Artiphon Orba review – Create music without knowing how to read music

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artiphon orba 5

REVIEW – A couple of months ago, I reviewed the Artiphon INSTRUMENT 1 and now I’m back with another musical instrument from Artiphon. I enjoyed testing the INSTRUMENT 1 but found that it was more than I needed in a music-making device. Lucky for me, Artiphon makes another device that is much smaller and has simplified features. Let’s find out if the Artiphon Orba makes it easy to make music without even knowing how to actually read music.

What is it?

The Artiphon Orba is a small handheld musical instrument, synth, looper, and MIDI controller.

What’s in the box?

artiphon orba 1

  • Artiphon Orba
  • USB-C charging cable
  • Quickstart guide

Design and features

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The Artiphon Orba looks a bit like a hockey puck. It’s made of matte black plastic and has a touch button in the center with pie-shaped touch buttons that radiate from the center.

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On the side of the Orba is a power button, volume buttons, USB-C port, and a 3.5mm headphone/amplifier jack.

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On the bottom, of the instrument, you’ll find the built-in speakers.

Using the Artiphon Orba to make music

The Orba can be played as a standalone instrument/synthesizer or it can be connected to your Mac or PC and be used as a MIDI controller. It has 4 different sound modes that include Drum, Bass, Chord, and Lead. With these modes, you can create intricate beats and songs. Orba also has ten gestures that include Tap, Press, Spin, Radiate, Tilt, Shake, Slide, Vibrato, Move, and Bump.

Artiphon mobile and desktop app

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The Artiphon Orba mobile and desktop apps look identical but while you can use Bluetooth or a USB cable to connect the Orba to your computer, you can only use Bluetooth to connect the Orba to your mobile device. For some reason, I was not able to get the Orba and my iPhone 13 Pro Max to talk to each other. I didn’t have any issues connecting the Orba with my 13in MacBook Pro though.

The main screen lets you see which mode the Orba is in and allows you to change the music key.

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The drawer on the left slides out so that you can choose from songs and presets and then send them directly to the Orba. This is a cool way to customize the sound modes.

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Each song has a detailed page with more info.

See (hear) it in action

Please don’t judge the Artiphon Orba based on my lame abilities to make loops and songs. I’ve never played drums or played with a looping device before. I’m used to playing songs on a ukulele or guitar which usually consist of a melody and sometimes with an alternating bass line. Even though I am not good (yet) at making loops, playing with the Orba is addictive because it’s so much fun.

What I like

  • Can be used as a standalone instrument
  • You don’t need to know how to read musical notation to make music with it
  • Can be used to record loops/songs

What I’d change

  • Fix mobile app problems… I was never able to get it to work with my iPhone

Final thoughts

The Artiphon Orba is such a fun little instrument to explore music-making. This instrument has a lot of things going for it. It’s portable, easy to play, and it’s not overly expensive. If you’ve ever had the desire to create music but didn’t know or want to learn musical theory, the Orba might be your gateway instrument into a brand new hobby.

Price: $99.99
Where to buy: Artiphon and Amazon
Source: The sample for this review was provided by Artiphon.

6 thoughts on “Artiphon Orba review – Create music without knowing how to read music”

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  2. I have one, through their original Kickstarter – but had to experience severe connectivity issues. It all starts with their utter disregard for anything else except Windows 10. you cannot do anything with the device (except the very basic things it came with out of the box) unless you’re on Win10. On the iPhone (11pro here) theoretically you can change presets or create your iwn, but you have to update the firmware before the device is enabled to do so. And to upgrade firmware, you guessed it, it has to connect to a Win10 PC. Won’t talk to any other system. As is, it’s pretty much useless – and Artiphon just gives a f***

    1. Ulrich, strange… I had no issues connecting it to my MacBook using the macOS Orba app that I downloaded from the Artiphon website. I also updated the firmware using that app and have been able to send different instrument presets to the Orba using the same app. The only issue that I’ve had with connectivity is with my iPhone.

      1. OK, maybe so – my point is, I will neither dive into Win10 nor switch to MacOS.
        Happy with Win 8.1 and some occasional Linux so I will go on to use the Orba as an expensive paperweight

  3. I also have an Orba from the Kickstarter launch.
    The biggest problem I have with it, is its closed “Eco” system.
    The Orba is a true synthesizer and completely programmable, but only by Artiphon who occasionally release sets of “presets” created by them. Their official line is, that the parameters and how programme them are a secret, which is a shame as their app is crying out for a GUI to create your own patches. Interestingly, on the Artiphon forum there is a thread, where users have made progress in hacking the XML file format it uses, and created an editor, but the parameter ranges are undocumented, so you use it at your own risk.
    Its other major problem is you can’t save your creations out as an audio file (mp3 etc.) to replay independent of the Orba. There is a headphone jack outlet so you can record from there to an audio recording device, but not simply drop a file of your creation straight on to your phone or memory stick to play.
    But having said all that, it does lend itself to let you be creative with it. Using the Bluetooth and midi options you can use it in combination with other software such as a DAW or sound editor, and that is where for me, the real fun starts.

  4. Christopher Edwards

    I had one from their Kickstarter and was really excited.But after receiving it, it felt like a kindergarten toy. The sounds were so basic and actually making a decent song was so tedious that I sold it. Even now, months after its release, I see/hear very little being done with it on Youtube. Everything is 7 months or older and its all just basic intro stuff. Where’s the actual music being created (and don’t point to Taetro, is posts very early).

    The promise of sitting on the beach, drinking a fruity cocktail, creating a song on this is, from what I can see, a pipe dream.

  5. Funny you say that, Christopher – I bought this because I’m going to be away from my music-making gadgets for about a month while I sit on a beach and sip cocktails (and enjoy a total cosmetic dentistry makeover lol)… I suspect that the main benefit of this really, after you master the basics, is that you can use it as a MIDI controller – not like a million other things wouldn’t work, this is just fun.

    Indeed, the sounds are limited by the fact that they’re powered by the synth engine, but with the new OrbaSynth app you can KIND of modify those a bit and create some new themes. There’s a forum where you can share them with others.

    The app interface, etc., is still a little wonky – I definitely feel like this is a 1.0 version…

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