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Microphone Month 5

Synth Tricks: Numark Orbit

Sometimes a radically different piece of technology can shake up your entire entertainment process and bring you back to a time when you were excited to create new things. That’s a lot to ask of something that costs less than $100, but Numark’s Orbit wireless DJ controller with Motion Control ($99.95) will become the catalyst for countless production ideas both in the studio and live onstage.

So what can you do with it? You can hold it in your hands, set it on a table or keyboard, slide it onto your belt, or even wear it around your neck like Flavor Flav. You can press the 16 silky backlit pads to send any MIDI note on any MIDI channel, with either a momentary or toggled behavior (with all parameters individually assignable per pad!). You can also rotate the large damped wheel to send any continuous controller of your choice on any MIDI channel, configured either as an absolute 270-degree virtual knob or as an endless 360-degree relative encoder wheel.

The four “K” buttons on the top let you create four entirely different behaviors for the wheel. The four buttons on the bottom let you choose between four different banks of pads. So, if you’ve been counting, you now have 64 unique pads and four knobs.

That alone would make this a crazy-fun controller, but wait… if you press the shoulder button on the top left of the Orbit, you can now scroll the values of an additional continuous controller as you tip the device up and down. Press the right shoulder button, and you can send yet another continuous controller as you tip from left to right. Can you press both shoulder buttons at the same time? You sure can, and you’ll get a pretty cool light show as you tip through the X/Y plane. And, speaking of light shows, every one of the 64 buttons can have one of 12 colors assigned to them, which makes things much easier to remember.

A built-in Li-ion battery that’s chargeable from any USB source provides eight continuous hours of power, which means you can confidently use it for a whole show, and the wireless 2.4GHz ultra-low-latency USB system (with included USB receiver) allows you to use it anywhere onstage or in the studio. And the free Mac/Windows editor and DJ apps let you easily create and save files for every situation.

So what can you do with such a flexible controller? You’ll come up with more ideas than I can fit here but, how about triggering sample loops, playing bass lines, controlling video performances, spraying fog, controlling lasers, pulsing stage lights, twisting effects processors, changing presets, and inventing your own live instruments?

Okay, one last question: Can you run more than one? Yes! You can have as many as you have USB ports. Now are you getting why I’m so pumped about Orbit?

Daniel Fisher

About Daniel Fisher

Sweetwater's synth guru Daniel Fisher is one of the most sought-after synthesizer sound designers in the industry. He graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelors Degree in Music Production and Engineering as well as Cum Laude with a Bachelors Degree in Music Synthesis from Berklee College. He is Sweetwater's Director of Product Optimization, having created dozens of libraries and synth programs for Kurzweil, Alesis, Korg, E-MU, Yamaha, TC Electronic, and many others. He is also currently an Adjunct Professor of Music Synthesis at the University of Saint Francis and teaches Music Synthesis and Sampling at Indiana University/Purdue University.
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