by Sam Burt
Beautiful and evolving sounds. Versatile pulse options. Quick to learn yet can still be complex. Intelligent randomize.
Sounds might be too synthetic and ‘nice’ for some users. Limited sound palette (but arguably this is a pro also.) Not much else!Orbit is an absorbing and deep library that will take you on a journey far past the dark side of the moon. The first class samples combine with instinctive user interface take you on a journey through varied atmospheric pulses and complex pads. Orbit is highly recommended.
Review: Orbit by Wide Blue Sound
Wide Blue Sound might not be as widely known as the major players in the Kontakt library scene, but going on the sheer quality of Orbit, they are very much on par with them. Orbit originally came out in 2015, but now it is a bonafide Kontakt Player library with more presets, bug fixes, additional features, and NKS compatibility. As we never did a full review the first time around, now is the perfect opportunity to revisit the new and improved version.
Orbit sells for $199 from Wide Blue Sound
There has been a growing trend in recent years for sample based synths that can give the musician a plethora of pulsing and rhythmical tonal sounds. In that context, Orbit is not giving us anything especially revolutionary, but the way they create movement and the ease of manipulating it is a welcome take on a familiar theme.
Less than 1 GB of audio gives us the 100 samples (or ‘orbits’ as Wide Blue Sound call them) of which the Orbit engine uses up to 4 in any one instance. Unlike many of their competitors which use a single sound source with various LFOs and arp generators to make it pulse, this engine instead loads up to 4 different sound sources and plays them back in sequence. In the attractive GUI these are represented by the 4 phases of the moon and can be easily switched on and off or swapped with their neighboring samples to alter the sequence.
Essentially it is a four note arpeggiator with a completely different sample (or the same one repeated, should the user want that) on each note. The 100 orbits are easily selected via a pull-down and grouped into useful sections – dark, dreamy, mysterious and aggressive. Each orbit has its own controls for level, pan, tune and filter.
This is where the user chooses exactly how the transition to the next orbit in the sequence is done and it hugely effects the end result. Selecting pulse gives you a percussive feel using a sawtooth envelope for a full volume hit, quickly fading down. Chop is more like a gate for a more stuttered feel. Flow is the gentlest option and gives a delicate cross-fade between the orbits – perfect for pads that need just a little movement. Each mode has a range of parameters so you can easily tweak it to get just the right amount of movement required and of course there is a rate knob with straight, dotted and triplet values.
There are some useful global controls which can alter the whole patch. Clone will copy either the waveform alone or the waveform plus its settings to all other orbit channels which is handy for creating simpler sounds. Random does the same but using random values, though it cleverly locks tuning to semitone randomness. The useful Waves arrows cycle one by one through the various waveforms whilst keeping the settings intact – very good for trying out a sequence you already like but with different source samples.
Many users might not leave the main Orbit page, but for further manipulation, there is a page dedicated to 6 effects. A further tab gives you four lanes of sequencing to modulate many FX parameters, global controls, and the mode section. Modulating the latter with the sequencer means you can do some neat tricks such as morphing the patch from a pure pad to a hard gated stutter. The final page is a bit of a mini manual, detailing the excellent use of keypad modifiers. I wish more libraries built such handy tips into their interface. Various combinations give you useful short cuts, such as alt/option-drag to relatively adjust parameters across all 4 channels and shift-click for micro adjustments (especially handy to slightly detune the samples).
The sounds are quite ‘synthy’ and electronic across the library but on the ambient and gentle side rather than being clinical and aggressive. It is the kind of instrument that sits very well with traditional orchestration, such as the hybrid styles pioneered by Erased Tapes artists. It also reminded me slightly of the excellent score to the recent Versailles TV series where the more obvious choice of orchestra is eschewed in favor of brooding and emotional synthesizer arrangements. As such it would be a great tool for the modern composer creating cutting edge cues, or equally for artists and producers with a penchant for left-field, atmospheric electronica.
To be honest there is not much to criticize here. The update seems to have addressed a number of key issues in terms of functionality improvements and I found no bugs. There is a lack of non-synth, atonal and generally nasty sounds, but it seems this was remedied by the release of the Eclipse library as the bad cop to the Orbit good cop (and now I really want to try that one too!).
Orbit is very highly recommended. There is a clear focus on the specific vibe and function of the library, a beautiful selection of very long evolving samples and an excellent interface. It all results in the ability to create original and gorgeous sounding parts in a short amount of time – surely music to a composer’s ears!