A good palette of sound generators can make or break a software synthesizer workstation, and I''m happy to report that Orion really shines in this regard. It supplies a wide variety of synthesis technologies to choose from, including traditional subtractive, sample-based, FM, wavetable, and plucked-string-modeling synthesis. There''s nothing here from the additive or granular synth families, and no physical modeling of horns, pipes, or bowed strings, but you get enough to keep you in synthesizer heaven for quite a while (especially if you''re into dance beats and techno music). For my projects, four synths covered 90 percent of my needs. First, a sample-based drum machine called DrumRack provides button-based beat programming and comes with lots of well-organized samples. I loaded individual WAV files into the drum instruments, but if you can find or create Steinberg LM4 files (freeware editors are available for this format), you can set up multisampled instruments with Velocity switching. For specialized effects processing, you can also route individual instruments to as many as four different mixer channels.
FIG. A: Orion''s Toxic III generator provides a 6-operator FM synth combined with an analog filter, a step sequencer, and built-in effects.
Orion provides a capable sample player called Sampler, with support for three envelopes and two LFOs. More than 1 GB of sample material comes with the product, as does the necessary feature set to create your own presets. The provided samples cover the bases well, with a good variety of sounds for many types of instruments. The emphasis here is on breadth, not depth, with many presets containing no more than 10 or 15 relatively short samples. If you have discriminating ears, you may want to enhance Orion''s sample library a bit, especially for complex instruments such as acoustic pianos.
FIG. B: Wasp is a modeled analog workhorse capable of creating a wide variety of subtractive synth sounds using an intuitive interface.
Toxic III is a capable 6-operator FM synth with extra goodies like an analog-modeled filter, a step sequencer, and built-in effects (see Fig. A). Of course, you can use Orion''s pattern sequencer and effects in lieu of the synthesizer''s built-in sequencer and effects. To demonstrate this synth, I put together a short audio example using nothing but the drum sampler and multiple instances of Toxic III (see Web Clip A). Note that Orion also includes Toxic II, the predecessor to this synth, but I see no compelling reason to use the older version unless you already have Orion projects that depend on it.
Rounding out my list of bread-and-butter synths is Wasp, which had just enough features to dial in classic analog-synth sounds, but not so many features that I had to keep searching through knobs and menus (see Fig. B). Wasp has all the basics: two oscillators, one suboscillator, two LFOs, two 4-stage envelope generators, and a simpler third envelope that can route to selected settings such as LFO depth and oscillator pitch.
Wasp also has a few extras, such as a ring modulator and distortion circuit. The only element missing was a mono mode with portamento, but mono mode and portamento are available in Toxic III.