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iZotope Iris 2 Review

Electronic music production training

Overview

One of the best sample based synthesizers on the market, iZotope’s Iris 2 is a fantastic upgrade of the original Iris. Every sound made in Iris 2 can be created using up to four samples, which can be layered and mixed to create one full and developed sound.

Iris 2 comes fully packed with an 11 GB library. Whether you are looking to create a full spectrum bass, a luscious stereo pad, or a crackling Foley sound effect, the included sound library is full of possibilities.

Each of these samples can be manipulated with endless spectral sculpting capabilities. Once a sound is developed using the sample engine, it can be further tweaked and processed using the built in resonant filter and effects chain.

New to Iris 2 is the more expanded modulation capability. Use up to five envelopes, five LFOs, and eight macros to modulate various parameters over time, as well as incorporate modulations into a performance with the MIDI performance control options.       

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Sampler

Iris 2 combines sampling with post processing in a one of a kind format. Iris 2 contains up to four sample engines.

Each of these engines can contain a sample from the extensive library provided (including effects, white-noise, and analog sampled oscillators) or one of your own.

Iris 2 has utilized iZotope’s RX spectrogram technology to provide a fantastic interface for spectral editing.

Once samples have been loaded into the sample engines, Iris 2 presents several tools to manipulate the spectrum of the sample.

Using graphical tools (lasso selector, rectangular selector, paintbrush sculptor, etc.) the frequency editor allows you to add or remove portions of the waveform and isolate exactly what audio content you want to keep from the sample selected.

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One of the best tools in the frequency editor is the Magic Wand tool. When selected, this tool allows you to select a fundamental frequency of the sample as well as its entire related harmonic content.

This is an amazing tool when looking to clean up a noisy audio sample, or create a clean and interesting soundscape. Iris 2 has also built in a must for this kind of spectral manipulation, with its UNDO feature.

Don’t ever fear that you’ve gone too far with spectral painting or harmonic selection, because everything you do can easily be undone.       

What is so intriguing about the spectral manipulation capabilities of Iris 2 is that within seconds you can have both visual and audial feedback of a manipulated sample.

iZotope Iris 2 Review

This editor is amazing at isolating exact elements of a sound, and bringing out the best of a sample. Whether you are looking to only use a bird’s chirp in a nature field sample, or a whale’s cry in a deep ocean sample, Iris 2 allows you to isolate that particular sound you are looking for with ease.

On top of these spectral manipulation options, Iris 2 also contains many of the classic features within most sample-based instruments. You can play back the samples in both fixed-mode (with the same pitch) and resample-mode (with keyboard tracking and pitch control).

There is also the ability to loop the samples to create a sustained soundscape or rhythmic effect. Unique to Iris 2 is the Radius RT mode, which allows the timing of the sample to remain constant with changes in pitch using key tracking.

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Iris 2 has an incredibly intuitive sample browser. Once the full browser is activated, it is extremely easy to select various samples from the giant catalog of sounds, or shuffle through tons of pre-made patches.

Saving your patches is also very easy, and having access to them in the same browser folder is very nice. The sampler also provides fantastic mixing tools to make all four samples extremely cohesive.

You can tune all your samples, adjust their gain and stereo placement, and turn your samples into a full spectrum sound. You have the ability to send each sample independently to the various pre-filter effects.

Another amazing feature of the sampler is the ability to isolate certain samples to specific key tracking slots. Let’s say that you want a noise sample to only play on higher notes of the keyboard, or a sub to slowly introduce itself as you play down in pitch. Well with this key tracking ability, that is now possible. 

Modulation

The best feature of Iris 2 is its seamless ability to modulate its parameters. Utilizing what iZotope calls a “click on source then click on destination” method of modulation, it is possible to modulate tons of the parameters in Iris 2.

This feature can yield the craziest and most unique patches possible within the plug-in. Being able to change a parameter overtime allows the sound to evolve and mature in ways that would be impossible to create with traditional synthesis.

Iris 2 makes it very simple to take a simple one-shot patch and develop it into a grand spectral soundscape. It is even possible to modulate the modulation carrier wave itself.

These modulation features feel right at home for users of hard-hitting synths like Native Instruments Massive or Xfer Records Serum. Iris 2’s modulation can be the most appealing and fun feature of this plug-in.

Just playing around with assigning modulation to random parameters can let you come up with truly stunning results with a few simple modulations.

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As mentioned before, Iris 2 contains five envelopes, five LFOs, and eight macros to use for modulation carriers. The LFOs have 26 unique waveforms to use as modulation sources.

Alongside the standard sine, square, saw, and triangle waveforms, there are now unique waveforms like the “pyramid” which provide for very interesting effects.

The intuitive visual display of the modulation sources makes it very easy to jump right into a complex modulation with ease. The plug in has a very sleek workflow when using the modulation parameters.

Assigning modulation sources is very easy and doesn’t compromise how comfortable it is to use the plug-in. Every parameter can accept up to three simultaneous inputs of modulation, which provides for a much more complex sound design.

Effects

The new delay effect in Iris 2 extends its delay time up to 4000ms. This delay can be used as a great stereo effect when modulating the left and right delay times separately (also known as the Haas effect).

Iris 2 also contains a fantastic plate reverb which sounds amazing on drum sounds. One of the most unique features on this reverb is the ability to modulate its parameters over time with one of the carrier modulation envelopes or LFOs.

This means the reverb has the ability to gradually change the room size or density, an interesting effect. The filters and distortion algorithms within the effects section are modeled from iZotope’s marvelous Trash 2 distortion plug-in.

These distortion abilities can bring out great tonal qualities of your samples and bring life to your soundscapes.

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The most important feature of the effects section is the ability to send individual samples to each effect separately. You also have the ability to send the entire combined sample to an effect.

The convenience of having both of these abilities provides for a much more realistic sound and total sonic control.

Synthesis Tools

Iris 2 provides an amazing upgrade in subtractive synthesis abilities. Not only can Iris 2 be used to create a unified four-layer sample, but it can also be used to further manipulate that sample with traditional subtractive synthesis techniques.

Iris 2 contains 17 filter modes to sculpt the spectrum. Many standard filter types are available (highpass, lowpass, bandpass, etc.) however there are also several format and vocal filters included.

Utilizing these filters can provide the  tonal control needed to freely sculpt any sound and develop unique character.

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A great feature of Iris 2 is the ability to create rhythmic time based sounds. Because of the layout of the spectrum manipulation, the horizontal axis represents time of the sample.

Therefore, you can have elements of the sound come in at certain time intervals to create pulses and rhythmic textures. This proves to be a great feature once you can incorporate subtractive synthesis in time.

For example, you can have a sample get modulated by an FM wavetable at certain time intervals. This is great for creating rhythmic effects and more natural sounding percussion. 

Conclusion

Iris 2 can be very intimidating at first, and it might take a few days before you are comfortable with its interface. However, the possibilities with this sample-based synth are incredible, and it can really be used to take your sound design to the next level.

The best advice I can give you is to just experiment with the vast library of sounds iZotope provides you with, and try to do something different. Make some patches, and experiment with the spectral selection tools.

Try taking only your favourite elements of a sample and combining them to create something new and never heard before. Iris 2 really allows you to separate composition from sound design, which I’ve found can really benefit the creative process.

I can guarantee that once you are comfortable with the interface, you will never want to use another sampler for sound design again.

About The Author

This article was written by ZachMontoya, one half of the production duo ‘Syence’.

Follow Syence on Facebook or SoundCloud using these links.