Less is more

I’ve recently tried out two very different synthesizer apps for the iPhone: Noise.io and Bebot [app store links]

Noise.io positions itself as a “Pro Synth” while Bebot positions itself amongst the more toy-like music apps like Band and the various air guitar apps (their prices have a similar motivation too – Noise is $10 while Bebot is $2).

However, they share a common quality – the main interface is a touch sensitive axis ala Kaosspad; the X axis controls pitch and the Y axis controls some sort of filter or effect wet/dry setting.

I’m not going to do an exhaustive review, but I’ll say this: Noise.io is an amazing iPhone app – it allows for more features and control than anyone could expect on a mobile device.  And I think it is the lesser of the two apps right now.

Why is this?  Bebot does two things: it opens directly to a playable screen with no other buttons or feedback other than the beautifully rendered and animated Robot character (who by the way gives the best depiction of how a parametric EQ *sounds* by moving his lips into different expressions – you really have to see it to know what I’m talking about).  It also allows you just enough control.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the high amount of control that Noise.io offers, it’s just that when I’m in the mood to exercise that kind of control I’m far more likely to sit down with Reason or Ableton Live than to poke around on my phone.  Bebot realizes that a phone-based program *can* be as powerful as a desktop app, but is going to have an inherently different usage.  Bebot offers an iPhone-appropriate experience that is far easier to just whip out and play.

I’ll close with this: I love Noise.io, and I think their product shows a lot of the raw horsepower of the iPhone platform, and their collaboration with Intua on Beatmaker compatibility really breaks new ground.  Interface-wise, though, Russel Black is really onto something with Bebot.

Mac users can usually tell when a program is “Mac-like” or not.  I think iPhone users are starting to tell whether apps are “iPhone-like”, and Bebot is certainly the more “iPhone-y” of the two apps.

Author: Will Kuhn

I teach music technology to high schoolers. I do some other stuff too. @willkuhn on Twitter.

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