Review – Eclipse by Wide Blue Sound
Behind the easy-to-use interface, Eclipse has a powerful 4-channel engine, sequencers, and effects. In this review, we take a look at this latest offering from Wide Blue Sound.
by Rob Mitchell, May 2016
Wide Blue Sound is the company behind the innovative Orbit softsynth. It uses sample-based material that can be easily manipulated using its intuitive graphic display. Four sound channels are available for you, along with separate sequencers, several filters types, and effects.
For this review, I will be covering their new product named Eclipse. They call it their “Epic Orbital Synthesizer”. It is similar to Orbit in its structure, but it focuses more on darker and edgier types of tones. It uses a few different types of modes in its sound engine, which are called Flow, Pulse, and Chop. With its easy to use controls, you’re able to quickly change the sounds to your liking.
Eclipse requires Kontakt 5 or the Kontakt Player 5.5.1 (or higher) from Native Instruments, and uses Continuata Connect to download all the files. A download code is supplied for authorization within Continuata. Supported interfaces include: VST, Stand-alone, Audio Units, Core Audio, ASIO, WASAPI, and AAX Native (Pro Tools 10+).
If you’re using a PC, you’ll need Windows 7 (or higher) 32/64 bit, Intel Core 2 Duo CPU (or higher), and at least four gigabytes of RAM. For the Mac, you’ll need OS X 10.9 (or higher), Intel Core 2 Duo CPU (or higher), and at least four gigabytes of RAM.
After I loaded the Kontakt Player, I browsed to where the Eclipse.nki file was located. After that is loaded, the first display you see has most of the main controls. In the upper-left is a gears icon that has various settings you can adjust, such as voice handling, key and velocity ranges, and controller settings. Below that icon is a button that lets you minimize the instrument to save on screen real estate. This works well if you have many instances going at once in the Kontakt Player (or using separate tracks in your DAW, with the Player on each of them), making it easier to see everything at once. To the right is a menu where you can try out some of the 250 included presets. Clicking the arrow will drop-down a menu to see those presets in their different categories. They are broken down by Chop, Flow, FX, and Pulse. I will get to the meaning of those various category names later in the review. Anyway, back to those presets, which are well designed and take advantage of the different modes, sequencing, and effects. To flip through the presets one at a time, you can use the left/right arrows on the right side of the drop-down menu. Over on the right are the master tuning, pan, and volume controls.
Eclipse has four channels, each with identical controls. The moon icon located above each of the channels is actually an on/off button. In-between each of those four moon buttons are some arrows, and clicking on those will switch the sound (and settings) between the two channels on either side of it.
When you play a note on your keyboard, the channels play back the sounds in order (from left to right) one at a time. After it has played through all four channels, then it starts again from the beginning. In a way, it is similar to wave sequencing. Using those channel-swapping arrows I mentioned previously, you are able to quickly arrange them in a different sequence until you have it just right. Depending on how you set the order of the sounds, and configure the many filters, sequencers, and effects, the resulting sound can evolve in seemingly endless ways.
Below each channel’s on/off moon icon is a menu where you can load in different sampled sounds for each of the channels. To get a better idea of the base sounds that it has, I loaded the INIT preset. Then I turned off all but one of the channels, and went through most of the sounds that are within Eclipse. There are 101 of them included, and they cover a large variety of atmospheric and/or edgy sounding audio. They aren’t just plain, simple string sounds, or one sampled synth note playing, for instance. That’s not to suggest that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with those types of samples. It’s just that many of the sounds in Eclipse have more than one tone playing at once, and seem to be derived from varied sources that are layered together.
In each of the four channels, there are controls which let you adjust filter cutoff, resonance, tuning, pan, and the gain amount. The last menu item at the bottom of each channel is for changing the filter type. These types include low pass, band pass, high pass, notch, multiband pass, and phaser. To the right of these controls are the Clone, Random, and Waves buttons. The Clone button will copy what the first channel has over to the other three channels. The Random button will select a random sound for each of the four channels. In addition, there is a switch right below the Clone and Random buttons that let you select between Waves (just the sounds) or All (randomize sounds and settings). Input Quantize will make it so the notes are synced up with the host tempo in measurements of every bar, quarter, eighth, or sixteenth beat.
Remember how I mentioned that Eclipse can cycle through the sounds you have loaded? The Pulse, Chop, and Flow controls take this into new territory, giving you varied transition types to blend between the sounds. It’s a bit like an LFO with three different shapes, and controls to adjust the depth and speed for each of them. To check out this part of Eclipse, I turned up the depth a good deal to hear what was going on. Pulse is like a down-saw LFO shape in-between each of the sounds, and as you turn down the depth amount, it can be a more subtle way of blending between those same sounds. Chop works the same basic way, but its shape is a square wave, while Flow is a sine wave shape. If you just don’t want a cycling pattern between the sounds on a certain preset you’re designing, you can just turn the Depth down to 0%. The Punch/Shape control will adjust the transient amount of the shape you’re using. Finally, there are the Attack and Release controls, which adjust the overall amplitude envelope.
Along the bottom of the display are buttons to switch between the main Engine display, the Effects section, Sequencer page, and a handy Tips page. In the Effects section, there are six different effects you can use at any one time: Scream, Distort, Chorus/Flanger/Phaser (you can switch between these three types), Convolve, Delay, and Warmth. The Scream effect is a guitar amp type of distortion, and the Distort has qualities in the bit reduction category which I thought sounded great.
The Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser all sounded good to me, but I really liked using the Convolve effect. It is a convolution reverb which has settings to choose the virtual room type (over twenty choices), size, pre-delay, tone, and mix level. The Delay is a stereo tempo-synced type, with controls to adjust the delay time, damping, feedback, stereo spread, and a send control. Warmth is the final effect in the chain, with a low pass filter and resonance controls, tape (saturation), and bass/bias. I do wish the order of the effects could be changed, but it’s not a show-stopper.
The Sequencer page is where you can modulate many types of settings within Eclipse. Each of the step sequencers has up to 64 steps. You can select from 24 destinations, such as the Mode setting (switches automatically between Pulse/Chop/Flow), rate, depth, shape, global volume and panning, some effect parameters, and more. Using those choices, each of the four sequencers can be setup in their own way to modulate different parts of Eclipse. If you don’t feel like setting up a step-sequencer pattern yourself, there are pattern presets to choose from, and they can easily be manipulated using other choices in the menus. Also, there are a number of playback modes available that vary the direction of play (forward/backward, backward/forward, random, and other variations). The patterns you end up creating can be saved and later reloaded as well. Rate and Step amount controls are also here, and each sequencer has a slider to adjust the amount of the modulation.
The last tab along the bottom is a handy Tips section, which has some keystroke shortcuts that are useful, such as soloing a channel, switching on all of the channels, and fine-tuning parameters. It also has a visual guide for some key functions that are in the lowest octave of your keyboard. These let you mute the sound, turn sequencers on/off, and switch the channels on/off.
Eclipse is very easy to use, and for much of its operation I didn’t even need the manual. I did eventually go through the whole manual of course, but I just wanted to emphasize how intuitive it is, and yet it still has a good deal of power at the same time. Many plugins these days have interfaces that can end up being a little too complex, so this one was definitely a breath of fresh air.
I love the sounds that are within Eclipse, and they don’t take up an excess of room on the hard drive either. Just the creation for each of the sounds they’ve included must have been a huge effort in itself. The main advantage to this is that it lets you get to what is most important; the production of music. Presets load quickly, and the CPU usage wasn’t bad at all. Wide Blue Sound has done a great job of making this simple to use, and I really like the interface overall. Eclipse was on a discounted sale when it was first released, and now it is back at its regular price of $149 USD. If you happen to have bought Orbit before Eclipse was released, they have a discount available for you that brings the price down to $99 USD. You can find more info on their website here: