Moebius Lab is the new app by those mad geniuses at Amazing Noises (check out their other iOS apps and M4L devices). It’s a multimorphic sound processor which contains a synth, a varispeed stereo sample player, 9 time domain effects, 6 spectral effects, 7 slots for external audio application, and nearly 200 LFOs that can modulate each parameter.
Dissecting the features of Moebius Lab in minute detail, would be a mammoth task.
For now, I give you a tour of my impressions and look in some detail how I believe Moebius Lab can be used creatively and become part of the bigger iOS music making jigsaw.
The title Moebius Lab is apt. This app can be seen as a lab of sound crafting and manipulation possibilities.
Firstly we have sound input. This input could be from microphone, from Inter-App Audio (IAA) input or from Audiobus Input / Effects / Output slots.
Secondly, we have output as Moebius Lab is Audiobus and IAA ready. Be ready for some complex external to Moebius Lab routings.
Finally, we have IAA hosting within one of the fx lanes (more on these later). I’m sure you would agree, we are talking a lot of routing options here. Moebius Lab really does like to be a part of your bigger iOS creative world.
Let’s pour some sound in!
Pressing the input button brings up the input selection window in the top third of your screen. This area is pretty much where most of the control windows appear.
Select either Input, Sampler or Synth. It must be remembered that this is choosing between these three options, but that sound will still be input from the IAA app slots.
So you may choose to play an IAA synth plus the built in synth from the built in keyboard, or have the built in Sampler playing while you have a Link enabled drum app playing in time. Lots of options, yet it would have been nice to play the Sampler and Synth at the same time.
I believe this is not possible with Moebius Lab alone, yet an easy workaround is to use another Amazing Noises app (with Sampler) in one of the IAA input slots. That is one of the great positives regarding Moebius Lab – there always seems to be a workaround to get the setup you desire.
Input and IAA combined then, gives us important choices. You want to use the built-in Synth? Choose it and add other options via IAA. You want to use two Amazing Noises Samplers? You can add one via an IAA app and use the Moebius Lab Sampler, or you could add two Amazing Noises apps with Sampler by IAA and combine these with the built in Moebius Lab Synth.
Maybe I could go wild and have multiple sound sources in AUM, as an input slot in AudioBus, sending to the Input option in Moebius Lab, while played through FX via IAA app combined with Moebius Lab FX all fed through Moebius Lab output IAA into a guitar amp app!
I could also change that chain and have Moebius Lab in an Audiobus FX slot and have my choice of DAW as the Audiobus Output slot – phew!
Confused yet? Well, to be honest, I was overwhelmed by the choices Moebius Lab gives in a AUM / AudioBus / Moebius Lab concoction at the beginning. There is a lot of routing options to learn here and this is all without really looking into depth with what we can do internally with Moebius Lab’s options. So, let’s look at those options.
The built in Sampler can be used with dual mono or a single stereo sample. The picture above shows the some of the samples and loading options provided. Samples may also be grabbed from the Input, either as audio from an Audiobus slot or from the microphone.
You may be familiar with many of the options of the Sampler, as it has appeared before in many Amazing Noises apps. Indeed, the Sampler is a fun way to playback samples or loops with vari-speed control and waveform scrubbing. As with all Amazing Noises apps, options for automation of the Sampler ratio playback controls are supplied, as they are for most parameters of Moebius Lab.
This makes for easy automated playback of vari-speed changes via one of the nearly 200 supplied LFOs (low frequency oscillators). Be creative here. Load vocal, drum or pretty much any sample you can imagine and manipulate its playback speed or direction.
I will admit to being slightly underwhelmed by the Sampler this time around. Yes, it is as good as it has always been, yet, I have used it in so many other Amazing Noises apps. I found myself wishing they had added something new, something unique.
Why? Well to be fair, I have iDensity. Load iDensity with its six vari-speed samplers into one of the IAA input slots of Moebius Lab and switch to either Input or Synth – job done! Moreover, iDensity has separate outputs for each of its samplers that could be routed to different input stages within Moebius Lab (2 initial inputs and 4 within the time domain effects chain) – admittedly my experiments in this vain created a cacophonous noise, but after all, wild experiments in sound are Moebius Lab’s forte!
The Sampler then, while a decent addition, became the equivalent of ‘the norm’ within my Moebius Lab experiments. The Synth however, became the catalyst that pushed my aural experiments into more creative territory.
Moebius Lab includes a relatively simple mono synth that comprises of six modules (two ‘band limited oscillators’, a ‘complex’ oscillator, a ‘ladder filter’, an envelope generator and a sub-bass oscillator.
The ‘band limited oscillators’ enable morph along a linear scale of four selectable waveforms and include a noise modulator. Both have a ‘send to ladder’ amount, that dials in the amount sent to the ladder filter. An ‘amp’ amount controls the non filtered sound. This gives a fair control of filtered and non-filtered sound mixed from each source – a basic but usable system.
The ‘complex’ oscillator is described by Amazing Noises as ‘a new synthesis technique called “split synthesis” based on different processing on the negative and positive parts of the waveforms’. Let’s just keep it simple here – I managed to get metallic, bell, noise and much more from this oscillator. Industrial soundscapes and more come to fruition. Add in the 2 band limited oscillators and the ladder filter sends and some interesting tones fall easily from Moebius Synth.
Moebius Lab Synth gets my synth tweaker’s seal of approval, yet it is the FX lanes and the internal routing that really take the basics of the synth modules and propel them to the next level. Let’s take a look at the internal routing first.
Where is my signal going?
So we have some pretty extensive sound making options within Moebius Lab and the ability to input the sounds we want from other apps. Now all well and good, but can’t we already do much of the above by using apps within AUM, Audiobus or one of the iOS DAWS? Yes, of course we can. What really makes Moebius Lab different is adding the above options to an interesting signal path.
The above picture shows an interesting experiment in automating feedback. The audio signal is being sent to the two individual FX lanes and then fed back from each lane into the other. High levels of feedback are being produced (cue image of playing screaming guitar feedback while pulling one of those feedback faces – you know the one!). Yet any of the 7 global faders used to route the signal can be automated.
This not only makes motion within the audio signal possible, it makes it fun! Yes, it really is fun to automate distorted feedback loops with sound flying about the mix from the different sources. Below is the list of the global faders:
1 – Master Dry / Wet: Mixes the Input and Output signal.
2 – Gain Input 1: The gain of the signal sent to the ‘Time Domain’ chain (more on this later).
3 – Gain Input 2: The gain of the signal sent to the ‘Spectral’ chain (more on this later).
4 – Gain Output 1: The gain of the signal coming from the ‘Time Domain’ chain.
5 – Gain Output 2: The gain of the signal coming from the ‘Spectral’ chain.
6 – Feedback Chain 1: Sends the signal from the ‘Time Domain’ chain to the ‘Spectral’ chain.
7 – Feedback Chain 2: Sends the signal from the ‘Spectral’ chain to the ‘Time Domain’ chain.
So, we have built-in sound options, IAA sound options and Input sound options sent either directly to the output or via the two FX lanes. The sum of these signals is controlled by the Dry / Wet mix output and sent to and controlled by the Output Window.
The two FX lanes are then controlled by their own gain input and output faders with feedback from one lane to the other controlled by their respective faders.
The above may take a while to become clear, but use soon shows how clever I believe you will find this system – it really is like being in a lab and sending sound (instead of liquid or gasses) through tubing from test tube to test tube.
Getting your sound balances exactly how you want, can be complex to begin with, but will soon become second nature the more you play with Moebius Lab. I really do believe you will be presently surprised by the creative manipulation of sound that is possible with this routing.
Sending sound through the lanes is all well and good, but what are we actually doing to the sound? What goodies have Amazing Noises given us within those two FX lanes? Let’s take a look.
Moebius splits its built-in fx into two lanes. The first lane has nine ‘Time Domain’ effects ‘nodes’ and the second lane has six spectral effects ‘nodes’. The order of each of the nodes, may be changed within their respective lanes. Press and hold the node and move it within its lane, pretty much how many of the guitar fx apps handles each digital ‘pedal’. Double press a nodes icon to turn it on, with a single press to bring its controls into the area above the fx lanes. Here you can alter the settings and add automation or midi control if required.
The ‘Time Domain’ nodes consist of Exciter, Ringer, Klamper, Shifter, Filter, Swarmer, SplitDel, Reverso and Reductor. I will briefly describe these below:
Exciter: This distorts the signal below and above given frequencies and includes a feedback loop.
Ringer: A ring modulator with distortion and feedback.
Klamper: This ‘clamps’ the signal above and below given frequencies. Many settings are included such as clipping the signal or folding them back in.
Shifter: Shifts the frequencies with dual band control.
Filter: A single path with two distinct state variable filter types selectable.
Swarmer: A ‘Super’ chorus with low pass filter.
SplitDel: A dual band delay with feedback.
Reverso: Plays the signal in reverse and includes stereo flip!
Reductor: Can be used to ‘decimate and other bad things’ your signal.
I particularly found the Reverso and Reductor interesting, but found I used the chorus and delay effects often – maybe I’m stuck in my ways? Remember though, this lane also includes four IAA nodes for using other FX or instruments!
This lane definitely became my most used area of Moebius Lab during my time exploring. Automation of the node level is also possible, so having an FX LFO’d in and out of the signal path is complete and utter bonkers chaos and fun!
The above options are enough to keep most people’s creativity ‘Labbing’ for a very long time, yet we also have the ‘Spectral FX’ lane, with the following nodes:
Brickwall: Another filter, but this time as the name would imply, frequencies above and below two set frequencies are filtered out (this is reversible to filter out all those between instead).
Runner: A spectral delay with feedback.
Grip: Sample and hold of the spectral signal based on amplitude.
Blur: Described as a ‘noisy spectral reverb’!
Degrader: Take spectral components and decimate them!
Flutter: Similar to the Brickwall, but animated by LFO’s.
Take part of the sound spectrum and ‘mess with it’! That’s what the ‘Spectral’ lane is all about.
I am still getting to grips with the subtleties you can add to a sound with careful use of this lane. Runner and Blur have been my most used nodes up to this point, but that is the thing with Moebius Lab, so many things to try – not enough time in my life!
Conclusion AKA Make the day longer!
Time is a precious thing. Most people have a finite amount we can spend dabbling with sound creation and manipulation. I have barely scratched the surface of what is available on offer within Moebius Lab: the sum of its parts deserve much more delving, yet who of us have time to read a ‘War and Peace’ length review?
Moebius Lab demands time. Time to experiment. Time to discover its secrets. Time to become an alchemist of sound. With this in mind, Moebius Lab will become a firm favourite of many.
However, I cannot recommend Moebius Lab to all. Some people will (in my opinion) be better served by using either AUM or Audiobus for adding a bit of FX magic. Those options are quick and easily service the majority of people’s FX needs.
For those of you that love being creative though, Moebius Lab will allow you to delve much further into sound creation and manipulation, just be aware of the great risk of losing time. Experimenting with Moebius Lab is addictive to the point where I spent far too much time ‘playing with’ sound and less time actually making music!
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