Music technology is booming in the retail industry and now people don’t even need to know how to play an instrument if they want to produce a song. But sometimes complicated music production or recording software like Audacity or garage group can be overwhelming and expensive for someone who is only interested in music. This is where Orba d’Artiphon excels. It’s a small device that fits in the hand and allows you to produce music without a studio. This device also has a wider audience than music professionals as it is simple enough to be used by a regular consumer.
What it is
The Orba is a circular music production device that is both a MIDI controller and a synthesizer. The MIDI controller allows users to change the type of instruments and sounds the Orba can play. Most MIDI controllers come in the form of a keyboard, which needs to be hooked up to a computer to record notes and melody, but with the Orba you can make music outside of a studio. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and the Orba’s compact size allows users to record the melody or tune they have in mind before ideas are forgotten. Meanwhile, the device’s synthesizer loops the notes after you record them, so you can layer more notes until you’re happy with the melody.
How it works
When I first received my Orba package in the mail, my first thought was “Wow, this is so small and light.” Since it’s a music device with built-in speakers, I expected it to be a bit heavy, but the lightweight design makes it more travel-friendly. Users can connect their Orba to devices via Bluetooth, and if the device runs out of battery, it can still be used while charging. It works with Mac and Windows and has a 1/8 inch headphone jack if you want to connect headphones or amps. The device interface has an “A” button in the center and is separated into eight musical pads that have different notes. My favorite feature of the Orba is that it’s flexible when it comes to its range of sounds, and the pads change their sound depending on what mode it’s set to.
There are four modes to choose from: Drum, Bass, Chord and Lead. These modes can be changed by pressing the A button to switch between modes, or by holding down the A button and directly selecting the mode you want if you don’t want to cycle through all four modes. This can be useful when recording so you can synchronize your mode change to the beat. Drum mode has different sounds for each part of a drum kit, so there can be kick drums, snare drums, cymbals and toms. Bass mode plays bass clef notes, Chord mode turns each music pad into a set of notes, and Lead mode gives a higher note range that people can use for melodies. I liked that there were only four modes to choose from, as having more variety on the device can become overwhelming for people new to music production and only familiar with basic music terminology.
Another additional feature is that effects can be added to each note by gestures while playing a certain note. If you want a vibrato effect on your melody, you can wiggle your finger back and forth while tapping the note. The vibrato effect causes the note to vibrate, resulting in a futuristic sound reminiscent of sci-fi movie soundtracks. The tilt gesture also reminds me of them because the note can slide down or up depending on which direction the device is tilted. When tapping the side of the Orba in battery mode, you can add a popping sound effect. If none of the preset sounds are what you need for your creative project, the Orba app is your new best friend.
The app is free and has a wider selection of different instruments and tones that you can select. In addition, other users in the Orba community can download the sounds they created, which can give people inspiration to create more unique sounds. Artiphon has his own SoundCloud account full of songs he made on the Orba.
As for usage, I think anyone could use a device like Orba to create royalty-free music for their creative projects. For people who want to write songs but can’t always be in the studio or pay the session price, the Orba is a good alternative. Music studios can charge $50 to $500 per hour to use the studio or record songs. If users decide to produce music at home, they will also have to shell out large sums; synthesizers like the Korg Minilogue XD 4-Voice Analog Synthesizer Module can cost upwards of $500. These expensive prices can be avoided as the Orba has a retail price of $99.99 and customers can get a free cover pouch with their order if they sign up with their email. If consumers are interested in music production, they should consider purchasing an Orba. This is a good step to start before investing in more professional musical equipment.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience using the Orba, even though my musical skills aren’t at a professional level. I spent hours experimenting with different sounds until I found a melody I liked. At first I was worried that I didn’t have enough musical knowledge to know how to use the Orba, but the video tutorial on the website was easy to follow and I had no problem composing a melody. The app is another powerful asset as the other sound choices can range from 80s music to relaxing lo-fi beats, and it will record any beats you make. So if you forget how you created the beat for a certain song, you can play it back and see what key and tempo you used to get that melody. I strongly encourage anyone who purchases this device to watch the video course as it is entertaining to watch; each video is less than three minutes long, and best of all, it’s free. Although I am not in the music making profession, I will continue to experiment with my Orba in the future to see what melodies I can create.