Orion – particularly the Platinum edition that we're looking at here - has all the features and functions you'd expect to find in a one-stop music production environment.
It comes with a fine selection of built-in synthesizers (several of which match or better some of the most popular commercial plug-ins on the market), drum machines, effects processors and a killer sampler. In addition, over a gigabyte of superb multisamples and one-shot samples are included. Basically, there's enough here to keep you going for a long time to come.
Never given to grand and sweeping rewrites, Synapse have always improved the Platinum package gradually (there have been many free point releases between the chargeable updates). For this reason, when a 'full' upgrade of Orion Platinum does come along, it sometimes looks less like a fundamental overhaul and more like a collection of minor enhancements and fixes. However, there's no denying that a lot of stuff has been added to the program on its way up to version 7 - while some of these improvements will go unnoticed by many users, they'll have fans giddy with excitement.
First of all, OP7 offers a number of new generators and effects. As with many of Orion's older devices, some of them are so sophisticated that one can't help thinking another developer might have chosen to sell them separately. Indeed, one of the new generators - Plucked String 4 - was previously available on its own. Ideal for recreating guitars, banjos, mandolins, etc, it's one of the best instruments of its type, and, coupled with the Pluck Template editor, can generate remarkably realistic passages. Of all the new generators, the best is undoubtedly Maxx Claster's Toxic III, and to get it bundled here is superb.
Of course, all of the old OP stuff is here, too, and we should reiterate the fact that this 'old stuff' includes some of the best instruments you'll find in any software studio. There's Ultran, the stellar wave-morphing synth, and analogue instruments galore, including the bad-ass WaspXT, which sports a terrifyingly realistic analogue filter. You'll also find both synthesized and sampled drum machines, a monophonic 'bassline' synth for those acidic moments, the Wavefusion wavetable synthesizer, and more.
If you like to use MIDI-generating VST plug-ins, you should also note that MIDI drag-and-drop is now supported.
Orion has always been home to some of the tastiest built-in effects processors you could hope to find. From a convolution reverb to funky phasers and filters, the software's FX section has it all. New to the fold are a pair of distortion tools. First up, there's the Analog Distortion box, which recreates the thick and crunchy sound of your favourite fuzzbox. There's also a new saturation plug-in for warming up those cold, digital-sounding tracks.
More importantly, when you insert an effect into a mixer insert slot, that insert is now automatically activated. It might sound like a small thing, but these are the kinds of improvements that make Orion's workflow much better than it was before.
We're also pleased to report that clicking the 'X' at the top-right corner of a plug-in window no longer automatically deletes the plug-in - you can now deactivate this bizarre behavioural trait.
Orion Platinum still isn't perfect: too many of the generators lack portamento (most notably the sampler), and the default volume level is far too loud. However, there's not much more to complain about. The software's pattern and song-based sequencing system is easy to use, the mixer is basic but familiar, and the audio recording functionality is a nice bonus (you won't find that in Reason).
We've recommended Orion Platinum in the past, but always slightly cautiously. Workflow is always subjective, obviously, but the interface in previous versions of the software left us a bit cold. However, this time, Synapse have got it right. The new plug-ins are cool, but it's the subtle improvements that have grabbed us this time around, simply because they've made the program so much easier and faster to use. Orion Platinum has become not just a useful tool but also an enjoyable and inspirational one.