Many of the great DJs started by just choppin’ shit up. From DJ Shadow and J Dilla to The Avalanches, a ton of incredible musicians made their breakthroughs by mastering the art of sampling and looping, creating hard-hitting beats and groovy melodies by combining great moments lifted from other places. Since electronic instruments came onto the scene, there’s always been something exciting about taking powerful art created by others and wielding it into something totally new and original. Whether you’re making hip hop beats or just some chill, ambient waves circa late-80s-era Aphex Twin, it all starts with relatively simple tech. If you think you’ll need to score an MPC sampler, a turntable, a tape recorder, and a massive vinyl collection to become the next Madlib, you can rest assured that you don’t have to go that far. After all, it’s not the 90s anymore (though nobody seems to have told Hollywood).
Countless new sampling and mixing instruments have come onto the scene in recent years, often collapsing the whole process into a single product. Now, the amount of equipment you need is literally pocket-sized. Behold the Orba 2 from Artiphon, with which you can record, loop, sequence, and listen to your own compositions on one snazzy device.
Perfect for both those with and without experience playing a proper musical instrument (yes, that includes middle school violin practice dropouts), the Orba 2 is, like, the size of a tennis ball, which means you could make music on public transit, at a baseball game, while watching the newest Martin Scorsese movie, or while skiing. (Let us know if you’re able to do the latter—that’s definitely something we’d want to explore further.)
The Orba has built-in synths, loopers, MIDI controllers, built-in speakers, and can connect to the Orba app for more detailed composing. It’s based around eight sense-pads that use nine core gestures, like tapping, tilting, pressing, vibrato, and shaking, to create nuanced pitches—not unlike the different ways you’d pluck the strings of a guitar or press the keys on a piano. This is how you put
feeling into the music and give it some personality… because music isn’t just the notes, right? You can also connect via USB-C or Bluetooth to real instruments, but be careful about how many devastating Slayer-esque riffs you pack it with, since I cannot advise on how much pure, searing heat this hardware can hold.
The Orba 2 lets you record and import your own samples and has real audio samples to choose from; it can also hole up 128-bar loops, or up to five minutes of material.
That said, if you’re really trying to turn your spurts of sonic creativity into full-on songs, the Orba 2 interfaces with a number of professional recording softwares—like Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, and even GarageBand. So if you’ve been toiling away in your basement for the last decade trying to make the next James Blake or Untrue, the Orba could be your breakthrough moment.
Keep on rockin’ in the free world, and remember: With enough perseverance, your own “Whoop That Trick” might be right around the corner.
The Orba 2 is available at Artiphon.
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