Spitfire Audio Orbis – Natural Beauty
Using their contemporary styled interface, Spitfire Audio’s rather ambitious phrase and loop synthesiser Orbis has foundations from the eDNA engine and over 3000 sample recordings from prolific sound recordist David Fanshawe. This should make for interesting results.
Spitfire Audio appears to be on a monthly timetable now for releasing innovative titles, pumping them out thick and fast. Orbis World Synthesiser is looking to continue that trend with an ambiguous mix of synthesis and real-world samples. Can’t wait to explore this title.
Orbis ‘World Synthesiser’ is a sample library with its synthesis control element based on Spitfire Audios’ proprietary plugin platform. Users of the eDNA Earth series will pick up on the similarities immediately. Much of the clunky old interface has been streamlined with the company’s slick new GUI designed in partnership with UsTwo for the previous Hans Zimmer Strings release.
Containing a huge selection of over 2500 loops, one-shots and pads, Orbis is a re-imagining of sound recordist David Fanshawe’s painstaking collection of sounds captured from different cultures around the world. Decades of recordings from thousands of archived DAT tapes were restored by the Spitfire Audio team for the project.
At 22GB, Orbis is significantly smaller than your typical Spitfire Audio orchestral affair, though a strong PC or Mac with at least 16GB RAM and sizeable SSD drives is still recommended, and the faster the better.
Orbis is definitely not an orchestral library, nor is it simply a rompler or synth. Combining the best of all platforms, the twin sample playback engine is designed for effecting, chopping, stretching and poking.
Playing back samples is only the beginning of the adventure, the real fun comes from the tweaking of the controls and pushing the sound way beyond recognition. The massive selection of built-in effects clearly states the intention – we have here a veritable candy shop of goodies to be tinkered with.
This is a synth where you can leave your inhibitions at the door.
Orbis is a rather impressive looking device. A fresh layout using the company’s new interface features plenty of intriguing dials and controls, all borrowed from the older eDNA Earth synth.
I thought that I might hate it, but the interface is way too much fun. In a Starship Enterprise kind of way, it is amusing arbitrarily to push buttons, swipe this and turn that, just to see what happens. The attractive gold on dark green UI is well laid out artistically, though much of the available real estate is dedicated to the large and laughably grandiose twin sliders and dial set at the top. I quite like this stylistic ‘form over function’ approach UsTwo and Spitfire Audio have gone for: sample libraries are on the whole way too serious these days.
Orbis is a duel oscillator (of sorts) synth with wav sample sources. Technically, I guess you could say this is a rompler, but if one were to use Orbis simply as a sample player the full capabilities of this device would hardly see the light of day.
Most of the Fanshawe raw samples have been ‘treated’ for the library, with only about 10% remaining in their original state. The processing ranges from slight through to “omg, what did I just listen to?” Even though there are some moments of fairly out there mangling, everything is done is good taste and it doesn’t feel disrespectful to the spirit of the source material.
It is, however, annoyingly easy to lose hours mucking around with Orbis. Since even simple controls like tuning, envelope and LFOs have massive effects on the sound, it takes little effort to find a brand new sonic avenue to travel down and before you know it you’re lost in a landscape of sound.
The organic nature of the sounds lends a living, visceral feeling to everything. It is unlike any synthetic library or synth I own – almost as if the sound is alive and conscious.
All in all, quite a remarkable experience.
I won’t go too far into the inner workings of Orbis, as it functions on the most part as eDNA Earth does. But very briefly; Orbis is a dual-engine synth with an extensive effect section and gate sequencer. Though Orbis boasts a massive sample selection to choose from, the real strength with both eDNA Earth and Orbis is the effect layering, converting any plain source sample into a huge sound though layering effects and gate sequencing.
The first of three tabs contain Orbis’ filters, envelopes and sample trim controls. An oscillator mixer in DJ crossfader vein allows you to morph between each of the source engines.
Three simple LFO’s are included, set to volume, pitch or filter. These are modified by dragging up or down on the graphic to stretch the sine wave, with an intensity slider on the site.
Simple hi and low pass filters, an ADSR envelope, tuning, pan and various sample tweaking options round out the main controls on the front page.
The second page contains the extensive effect rack, each with simple controls and a global master effect suite. Some interesting effects are included, with a nifty AUX section for routing effects into effects. Oh, the joys to be had in here after a few beers!
The final cherry on top is the gate sequencer, which is capable of totally transforming sounds. This can be placed before or after the effect engine and the 32 step sequencer has a resolution from 0.5 right up to 256x.
I particularly like how the entire interface is scaleable by dragging a corner to size. A very nice touch, especially because on my 4k monitor this is a requirement.
The patch browsing system is possibly a weak point with the new Spitfire GUI. While a preview and “favouriting system” are included, it feels a little clunky and overly difficult quickly to pinpoint useful, or at least, usable sounds. It is the same system used in Hans Zimmer Strings and I still can’t get used to it.
Performance feels good, with only slight delays loading patches and no hint of my CPU grumbling under the strain.
Though I like Orbis as a sound design tool, I think on its own it can sound rather monotonous after a time. I’m sure the general intention for this library is for creating soundscape textures and the like, but for me, the real strength is as a foundational texture base for other instruments.
As a back-texture for almost every Spitfire Audio sample library I tried, Orbis enhanced everything to a new level. Orbis’ organic density sits beautifully behind anything it is partnered with.
I found applying quite heavy-handed processing with the built-in effects and gating adds fantastic width and immersion, and going too far with the processing is not necessarily a bad thing.
Orbis is about as far from an orchestral library as is possible, though there is a strong relationship here that makes sense – perhaps as seasoning makes the broth, Orbis for me is the catalyst to enhance other sample libraries.
I believe this will be a fantastic tool in the future for not only kickstarting new ideas but maybe reinvigorating your creative flow with other projects. Sometimes all you need is a little spark of inspiration to propel stale arrangements off onto brand new directions.
I feel I’m a bit of a broken record recently with Spitfire Audio titles. Yes, Orbis is amazing and yes, it’s probably my new favourite library (at least until the next release!). There is no doubt this is a classy product.
Orbis retails at $349 USD, which is a lot. Producers will need to decide for themselves if the library warrants this price. However, I can say the huge sample content and capabilities represent good value.
Outstanding sound quality, as per usual, with an ostentatious interface that demands experimentation. But where I feel Orbis works for me is in its ability to elevate and refresh older sample libraries in my collection.
Orbis could be the invigoration you’re looking for. At the very least you’ll have a lot of fun finding out.
Full details can be found on Spitfire Audio’s website www.spitfireaudio.com
Header image courtesy of Adam Fossier
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