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In-depth Feature:  SonicLAB: Arturia Origin DSP Modular
Prepare to get lost in Modular Time
Nick B writes: .


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10:38 mins
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, I’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 I’ll attempt to answer it for you - but the unit will no longer sitting on my desk.

Respek Time
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.

Modular Time
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 don’t really utilize much of the knob and function buttons for the construction of a synth – 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. There’s also a three layer joystick controller for yet more hands-on action.

Effects Time
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.

Sequencer Time
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. There’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.

Judgement Time
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 it’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.

Pricing
Available in desktop form now (there's a keyboard version coming real soon) the price is around $3000 US, €2490 and £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 – considering the quality of this first OS, I’d say the future is bright.

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       23 Comments...  
    AlexAnder    Said...

    ppg realizer mkII

    30-Oct-08 10:37 AM


    Nick B    Said...

    I'm not familiar with that - is it something along the same lines

    30-Oct-08 11:53 AM


    fizmo    Said...

    it's a little pricey for what it is. you can buy a laptop and get all the arturia synths for well under that price. true you can't mix the modules. i still think a nord modular g2 is much more reasonable in price and flexibility than this is.

    30-Oct-08 12:06 PM


    Nick B    Said...

    Maybe.

    Except I doubt if you'd get the same guaranteed level of performance from a laptop that wasnt top of the range.

    V collection= Around $1k
    15" Apple lappy $2k

    No controllers or audio interface in ther yet...

    Ma

    30-Oct-08 12:10 PM


    shekhar dhain    Said...

    its not cheap, but it IS versatile..thats the first thought that hit me.

    Other thoughts :-

    * ive used three of the arturia softsynth versions, and their user interfaces and sound arent close to the originals. Their tweakability (is that in the dicitonary?) isnt very user friendly either..not out of the box anyway.

    * Value for money...compared to dedicated workstations like fantom, motif, m3 and even the virus and radias, which i feel are pretty good competitors (the filtering and total synthesis approach), its out of the reach of a lot of people. If i bought one, id use it heavily for soundtrack and idents, but i feel its still too much money for what it is. It has the feel of "lets throw in everything bar the kitchen sink", which could do with some judicious thought.

    * Nick has covered my earlier comment about some paramters not being assignable, in the review (another great review yet again there, Nick). That is not acceptable in such a pricey and hardware based instrument.

    * who or WHAT is the market for something that in keyboard form, at this hard economic time, isn't going to sell for less than two thousand pounds EVEN after dealer discounts?

    To sum up, it needs work, and as much as arturia would hate to hear, it also needs a price drop..a BIG one.

    30-Oct-08 01:50 PM


    Nick B    Said...

    Good points Shekhar.

    I must confess, I'm not totally clear about who will be buying this. Most synths at this price range are either total workstations like the Fantom etc or pure analog machines rather than DSP based.

    One of the attractions of the V synths from Arturia is that they offer the user a low cost /low maintenance alternative to the actual physical synths themselves.

    The main attraction of this is that it is a very deep programming machine and will enable you to come up with some pretty unique and complex synth patches, that and the performance aspect.

    I dont agree that it is not very user friendly, I actually got to grips with it quite quickly and I'm not a patient person :-)

    30-Oct-08 04:22 PM


    mike Huckaby    Said...

    man, this was one hell of a useful review for anyone considering buying this piece of gear. Im seriously interested in buying this machine. this is like reaktor in hardware form. which im all about.

    this review was accurate, and seemingly straight forward. it took me a while to find this review on the net, but it was well worth it. i agree. many full pledged daws are about the same price, but if learning synthesis is your thing, and you would like to hold something instead of stare at something, this is the unit, and revolutionary piece of gear that makes it happen. from here on, my own eyes, ears, and wallet will determine if im finally buying it.

    30-Oct-08 06:05 PM


    shekhar dhain    Said...

    aaah, no Nick, I meant the original software versions wernt so easy to use as vst's, with the dreaded "learn" feature for knob tweaks and so on, having to be employed for everything. This thing is festooned with knobs and the o/s is new from the ground up.

    The sound(s) for the minimoogv, arp 2600v and cs80v were also miles off the original imho.

    I agree on the low cost/low maintenance angle entirely. I own some of these, and other than the voyager (thanks to mike and amos at moog yet again, if theyre reading), the rest can be a bit painful to maintain.

    30-Oct-08 06:06 PM


    dekkers    Said...

    OMG! the screen design and ui looks more like 300$ than 3000.

    must be a font from free-fonts.com

    31-Oct-08 10:26 AM


    victorass    Said...

    Spectralis with all it`s cons and pros costs a little less))And I paid for it with no doubt. As far as Arturia is concern - sorry((

    01-Nov-08 11:01 AM


    anon    Said...

    dekkers...no clue what you're talking about, mate. If you read closely at free-fonts.com, the font designers usually require purchase, if using for commercial use.

    Even so, why does the UI really matter?

    01-Nov-08 05:34 PM


    Yann D    Said...

    Yes definitely a realizer that works. Guess that means PPG was 22 years ahead of its time... Good on you Arturia. Lets just hope the idea catches on and cheaper versions get released in the future - call it "programmable synthesis" or "compound synthesis" or something along those lines.

    And to the person complaining about the look of the thing - the structure of the OS is so revolutionary you can forgive them for not adding state-of-the-art graphics.

    02-Nov-08 05:01 AM


    subsonix    Said...

    Great review and I agree, from what I've heard of the presets they definately let it down - they should be more memorable and attention grabbing, at least for that price.

    I've programmed synths for years and this synth does interest me, but it's way over priced considering its emulations aren't that close to the originals (to my ears).

    Maybe tweaking all the algorithms, getting some decent presets and dropping the price to £1200 would make it easier for them to sell.

    At present I'm really not sure who it's aimed at...

    03-Nov-08 11:19 AM


    XYtoTheDoubleG    Said...

    Wow.... That's a scary price.

    I don't know if this one's going to be for me. shoot, for that kind of money I could buy a brand new andromeda, or an amazing "analog" modular synth.

    I just can't imagine dropping 3k for a souped up soft synth.

    IDK.......

    25-Nov-08 12:20 AM


    XYtoTheDoubleG    Said...

    Wow.... That's a scary price.

    I don't know if this one's going to be for me. shoot, for that kind of money I could buy a brand new andromeda, or an amazing "analog" modular synth.

    I just can't imagine dropping 3k for a souped up soft synth.

    IDK.......

    25-Nov-08 12:21 AM


    XYtoTheDoubleG    Said...

    Wow.... That's a scary price.

    I don't know if this one's going to be for me. shoot, for that kind of money I could buy a brand new andromeda, or an amazing "analog" modular synth.

    I just can't imagine dropping 3k for a souped up soft synth.

    IDK.......

    25-Nov-08 12:22 AM


    XYtoTheDoubleG    Said...

    Wow.... That's a scary price.

    I don't know if this one's going to be for me. shoot, for that kind of money I could buy a brand new andromeda, or an amazing "analog" modular synth.

    I just can't imagine dropping 3k for a souped up soft synth.

    IDK.......

    25-Nov-08 12:22 AM


    XYtoTheDoubleG    Said...

    OOPS....

    25-Nov-08 12:23 AM


    phobik    Said...

    You can buy an Andromeda A6, Jupiter 8 or Prophet 8 and have a analog synth.

    07-Mar-09 02:37 PM


    Sven from spain    Said...

    A lot of synthesiser indeed,but if you just consider something like a Waldorf blofeld, even in keyboard form(850$,750€),then just imagine what you can buy extra to reach such amount of money.Even much cheaper machines can get you around some amazing forms of sound-shaping that can keep you buy for months of intense moments of synth-programming...

    18-Mar-09 07:51 PM


    flux302    Said...

    great review or more of an overview... it looks great, i would love to touch one in person. I wonder how quick they will be with updates. I know the jupiter update should already be out.

    14-May-09 09:26 PM


    MessyCables    Said...

    As far as I know, this is the first and only standalone digital modular synthesizer in the world. Nice challenge! Well, 3000 bucks are not nothing, for sure, but how much would cost a 32-voices polyphonic analog modular monster ?!? Wonder how two serially cabled ARP and CS-80 filters behave together... :-)

    12-Jun-09 12:00 PM


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    28-Jun-10 07:36 PM


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