The original Orba was a curious little baseball-sized device that invited people who couldn’t play a triangle if they somehow tried to create beats, bops and bass lines. The success of the original – and its adoption as a tool for more serious musicians – inspired the team at Artiphon to release an updated version. With the same form factor as the original, but much smarter and the ability to record and upload your own sound samples or use sample packs, Orba 2 opens the door to a new generation of musicians, whether it’s dull, talentless hacks such as myself, or musicians who want to carry around a versatile synth-like instrument in a small form factor.
As much as I’d like to subject you to my attempts at making music, here’s a real musician – Taetro – showing some of the fun:
“With Orba 2, being able to go out and capture sounds with the app and almost instantly turn it into an instrument is empowering because regardless of your relationship to music, being able to do fun sampling like that is huge,” says Taetro. in an Artiphon blog post. “It can open up worlds to people, and people can interact with it the same way they would pick up a pen and doodle on a sketchbook.”
From the original Orba, the company’s most requested feature was the ability to play instruments – guitars, acoustic drums, pianos, etc. The company claims to have rebuilt the Orba from the ground up to create the Orba 2, with a new sound. engine, and adding over 100 new sounds that are all based on real instruments.
“We didn’t want to change its industrial design too much; we knew people liked the form factor. The interior of the Orba 2 is completely different. Being able to play those samples and being able to create your own samples is new, and the ability to have longer songs – up to five minutes on the device itself – is all possible thanks to a new computer inside of it,” Adam McHeffey, chief marketing officer at Artiphon, said in an interview with TechCrunch. “The new engine means it could play those audio samples. That’s the biggest new feature, but on top of that we’ve added two gigabytes of sample memory, so you can add your own samples to it as well. We’ve also improved the converter and speaker amps, as well as the headphone output.We don’t make a big deal out of technical specs with most of our marketing materials, we focus on what you can do with them.
I’ve had an Orba 2 on my desk for a few weeks, and I can attest that it’s a very compelling game: picking it up between (and sometimes during) Zoom meetings and exploring a fast musical riff is pretty awesome. I noted this to McHeffey, who laughs in agreement. “It’s the perfect fidget toy,” he says.
Writing the Orba off as a toy would be a mistake though; it also turns out to be a powerful learning tool. The company claims that two-thirds of its users had never played a musical instrument before.
Orba 2 is on sale today and costs $150.