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Ten years ago Moog released Animoog — a strange departure for a company best known for its old-school analog synths. The company had dabbled in the app world before with the Filtatron, which was an emulation of the classic Moog ladder filter. But Animoog was a different beast entirely. It was a full-fledged software instrument that used wavetable synthesis, often associated with cold and complex digital sounds that are in many ways the antithesis of what Moog stood for. But, the app turned out to be a huge success. And for its tenth anniversary it’s finally getting a proper sequel in Animoog Z.
The core, which Moog calls Anisotropic Synth Engine, is largely the same. Of the dozens of waveforms you choose up to eight at a time from. They range from samples of analog saw waves to decidedly more digital sounds. What makes it relatively unique is the ‘orbit’ and ‘path’ modules which shape the timbre. The way they work is hard to describe, but basically notes you play travel along a path drawn in space, and orbit around that path. You control the speed and intensity of distance of the orbit, as well as the speed at which it travels along the path and that determines how the sound of each note evolves, in a relatively opaque way.
The big change here from the original app is that Animoog Z adds a third dimension to the path. So instead of just traveling along an X and Y axis, the notes also can move along this Z axis. This gives the new app just a touch more depth and notes a bit more room to evolve. The difference can be subtle at times, but certain presets in Animoog Z take advantage of additional modulation path to create truly wild and complex sounds. (Just check out Downward Spiral and Ball Lightning.)
There’s also a new effects section with a looper, delay, filter, an arpeggiator and a “thick” section. Thick was also in the original app and it just offers a variety of ways to beef up your sound, from adding detune, drive and bit crushing effects. While a few of these are holdovers from the original, the way they’re grouped together here makes sound design a little more fluid and linear.
The whole app has received a massive face lift that not only makes it feel more modern, but also makes it easier to navigate. While the UI can feel a bit cramped on an iPhone, it’s still light years beyond the original. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to test it on an iPad or a Mac, so I can’t speak to how well the interface scales up when it has space to breathe. But, the general layout is clean, logical and consistent.
The LFO, mod and envelope sections are more accessible and more powerful than their counterparts in the original app. In Animoog Z there is an entire tab dedicated to envelopes, with a clearly labeled amp envelope, and you’ll find it in the same place you’ll find the FX, orbit, filter, path and LFO tabs. There’s no need to go searching. In the original some of these features were scattered amongst dropdown menus. There are also just a lot more options for routing modulation in the new app.
Lastly, Moog added MPE support to the app, and even offers a limited version of it through the touchscreen interface. If you expand the keyboard, you can slide your fingers up and down individual notes to add unique modulation to each. You can also bend each note individually by moving your fingers. One of the great ways to add a little character to your playing is to turn down the keyboard correction and turn up the glide which will just by dint of your imperfect and imprecise human fingers add subtle detuning and bends as you play. With the right settings this can simulate everything from subtle analog drift to the tape warbles of a dying Walkman.
Animoog Z is available as a free download, but only in an extremely limited version. You can play the built-in presets and manipulate some basic parameters, but if you want full access to all its features you’ll need to pay $10. One nice change here is the flat price no matter the platform. Currently the iPhone version Animoog is $10, but it’s $20 on the iPad. Animoog Z is $10 no matter where you’re using it.
Animoog is definitely starting to look and feel its age. So this sequel couldn’t have come at a better time. And Animoog Z is definitely a worthy successor to this groundbreaking app.