Pipa is a wavetable and granular synth with a voice of its own.
Available for iPad (AUv3), Mac and Windows (AU/VST3/AAX) Klevgrand’s Pipa combines wavetable and granular synthesis specifically for generating vocal‑type sounds. The wavetables are taken from real vocal samples of both male and female vowel sounds handled by some very clever technology so that morphing between them retains the correct phase relationship. So clever, in fact, that Klevgrand suggest checking out the demo first in case you have an old machine that might struggle with the CPU load, though my 2012 Mac Pro handled it fine, even when using several Pipas in one song.
Pipa is more about exploring synthetic sounds that retain a voice‑like organic character.
As you can see from the screengrab, the control set isn’t too scary. The Voice section is where you choose your male, female or mixed voices with the added option of a doubling effect and two controls to introduce fluctuations, which sets how smoothly the wavetables morph, and pitch randomness to make things sound more natural. In the upper‑centre sections are controls for sliding through the vowels, adjusting the dynamics, panning options and a three‑band EQ‑style control for adjusting the Body, Nose (3kHz) and Air aspects of the sound. Both Vowel and Dynamics can be modulated via Controller One and Two which can be mapped to any MIDI control change, channel aftertouch or key‑tracking. Over on the right is a master section where room and reverb ambiences can be applied with very basic adjustments and a choice of six reverb types and five rooms.
Perhaps the most important section is the LFO panel, which extends to the envelope display in the lower centre of the window. Coloured tabs select Gain, Pitch, Dynamics and Vowel for adjustment where the values traced out by the envelopes can be modulated via LFO (separate LFO settings for each tab) or by the Ctrl1 Mod knob. Each of the four instances of LFO can also have a different waveform selection, though Sine or triangle seem to work best for most ‘normal’ sounds. Note that while each envelope can have different attack settings, release time is shared between all tabs. The gain envelope also has control over decay and sustain level while release time can be modulated via note velocity.
Other than Gain, each tab also has a vertical weight parameter slider to the right of the envelope, which can be set both positive and negative and essentially controls the range of parameter modulation. A setup screen sets how Ctrl1/Ctrl2 are mapped, with a MIDI learn option should the controller of your choice not appear in the list. There’s also a legato mode.
While Pipa is perhaps more limited in scope than many synths, it has an endearing character and is attractively priced.
Pipa’s source sounds may be very limited but the LFO/envelope section makes it possible to add things like pitch scoops at the start and end of notes, shifting timbres and synth‑style volume envelopes. The LFOs also provide vibrato or tremolo while changes made using the mod or pitch wheel work very smoothly. Though it is possible to create choir‑like sounds, Pipa is more about exploring synthetic sounds that retain a voice‑like organic character. It can work particularly well when layered with other synth sounds and there are presets for you to use, deconstruct or tweak, though setting up sounds from scratch is also fairly straightforward.
While Pipa is perhaps more limited in scope than many synths, it has an endearing character and is attractively priced — and there’s that free demo version you can try first to see if it floats your musical boat.
Pipa is a creative vocal synthesizer that offers you the chance to try before you buy.