Artiphon’s delightful Orba handheld synthesizer gets a sequel

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I would love to see more companies like Artiphon in the world. Hardware startups with clever ideas and a knack for bringing them to market. Back in November 2020, I spent a good bit of time with the company’s handheld synth/sampler/instrument. It didn’t turn me into Wendy Carlos, but it helped pass a few dark pandemic hours by firing up some music-making neurons.

The device’s strength lies in its extraordinarily low barrier of entry. No lessons or musical aptitude are required — just a free hand or two and the desire to noodle around with sound. Today the device is getting a sequel, in the form of the fittingly named Orba 2. The product looks identical to its predecessor, with a round base and eight touch-sensitive pads arranged in triangles like pizza slices.

Image Credits: Artiphon

The device largely functions the same as the Orba 1, as well, but features a revamped sound engine with new built-in audio samples. Those are augmented by built-in sensors, which let you modify the sound through talking, shaking and spinning the device. There are nine gestures in all. Users also can sample and loop directly on the device or with the connected Orba app.

“We want people to express themselves musically in their everyday lives,” CEO Mike Butera says in a release. “We’ve dreamed of allowing anyone to play any sound they can imagine, anywhere they go, without worrying about historical instrument skills or abstract music theory. Orba 2 finally makes that possible.”

All told, the sampler can record up to five minutes/128 bars on device, coupled with a new feature that helps snap playing to a beat. Clearly the end game is making the system as dummy proof as humanly possible. Though, for more advanced users, it also doubles as a MIDI controller (via USB-C or Bluetooth) for apps including GarageBand, Ableton Live, Logic Pro and Pro Tools.

Artiphon’s Orba handheld synthesizer. Image Credits: Artiphon /

The Orba 2 runs $150 — notably a $50 premium over its very accessible predecessor. Artiphon has also added a number of new features since the release of the first Orba, including the ability to utilize the device as a video editor.