Sugar Bytes Aparillo for iPad Review – A Galaxy Of Complex FM Simplicity

Aparillo is an exact port of Sugar Bytes desktop synth for iPad. It uses FM (Frequency Modulation) Synthesis. Rather than try and write an explanation of FM I will let Andrew Huang explain FM in the most accessible and understandable way I have seen (if you need more specific info, check out the Wikipedia FM Synthesis page):

I can attest from reading the 59 page instruction manual that the parameters, features and ways that sound can be squeezed from this synth are complex and close to infinite. Aparillo is at once hugely complex and beautifully simple. Sugar Bytes have created an interface that is visually pleasing but also intuitive and functional. The Orbit screen is the pinnacle of the User Interface (UI) allowing smooth transition of multiple parameters with simple finger movements among the various icons.

All parameters in the synth are a simple touch or drag away or a long press to access detailed parameters. There is a definite learning curve if you want to understand what you are doing in Aparillo however the app can be equally enjoyed if you have no idea what you are doing and just experiment and trust your ears.

FM synthesis can sound harsh and atonal which is fine if you are aiming for some spacey sound effects. Luckily Sugar Bytes have included a quantize and harmonic control on the FM Operators which can be turned on to limit parameter choices to settings of mathematically compatible ratios assuring the sound remains more harmonic and musical in nature.

The Effects Section

The effects section further builds on the ability to add warmth and dimension to the FM synthesis. The effects include 12 filter types. There is the “Spacializer” which is a delay based effect which adds resonance, delays or artificial sounding reverbs. There is also a regular reverb, delay and pan. Many of the effects parameters can be modulated to provide further dynamics to your sound.

Here is a quick sound design demo I made with Aparillo:

16 Voices, LFO and Arp

The modulation and envelope options available on the majority of parameters in Aparillo allow for hugely complex and evolving sounds. The app excels at basses, bell tones, brassy keys, atmospheric sound design, pads and ambient drones. You can easily imagine scoring any number of imaginary SciFi, thriller or horror movies with Aparillo.

Modulation is visualized in a central panel that displays Aparillo’s 16 voices in vertical “tubes” with two LFOs represented by coloured balls bouncing up and down inside. This is topped by an Arpeggiator that works by use of a threshold represented by a dotted line. The threshold is best thought of as a string being plucked by the aforementioned balls as they strum across it modulating pitch of the different voices to get different notes and complex syncopating arpeggios from a single key press.

The Orbiter

The most unique aspect of Aparillo is the Orbit page. Orbit provides a sonic Galaxy in the form of a huge XY pad. The Galaxy is populated with 15 symbols representing various synth parameters such as Filter Cutoff, Operator Ratios and Reverb Mix. Each symbol has a pop-up window to adjust settings that is accessed via a long tap.

You can dynamically adjust all these parameters with the red circular Orbiter object which exerts a gravitational pull on the 15 sets of parameters represented on screen. You can move the objects around on the screen and adjust the radius of each to determine how close the Orbiter needs to be to effect it. You can lose time in these sonic worlds by moving the Orbiter with your finger or using the randomizer. You can also record a loop of Orbiter movement to create a kind of multi-parameter envelope that affects any or all of the 15 objects after playing a note or chord. Additionally, the orbiter can be set to respond to midi so that different keys will result in a different start position of the Orbiter depending on the note played.

While the Orbiter page is perfectly suited for an iPad port there are other aspects that are tricky to manipulate with fingers instead of a mouse. The Shift modulation parameter via the User scale, for example, will cause some frustration to all but the smallest pointy fingered users. The use of a decent stylus or Apple pencil can alleviate these issues for those of us with more normal sized digits.

If Aparillo sounds complex it is because it is. The app has massively complex routing and modulation options which provides a wholly unique synth and sound design tool. The clever trick Sugar Bytes have pulled off is to present Aparillo’s complexity in a way that invites you in to experiment in its playground. The controls are fun and the visual representations on different faders of what is going on within them help to link everything together in a way that is very intuitive.

Aparillo is a well-designed complex synth capable of gorgeously rich sounds and textures that will appeal to synth newbies and experienced synth heads alike.
The app is free. To be able to use Aparillo in all its glory, you can get the full version through in-app purchase ($17.99). You can download Aparillo from the App Store and learn more about it on the Sugar Bytes webpage.

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