Eclipse Virtual Instrument for Kontakt
By Anderton |
Eclipse Virtual Instrument for Kontakt
The sound designers behind Orbit are at it again
by Craig Anderton
Eclipse builds on Wide Blue Sound's Orbit, from film composers Jeff Rona and Nathan Rightnour. Like Orbit, it’s a Kontakt 5.5 (and above) or Kontakt Player instrument; it uses the same basic instrument concept as Orbit, but packs it with a very different soundset. Whereas Orbit is more about cinematic and atmospheric textures with a side of pulses, Eclipse goes for a more intense approach. It’s not exactly vintage Belgian hardcore techno, but can have a more tense, aggressive quality that makes me wonder if Orbit slipped out of its orbit and turned to the dark side.
The audio engine behind Orbit and Eclipse is virtually identical, as is the interface although the graphic treatment is different. The four basic “voices” loop sounds in a variety of ways, and incorporate extensive step generation and modulation options, augmented by wave sequencing and crossfading. But Eclipse, like Orbit, is not a general-purpose instrument; it’s dedicated to creating pulsing, driven sounds although it can also do brooding pads.
However, just as it’s possible to convince Orbit not to be quite so Zen, you can convince Eclipse to show a kinder, gentler side. It’s almost like Eclipse is intended more to seduce you to the dark side than beat you over the head with it, even though it can get pretty abrasive. At this point words aren’t all that useful, so I recommend checking out the various sound examples on the Wide Blue Sound website.
The four synthesis channels work as a group and share the same engine parameters, like one of three modes (Pulse, Chop, or Flow—reminds me of a blender, and actually, the sounds are indeed blended) with variable Depth, ttack, Release, Punch, and tempo-synched Rate. A. The sound sources are 69 looped phrases, classified as 26 simple, 23 complex, and 20 “asylum.” That’s less than Orbit’s 101 sound sources, but the ones in Eclipse are longer so there are 210 minutes of sound sources instead of the 93 minutes in Orbit. Each channel has controls for Gain, Pan, and Tune, as well as Cutoff and Resonance controls for four filter modes (highpass, lowpass, bandpass, and notch).
What makes Mode interesting is that it controls how sound cycles through the four synthesis channels. This can create rhythmic effects with Chop and Pulse, while Flow provides the pads. You can think of Mode as a variation on wave sequencing, except that it sequences entire channels, not just waveforms.
Although playing Eclipse is simple—pretty much anything you do will sound interesting, and even the Randomizing options are useful—you can come up with a wide range of soundscapes, of course within the inherent constraints of Eclipse’s design. However, you’re not limited solely to what the engine can do.
An effects section includes the Scream amp simulator, Distort (more like a fuzztone), modulation (chorus, flanger, or phaser), a basic convolution reverb, tempo-synched stereo delay, and a departure from Orbit—the Warmth effect which incorporates Orbit’s lowpass filter cutoff and resonance controls, but folds in tape emulation and a “balancing” EQ.
Furthermore, each of four additional step sequencers (up to 64 steps) can terminate in one of 23 modulation destinations. More importantly, you can modify the step sequences themselves in many ways—randomize, invert, shift, shorten—as well as quantize, repeat, and generate specific step sequences.
You can also apply MIDI automation to various parameters, and assign a single MIDI controller to multiple parameters. I was pleasantly surprised at how well Eclipse integrates the Windows 10 flavor of touch control—I never get tired of drawing step sequences—but unfortunately, it doesn’t support multitouch so you can tweak only one parameter at a time.
There are also some thoughtful touches, like being able to turn off the fourth engine to do patterns in 3/4 (Orbit can’t do that), restricting randomizing to individual audio channels as well as all of them, automatable solo/mute, input quantization, keyswitching options, preset management for the step sequencers, and so on.
If you liked Orbit, you already know how to use Eclipse...the infrastructure is the same, although the sounds are quite different. Like Orbit, no demo version is available but there are lots of sound examples to give you an idea of what’s possible. Pricing seems variable, depending on when you visit the website and whether or not you already own Orbit (Wide Blue Sound’s synths are available only direct, and Eclipse is about a 570 MB download). As of this writing, Eclipse is $119 instead of the usual $149, but there was also an option to buy both for $248—then you’re basically paying $49 for Eclipse.
Eclipse doesn’t have the same “shock of the new” as Orbit did, but that doesn’t diminish what Eclipse can do. There’s almost no learning curve; Eclipse is an obvious, inviting instrument that encourages experimentation. Theoretically, it’s limited to certain musical genres. But then again, so is Heavyocity’s excellent Kontakt instrument, “Damage”—yet I use it all the time to add excitement to rock tunes and EDM. Although it may seem Eclipse wants to live in its own world, it can also be a useful background or provide rhythmic punctuation.
Just in time before Star Wars: The Force Awakens leaves the theaters, Wide Blue Sound has given us the dark side to go along with the light side. As such, Eclipse and Orbit make a highly complementary pair. If you like what you hear from either one, it’s worth springing the extra bucks for the pair while they’re still on sale—between the two, you have a lot of sound design power at your fingertips. Even better, you’ll have a lot of fun discovering what that power can do.
Orbit was extremely cool, and now Eclipse takes us further down that path...I think I’m starting to see a pattern here.
Website: Wide Blue Sound
Read the Expert Review for Orbit
Buy Eclipse direct from Wide Blue Sound
Join the discussion about Eclipse on Harmony Central
Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.