As an informal musician, I prefer to file authentic music in my very own little house workplace/studio for my very own private use, and I take pleasure in experimenting with alternative ways to create attention-grabbing, generally unconventional musical compositions. Artiphon’s Orba 2 makes it straightforward to do precisely that. I’ve had numerous enjoyable with the tiny synth, and I can envision tons of how I am going to be capable of incorporate it into my studio, as a result of it is not only a gimmick.
I spoke to Mike Butera, a musician who holds a Ph.D in Sound Research, and the founder and CEO of Artiphon, a Nashville-based firm that designs good digital devices. These are “multisensory devices anybody can play,” in keeping with the corporate’s web site. Butera tells me he desires to make digital music extra embodied and tactile, and extra accessible to on a regular basis shoppers.
The Orba 2 is one in every of these multisensory devices: An ergonomically formed synthesizer you’ll be able to maintain within the palm of your hand. Artiphon despatched me an Orba 2, and once I picked it up and began taking part in round with it for the primary time, I could not put it down for hours. I began out by pairing the machine with the Orba 2 app on my cellphone and experimenting with all of the devices and sounds preloaded into the app. Fairly quickly I had a sweet-sounding loop organized with a droning bass and a few killer ambient leads over a easy 4/4 rock beat.
The Orba 2 prices $150 and is on the market to buy on-line instantly from Artiphon, by means of Reverb or at retailers like Guitar Heart and Sam Ash. It is easy to select up and play proper out of the field and requires no musical information to begin making some actually cool-sounding music. This unassuming little instrument is astonishingly versatile and so easy to make use of, it could possibly make a musician out of anybody — and might make for a singular little reward.
What’s the Orba 2?
The Orba 2 is the successor to Artiphon’s authentic Orba machine, which launched in 2019. It is a compact synth, looper and MIDI controller that is concerning the dimension and form of your common orange, reduce in half. The Orba 2 has primarily the identical design and interface as the unique — with eight multifunctional pads radiating throughout the highest of the machine — however with enhanced performance all through.
Maybe essentially the most notable enhancement with the Orba 2 is you could file actually any sound on the planet onto the app and play it on the machine. Strum a chord in your guitar, hum a tune, file the sound of a practice whistle, snap your fingers — heck, you’ll be able to dive into the ocean and file whale sounds to pattern in your Orba 2. (But when that is one thing you are really going to do, please simply be sure you use a recording machine that is waterproof).
The Orba 2 additionally provides an “computerized quantize” operate which helps robotically line up your musical creation with the beat when looping music. Automated quantize is a lifesaver if you do not have good rhythm as a result of you do not have to fret about being exactly in time — the software program takes care of that for you.
It additionally offers you drastically extra looping time than its predecessor. The unique Orba solely allowed for eight-bar loops (as much as 30 seconds of looping), whereas the Orba 2 ups that restrict to 128 bars, or as much as 5 minutes of looping time. That provides you loads of time to create and loop an elaborate, complete musical composition consisting of drums, bass, chords (rhythm) and lead.
The machine consists of a regular 1/8-inch headphone stereo jack and a USB-C port for charging and connecting to your laptop or different machine (however you can too join through Bluetooth). It is outfitted with a 3-watt speaker on the underside, which is enough in case you’re simply casually taking part in round with it in your lounge, however you will need to plug your headphones into it to get the complete impact.
The Orba 2 is suitable with iOS 11 and later, Android 9 and later, MacOS 10.12 and later, and Microsoft 10 (64-bit) and later.
What are you able to do with the Orba 2?
For such a simple-looking machine, the Orba 2 delivers fairly a bit greater than what chances are you’ll count on, with sure limitations.
It is maybe greatest used as a musical sketchpad that will help you develop and save your musical concepts. That is the place the Orba 2’s portability and expanded looping performance actually turn out to be useful. It can save you your looped songs utilizing the accompanying app and construct on them later or simply play them again. And it is sufficiently small you could have it in your desk or simply tuck it away in your jacket pocket and play it on the bus or within the park — at any time when and wherever inspiration hits.
Orba 2’s greater than 100 presets run the gamut of musical kinds, together with something from conventional synths, bass guitars, piano, violins and acoustic drums to online game sounds, beatboxing, hand drums, vinyl scratches and meditative, ambient sounds. Some presets throughout modes share the identical in-app art work, which means that they sound good when performed collectively. One in every of my favourite presets throughout modes known as 1981, which may ship some very nice Stranger Issues vibes. One other preset I like known as Ambeeant, which is ideal if you wish to create a composition that is supremely chilled-out and enjoyable — like a easy late-night groove, or one thing you’d count on to listen to in a dimly lit shisha lounge.
You may even create your personal presets by recording a sound or growing an instrument from scratch utilizing the separate OrbaSynth app, which you’ll obtain from Artiphon. Recording a sound is straightforward utilizing the cellular or desktop apps, however exporting the sound to make use of in your Orba 2 requires you to attach the Orba to your cellphone or laptop with a USB cable — which is not a very handy answer in case you’re out and about and need to file one thing and instantly play it on the Orba. Nevertheless, it can save you your recordings to export later in case you file a sound in your cellphone and you do not have your Orba or a cable with you.
One of many issues I like essentially the most concerning the Orba 2 is its responsive gesture controls. The pads on high are touch-sensitive and reply properly to how exhausting you faucet them. You may also maintain your finger on a pad to let a notice or crash cymbal to ring out, for instance. Or radiate your finger inward or outward so as to add a little bit of vibrato or management issues like pitch or quantity. Different gestures embrace spin, bump, transfer, shake and tilt — all of which may also help you increase the notes you are taking part in and make some actually cool sounds.
I additionally like how Artiphon actually does job of creating the Orba 2 extra accessible to nonmusicians by programming the lead presets to play the pentatonic scale. This makes it straightforward to create lead elements that match melodically along with your music it doesn’t matter what notice you hit.
“The explanation we did that’s so you could possibly construct up a bit of beat after which take a solo on high, and no matter you press, it’ll sound good,” Adam McHeffey, Artiphon’s chief advertising officer, informed me in an interview. “It is all about immediacy and simply having enjoyable as you play. It is not about dumbing something down. It is nearly approachability and simply actually taking your thoughts off of it and simply having enjoyable.”
If you wish to get essentially the most out of the Orba 2, you need to use it as a MIDI controller and hook it as much as a digital audio workstation like GarageBand, Ableton Reside, Logic Professional, Professional Instruments and Cubase. I linked my Orba 2 as much as GarageBand and that is the place the complete potential of this little machine actually opened up for me when it comes to the completely different sorts of sounds and compositions you’ll be able to create. I used to be in a position to export songs from my Orba 2 into GarageBand, however solely as a single observe. There does not appear to be a solution to export particular person tracks. So the easiest way to leverage GarageBand or another DAW software program with Orba 2 is to begin from scratch and create instantly inside your DAW.
Enjoyable, however not with out flaws
Artiphon has an incredible factor going with the Orba 2, however there are a couple of inherent drawbacks in addition to some room for enchancment. For one, whereas altering octaves is straightforward and might be accomplished on the Orba 2 itself, there are solely eight keys to play with, which makes accessing a broader vary of notes significantly much less seamless than in case you have been taking part in a standard synthesizer. It is a obligatory however unlucky tradeoff for the Orba 2’s compact dimension.
I additionally discovered the principle Orba 2 app to be moderately buggy total on each cellular and desktop. It crashed usually, particularly once I was saving songs and making an attempt to load saved songs onto the Orba, which was irritating. The apps additionally misplaced reference to my Orba at random intervals, so I discovered myself having to reconnect or re-pair it with my cellphone and MacBook extra usually than I might have favored. One other factor I discovered irritating was that I usually could not modify the amount of particular person devices in my loops, regardless of the app exhibiting me the choice to take action. At instances I wanted that I may decrease the amount a bit on a booming drum beat I created to let the subtler parts of my composition shine — alas, more often than not, the amount would not budge from 78% it doesn’t matter what I attempted. This put an actual damper on my efforts to combine my compositions into one thing that sounded the way in which I needed them to sound. The software program has a ton of potential, so hopefully these little quirks get resolved in future updates.
The Orba 2 has added some wonderful and helpful options that give it a serious leg up over the unique Orba, however one function I hope could also be obtainable in future firmware updates is the flexibility to layer a number of completely different presets from every particular person mode on high of each other. For instance, it might be useful to have the ability to layer a number of completely different lead presets on high of each other in a single looped composition — say, in case you needed to have a lead guitar half, but in addition a piano lead or violin lead. That might provide the capacity so as to add some cool dynamics to your songs. At the moment, if you have already got a lead half looped and also you need to change the lead instrument to one thing else, the initially looped half will change to another preset you choose. Positive, you’ll be able to work round this by operating your Orba 2 by means of your DAW, however it might be good to have the performance by means of the app as effectively.
Is the Orba 2 price it?
General, I feel the Orba 2 is a superb little instrument in case you’re an informal musician (and even when you have no musical background in any respect) and simply need a straightforward solution to create cool-sounding music at anywhere or any time. However skilled musicians will most likely need one thing with a bit of extra depth and vary.
The Orba 2 is exclusive, and it is nice for experimentation with a just about limitless scope of sonic potentialities within the palm of your hand. It is a worthy addition to your own home studio and may also help add some spectacular dynamics to your music. It is an superior software for developing with new musical concepts on the fly, wherever you might be. And it is simply plain enjoyable. If any of that sounds good to you, then sure, Orba 2 is price it and it’s best to give it a shot.