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Sound Waves – experimental motion-controlled audio toy

Price: £1/1
Version: 1.3
Size: 15 MB
Developer: Rihab Mehboob
Platform: iPhone/ iPad

Sound Waves

Sound Waves is the latest app to use the iPhone’s varying technological capabilities to make something equal parts creative, nuanced, and intriguing. But, despite the intention, it’s not entirely as fun as it sounds.

Hold your thumb down and move your phone around

Let’s back up a minute. What even is this app? Sound Waves allows you to make a variety of beats and sounds (we’re not sure you could call it music) by waving your iPhone around different directions. Kind of like magic. Kind of like a theremin.

The interface is simple, and instructions can be revealed or hidden with a quick swipe. Basically, hold your thumb on the screen, and then move your iPhone around to produce a variety of musical sounds. The device sensors track your movement across the spectrum of 90 degrees left and right, and 45 degrees up and down.

The interface is basic, and simple – the app is focused in its functionality

We’re actually still not sure if those instructions are over-simplified or under-simplified. You’re left to figure out what the red and white dots do on your own. (The red one records the screen, the closest the app comes to saving a composition. The white one switches between drum and piano sounds.)

It’s a strange decision – just the two sound banks – but it sure does reveal some interesting results. It just takes practice to get used to it. We went in assuming we’d make a racket, have a laugh, and then move on with our lives. In actuality, we spent a long while listening to some pretty horrible noises as we slowly figured out how to squeeze a vaguely consistent sound from the app.

Music notations cascade from the screen in a variety of colors as you move your phone

It’s not an easy app to retrieve beauty from. The piano – an oft relaxing, beautiful instrument – is relegated to B-movie horror staccato as you move your iPhone left to producing a clanging of creepiness before jerking it right to entice a cacophony of a crescendo.

And the drums aren’t much different, a quick flick of the wrist sideways could produce something akin to a beat, but ultimately there are too many degrees of uncertainty to your movement to create a consistent sound.

Ultimately, it’s an experimental sound machine, so adjust your expectations if you were hoping for a full-fledged virtual synth. If you like the challenge of mastering an awkward invisible instrument, you’ll find joy in the process – but for others, it may be too frustrating a journey.