In issue #121 of Tape Op, I wrote a review of Borderlands and GrainSpace, both pieces of software that use granular synthesis. I would suggest you read that review if you're not familiar with granular synthesis as it has an explanation and history of the technique. While I still recommend both Borderlands and GrainSpace, Quanta, a new softsynth that uses granular synthesis, also deserves mention. Borderlands remains the best conceptual illustration of granular and GrainSpace has the best implementation for processing audio with granular within a DAW. However, Quanta is the best app I've seen for playing musical notes using granular synthesis. You can hook up a musical keyboard controller to your iPad and play music with this app that is in tune and in time. This is not the first app to do this, but it feels like the most professional and in-depth implementation I've seen to date. With a quick browse of Quanta’s presets, you'll realize that this is a unique sounding and very playable instrument with a lot of depth to its sound making capabilities. In addition to its granular engine, there is also an oscillator and noise source that can be added into the mix with the granular sounds. The oscillator has a continuous variable waveshape feature that is pretty cool; it goes from sine to square, to ramp to sawtooth, and a few places in between. You can use the preset samples that come with Quanta, but you can also load your own, which gives this synth infinite sound shaping possibilities. There are two multimode filters that can be run in series or parallel. The bottom half of the GUI’s screen deals with what I've mentioned above. The top half is switchable between four different screens: Sample, Envelope, LFO, and Matrix. These all control what you'd expect. The Matrix is an easy to use grid that sets up your modulation sources and destinations. The LFO screen also has a sample and hold section. The coolest screen, however, is the Sample screen that has a real-time graphic of the sample being manipulated by the granular process. This is the screen you'll want to leave open once you're done tweaking a sound just because it looks so cool! Actually the entire GUI on this synth looks very cool and is very intuitive to use. Making granular synthesis easy is no small task, so kudos to Audio Damage on this app. There is also a desktop version available.
$9.99 from the app store, desktop version $99