Roxsyn app turns your electric guitar into a synthesizer

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Roxsyn app on ipad
Roxsyn -- a synth that rocks.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Roxsyn is the “world’s first metamorphic guitar synthesizer” for iPad. The app lets you plug in your guitar and, when you play it, synthesizer sounds come out. It also offers a full suite of knobs to tweak and shape the resulting sounds, just like a regular, keyboard-driven synth.

But — and this is important — it’s not just using your guitar as a MIDI controller for a normal synthesizer. Let’s take a look.

Roxsyn guitar synthesizer app

The Roxsyn guitar synthesizer app has knobs!
Knobs!
Photo: Yonac

Usually, a guitar-controlled synthesizer takes the guitar’s sound, detects the pitch (and perhaps other parameters), and then turns that into MIDI signals. The advantage is that MIDI can control pretty much any electronic musical instrument, plus any and all music apps. The disadvantage is that the initial tracking can be janky, and you can lose a lot of the expression inherent in the guitar.

Roxsyn, from developer Yonac, uses neither MIDI nor pitch-tracking. Instead, it uses an undisclosed method to hook up your guitar signal directly to its synthesizer. My guess is that it somehow uses the actual guitar signal as the base sound, the way a regular synth generates its own base signal using a low-frequency oscillator. That’s a pure guess on my part, though.

Regardless of how it gets there, the results are impressive. Roxsyn manages to work with polyphony (chords) as well as with single notes. It feeds this into an array of filters, and can shape the signal using various square, sawtooth and other waves.

Just like a real synth

Many Roxsyn settings will seem familiar to synth users.
Many Roxsyn settings will seem familiar to synth users.
Photo: Yonac

If you’re familiar with subtractive synthesis, this appears to work the same way, only with a guitar at the front. You can tweak and sculpt your sound, all without giving up the amazing expressiveness of the electric guitar. And the filters and other effects are tuned to work best with a guitar (although you can input sound from other sources).

Arp and FX

Roxsyn's powerful arp tool.
Roxsyn’s powerful arp tool.
Photo: Yonac

On top of this is an arpeggiator, which is a tool to play a sequence of notes based on a single input note. Or, it can split the notes of a chord and play them one at a time, in various patterns. You can program these patterns or use the provided ones.

Roxsyn also brings several effects often used with guitar — reverb, stereo delay, a chorus/flanger, a phaser and EQ. Take a closer look in the Roxsyn manual (.pdf).

All in all, this looks like an amazing tool for guitarists. You could even use it with a guitar-simulation app on your iPad.

Roxsyn

Price: $9.99

Download: Roxsyn from the App Store (iOS)