Artiphon Unveils Orba, a $99 Portable Synth + Looper + MIDI Controller

Today Artiphon launched a crowdfunding campaign for their new Orba handheld musical instrument.

Orba is a $99 portable synthesizer, looper, and MIDI controller that’s designed to let anyone to make music immediately. They describe its minimalist design as “a cross between a gaming controller and half an orange,” and its touch sensitivity translates gestures from fingers and hands directly into music:

Orba allows the user to play every part of the song on a single instrument, switching easily among Drum, Bass, Chord, and Lead parts, then layering the parts to create a song with the built-in looper.

Eight touch pads with multi-color LEDs detect a variety of gestures like tapping, sliding, and vibrato, and motion sensors let players wave, tilt, and shake for more effects. Orba can be used as a standalone synth with a built-in speaker and connects wirelessly to mobile devices and computers via Bluetooth MIDI.

Artiphon made a short demo video of using the Orba’s controls, featuring electronic producer Johnny B Good:

Artiphon Orba Features:

  • Eight capacitive-sensing pads for feather-touch control
  • Accelerometer and gyroscope capture a range of gestures
  • Center menu button accesses four presets, the looper, and other functions
  • Onboard synthesizer and built-in speaker offer an immediate playing experience
  • Connect to the cross-platform Orba app for more sounds, songs, and settings
  • Use MIDI over Bluetooth or USB to plug into any of your favorite music apps
  • Use the 1/8″ (3.5mm) output to listen on headphones, speakers, and amps
  • Multicolor LEDs respond to the way you play
  • Embedded haptics offer vibration feedback
  • USB Rechargeable battery

Three music-making modes: There are three ways to make music with Orba: play immediately with the onboard synth, customize with the Orba cross-platform app, or use it as a MIDI controller via Bluetooth LE or USB.

Artiphon designed a new synthesizer engine for Orba, with a broad range of synth sounds that work seamlessly with the instrument’s various playing gestures. Orba’s embedded looper enables the user to layer multiple parts without looking at a screen. Orba has a built-in speaker; plug in headphones to play alone, or connect an external amp to play it loud.

The Orba companion app lets users customize their instrument with new sounds, tunings, and patterns. Users can also share the music they create straight to social media and export to other music-making apps. Orba works with iOS, Mac, Windows, and Android, and is compatible with all major recording software including GarageBand, Ableton Live, Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, and FL Studio.

Orba also works as a MIDI controller over Bluetooth LE and USB. Orba is compatible with any MIDI app (including MPE synths and software) and all MIDI-enabled DAWs (GarageBand, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, FL Studio, etc.). Think of Orba as a musical mouse, giving you intuitive control over your synths and samples.

Pricing and Availability. The Orba Kickstarter campaign opens to backers today (November 25) and runs until January 12th, 2020. The crowdfunding campaign offers a limited number of instruments at an earlybird $79 price; normal price for the Orba will be $99 US.

More information is available at the Artiphon website.

10 thoughts on “Artiphon Unveils Orba, a $99 Portable Synth + Looper + MIDI Controller

  1. Did I hear him say you could trigger GarageBand sounds with it? That would turn it into a useful side controller for more organic or bizarro MPE duties. That nice demo action still took some woodshedding. You may be able to doodle with it right away, but playing it for real like those guys? Plan for some time in the garage, jumping around like you’re on goofballs so you can figure it out. This will fit neatly next to the smallest Seaboard as a hits-the-mark, left-field controller.

  2. Was *just* dreaming of a portable, battery-powered standalone, expressive electronic music instrument…
    So it could actually be a dream come true (not just a cliché expression, in this case). Sure, eight pads may sound very limiting. But it’s quite possible that the gestures will allow for things like switching octaves or modulating between keys. Even if they don’t, it’s quite possible to do cool bass and lead lines within one octave.

    The “casual musicking” angle is really cool. You could play a bit to relax, while at work. Or play with friends, without having to set up anything complicated. Since it uses a simple pad layout, it should indeed be quite easy to play simple things. It shouldn’t be too difficult to play something more elaborate.
    The MPE support is what really pushes this one above a threshold. Unless ROLI comes out with a very inexpensive version of the Lightpad, this is by far the least expensive hardware MPE controller out there. Plus, it’s exceedingly rare for MPE instruments to have onboard synths (the only ones I know are based on the EaganMatrix; the ContinuuMini is the most “affordable”, at 900USD). Most synths of that size (with or without speakers) are monophonic while this one is polyphonic and multitimbral.
    Even the long-delayed Oddball is more expensive than this Orba. Sure, this half-sphere instrument won’t handle 100,000 bounces (or even a single bounce). But it’ll have a lot more features.

    Assuming things go as planned, this could actually be a rather big deal.

  3. Always astounds me how consumers are willing to prop-up businesses like this. A quick google says the company recently had a $2m investment from Warner, and their previous kickstarter seems to have been wildly popular and continues to be produced/sold (despite negative reviews and undelivered rewards from said kickstarter). If they can’t roll their successes into a model that can function without putting your hand out for ‘R&D’ they don’t deserve to be in business. Kickstarters are so often seriously shady, maybe just a sign of the times where consumers hype themselves up so much they happily throw money at bad-actors who produce flashy overpromising videos, all without any binding contract to deliver the final bluetooth connected accelerometer.

  4. This looked like a cool project to back, so I truly appreciate all of you who have posted about the issues that are still ongoing from their first KS campaign… I’ll have to pass of this one, as interesting as it does look.

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