Korg Module for iPad
By Phil O'Keefe |
Mobile sound module
There's been a load of cool synth and keyboard related iPad apps released in the past few years. Many of them, such as Korg's excellent iPolysix app focus on one specific vintage keyboard emulation. Korg has taken a different approach with their latest app. Named Module, it is designed to provide users with high-quality versions of the kinds of sounds that many musicians need to call upon frequently for live performance and recording, all in one easy to use app.
- Module requires iOS 8 or later. I tested version 1.0.3 of Module on a first-generation and also a second generation iPad mini. It will run on an iPad 2, although Korg recommends later and faster devices for best performance. Maximum polyphony will depend on the sound being used and the latency setting selected, but generally ranges from about 32 to 72 notes, depending on which iPad model you're using. Module requires 1.2GB of free space for installation.
- There are five different sound engine modules included. Acoustic Piano, Electric Piano, Clav, Organ, and Multi; Multi provides a variety of sound presets (called Programs) in Strings, Brass and Synth categories. Each module has its own on-screen controls and graphics tailored to that engine, providing a basic degree of user control over the sounds.
- There are 100 onboard sounds in the included library, and some categories are better represented than others. There are ten Clav presets, sixteen organ presets, twenty four acoustic pianos, sixteen for electric pianos, six string presets, six brass presets, and twenty synth presets. Selecting and loading presets is as easy as touching the screen and tapping the preset you want from a list. Tapping on a different category pulls up the appropriate preset list. The interface is fast and easy to navigate.
- Module is designed to work and play well with others; it supports Inter-App Audio, Audiobus, and Bluetooth MIDI. Owners of Korg's Gadget sequencing / production app will appreciate that when it's used with Gadget, Module provides them with five new gadgets of exceptional sound quality.
- Additional modules can be bought as in-app purchases via the Store button and loaded into Module. Currently there are two available - Korg's own Wurley Electric Piano (which adds another fourteen EP presets and requires 117.5MB of space, and is available free for a limited time), as well as Synthogy's Ivory Mobile Grand ($29.99), which is a whopping 1.99GB in size. That may not sound like a lot by modern desktop computing standards, but on an iPad it's considerable, and shows the emphasis that's being placed on high quality multisampling. Korg has promised additional modules will be made available in the future.
- The sound quality of the included library is excellent overall, and sets a new standard for sample-based iPad virtual instrument apps. You pay a price in terms of the amount of storage space required on your device, but you're rewarded with a variety of high-quality versions of the types of sounds you'd want and need on a daily basis. These are multi sampled and unlooped, with excellent responsiveness to your playing dynamics.
- Module's velocity response can be easily adjusted to best suit your playing style. I was very impressed with the overall playability when I coupled it to a nice 88-key weighted action keyboard controller using the keyboard's USB MIDI output and an Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter to connect it to my iPad.
- Module includes two effects that can be used simultaneously - Modulation and Ambient. Modulation has Compressor, 2Band EQ, Peaking EQ, Lowpass, Highpass and Bandpass Filters, Auto Wah, Talking Mod Decimator Drive, Distortion, Tube Drive, Flanger, EP Chorus, Polysix Chorus, Phaser and Ensemble, Small Phaser, Orange Phaser, Tremolo, Auto Pan and Ring Mod options. There are fewer Ambient choices, but you do get Delay, Ping Pong Delay, Mod Delay, Tape Echo Room, Chamber and Hall Reverbs to select from. Each effect has two adjustable parameters. They sound good, and complement the polished sound of the app's instrument samples well.
- Module has a built-in Set List function which can change presets for each song of your set. You can add text notes, load images and PDF scores, and load and play songs from your iTunes library and adjust their playback speed. A MIDI recorder is also built into Module. It's no substitute for a good multitrack sequencing or DAW app, but it does allow you to record your performances and can load and play Standard MIDI Files, and the onboard audio recorder can upload to Soundcloud, Dropbox or send files to your Mac / PC via iTunes file sharing.
- Module is a bit on the expensive side as far as iPad apps go, although it still represents considerable value compared to stand-alone computer applications and DAW virtual instrument plug-ins, or even some other "single instrument" iPad apps.
- Module is not a multitimbral General MIDI type module with a full General MIDI sound set, but to be fair, adding a collection of 128 GM sounds at the quality level that Module provides would likely be prohibitively memory-hungry and take up too much of your iPad's limited onboard storage space. As it is, Module offers over 1GB of sounds - which is impressive for such an app - and the ability to choose which optional instrument modules to add lets the user make the determination on what sounds are most important to them and just how much of their device's storage they want to dedicate to Module.
Module does require more in the way of resources than many apps, and you'll need sufficient space for its library as well as any optional modules you want, but many musicians are bound to find the trade-off more than worth it in order to get this level of quality. Module also provides more polyphony on newer, faster iPads, as you might expect, but even my first-gen iPad mini provides up to 32 voices (64 on my iPad mini 2), while the current top of the line iPad Air 2 gives you an impressive 72 notes of polyphony.
Module doesn't attempt to provide you with every possible sound under the sun, but it does give you a collection of 100 excellent bread and butter sounds that you'll find yourself reaching for again and again. Module is well suited to live performance use as well as for mobile music production purposes. While it's true it is priced in the upper range insofar as iPad music apps it provides the kind of premium sound quality that justifies that price, which is really quite reasonable compared to virtual instrument offerings on desktop/laptop platforms. I had no issues with it when using it with Garageband, and greatly preferred the sound of Module over the most of the VI offerings included with that app. The user interface is logical and clean, and everything works the way you expect it to. Module is as easy to use as it is on the ears. If you're interested in a variety of some of the highest-quality sounds you can get from your iPad, you really need to check out Korg's Module.
Korg Module for iPad ($39.99 MSRP, Available from the Apple App Store)
Korg's product web page
Korg Module for iPad PDF manual
Korg Module for iPad demo video