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Arturia Origin Review (Bonus Material)

February 9, 2009
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Origin of the Species

You can explore the Origin''s presets for a very long time, but its intuitive modular design invites digging in and programming sounds yourself. Of course, you can simply deconstruct any of the presets, adding or deleting modules as needed, but if you''d rather start from scratch—or jump-start from some point close to scratch—the Origin offers templates catering to a variety of needs. Select the Minimoog template if you would like to use that instrument''s components as a starting point; pushing a button presents you with a Minimoog programming panel. Twisting the jog wheel changes what''s in the display, scrolling between the Control, Oscillator Bank, Mixer, Modifiers, and Output sections; pressing down on the jog wheel magnifies the displayed section, bringing it to the forefront for editing. You could build an entire patch using only the jog wheel, leaving your right hand free to play and audition as you go.

A patch can use as many as nine oscillators, four filters, and four VCA modules, assignable to any of the four stereo mixers; as many as three effects; and more, until the Origin''s CPU (or your imagination) runs out of steam. If you are not committed to the provenance of modeled oscillators, the new Origin oscillators sound fine, offer a typical selection of analog-synth waveforms, and consume fewer CPU cycles than the ARP 2600, CS-80, Minimoog, or Jupiter-8 models.

Start from scratch, and you can add modules as desired. A button at the top of the display lets you toggle between Rack view, which shows an uncluttered array of modules used in your program, and Patch view, which traces module connections with color-coded signal-flow lines. Complex patches can be disorienting, but here again, the contextual buttons come to the rescue with a View tab that switches to an isolated view of the selected module''s signal path; that''s a welcome relief from the eye- and brain-straining potential of convoluted patches.

I''d be remiss if I didn''t say a bit more about the Origin''s sequencer, as its ability to embed controller data supplies a terrific hands-off modulation source. A sequence can hold as many as 32 steps, and each sequence comprises 3 tracks or subsequences. That means that in addition to one subsequence controlling oscillator frequency, you can assign another subsequence to vary filter frequency, pulse width, or other parameters. In essence, you could regard any track as a multistage envelope generator. The ability to place modulating events in a track as discrete steps can help impart intriguing rhythmic characteristics to timbral changes as well as to pitch-based events.

The Sequencer section offers plenty of real-time control, including buttons to enable or deactivate any of the three subsequences, buttons to mute or play steps, and knobs to vary the frequency or value for any step, all of which is immediately reflected onscreen.

Patches and Multis are saved in the same memory area, rather than in separate and exclusive pages. This is actually quite convenient, as any program can quickly become a Layer, a part within a multichannel setup, or a split and saved without needing to jump from page to page. The only hitch is that all patches comprising a Multi need to share the global modulation settings of the joystick and sequencer, and the choice of effects is limited to those available at the patch level. This is not as inflexible as it might appear; each patch can hold as many as four VCA modules, and each can be sent to any of four stereo output pairs. You can process any component VCA externally or internally by adjusting the returns of the three built-in effects processors.

Effects include chorus, delay, reverb, distortion, and dual phaser (two phase shifters that you can arrange in a serial or parallel configuration). The reverb sounds sweet and offers an adequate if not deluxe assortment of parameters; you get size, high-frequency damping, and a dry-to-wet control. Delay offers left- and right-channel controls with independent times and synchronization. You can send the channels bouncing from speaker to speaker with the Ping-Pong settings. Phase shifter, delay, and chorus LFOs synchronize to MIDI Clock. Arturia anticipates new processors down the line—a bit-crusher module, parametric EQ, and Leslie simulation, for example—to accompany the tonewheel instrument module that''s also in the works.

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