MATRIXSYNTH: Alesis Andromeda A6 Editor for iPad

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Alesis Andromeda A6 Editor for iPad

Boele Gerkes aka SCD is working on an iPad editor for the Alesis Andromeda. Some details via this thread on

"Would anyone be interested in that? I am working on one for myself for quite some time now, and it really changed the great synth into a GREAT synth
If there are enough interested people I might consider a (not free, but cheap) public release to earn a little back for the many many hours I have put into it.

It is an editor that uses mixed NRPNs and Sysex messages (that was quite a trip by the way, to "back engineer" how things are done on the Andro) and probably will capture each and every parameter that has to do with sound editing (which are a lot as you all know) and some global stuff.

My main problem with the A6 interface is the tiny LCD in combination with the *way* to sensitive knobs... I *hate* that really on the Andro. But I *love* the character of this synth and possibilities. That's why I started this for my own pleasure.

This editor has for instance have sliders and knobs with which you can change values much more more comfortably than on the A6 itself.
Some parameters (like the level knobs in the 47 modulation pages) wil even have a knob and two sliders for the same parameter, so you can choose with which resolution you want to change the values. It makes sound design SO much easier!
For instance, try to add a little pitch modulation to an oscillator with an LFO... you'll get the idea.

Touching a knob on the iPad will call up the appropriate LCD screen on the Andro.

I am almost done with all synth engine parameters, except for the digital FXs. Those will all get an iPad page of there own.

It is builded up out of pages with a navigation bar at the bottom to reach the various sections.
This is the list of iPad screens that are dedicated to a part:

Modulations (with 47 sub pages for the 47 mod slots on the Andromeda)
Oscillator 1 (with all parameters on one page, including links to the mod pages)
Oscillator 2 (like Osc1)
Post Mixer
Envelope 1 (with 1 sub page for Looping and Dynamics parameters)
Envelope 2 (with 1 sub page for Looping and Dynamics parameters)
Envelope 3 (with 1 sub page for Looping and Dynamics parameters)
Effects (with 29 sub pages for each digital effect)
Global (to be determined what will be in there: at least the CRoutes stuff, and the Tracking Generator, plus the Portamento, patch select and some more)

The number of pages will run into the 100+ But navigation will be easy and quick.

What this editor is NOT:
- It's *not* a Librarian and it will not become one.

What this editor is/has:
– a *very* handy tool to design sounds on the Andro! Trust me. It has become a completely new synth to me, since working with it.
- an editor that captures *every* sound editing parameter of the Andro that has a NRPN/sysex control attached (unless a bug prevents one. There are a few on the Andro, but not many).
- a "fix" for the 50% PW bug (a button sets it for you to 52%)
- controls that do right to the values you want to fine tune
- bi-directional (but some restrictions, certainly when using WIFI, due to an Apple bug)

And it is not ready yet, so it will take me some more months probably. I will post some screen shots in the near future."

Followed by:


1. The editor is a one-way editor.
This might change in a next release after V1. One of the reasons is that I used a mix of NRPNs and sys-ex messages for the parameters. For instance, all LCD screens and a lot of tabs on the Andromeda can only be selected with system exclusive messages. And since the Andro does not send out panel sysex messages, bi-directional communication is not possible for those parameters.
I also used sys-ex for various sound editing parameters because it gives much higher tweaking resolution for such a parameter: NRPNs go up to 4094 values (12 bit), many parameters can have up to 17 bit values (131.072 values) though. Practise should learn if that was a wise decision If needed I could change all parameters (except LCD screens and tabs and some bug related ones) to NRPNs. Which could make it a two-way editor. But that has no priority for me. I just want to do sound design on the Andro with a helping iPad editor.

2. NRPN communication with WIFI on a Mac is complex!
There is a bug, a nasty bug, in Apple's Audio/MIDI Utility since OSX 10.3 or 10.4: NRPNS are not coming through the right way there. And you need that utility to have this editor working over WIFI... However, there are work-arounds although I have not a total clear vision of it yet. I will come back to it later.

3. The editor template pages (102 at this moment...) can not communicate with each other.
To be able to have all parameters captured in a working editor, bigger templates need to be split into pages. Only one page can be loaded at the same time in the app, causing the mentioned drawback. Not a big one to me, but you might feel different.
Example: I have the filter routing parameters both on the Pre Filter Mixing page as on the Filter page itself. Changing those parameters on one page, will not touch the same parameters on the other page and vice versa. You need to live with that.

4. No librarian, saving and other non-sound parameter stuff
Main reason: the app needs major changes for that. For now I am not counting on Fabien to be willing to invest such an amount of work in a 4,49 euros app. Can't blame hime for that, specially thinking of all the time he already did put in it just for this crazy Dutchman.

I first had a look at Lemur, another professional controller building app for iOS, but even that app can for instance not handle big sysex messages correctly due to update refreshing timing issues. Don't ask...

5. No Mix Mode
This is a prize paid to get sys-ex working in the app. To explain a little:
Alesis uses 3 bytes for the editing parameters.
Each byte has one bit as a status bit, leaving 7 bits per byte. So a total of 21 bits are left for the sound parameters, but they use only a maximum of 17 bits. The leftovers, 4 bits (16 values) are used to set... the Mix channel.
Our software has those 4 bits fixed on channel 1. I have no idea of Fabien will/can address that in a future update of TB MIDI Stuff. Don't count on it.

If you made it to here, we can finally talk about the GOOD stuff!

I've been sound designing for Waldorf, XILS, Arturia and other companies.
I have seen and used about every old mono and poly analog synth in my studio through the years. Some time ago I decided to let go the history synths and keep very few. As of today I have an Andromeda, a Moog Voyager XL and a Moog Voager RME.
I chose the Andromeda because it is the most versatile poly analog I know. It can do incredible sounds and it can do incredidable modulations!
But ohh.... that user interface...

Since I am playing with this editor it can do those same incredible sounds (and more!) in a MUCH faster and more pleasant way than ever before! I rediscovered the synthesizer and it is more rewarding than ever. Believe me.

Well, this message is already way to long, so I leave it for now. Hope to get back soon to you all to anounce the release of the editor. I need to test some stuff, do some small adjustments and have it "approved" by Fabien.


The template is being made with TB MIDI Stuff.

TB MIDI Stuff - TBStuff
iOS Devices on eBay - Daily Tech Deals

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