Eventide Orville Harmonizer Special Effects Processor

An Eventide Harmonizer in your rack generally tells the world that you’ve got it going on. No little set-and-forget reverb boxes for you; your kind of work demands the versatility and programmability offered by an Eventide processor.
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An Eventide Harmonizer in your rack generally tells the world that you’ve got it going on. No little set-and-forget reverb boxes for you; your kind of work demands the versatility and programmability offered by an Eventide processor.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, broadcast, post production, multimedia, live sound

Key Features: 16 inputs and outputs; full programmability via computer; 24-bit audio and up to 96 kHz sample rate; versatile effects and built-in synth/sampler

Price: $5,695

Contact: Eventide Inc. at 201-641-1200; www.eventide.com; or circle Reader Service 90.

Plus

+ Remarkably elaborate preset effects

+ The classic Harmonizer

+ "Knob" for entering data

+ Open-ended programming via PC

Minus

- Not all programs run at high sample rates

The Score Eventide has never disappointed its fans and users. The Orville continues the tradition in a big way with a great processor.
The Orville ($5,695) keeps the legend alive, with sample rates up to 96 kHz, two DSPs, 16 inputs and outputs, and enough effects to keep the pickiest producer happy, whether doing audio for broadcast, music, video or film.

Better than the Orville’s specs and effects is its ability to be programmed to be the kind of processor you need at that moment. Where many boxes lock the user into inflexible orders — compressor, reverb and flange, for example — the Orville lets anyone glue together the modules necessary to achieve a desired process, and in any order.

This methodology was used in the earlier DSP4000, and Eventide knew a good thing when it saw it.

Features

The Orville faceplate maintains the familiarity of the 4000: a quartet of soft keys with a concise display panel, four cursor keys to navigate the display, program and parameter buttons, a direct-entry numeric keypad and a big knob that lets you dial in your data.

If your Orville lacks a front panel control, that’s because it is the Orville/R ($4,995), a blank panel version that works with a remote controller, the EVE/NET ($1,595).

The back panel provides four digital inputs and outputs — AES/EBU and S/PDIF digital I/O — four sets of balanced or unbalanced analog input and output lines, word clock, MIDI jacks and a set of connections for foot pedals. The digital inputs automatically latch onto the sample rate of the incoming signal. In analog mode, the user must set the sample rate under the Audio page in the Setup mode.

Owing to demands placed on system resources when the Orville runs at higher clock speeds, several programs will not load. The display indicates which ones by the presence or absence of a lightning bolt icon next to the program name.

The tradeoff of losing some of these more complex programs is the obvious increase in frequency range. In 96-kHz mode, the top reproducible frequency is better than 40 kHz.

A virtual router inside the Orville patches any input to either DSP engine and to any output. It is possible to use all 16 ins and outs simultaneously — and to patch them under the Routing menu — found by holding down the Program key.

An RS-232 serial port on the back panel allows the Orville to communicate with computers. All parameters can be modified and observed via the display on the front panel, but when creating new programs for the Orville, the computer route is probably the best way to go.

New programs can be saved in the Orville, back to the computer or on a PCMCIA memory card that fits in the slot under the numeric keypad. The Orville can handle RAM cards up to 4 MB.

The electrical specs of the Orville are quite estimable. Published specifications claim a dynamic range better than 110 dB, a S/N ratio also better than 110 dB A-weighted, and THD + Noise or less than 0.002 percent at 1 kHz. All measurements are taken using analog ins and outs.

The two 24-bit engines assure that reverb tails don’t go gritty and that there is plenty of horsepower to spare when it comes time to create that masterpiece effect. Two engines mean the Orville can function as two independent DSPs, if desired. With four analog and four digital inputs, a lot of audio can be piped through the unit, or the DSPs can be run in parallel or series for some truly warped results.

In use

Programs are saved and categorized in banks. If looking for delays or distortions, they are likely found collected under a common bank. Depending on specific needs, there are programs you will readily embrace and others you will let slide. Because my field is radio production, I took to the novelty presets right away.

"16 mm Projector" combines the clamor of a middle school A/V department workhorse with a vocal filter. Press a soft key and both the projector and the voice ramp down and stop.

"Long Distance" simulates an overseas phone call with lots of background noise, termination return echoes and sidetone chirps. "Adaptive Reverb" dynamically alters reverb time in step with the frequency of the incoming signal. Low tones give long tails, while high pitches create small, reflective rooms. For aficionados of earlier Eventide products, the company ported over the "Max Stutter" and the Time Scrambler function, called "Doubletalk" in Orville nomenclature.

MIDI implementation is not ignored in the Orville. In conjunction with a MIDI keyboard or controller, it can be set up as a synthesizer with its own built-in oscillators, a triggered sampler, or a classic Harmonizer with keyboard control. Parameters and program changes can be altered via MIDI controller commands and program change messages.

There is a solid complement of reverbs, classic reverb emulations such as EMT plates, a marvelous selection of choruses and flanges, vocoding and ring modulating, and a fistful of eerie sci-fi effects. There is even a bank of tools and utilities that includes a two-screen oscilloscope. But the Orville claims its rightful place in your gear rack with its programmability.

Basic building blocks, called modules, are patched together to create simple or complex effects. Modules can be as fundamental as a white noise generator or 1-to-60 millisecond delay line, or as complex as the reverb and sampler modules, both occupying four pages each in the Eventide manual.

The Patch Editor allows creation of new programs via the Orville’s front panel controls and display. The task begins with a "Thru" screen showing an In and Out module connected together. Tap the soft key marked Insert to open a list of modules. Select the module, press the "Connect" soft key, and the module appears in the display, ready to be draped in between the inputs and outputs. You are now well on the way to creating a custom effect in Orville.

Note the display shows only audio flow. To observe and gain control over effect parameters — such as delay randomization in a reverb — click the "Aud Only" soft key, and the display now shows the flow of both audio and control lines.

The control lines tie the front panel keys and rotary knob to the program, offering control over each module in operation. The choice of either a graphic rotary knob or a fader lever appearing in the display can be made here.

When writing changes to an existing program or preset, they can be compared against the original by tapping the soft key marked "Compare." The new program is saved to an unused memory location with the Save soft key in the Program window.

If you would rather not spend your day in Squint City, do your edits and patch building by computer and Eventide VSigfile software. Because no audio moves through the computer, even an old 386 running Windows 3.11 can talk to the Orville. The manual notes that Mac users have reported success with the Virtual PC Windows emulator running VSigfile, but the company cannot assist in replicating the operation. If you have a Mac, you will have to go it alone.

Patch the PC to the Orville via the RS-232 ports or MIDI. Conventional Windows pull-down menus are used to create an effect program much as you would in many software synthesizers: Open a list of modules, click the input or output of the module you want to start with, then drag the mouse to the destination. A virtual patch cord is drawn onto the screen between the desired modules.

When done, use the Send command under the MIDI Menu item to upload the creation to the Orville. There are numerous ways to store and share programs with others. E-mail a program to yourself or to another user. Orville program files have a .SIG or .SIF extension, which is recognized by VSigfile and can be opened and examined by another user running the same program.

Print the parameters to hard copy using the conventional Windows Print command, or just connect two Orvilles together via MIDI or serial port and run a data dump on one unit.

Summary

There is nothing to dislike about the Eventide Orville. The hefty price it carries is perfectly in line with its capabilities. Whether or not the price is worth it to you is totally up to your skills and imagination — and just how wild the sounds inside your head are when you sleep.

Greenhorns used to their set-and-forget DSP toys may get lost on the Orville. Factory presets help, but it takes time to get friendly with a box this powerful. DSPs will soon catch up to sample rates and someday the Orville will not have to strike a compromise between high sample rates and programs too hefty to run. In my line of work, it is not an issue; in fact, FM radio production gets by just fine at 32 kHz. At 44.1, I can run every program in Orville without gasping.

Even with that limitation, the Orville comes in as one of the best performers out there for spacey and innovative effect processing, as well as bringing back some of the classics that put Eventide on the map in the first place.