Review: Filtatron, Moogfooger goes iPhone
Apps, apps, apps – the market is flooded with iphone, ipad apps and now also android apps. Musicians have been I particular blessed with many new tools. Quite a few are made by independent developers and start ups. As a consequence many have been more innovative but less successful in terms of being a useful and musical tool. Therefore I was surprised when I saw Moog is entering the app market. A company with a prestigious brand known for making quality instruments well adapted to the needs of a performing musician. I was surprised as it’s Moogs first ever (stand alone) software product and if any company is associated with analog equipment it’s Moog.
What is it
In short the Filtatron includes three sonic elements: a filter, an oscillator and a sample loop player.
The filter is an emulation of the classic 4 pole ladder low pass filter we all know and love. There are knobs for frequency and resonance and with possibility to self resonate at high settings. Also the filter can be set to high pass, or anything in between.
The oscillator offers sawtooth and pulse wave forms, or anything in between. And a dedicated amplitude envelope with controllable release. No attack.
The sample player can play loops, either from the built in library or your own recorded loops.
Added to there is an effects unit with an amplifier emulator for distortion and a delay unit with a dedicated LFO.
There’s also a number way to control things. First is an envelope follower and a LFO frequency of the controlling filter. Then there are the pads to control the filter, LFO, delay, VCO, envelope follower and amp simulator.
Opening up the app for the first time you instantly get a Moog look and feel. Knobs are imitating the real thing but adding a led ring to some important parameters for better read out.
So what kind of animal is Filtatron? I guess you could look at it as some kind of extension to the Moogerfooger product line which is effects pedals really. As the name implies the filter is at the core. Feeding external sounds or loops though the filter/delay/amp sim effects is a real pleasure. The sound is impressive considering it’s running on my iPhone. The amplifier simulator really adds some vintage grit. The loop player is pretty basic but does the job still having some tweak options like start and end loop points. Changing play rate into low rates or even to reverse is also really useful for some lo-fi quality.
Also you can play a loop, mess around with the filter/delay/amp and record it into a new loop and then start all over again. The built in file system is simple but does the job and Moog provides a batch of cool loops to.
There’s number of well made presets demonstrating the capabilities very well and giving you good string point for you own sonic experiments. And I think that’s where the Filtatron is at best use – experimenting.
The oscillator made me first think the Filtatron was a proper synthesizer but as you only can play it using the pad with no note quantization or other means to make sure you play notes in key it’s useless to play any kind of melodies (Bebot is an app much more suited for playing melodies e.g.). This makes me constantly wishing there was a step sequencer controlling the oscillator – or even the filter/delay/amp for that matter. The pads offers only control over 4 parameters at a time and they are predefined in pairs. I think that is an unnecessary limitation making it hard to make the most of the effects available.
In the end
The Filtatron is pretty easy start using but there’s also a really good user guide and a glossary even. Well written and easy to use it adds value and shows that Moog knows how to make high quality products for musicians. Maybe the Filtatron is not innovative but it brings you a tool for instant filter processing on loops etc with a Moog quality to it, however in the digital realm. Automating the filter by LFO and envelope follower is useful but the Filtatron doesn’t make the most of using the touch control pads and I really miss a step sequencer. Let’s hope for a version 2 with a revived 960 step sequencer! If you like experimenting with soundscapes from processed loops the Filtatron is for you!