sound in Iris 2 can consist of up to four samples (each with its own spectral
editor) that can be layered, mixed, and/or split across the keyboard. The
combined output of these sample engines feeds a resonant filter that offers 17
different modes. Four effects, consisting of distortion, chorus, delay and
reverb, can be applied to the samples--either after the filter or via
individual sends for each of the samples. Modulation includes five envelopes,
five LFOs, eight macros, and a few MIDI performance control options. Combined
with an 11GB library of samples ranging from Foley effects to samples of
vintage gear, the whole package is amazingly versatile, despite its unusual
of Iris 2’s sample layers is identical. While Iris 1 had three layers and an
analog-style oscillator, Iris 2 now has four sample-based engines and no
oscillator (which is offset by a huge collection of sampled analog oscillators,
to be clear). Every sample includes its own visual frequency editor, which is
based on iZotope’s RX spectrogram technology. When a sample is first imported,
its waveform data is analyzed and displayed in FFT format. From there, graphic
design tools like paintbrushes, rectangular and lasso selection tools, and a
“magic wand” that intelligently selects harmonics and related frequency groups,
allow users to manipulate complex spectral data directly with immediately
audible results. For example, painting in the upper area of the spectral
display exposes the high frequencies, while applying those tools to the lower
region exposes the bass content of a sample. The horizontal axis correlates
with the sample’s timeline, so if you paint a bunch of evenly spaced dots from
left to right, you’ll get rhythmic results.
The coolest aspect of this approach is its
immediacy and intuitiveness. If you take a sample of ocean waves, wind, or
other natural ambiences, then paint freehand over it, the result will be an
ethereal, evolving soundscape that would be nearly impossible to create using
traditional synthesis tools. On the other hand, if you carve out a narrow block
through the middle of the sample from start to finish, you’ll get a bandpass
Each of the samples also includes the usual
looping functions (forward, back and forth, and the like) as well as being able
to operate on one of three modes. Fixed mode plays back the sample with the
same pitch, while resample mode functions much like a traditional sampler with
the expected keyboard tracking. “Radius RT” mode takes things in a more modern
direction, keeping the timing of the original sample while allowing keys to
change the pitch. Granted, this mode is much more CPU-intensive, but for
certain kinds of rhythmic patches, the results are truly impressive.
The mixing tools for the four sample engines
are what make Iris 2 so sonically compelling (see image at left). Each sample
includes tuning, gain, and pan controls, as well the option of applying any of
Iris’ four pre-filter send effects. You can also restrict the range of each of
the samples to specific areas of the keyboard. Since there are only four
samples to work with, Iris 2 can’t really perform traditional multisampling
functions, so it’s better to think of this feature as a four-way
split-and-layered keyboard. Even so, it allows for some really creative sound
design effects, like enhancing the bass of a patch by adding a sine wave to the
lowest octaves and gently mixing it in—or blending the highest
frequencies of an air jet to the top octaves.
the sample engines include only minor changes to the original Iris feature set,
the subtractive synthesis tools have been completely revamped in major ways.
For starters, there are now 17 filter modes (compared to ten in version 1).
These include two formant types and a selection of lowpass, highpass, and
bandpass responses that are modeled after “New York” and “Tokyo” filters. These
new modes really add a lot more flexibility and keep Iris competitive in this
What’s more, the modulation tools have been
completely redesigned. In the original version, each sample had its own
dedicated amp envelope and LFO with pan, volume and pitch options (along with a
filter envelope and additional global LFO). In Iris 2, the envelopes and LFOs
are now freely assignable to almost every synthesis parameter, as well as every
effect parameter. And since every parameter can accept up to three simultaneous
inputs, this results in much deeper and complex sound design possibilities.
In addition, the LFOs and envelopes have been
updated. For example, the LFOs now include 26 waveform options. Some of these
new waveforms are downright bizarre, like “pyramid” and “pinch.” Making the new
waves even more useful is Iris 2’s ability to warp and twist the waveforms in
real-time, with modulation inputs, to boot. For example, you can use LFO 2 to
modulate the shape of LFO 1, then modulate its depth with velocity and send the
result to a formant filter’s cutoff, or the both of the stereo delay times in
different amounts, or all three destinations. Because, why not?
Best of all, all of the modulation resources
can be applied via drag-and-drop methods, much like NI Massive or Xfer Records
Serum. And if you don’t like the results or want to modify the results further,
you can switch to right-clicking for a slightly different approach.
The only snag is that given all the new
modulation features, iZotope had to sacrifice direct backward compatibility
with version 1. This is unusual as soft synths go, and likely to be frustrating
for power users with large collections of original material. Not all is lost,
though. If you have mission-critical needs for the Iris 1, both versions can
peacefully co-exist on your drive. At the NAMM Show there was talk of iZotope
releasing a converter app in the near future, but as of this writing, it hasn’t
one of Iris 2’s new features is a meaningful improvement over the original.
While I’ve heard some longtime users grumble that they wish there was more
focus on iZotope’s spectral tools, you can’t have everything. Frankly, I’m most
impressed by the fact that iZotope is committed to developing one of the most
exotic yet enjoyable soft synths on the market. If you’re already a fan of Iris
(and the compatibility issues aren’t a deal-breaker), then the upgrade is well
worth it. And if you haven’t yet experienced the power of Iris, now is the time
to give its demo version a much closer look. There’s really nothing else out
there like it.
Innovative sample editing tools allow
users to draw spectral data directly onto each sample. Broad array of new
filter modes. New interface is keeps all synthesis and modulation tools in a
single window. Large 11GB library of useful sample data.
100% compatible with Iris 1 patches, which require a separate conversion app.
Radius RT playback mode is CPU-hungry. Multisampling is limited to four key ranges.
one-of-a-kind soft synth that excels at exotic sound design.
$299 list | $249 street | $99 upgrade from Iris 1 | izotope.com