When it comes to virtual effects and instruments, Sugar Bytes don’t really do ‘normal’. Even Unique, on the surface a pretty conventional-looking software synth, manages to pack in a twist or two...
As with a number of their iOS music apps, Unique is actually a port of a desktop product, itself originally released some 10 years ago. The iOS version comes in separate iPad and iPhone versions with the same specification but different pricing (the iPhone version is only £$4.99; a low-cost option to ‘try before you buy’ the iPad version). Both versions require iOS 10 or later and work with Audiobus, IAA, MIDI (including a MIDI Learn system) and Ableton Link. There is no AU support as yet.
Underneath the hood, alongside the fairly normal twin oscillator, filter, modulation, arpeggiator and effects-equipped engine components, Unique does have something... unique — its Vowel Filter option. OK, so there are other iOS synths that offer this kind of sound modulation, but the way it is implemented here does make it very accessible. And, as demonstrated by the impressive collection of presets, once you know your way around a little, you can coax some very interesting sounds out of it. Unique’s Vowel Filter might not be absolutely unique in the soft synth world, but it certainly provides an edge to the instrument and takes it beyond ‘just another synth’.
With all the main synth engine and effects controls housed across just two main screens, this is a synth that is approachable for the novice programmer, but which also offers enough to keep the synth PhD happy. The main screen houses the oscillators, mixer, filter — including those interesting vowel options — twin effects slots and a master section that also includes a nice tremolo effect. Flip to the Controllers screen and Unique provides four distinct types of synth modulation via an LFO, envelope, step sequencer and X/Y motion controller. As an introduction to the delights of parameter modulation, this is a lot of fun. Assigning parameters as targets for these modulation sources is as simple as tapping a control, holding, and then making a modulation source choice from the pop-up list that appears.
Of course, as with any software synth, the feature list counts for nothing if the sound doesn’t cut it. Unique, however, certainly ticks that particular box. Sonically, Unique does a pretty decent impression of an analogue synth and, when you consider its price, well, it’s remarkable that we can get something with this much character for such a low cost. Combine that with the options provided by the vowel filtering and Unique can give you some very attractive and engaging synth sounds to exploit.
Indeed, monitored through your studio speakers or a decent PA rig, Unique’s sound belies the size of the device producing it. No, Unique is not unique in the sense that there are no other software synths that offer vocal-esque textures, but it is a great performer in is own right, has a great UI, sounds fabulous and allows the user to blend those vowel elements into their synth sounds in a very easy fashion. Unique makes for an easy introduction to the often weird but almost always wonderful world of Sugar Bytes, and packs a punch that belies its modest asking price.
iPad £14.99, iPhone £4.99.
iPad $14.99, iPhone $4.99.