United Plugins Orbitron by Sound-Guy
JMG Orbitron from United Plugins
Orbitron is another fun audio mangler from JMG (aka Jason Gibbins) that provides up to four different simultaneous modulation FX with adjustable blending that itself can be automated using DAW automation, or run using three built-in modes. As you can see in the illustration, there is a “joystick” graphic that controls the contribution of the four FX modules to the output.
The available methods to control the "joystick" are Manual (manually adjusted using a mouse or automated in your DAW), Free (joystick dot rotates at a fixed rate, from once in 20 seconds to once in 2 seconds), Sync (rotational rate synced to the DAW tempo), or a nicely implemented Random mode where the dot wanders around on its own!
The Main Event
At the top of the main Orbitron window are some global controls: Wet/Dry, In/Out on the left and, on the right are the randomization control, A/B comparison, Undo/Redo, Panic (!), and the Preset manager. Nice touches are that the Wet/Dry and In/Out have link buttons so that they cross-track – if Wet is turned down to 70%, Dry moves to 30%, etc. Same for In/Out which provide +/- 24 dB of gain trim before and after all Orbitron processing.
The main controls for the modulation blending are below the Orbitron title with the spin mode window (Random in the above graphic), a Range setting that controls the depth of the modulation mix, and Speed that controls the rate of modulation mix (or alternately a Bars window when Sync mode is used). At the bottom middle of the window is Feed which controls the amount of circular feedback from each individual FX module to the input of the next FX, round and round again! This is a fun control and about the only one I found that can drive the output against the stops. It is definitely one you’ll want to tweak. There is also the Size control which sets the delay for the feedback loops and interacts with Feed to go from subtle movement to a kind of wide reverb/delay overlaid with the modulations. But before you can use these controls to warp a sound, you need to set up the four modulation FX.
While combinations of up to four modulations are possible at once, that is not the total possible modulation types in Orbitron – there are actually twelve possible modulation types: three different choruses, three flanger/phaser FX, three resonant/comb FX, and three motion FX including a rotary speaker. While you likely already have some rotary speaker FX (I have at least half a dozen) this one is nice and of course can interact with any three of the other modulations. And together with the time-modulation effect of the main joystick control, there are likely an infinite number of possible audio variations available.
Each of the individual modulation engines has six controls in addition to the modulation type selection window: all of them have Solo, Depth, Rate and Width, and each modulation type has two specialized controls designed for the particular effect. Depth controls the actual strength of the FX, not just a simple Dry/Wet mix of the FX. This is visually represented by the radius of the spinning colored dot. Rate controls the speed of the modulation, visually represented by the speed of the spinning colored dot. Width creates differences in the left and right channels, creating stereo movement. This is achieved differently for each modulation type, although mostly by offsetting the modulation phase -- at 100% they will be 180 degrees out of phase.
The Solo button disables the 3 other (non-soloed) FX and allows you to more easily hear how a single FX is changing the sound, which is difficult when mixed with the other 3 FX. It can also be left engaged to create a single FX if you simply want a chorus, flange or other modulation. This will greatly reduce CPU use, although I didn’t find the Orbitron CPU load very heavy at all.
The Chorus Line
The three chorus effects are Cosmic Chorus (a four voice chorus with delay and feedback controls), Vintage Chorus (with two voices, saturation and an “Analog” control that creates random variation), and Super Chorus (you choose how many voices you want from one to eight). Each of these three modes yield very different sounds.
Enter the Flanger/Phaser
Both flangers and phasers create their effects using phase cancellation – in a flanger a copy of the input signal is delayed and added with the original signal and the delay varied. This creates a comb filtering effect. In the bygone tape days when using tape machines to edit, the effect was heard when one of two source machines was slowed using a finger on the flange of a tape reel. Phasers also use a copy of the input signal but rather than delay it, it is passed through a series of all-pass filters to create a series of non-harmonically related notch filters.
Tape Flanger recreates the classic tape effect, but adds more capabilities including saturation and a doubling option that mixes a second flanged sound to the mix with a longer delay time and faster modulation rate. The Future Flanger adds some different twists including a Scream control that adds feedback and a Stasis control that increases the delay time and decreases the modulation range. The Phat Phaser includes control of the number of delay lines used (from 1 to 32) and positive or polarity inverted feedback.
Resonant Combs Anyone?
Infinite Combs provides modulated comb filters that create the Shepard's tone effect, where it can sound like a frequency sweep that rises (or falls) forever. There is both a Range control (sets minimum and maximum frequency of the combs) and a Pattern selector that sets the direction of movement with several variations. Liquid Filter provides a morphable HP/LP filter with sweeping cutoffs. It’s two unique controls are Resonance (adjusts the amount of resonance relative to the frequency) and Morph which varies the modulation type between HP and LP, where a blend of both is essentially a band-pass filter. Kinetic Resonator is a filter with resonant peaks and modulating frequencies inside a feedback loop! It’s controls are Feedback level and Filter “type” (1-24), although with some source sounds different settings yield subtle differences.
Finally, there are three spatial modulations. Chaos Vortex is a multiband spinning effect based on the doppler effect with a Spin control (offsets the speeds for different bands) and Radius setting (adjusts the distances for the bands). Rotary Speaker is just that, with a Ratio control that simulates changing the speaker distances from each other and a Fast control that changes speed to emulate the classic fast rotary sound. And Space Time is a multiband and multitap array of modulated delay lines which creates metallic motion if you can imagine that. There is a Metalize control that sets the level of a complex feedback network and Diffract, which skews the delay values, changing the sound character. This one can really mutilate your sounds!
Presets, Dice and More
As JMG have done before, Orbitron includes presets, lots of them, 22 categories with a dozen and more presets per category – I counted over 200 presets before I lost track. The presets provide lots of useful examples although Orbitron’s settings are easy to understand. And there are the JMG three-Dice that can randomize at three levels. The "one" die randomizes only the five modulation settings of each of the four modulation engines. The "three" die randomizes the four modulation engine types as well and their settings (and the Feed and Size controls). The "five" die generates full random settings of all parameters! So you can try a preset that sounds close to what you want and randomize just a few parameters to create minor variations, or for fun, go full “hog” and see (hear) what results.
Speaking of Presets, you will find many of them use the same modulation type in all four quadrants of the main Orbitron window, just with different settings of their parameters. This can create effects that are anything from mildly to wildly different than just using one modulation effect and automating its parameters. And when you want to manually set a parameter with any knob or slider, double-clicking it opens a numeric keypad to enter exact values if you wish.
Automation is available in your DAW with 134 Orbitron parameters available (if I counted right – all the controls, as far as I can see). Varying any parameter during playback results in a smooth change with no clicks or pops, although with some of the more extreme modulations you can get odd wails and echos that may, or may not be what you are looking for! Another nice touch is the graphics with JMG going for a “realistic” panel, with subtle 3-D effects. Pleasant to look at, clear and easy to use.
So, How Does It All Sound?
Because the modulation mix varies continuously and the interaction of the source effects can change at un-synchronized rates using the individual Rate controls, Orbitron offers the possibility of long, evolving FX changes rather than simple repetitive cycling through the same combination of FX. Of course you can sync any source modulations using the same Rate if you want exact repeats, and you can sync the overall modulation cycling to your program tempo. While you can use some extreme settings to create strong effects, over most of the range with all the presets and combinations I tried, the results are very musical, without grating screeching modulations.
I tested Orbitron using a PC Audio Labs Rok Box with Intel Core i7-4770K CPU @ 3.5 GHz, 16 MB RAM running Windows 7 64 bit. CPU usage varied from mode to mode and was understandably low for a single soloed modulation unit (~0.1%) and never exceeded 1% for the most complex four-way configuration I tried. Latency was zero for any configuration
Jason does it again. His Hyperspace plug-in has proven to be my favorite “beyond reality” reverb, and Orbitron adds more out of this world, yet highly musical modulation FX. Highly recommended.
A unique take on modulation processing with a very flexible range of very musical modulation (and even reverb & delay) effects.
Excellent sound quality with 64 bit internal processing.
Continuously variable GUI size with clean layout.
Easy installation and authorization.
Free trial period and reasonably priced for such a complex processor.
User manual can be downloaded as an htm file viewable with any browser.
Not much, but some people might be off-put initially with the horizontal sliders that actually operate with vertical motion of the mouse. However, in its defense, a two-headed vertical arrow appears when the cursor is over any slider and graphically the horizontal format fits the GUI design well. And the traditional cursor motion for a knob is vertical movement, so it’s consistent. I found the action seemed normal after a short time. And you can also use the mouse wheel for fine adjustment of a control or double-click for keypad entry.
At any rate, nothing significant to “con”.