SonicLAB: Arturia Origin DSP Modular
Prepare to get lost in Modular Time
The Origin(al) Synth
With the release of the Origin, Arturia have completed the circle between their software range of virtual instruments and hardware synthesizers. Starting out with the Analog Factory Experience, they which broke out of the box and added their own hardware control. Now the Origin is a fully blown DSP powered synth with a proper forest of dedicated knobs and a fully programmable modular structure, that takes some elements of their V range and runs them on two, powerful Tiger Sharc DSP chips.
For specifications, see below, in the mean time, Iâ€™ll summarize my impressions - alas we only had the unit for a short time as it's in high demand by the reviewers as you can imagine. As a result, I apologize now, if I missed any specific feature you wanted to explore, but you can always leave me a comment in the section below and Iâ€™ll attempt to answer it for you - but the unit will no longer sitting on my desk.
Firstly, I'd like to congratulate Arturia for what is a major new instrument and what must have been a massive task to make this first release work without a hitch. I would have expected the odd crash or freeze but it was rock solid. I know that they delayed release until they were ready and it does show, the temptation must have been to get it out of the door to recoup what must be a significant investment as soon as possible.
The basic concept is that you create a synthesizer from various modules - oscillators, filters, envelopes, LFOs etc. The oscillators and filters can be chosen from a palette of Origin, Minimoog, Arp 2600, CS80v and Jupiter 8 V - these are taken from Arturia's own software instruments. These can constructed together with the other modules in any combination within the 24 available module slots. Then in the Patch view, you 'patch' them together by making connections via a menu driven system. Sounds complicated?
Well it is I guess, but in operation it's pretty straightforward and you soon find yourself throwing together modules with abandon. To get you started, Arturia provide you with a couple of pre-made modules. If you start from scratch, in the true modular way, you will need to patch outputs etc so that you can actually hear a sound, and this can lead to periods of modular time - be prepared to get lost in this. One thing worth mentioning is that Arturia donâ€™t really utilize much of the knob and function buttons for the construction of a synth â€“ your pretty much consigned to the cursor and data wheel for this. Real-Time
As well as the 8 assignable rotary encoders that flank the large colour LCD, there are dedicated synth parameters for Oscillator, Filter, LFO and envelope, as well as Mixer, Effects and Sequencer sections. Clearly, with the possibility of having multiple instances of any of the synth modules, you need a way to select with instance you are controlling. Just twist the select knob present on each of those sections to flip between filter 1 filter 2, or osc 1, 2, 3 etc. You can also set up Macros that let you control the parameter of multiple modules at the same time. Thereâ€™s also a three layer joystick controller for yet more hands-on action.
With each instance of a synth program there are three effects units, each with it's own dedicated mix, edit and on/off control. Unfortunately effects algorithms are a bit limited with Chorus, Reverb, Delay, Distortion and Dual Phaser only - but we're told that Arturia plan to add to this with future updates. Each of the multi-timbral slots can have three effects, giving a total of 12 available effects units.
This is a pretty powerful element to the synth and gives you three, 32 step sequences per part. Each of the three channels can be routed almost anywhere - from the usual note and trigger to any number of other synth parameters. Thereâ€™s a swing feature for grooviness and a nifty pattern select mode so you can play the sequencer live. MIDI input will transpose the pattern.
Okay, so all this stuff gives you a deep pool of synthesizer-ness to immerse yourself into and believe me, you will find plenty to keep you busy, but there is a issue which needs mentioning. If you take the internal presets (1000 programs, 256 Multis) I have to confess I was not blown away - there is a WOW factor missing that I would really like to have experienced given the massive programming possibilities available. I'm not saying itâ€™s rubbish or anything, many of the sounds are perfectly usable, but there's an X-Factor which is missing to my ears. I think this is most apparent in the bass department, that elusive Phat quality is not present in abundance, perhaps the addition of an effect algorithm of EQ or bass boost might solve this. Having said that the pads and leads and sequenced or arpeggiated sounds are where this synth is most at home.
Available in desktop form now (there's a keyboard version coming real soon) the price is around $3000 US, â‚¬2490 and Â£1899.
There I've said it , it's not a bargain, but it is a helluva lot of synth and if you buy into this Arturia are committed to updating and improving the synth â€“ considering the quality of this first OS, Iâ€™d say the future is bright.