Clearly, there’s no shortage of musical instrument apps for iOS. Nonetheless, every week, a new batch appear worthy of consideration by the sonic tinkerers in our midst. We just spent a buck on SpaceLab even though we usually wait for developers to send us a code, purely on the strength of the above screenshot and a short description.
Besides, it only costs a dollar. And you sort of get four instruments for that, so really, it’s only 25 cents per interface — plus loads of effects.
The keyboard controller (middle left, above) is responsive, with a nice pitch-bend feature and option to toggle the keyboard layout so that the two octaves sit atop each other instead of next to each other. The Kaoss pad-like X-Y instrument (middle right, above) lets you swoop through the octaves using a variety of controls that affect sound based on where you are on the X and Y axes. The guitar (bottom left in the above screenshot) might be the weakest of the four, but has a nice option for fretless playback. And the breath-powered wind control, which picks up on the input when you blow on your iPhone’s or iPad’s microphone (like Smule’s Ocarina) provides a nice option too, especially if you want to take to the stage like a mad modular flautist.
As for the sound, you start out with a fairly basic synth tone. However, you can tweak that to a great extent by swiping up to reveal the sound controls visible in the top two panels above.
If you know what you’re doing, lots of those controls will look familiar to you. They deliver a powerful punch that belies the 99-cent-ness of this app, offering a really wide sonic palate, although due to the monophonic nature of the synth, you only ever get one note at the time. And there’s no Record button; this is a pure live instrument.
In the right hands, SpaceLab could come in quite handy for playing music with other people; layering crazy monophonic textures onto your own music; or even triggering tones in another program, thanks to its MIDI compatibility.
And if you don’t know what you’re doing, this app can teach you transferable lessons about oscillators, filters, resonance, and so on. Pro tip: Plug it into your stereo to make the neighbors wonder what could possibly be going on over there.