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electronic MUSICIAN


By Peter Freeman | June 1, 2001

During the five years since Eventide introduced its popularDSP4000 UltraHarmonizer, processors have become considerably fasterand cheaper. The company has capitalized on that trend in a big waywith the Orville Harmonizer, its new flagship digital signalprocessor. The Orville is a fully programmable, multichannel,multipurpose, 24-bit device that shows a clear resemblance to itsvenerable predecessor, the DSP4000 (see Fig. 1). But theOrville goes far beyond the DSP4000's capabilities.

For starters, the Orville incorporates two independent Motorola56303 signal processors (DSP A and DSP B), each with four virtualinputs and outputs. You can run the two processors in parallel, inseries, or in various combinations. In addition, the Orville boastsfour analog inputs, four analog outputs, four digital inputs, andfour digital outputs (all available simultaneously), and you canroute any input to any output (see Fig. 2). By combiningits highly flexible I/O routing scheme with a staggering number ofhigh-quality presets, Eventide has created a device withmind-boggling potential.

As a previous DSP4000 owner, I often couldn't combine patchesbecause my patches used most or all of the unit's available digitalsignal processing (DSP) power. With the Orville's significantlygreater resources and dual-machine architecture, however, combiningpatches is easy. (It's possible to combine two preexisting DSP4000patches and run them on a single Orville processor.)

Not only does the Orville have more DSP power than itspredecessor, but it also has much more delay and as much as 174seconds of sample RAM. That RAM is separate from the 80 seconds ofmono delay memory (40 seconds for each processor) that is alsoincluded. In fact, DSP A can use the sample time along with its40-second delay allotment for a total of more than three and a halfminutes of delay time.

The Orville supports a wide range of sampling frequencies aswell as 16-bit and 24-bit resolution. The 24-bit resolution ishardwired, so if an input signal has only 16-bit resolution, thelower 8 least-significant bits are left blank to be filled byprocessing. Orville can output a 24-bit signal or dither from 24 to16 bits. The preset sampling rates supported are 44.1, 48, 88.2,and 96 kHz, though the unit can lock to any incoming sampling ratewithin that range.


The Orville continues the now-familiar Eventide interfacedesign, which includes a large backlit LCD, a rotary encoder knob,dedicated and soft function keys, and a numeric keypad. Like theDSP4000, the Orville provides Program, Parameter, and Selectbuttons and a PC Card RAM/ROM slot for adding or saving newpatches. The Orville's expanded I/O capabilities are evidenced byits four LEDs, which are switchable to indicate analog, digital, orinternal sources. In addition, the Bypass button functionsindependently for each processor. Because the Orville's LCD onlyshows one processor's parameters at a time, a Processor Select A/Bbutton determines which processor's information is visible.

At its most basic level, the Orville is simple to use. You caneasily choose a processor, call up a patch, and begin editing withthe Parameter button, the four soft keys, and the rotary encoder.That is the same approach that Eventide has used for many years,and besides being familiar to many studio owners, it's efficientand speedy. Depending on the patch you select, there can be a fairnumber of parameters to tweak, even without delving deep into theediting operations. (Multitap delay programs, for example, maycontain individual delay time, level, and filter settings for eachof the eight taps.)

The sheer complexity of the Orville's routing capabilities cansometimes be confusing, and the LCD's text-based parameter pagesdon't make them any clearer. It's too bad the Orville doesn'temploy its onboard graphic-display features more extensively.

At first I had a hard time grasping the routing scheme. Forexample, the Orville flashes a complaining LED if it thinks itneeds a digital clock signal from a specific input. I set up asimple series A-to-B configuration using only inputs 1 and 2 of thetwo processors, but the Orville thought it wasn't getting theappropriate sync.

After a bit of head scratching and a call to Eventide, I figuredout that with the Orville, connected routings are active regardlessof signal presence; therefore, you must disconnect unused routingsin the routing page. Even if you're only using the digital ins andouts, make sure that the analog I/O is not routed to or fromanywhere else on the Orville.


The Orville has far too many effects programs (more than 900) todescribe, so I'll highlight a noteworthy few. (For an overview ofthe Orville's onboard effects, see the sidebar “The Orville'sParade of Presets.”)

Eventide has always been best known for its industry-leadingpitch-shifting technology, so it's no surprise that the Orville'spitch-shifting capabilities are truly awesome. For example, you canchange pitches over an eight-octave range (four octaves up anddown) with independent shifters (each with its own delay time)operating simultaneously within an Orville patch. In fact, one ofthe pitch-shift presets, Twelve Shifts, provides 12 shifters andquad operation. Keep in mind that it uses only one of the Orville'stwo processors, so loading the Twelve Shifts patch into processorsA and B would provide 24 independent shifters. Add the Orville'svast internal signal-routing flexibility, and you begin to get anidea of its astounding capabilities.

One of the Orville's biggest improvements over its predecessoris the addition of formant shifting. Although that has become arather trendy feature, it's powerfully implemented in severalOrville patches. Ultra Interval, for example, is a correctiveshifter with a three-octave range. It lets you specify a separateformant value for each semitone above the three octaves, making ita brilliant corrective tool for vocals. At the opposite end of theapplications spectrum is formant manipulation, which can be used asan effect with modulations. Because the Orville's formant parametercan be addressed like any parameter, it is accessible not only bymodulation sources within a patch but also by external sources suchas footpedals and MIDI controllers.

Since Eventide's H3000, the Harmonizer series has done greatthings with delays, and the Orville continues that tradition.Stereo 3-D CircleDly is one of my favorite patches. It's apsychedelic panning and phase-shifting stereo delay that createsthe illusion of going in and out of the speakers. The effect is notunlike the classic Dynotronics Cyclosonic Panner that was popularin the '80s. It's not a 4-channel patch like some of the Orville'sSurround patches, but Stereo 3-D CircleDly goes a long way towardcreating a dimension that seems to exceed the stereo field.Surround sound is one area that clearly figured heavily in theOrville's design; the unit offers a substantial number of 4-channelpatches.

Orville Harmonizer Specifications

Sampling Rates 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz
Resolution 16- and 24-bit
Digital I/O (4) AES/EBU or (2) AES and (2) S/PDIF
Analog Inputs Any combination of (4) balanced XLR or
(4) unbalanced mono ¼"
Analog Outputs (4) balanced XLR
Signal-to-Noise Ratio >110 dBA
Frequency Response (+0/-0.1 dB) @ sample rate 20 Hz-20 kHz@44.1 kHz; 20 Hz-22 kHz@48 kHz;
20 Hz-44 kHz@96 kHz
Sampling Time 174 sec. mono
Digital Delay Time 80 sec. mono (40 secs. per processor), or 214
sec. for DSP A using the 174 secs. of
sampling time for delay
Remote Control Inputs As many as (2) footpedals or (6)
footswitches or a combination
Dimensions 2U × 12.5" (D)
Weight 12 lbs.

The Orville sounds great and has a warm, smooth, and clear soundthat takes advantage of its impressive processing capabilities.Because the Orville offers so many types of effects, it's hard topick a favorite, but I found myself using the reverbs and delaysmore than the other factory programs. The Orville handles effectssuch as distortion and sonic degradation (using bit-depthreduction, for example) very well, so I used those programs a lottoo.

Combining the A and B processors to create one massive effectsprogram can yield spectacular results if the right programs arechosen. I tried many combinations, and among the most successfulwere distortion into delay or reverb, delay and reverb in parallel,sampler into delay or reverb (for triggered processed samples),filtering into delay or reverb, and distortion into filtering.


Programming the Orville is conceptually simple, but the processis actually quite involved. The general paradigm is similar to thatof a modular synthesizer: modules (in this case, DSP modules) areconnected to create a final program (patch). Much of the complexityarises from the Orville's large number of modules. The modulecategories include Bridge, Control Math, Control Process, Delay,Detector, Dynamic, External, Filter, Interface, Math,Miscellaneous, Mixer, Node, Oscillator, Pitchshift, and Reverb.That substantial list yields 167 modules, and although it isn'tnecessary to learn them all in-depth, becoming familiar with theprogramming process (and the basic modules' functions) takestime.

Fortunately, Eventide offers a free-ware editor for Windows thathas been available since the days of the DSP4000. The program,called VSigFile, has been updated to support the Orvilleand can learn new module definitions as the unit is updated and newmodules are developed. Hardly elegant or pretty, VSigFileis an absolute necessity for serious programming. It lets you viewand edit module parameters, and you can use it to transfer patchesto or from the Orville if you want to modify an existing patch.VSigFile also lets you build programs from scratch andupload them from your PC to the Orville.

Dealing with the interface setup is arguably one of thethorniest aspects of creating patches with the Orville. That'sbecause an Orville patch's interface elements — onscreenknobs, soft-key assignments, virtual meters, and so on — aremodules that must be connected and configured down to the mostminute detail (such as the increments in which a knob moves).Fortunately, you can look at existing Orville patches and reuseindividual modules or even whole groups of modules in yourpatch-creation process; you don't have to start from zero everytime. In fact, as you develop a patch library, you'll accumulatecommonly used sets of controls and processing blocks that caneasily be reused.

Connection to the VSigFile program is done through MIDIor the Orville's built-in RS-232 serial port, which I used duringthe review process. The connection couldn't be simpler — oneserial cable and some menu selections, and I had bidirectionalcommunication between the box and the PC. Everything worked asexpected.

Another convenient aspect of the Orville's PC interface is itsability to receive operating-system updates through Flash ROM. Anupdating application can be downloaded from Eventide's Web site forfree. I used that application to get the latest Orville operatingsystem; it was a painless process that took less than ten minutesand required no chip swapping.

The Orville also provides a built-in RJ45 port, which connectsto an optional hardware remote network called EVE/NET. You canconnect as many as four remotes ($1,595 each) to as many as fourOrvilles (in parallel), which allows for installation in a varietyof studio situations. Connections are made with Ethernet cables(CAT-5). The remote duplicates the Orville's front-panel controlsand adds eight soft rotary encoders (see Fig. 3). Thosealways address the display's first eight parameters, which areduplicated on the remote. Each rotary encoder has a built-in switchactivated by pushing down the knob.


The Orville's documentation is divided into two main parts: theOperating Manual and the Programmer's Manual. The Operating Manualcovers the basic functions, including audio connections, controllayout, basic patch selection, and parameter editing. TheProgrammer's Manual explores the Orville's modules, offerspatch-editing tutorials, and shows you how to create programs fromscratch. The documentation is generally straightforward and clear,and the two manuals overlap very little.

The Orville was a long time in development, and that is apparentin its sonic integrity and great flexibility. If you're familiarwith Eventide's products, you'll feel comfortable with theOrville's design. If you're new to the Eventide universe, it won'ttake long to become acquainted with the unit's basics, though theintricacies of patch editing take time to master. Nonetheless, theprocessor's sonic possibilities are truly world-class and shouldprove endlessly useful in just about any music or post-productionsituation. The Orville is a professional device, and it's pricedaccordingly; it proves the adage “You get what you payfor.”

Peter Freeman is a freelance bassist, synthesist, andcomposer living in New York City. He has worked with Seal, JonHassell, John Cale, Nile Rodgers, and Shawn Colvin, amongothers.


This partial list of Orville Harmonizer effects categoriesprovides a glimpse into the powerful capabilities of an amazingdevice. The unit ships with more than 900 presets, and updatesshould make that number even larger.

Basics: stripped-down starting-point versions ofreverb, compression, delay, pitch shift, filtering, EQ, sampling,and delay

Beat Counter: delay programs with an intelligentbeat-interpretation mechanism that can extrapolate delay time basedon almost any rhythmic input when fine-tuning parameters areset

Delays: parallel, ping-pong, multitap, reverse, andmany others

Delays-Effects: more esoteric delay flavors, such asfiltered-band delays

Delays-Loops: multitrack RAM-based delay loopers andrecorders

Delays-Modulated: flange, chorus, detune, panning,Leslie simulator

Dual Effects: stereo reverb combinations and mixedeffects

Dynamics: compressors, duckers, tremolos

Equalizers: graphic EQ, 8-band, 3-band, stereo, quad,and many more

Film-Atmospherics: complex atmospheric programs

Filters: Creamy Vocoder, Harmonic Enhance, Bandpass, EZLeslie, Cup Mute, and others

Fix Tools: pitch correction for repairing pitchproblems on single tracks

Front of House: programs for live sound, such as banksof compressors and instrument-specific reverbs

Inst-Clean: various preamp programs with effects

Inst-Distortion: distortion patches

Inst-Polyfuzz: complex distortion patches witheffects

Manglers: patches that degrade input-signal quality,such as bit-depth reduction

Mastering Suite: stereo compressors intended formastering applications and effects such as Class A Distortion andTape Flange emulation

MIDI Keyboard: patches that respond in specific ways toMIDI keyboard input, such as harmonization, pitch/delay, andothers

MIDI Clock: specific programs that derive timinginformation from MIDI Clock, such as delays, chorus, panners, andtremolos

Mix Tools: multi-effects toolbox patches intended formixing situations

Multi-Effects: more effects combinations

Panners: Auto, Circle, 3-D Circle Delay, Fly-by,Gyroscope, Joystik, Quad

Percussion: drum- and percussion-specific effects suchas delays and reverbs

Phasers: Static, Random, Sample and Hold, Techno

Post Suite: a unique category in which the Orville isused as a sound source; intended for film post-production —record scratch emulator, whoosh maker, 16 mm-projectorsimulator

Remix Tools: triggered versions of certain effects,including filtering, flanging, phasing, and panning

Reverb: Halls, Plates, Rooms, Small Rooms, Preverb,Quad, Unusual

Ring Mods: Envelope, Modulating, True ringmodulator

Samplers: Timesqueeze, Multi Trigger, Panning,Varispeed, Triggered Reverse, VocalFlyer, Filter Trig

Shifters: normal, Diatonic, Ultra, Unusual

Sound Effects: another synthesis bank —Doorbells, Helicopters, UFOs

Spatialization: 3-D PhaseInverter, Quad,QuadDlyBasedPan

Synthesis: sample-and-hold FM, FM Timbre Factory, Riseor Fall Oscillator

Tap Tempo: delays, tremolos, filter, and other effectswith Tap Tempo capabilities

Test Tools: signal generators, scopes, spectrumanalyzers

Utilities: tuners, dither, metronome, delaycalculator

Vintage Emulation: emulations of well-known pieces ofoutboard gear, such as the AMS DMX-1580S delay, EMT plate, andreverb

Virtual Pedals: simulations of stompboxes

Vox: vocal-specific effects, including pitchcorrection, pitch change, delays, and reverbs

Programming: tutorial patches designed to aid in thepatch-creation process


Orville Harmonizer

multi-effects processor


PROS: Great sound. Four-channel operation. Remotecapability. Extremely flexible dual-processor architecture.Software-upgradeable through Flash ROM. Patch creation with PCfreeware application.

CONS: Expensive. Routing page is counterintuitive.

Eventide, Inc.
tel. (201) 641-1200

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