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.
- Solid algorithms - A versatile pedal isn't really so versatile if a number of the effects sound crappy. Every effect in the OM sounds good, and some sound genuinely great.
- 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.
- Hiccups in the algorithms - As I said, all the algorithms sound good. But the tremolo is compromised because its usable speed range is limited and the rate control doesn’t work like a normal tremolo speed knob. It’s hard to explain except to say that it’s touchy and a bit unpredictable. Bottom line: I would not recommend getting the OM if tremolo is vital to you. Another weirdness is that the sweep of the modulation isn’t perfectly sinusoidal, even when you have the Mod Source knob on the sine wave setting. It still sounds a bit lopsided, like a subtle sawtooth wave. At moderate and fast speeds it isn’t a problem, but it gets a lot more obvious at slow speeds, making EVH-style slow-sweeping phaser and flanger sounds a little less convincing.
- 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 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 more! On the other hand, that would increase the size of the pedal (assuming they provided a dedicated footswitch for each preset) 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.