A funny thing has happened this year: just as multi-core computers are making software more powerful, DSP has gotten easier and cheaper. Result: new hardware that behaves like software. Look no further than long-time software-only, analog emulation house Arturia, who have unveiled a new hardware synth called Origin that builds on the legacy of their soft synths.

The Origin builds in the components of Arturia’s emulation of the Moog modular, minimoog, ARP 2600, Prophet VS, and CS-80, now in hardware form, but allows you to mix and match modules via an on-screen, plug-in-like interface. Now, of course, you can already mix and match all kinds of synthesis methods in software, but Arturia claims that the Analog Devices TigerSHARC DSP chips in the Origin allow greater audio fidelity and performance than even high-end dual-core CPUs. That certainly seems likely; even as CPUs become faster, they’re still rarely as efficient as dedicated DSP. The big question to me is, have Arturia — new to the DSP game — sufficiently molded their instruments to the new hardware? We’ll just have to wait to hear the results.

Arturia Origin

Quick specs:

  1. 500 presets, plus preset compatibility with “most” of Arturia’s software presets
  2. 32-voice polyphony
  3. True Analog Engine (as found in Arturia’s software); up to 24/96 audio

  4. Plug-in support: hardware integrates with plug-ins on your machine (Mac/PC)
  5. Lots of I/O: 2 audio ins, 10 audio outs. Digital: SPDIF out, USB 2.0, MIDI in/out/thru
  6. FX: Phaser, Chorus, Delay, FX Reverbs, Distortion, Param Eq, Compressor, Bitcrusher
  7. 16/32 step sequencer
  8. Modulation control: Macro, Advanced LFO, modulation modes, Advanced Joystick modes

Arturia’s going to have a lot of competition, from software running on Core Duo laptops to new virtual analog hardware like the Waldorf gear. It’ll be interesting to watch this one shake out.

In the meantime, Arturia hasn’t stopped doing software:

Jupiter 8-V

  1. 32 voice polyphony – 2 oscillators per voice; 18 osc total, 2 LFOs, 2 filters, 2 envelopes
  2. FX: Dual Delay, Phaser, Flanger, modulation via any audio source
  3. VST / AU / RTAS Mac/PC

  4. 400 presets

As usual, Arturia isn’t just emulating; they’ve added twists like X/Y digital effects, an advanced “Galaxy” modulation section, easy MIDI assignment, and a step sequencer. The downside here: the “TAE” engine Arturia can sacrifice accuracy in the name of versatility; I’d really like to see an obsessive model of the Jupiter. We’ll know once we test it — especially once Jupiter lovers pull it apart.

(Bad news on the Jupiter is that apparently they’re using a hardware key aka dongle for copy protection.)