Borderlands Granular Review
iPad App
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Borderlands Granular Review

Our Review by Angela LaFollette on October 26th, 2012
Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: GRAINY
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Borderlands Granular lets users manipulate small fragments of sounds through gesture interaction.

Developer: Chris Carlson
Price: $3.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

iPad Integration Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar

No, this app has nothing to do with the first person role playing shooter, nor it's upcoming iOS debut. Borderlands Granular is instead all about making music. This new music instrument lets users transform and explore sounds through its interface that’s designed for granular synthesis.

Granular synthesis simply superpositions small segments of sound in order to create complex timbres and textures. Basically, it’s like sampling except the samples aren’t conventional but split into tiny pieces known as grains. These sounds are then looped, manipulated and layered to create new music.

Borderlands Granular allows music aficionados to interact with the app through gesture controls instead of the basic knobs and sliders seen on synthesizers. The app comes with its own samples, but users are also free to record and use their own sounds.

When it’s time to get started, double tap anywhere on the canvas to create a grain cloud. The red grains inside this cloud sample the sounds that are beneath it. Moving the cloud changes to sound. This can be achieved by simply dragging it or tilting the iPad in gravity mode.

Double tapping the center of the cloud brings up the editing view where users can adjust the pitch, grain length and other parameters as well as rotate the cloud with two fingers. Double tapping again removes the editing screen.

Users can continue to add new grain clouds by double tapping anywhere. When it’s time to delete a cloud, simply through it off the screen. Once the in-app samples get old, add new ones. When a favorite sound is achieved, users can record it to listen to later or share performances with friends.

The lack of import features is where the app may disappoint. In order to import audio, users must create an iTunes playlist named Borderlands and then restart the app. There’s no way to copy and paste or load from Dropbox, so users are stuck importing through iTunes. A couple other downfalls are that the screen doesn’t rotate when the iPad is turned and it may run slower on the iPad 1 due to the audio processing requirements.

I’ve played around with other grain synths, and this one takes the cake in many areas. It does have a few downsides, but the positives easily outweigh the shortcomings. Since it’s a new app, perhaps an update is in store for the future. For now, Borderlands Granular is easily recommendable for everyone from enthusiasts to musicians thanks to its intuitive, musical and beautiful interface.

iPad Screenshots

(click to enlarge)

Borderlands Granular screenshot 1 Borderlands Granular screenshot 2 Borderlands Granular screenshot 3 Borderlands Granular screenshot 4 Borderlands Granular screenshot 5
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