For anyone into making electronic music on an iPad, we’re firmly of the opinion you can’t do better than Korg Gadget; but while Korg’s very much embraced Apple’s tablet, the iPhone’s been comparatively neglected. That ends with iELECTRIBE for iPhone.
This app squeezes something closely resembling Korg’s classic ER-1 drum machine into Apple’s smartphone, makes it wonderfully usable, and poses the real risk anyone seriously into banging out rhythm tracks will spend every waking moment glued to their iPhone’s display, head bobbing, grinning like a lunatic to increasingly monster beats assaulting their eardrums.
We got rhythm
If you’re not entirely familiar with how hardware with an old-school sensibility works, iELECTRIBE might feel a bit intimidating, but Korg does its best to ease you in. The documentation is straightforward, and there are 300 built-in rhythms to mess about with. It shouldn’t take long before you’re happily immersed in step-sequencing and twiddling dials, transforming crunchy snares into monster synth grumbles.
Should you already be a fan of Korg’s hardware or previous iterations of the app on iPad, you’re going to love this iPhone incarnation. Visually, it pays tribute to the ER-1, which to our eyes is a much better bet than the iPad’s take on the gaudy stylings of the ER-1 Mk II. It certainly feels more in keeping with modern minimal mobile operating systems, while retaining a sense of tactility with its dials and blinking lights.
The big surprise, though, is how good the app feels to use. We were excited by the prospect of iELECTRIBE on iPhone, but had a fear its dials and buttons would be unforgiving of sausage fingers, and we’d just end up mashing multiple buttons before slinking off in a sulk.
Pushing the right buttons
Occasionally, iELECTRIBE is a bit fiddly, notably when rotating dials at the top of the display, but even on an iPhone 5s, this is a perfectly usable app. And all this positivity is before we’ve even mentioned the sound.
Stick iELECTRIBE for iPhone next to an ER-1 and the outputs aren’t identical, but they’re close enough. Most importantly, iELECTRIBE for iPhone sounds superb through decent headphones. Although the virtual hardware seems limiting compared to, say, DM1’s dozens of kits, Korg’s app is extremely versatile. Frequently, just slight adjustments to the oscillator set-up can have huge impact on your sound. And although you can connect this app to external controllers and twiddle like a maniac, it often rewards subtler experimentation.
The app’s authenticity is perhaps its only major drawback. A bit more flexibility regarding effects routing, or perhaps more built-in arrangement functionality for completed loops, would have gone down a treat. Still, the app’s support for Inter-App Audio, Audiobus, WIST and Virtual MIDI makes it simple to integrate into existing set-ups, once you’re done wondering the streets discovering the perfect rhythm and thus want to expand on your creation.
So, Korg, how about Gadget for iPhone now?
Korg iELECTRIBE for iPhone is available from the App Store and requires an iPhone or iPod Touch running iOS 8.