So, earlier this summer Waldorf hit us with an app called NAVE. After spending some time with NAVE I think it should be said right off that NAVE is not some run of the mill synth app for iOS. It is not just another synth app. It is one hell of a synth in its own right. It seems that Waldorf decided not to simply blend in with the slew of iOS apps out there. Waldorf decided to stand among the titans of synth apps. These sort of synth apps transcend the idea that they are somehow simple iOS synth apps with cool sounds and presets. NAVE is a synth first and foremost that just so happens to live on an iOS device. Not only that, but it is a rather deep and feature rich synth that would surely cost a pretty penny in hardware form.
Let’s explore a bit…
NAVE has two wave oscillator modules accessible with a mere swipe of your finger along the left or right side of the Wave window. This makes it pretty easy to achieve some level of satisfactory sound design even for the novice. According to Waldorf, “the clearly structured GUI invites both beginners and advanced users alike to experiment both sonically and musically while the hosting iPad’ s generous display helps make wavetable creation and editing a blast.” I’d have to agree whole-heartedly.
The top of the page houses buttons for various control pages including Wave, Filter & Env (drive), Mod & Keys, FX & Arp, Tape (4 track recorder) & Sys (midi). The browser is top center and houses the 500 NAVE presets by some of the world’s most prolific sound designers including Richard Devine, Sacha Dikiciyan (of Sonic Mayhem fame), Laurence Rapaccioli (Arksun), David Boldini (7 Skies), and my guy Fletcher Kaufman (Sunsine Audio). You can obviously manage your own presets and / or import shared or purchased presets such as SunSine Audio’s excellent NAVE presets library, Evanave (128 new presets for Waldorf NAVE – sold separately).
BBoyTechReport caught up with Fletcher Kaufman to see what he has to say about NAVE
“I think Nave is extraordinary… I think this app was the straw that broke the back of the industry, and tipped the playing field. Its one of those moments when everyone starts recording with laptops or everyone buys an electric guitar. It solidified iOS, in my mind, as no longer a “is-this-a-toy” but as actual professional gear.” – Fletch of Sunsine Audio
Moving right along…
At the bottom of the screen you can choose your playing mode by selecting between regular piano keys or NAVE’s “Blades” which according to Waldorf “allows for dynamic triggering of polyphonic modulation by sliding the fingers in x or y direction.”
The center of the screen is a virtual playground for 3D wavetables. There is where you can manipulate the wavetables to shape your sound in nearly limitless ways. Wavetables can be chosen from the wavetable drop down menu / list. The list contains 87 factory wavetables (this includes all factory wavetables from Waldorf’s Microwave, Wave and Blofeld synths). It also has capacity to store your custom wavetables. The wavetables display also offers a grip of functionality that make manipulating wavetables a cinch. You can change the wavetable presentation with the “wave” button which offers 5 different wave representations. You can also change the spectrum by tapping on the Spec button. Hit the full button to have the wavetable expand to the full screen mode which also reveals the ribbon. Yes, ribbon. Moog style. Want to smooth out the sound of the wavetable a bit? Tap on the “Cut Peaks” button. Or intensify the sound by tapping “color” which will allow you to shape the sound by color intensity of the wavetable.
Let’s explore how easy it is to create your own patches
The Oscillator Module is where things get fun. This is where you can choose wave shapes that are typical of most analog synths. There are 5 wave shapes including Triangle, Pulse, Saw, White Noise and pink noise. They are accessible on the left beneath the main display.
One of my favorite features here is the “Überwave [which] can fatten your sound by up to eight detuned oscillators.” That’s right, 8 detuned oscillators. This feature is akin to Waldorf’s little mighty Rocket synth’s ability to use up to 8 detuned oscillators. That makes it simple enough to dial in just the right fatness. You’ll find the Überwave controls on the left side beneath the wave selector. Just hit the power button to activate it and dial in the density from as little as 2 detuned oscillators to as many as 8 detuned oscillators.
Notice I mentioned the Überwave as “one” of my favorite features within the Oscillator Module (hmmm maybe I’m just really fond of the Oscillator Module itself). At any rate, another of my favs is the fact that you have further oscillator controls where you can tweak the semitone, pulse width, select the modulation source and dial in the amount. Not much of that is so new and / or out of the ordinary but the magic is in the fact that you can use the semitone knob to dial in some really dope sub oscillator madness. To achieve this you just need to set the semitone to -12 or -24. There you have a sub oscillator in addition to your two wave oscillator modules. Play around with the semitone and pulse width and you can dig up some really unique sounds. I’d say that the Oscillator Module makes this NAVE piece a bit of a monster… but there is more.
There is the mix section where you can mix and dial in just the right amount of each module. Wave 1 & Wave 2 levels correspond to the two wave modules, W1*W2 correspond to the level of the Ring Modulation between Wave 1 & Wave 2 (oh yes… it has a ring modulator too). Then there is the Osc1 volume control which controls the level of the Oscillator Module. And finally the Osc*W1 controls the volume of yet another ring modulator that resides between Wave Oscillator 1 and the Oscillator Module. Did you get all of that? Try reading this after you’ve copped the NAVE app. It makes more sense when the app is open and in front of you.
All of this and I haven’t even discussed the Filters, which according to Waldorf “offers the familiar outstanding Waldorf sound, featuring low pass, band pass and high pass with either 12dB or 24dB slope,” Nor have we touched on the Envelopes, Effects, Arpeggiator, LFOs, X/Y pad, integrated speech synthesis, and 4 track tape recorder.
Let’s check out how easy it is to work with the integrated speech synthesis engine
I’m sure you can see that the Waldorf NAVE is just a monster of a synth all outfitted in your nice little iPad casing. But one thing I will mention here is the Drive section of the Filter and Envelope page. The drive section allows you to model some pretty impressive and huge sounds with its curves (including PNP, Tube, Pickups, Diode, Crunch) and it’s locations (including Pre-Filter, Post Filter, Pre EQ and Post EQ). Any of these features are a treat in their own right, but the drive section in addition to the Oscillator Module’s Überwave and sub osc features makes for a really nasty and downright vast array of sound design potential.
So what’s the deal with integration into my rig, you may ask? Well, there is no slouching in the connectivity section or the “Sys” section which shares a page with the 4 track recorder (record, mix and bounce 4 track performances). Waldorf NAVE is WIST compatible, it supports background audio, allows you to map midi CC messages, it supports Midi in, Midi clock and Midi out, Midi receive channels (Omni and 1-16).
I can say that Waldorf NAVE reads on paper like a hardware mega synth that would likely have a huge footprint. To be able to harness all of this synthesis power in one rather unassuming synth app is just crazy. If someone asked me what synth (software or hardware) they should buy, I’d find it tough to pass up the opportunity to point them in the direction of Waldorf’s NAVE. It may even be one of a very few synth apps that would even warrant acquiring an iPad if you didn’t already own one. Yes. It’s that good.
Get to know this app inside and out and you have something really powerful and special on your hands. The one issue I can see is that for some, it may be too deep. If that is at all possible. Although it seems straight forward to me, I can see where some would be confused or put off by the 3D wavetable deal and the not so obvious sub osc feature and such. Still, it won’t pay to sleep on this one. Where else can you get such a powerful synthesis engine, two osc, sub osc, effects, drive effect with tube warmth, Überwave module with up to 8 detuned osc, ring modulators, speech synthesizer and all of the wavetables from Waldorf’s Microwave, Wave and Blofeld synths for a mere $20? (I’ll wait while you let that hit you a bit)
More about Waldorf’s NAVE here.