Source Audio Orbital Modulator
I've owned the Source Audio Orbital Modulator for over a year now and during that time I've played a lot with it, jamming at home, rehearsing with my band, and playing at gigs. Here are my collected thoughts:
- Audio quality - The DSP in this thing is 56-bit and it has a very good-sounding buffer that can be true-bypassed. This is about as good as it gets in pedals.
- Covers a lot of ground - With chorus, flanger, resonator, phaser, univibe, and tremolo all built in, the OM can replace a lot of other pedals. This is probably my favorite aspect of the OM. For me, modulation effects are something I use infrequently, so the idea of having individual pedals for effects that I might use once at a gig is not at all attractive.
- Great algorithms - A versatile pedal isn't really so versatile if a number of the effects don't sound very good. Every single effect in the OM sounds terrific.
- Two presets - Out of the box, you get two "slots" for saving your own control settings and the presets can be recalled using a footswitch dedicated to each. It's like having two pedals dialed up and ready to go. And it's essential for a pedal that covers so much ground.
- Highly tweakable - The OM has all the expected controls, plus a few that are unexpected. You won't be suffering for lack of control!
- Lots of options for real-time control - While you play, you can adjust parameters in real time using an expression pedal, MIDI continuous controllers, or the Source Audio's Hot Hand motion sensor.
- Well made - Very heavy duty.
- Compact - The OM is smaller than the size of two Boss pedals, which is quite compact considering how many pedals this thing can replace.
- Easy to get your sound - Once you understand what the controls do, it's easy to dial in the sound you want.
- Some controls are not intuitive - For the basic controls and functions, the OM is actually easy to use. But between some of the more esoteric controls unique to the OM (lo retain; mod source; control input) and several hidden parameters (control reset; true bypass/buffered output; tap tempo), there's no getting around having to read the manual. And unless you use it a lot you're likely to forget how to use some of the more obscure controls work, so you'll be referring to the manual even after you've initially learned it. I need to make a laminated cheat sheet with the hidden controls that I can stuff into my pedalboard.
- Only two presets in stock configuration - I listed "two presets" as a plus. But presets are so essential and the pedal is capable of so many different effects, that I find myself wishing it had one or two more! On the other hand, that would increase the size of the pedal and I very much appreciate the OM's compact size. Perhaps Source Audio's answer is the right one: The OM can be expanded with the Neuro Hub which allows you to store 128 presets for multiple Source Audio pedals, and adds more real-time control options.
- Not stereo - I suppose you could argue that it makes some sense for a stompbox, but having the gorgeous OM sound engine limited to mono seems like an unnecessary handicap.
- Multi-function knob - Fitting all that parameter control into such a compact pedal requires a compromise. In this case, the "option" knob controls 6 different parameters depending on the setting of a parameter selection button that cycles through the 6 choices. That means you can't see all your settings at once, and it's really cumbersome to do detailed editing where you might go back and forth between parameters many times.
- Won't take a regular expression pedal without an extra cost add-on - The real-time control possibilities of the OM are very intriguing. Unfortunately, you can't get to them without spending more money! If only they'd included a standard TRS expression pedal jack...
- Could use a tone control - For me, the one control missing is a simple tone control. Sometimes I'd like to dial down the digital perfection and get a less high fidelity sound. A tone control would be a really simple way to do that. Now, I could add an EQ pedal, but that would defeat the compact advantage of the OM and I'm not willing to do that.