The $10,000 Synth, Now a $30 App

Does anyone really make music with these things?

A few years ago, a friend of mine pulled out one of the multiple “303 In An App” apps and gave me a quick demonstration of how it worked. Freed from tactile knobs and keys, within 30 seconds he had developed a strong squelchy bassline and a stock set of 808 beats and if I had gotten it as a Soundcloud link, I would have taken it seriously.

The output? Well, that was the tricky part. As soon as he put it into his pocket, it was gone. And probably the world is not that much worse off for it.

And in related news: Moog has announced that they have compressed their Model 15 modular synthesizer and shrunk it down to an iOS app.

Savings to you? $9.970.

The Model 15 was one of Moog’s classic lines from the 1970s and one of three Moog modulars part of a pioneering program launched two years ago that saw a limited run of synths built today according to the original specifications.

A total of 150 Model 15s were reissued by Moog – not that many, but likely encompassing the whole market for a classic synthesizer with a price tag of $10,000.

So the company is probably not fearful of cannibalizing the market for the original modular synth as Moog has developed and released an iPhone app based upon the Model 15 for a price of just $30. A release from Moog boasts that the app recreates everything from Model 15’s filters to its sequencing arpeggiator, with the kind of fidelity that these things always claim, and with 160 presets installed to get one unfamiliar with manipulating digital patch cables started.

I’ve been asking people since the day I had my own iPhone 303 demonstration if anyone has used one of these apps to make a real track (“real” is sort of a contentious notion these days, so let’s define that as a track which was “commercially sold, decently received and not marketed as a gimmick.” We can agree on that?) Outside of stories that fall into the latter category – “This Man Made A Track On His iPhone in a Bathroom. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next.” – I haven’t had many answers. Which doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened (probably far from it) but that people don’t openly talk about it.

Are these apps just toys, demonstration tools or serious pieces of music software?