Arturia iMini (for iPad) review

Pros

  • Full Minimoog emulation
  • Plenty of useful additional features
  • Hundreds of quality presets
  • Smart interface

Cons

  • No built-in audio or MIDI recorder

When Moog Music released its excellent Animoog iPad app last year, many synthesiser enthusiasts were excited – including me. However, while Animoog sounds great, it's not really a proper Moog synthesiser emulation. Arturia, venerable purveyors of virtual versions of various Moog models over the years, has now released a "real" virtual Minimoog – beating Moog itself to the punch. Fortunately, iMini is a killer synth app – and at just £6.99, it's also good value for money.

Features

Arturia says iMini is based on the same emulation engine as its much more expensive Mini V plug-in virtual instrument for desktop digital audio workstations. The emulated model in question is a 1971 Minimoog D monosynth – complete with its trademark three oscillators and 24dB-per-octave filter.

That said, this is no straight Minimoog emulation either, although unlike Animoog, iMini can totally be one. For starters, there's a switchable polyphonic mode, so you can play several notes at once if you want. There are also built-in chorus and delay effects, plus glide, legato, and even a "mode" mode (ahem) that lets you set the keyboard to 26 different scales and modes.

Unlike the original Minimoog, of course, iMini comes with preset memory. That's been a given in the synthesiser world for several decades. Remember how some rock bands bought additional Minimoogs with the knobs taped to the exact sound they wanted, since the original didn't have any patch memory? Arturia iMini comes with hundreds of inspiring preset sounds, plus an arpeggiator with two latch modes, and Animoog-like X and Y on-screen touchpads, which you can access on a separate screen (more on that later). You can also sync the app to external tempo clocks and even use it on top of other iPad apps like Korg iPolySix, or even multiple instances of iMini.

Interface

The main screen is a rather smartly rendered representation of what an actual Minimoog would look like, if it was shoehorned into the confines of an iPad display. Across the top of the home screen are three UI modes: Main, Perform, and FX.

The Perform screen lets you adjust four different parameters in real time using two on-screen pads. Tap the little Settings gear icon above each, and a smaller version of the iMini panel pops up letting you assign specific dials to each axis (X or Y) on each pad.

Synchronisation and performance

Tap Connect at the top right corner, and a menu bar will appear offering various synchronisation options. A Bluetooth icon called "WIST" (which means Wireless Sync-Start Technology) lets you sync up with other WIST-compatible apps like Korg iPolySix and Propellerhead Figure; the program pops up a list of several dozen, along with iTunes Store links for each. You can also set the global tempo in beats per minute, activate a MIDI connection using an IK Multimedia iRig MIDI, Samson Carbon 49, or similar controller, or use Tabletop to stack iMini on top of other iPad app instruments.

So that's the basic idea, but how does iMini sound? If you've been paying attention, you know the iPad is already capable of serious synthesiser goodness. Patches are organised into banks, followed by categories (pads, leads, and so on), and then individual sounds. I immediately went to work checking out the presets and twirling on-screen knobs with abandon.

No matter what I tried, Arturia iMini sounded like the real deal – full, fat, and warm, with smooth pads, cutting leads, and incredibly huge bass sounds. You can fatten the sound further with the fully adjustable chorus and delay effects, and spinning the various on-screen knobs lets you modify the sound in the direct way the Minimoog was famous for.

There's no built-in audio or MIDI recorder, though. You'll need to use another app to record what iMini outputs, which is still a bit of a clumsy process, even with iMini's various synchronisation methods. But that's more of a global issue with iOS; iMini gives you several options as detailed above, but none are ideal and sometimes result in glitches and lost track recordings.

Verdict

We mentioned the Animoog app at the beginning of this review, but it's more like a Minimoog-for-the-21st-century reimagined for the iPad, and at £21 it's more expensive than most iPad apps – although still killer value when compared to the four-digit sums Moog charges for its actual physical synthesisers these days.

Arturia iMini, however, does exactly what it's supposed to do at a far cheaper price. Forty years on, it's a fantastic sounding recreation of the first popular analogue synthesiser and a clear winner of our Best Buy award.