Factory is an aptly-named new iPad synthesizer from SugarBytes. In fact, calling it a synth is underselling it — kind of like calling GarageBand a “tape recorder”. Factory does synthesize sounds, but it also has built-in effects, a sequencer, an arpeggiator, and a totally wild DJ-style crossfader, which lets you morph between presets.
The app is ultra-flexible, as capable of finely-crafted sound design as it is of sonic mayhem.
Factory does pretty much everything
Factory is free to try, and to use forever. There’s a one-time in-app purchase to unlock extra presets, and to allow use as an audio unit inside other apps.
For the synth nerd, the feature list is a great read, full of oscillators, envelopes, wavetables, and LFOs. It really does have almost everything. But for the newcomer, and the synth-curious, why choose this over the zillion other synths available for iOS?
Factory is more than just a synth. It’s also a sequencer. That means you can manipulate how a sound changes over time. It’s not a sequencer for building whole songs, but it really lets you sculpt your sounds.
The arpeggiator is similarly powerful. An arpeggiator plays the notes you hold down over and over. This is most often used to split a chord into its component notes, but you cna use any notes. Factory can play notes in some rather unusual sequences, and it can quantize the notes you play, forcing them to conform to a scale (meaning you can’t hit a wrong note).
The effects are also great, and can be dragged-and-dropped into any order (you can use three at a time).
And finally, there’s a patch grid that lets you route anything to anything else. For instance, you can take the output of an oscillator and send it to the cutoff knob of the filter. That’s getting a bit too technical for the scope of this article (and for me — I’m not a modular synth expert by any means), but it shows how deep this app goes. If you’re used to patching cables on a modular hardware synth, this is a similar idea, only easier to use.
My favorite part, though, is the crossfader. Say you have a cool synth patch loaded. That’s side A of the crossfader. Tap the B button, and tweak any of the settings — you could increase the delay, or get deep with the underlying sound itself. Then, to fade between the settings, move the fader. Some pretty wild sounds appear as you slide it, and the in-between settings blend together.
Everybody with a passing interest in music on the iPad should check out Factory. It’s free to try, and is capable of some awesome sounds out of the box.
Pro tip: tap the cog-shaped O in the Factory logo written at the top left of the main screen. This shuffles presets, including, as far as I can tell (I’ve bought the app) the ones usually only available in the paid version.
Also, if you’re running it on a 2018 iPad Pro, the UI looks terrible — fuzzy, soft, and with visible aliasing on the text.
Factory modular synthesizer
Price: Free with in-app purchases
Download: Factory from the App Store (iOS)