release over time? You don't. He should do something like use the cellular automata to control the waveform harmonics or to control note data, such as stepping through the automata data atone rate while the data changes at another rate. And say offer presets for for preconstructed automata, offer to loop automata outcomes, ping pong the animation, there is so much potential for automata data to be used here creatively, but I really feel this developer doesn't play with his own apps, he just assumes that his users will find a use.. To make good software you have to use the software you make and think about how it can be used, than just combining two technologies together and hoping by serendipty someone finds a use.
Fun experimental app, well worth $2
I'm not sure this app is the best way to learn about Cellular Automata (CA) if it's new to you. Investigate CAs first on the web before praising or blaming this app for its fundamental nature. I think it has done an admirable job for those who like to experiment.
If you love to fool around with synthesizers and algorithms, this app is well worth the $2.
This app does include looping and immortal cells -- which can be combined for some interesting patterns -- one reviewer said it did not.
A synthi tweakers delight: deep mod matrix that's also a fun and and easy space to get busy in. If you love synths get this one.