iZotope Iris 2 Review

Sampling has been around for several decades, but programs such as Iris are still finding new ways to work with audio. Can Iris 2 improve on the original? Alex Holmes looks deeper…

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Details
Price £209 (full version), £89.95 (upgrade)
Contact Time+Space 01837 55200
Web www.timespace.com
Minimum System Requirements PC: Windows 7 and 8 (32-bit & 64-bit) Mac: OS X 10.6 or later (Intel-based Macs only)

Iris from iZotope turned many a head when it was released a few years back, with its novel graphic selection method offering a new take on sampling. Instead of merely selecting broad slabs of audio to build your instruments you could go in with a surgeon’s precision and take tiny elements using familiar drawing tools usually found in graphics programs to make your selection. And now iZotope is back with a redesigned version…

A New Lick of Paint
The layout and GUI of Iris 2 have been given a complete overhaul to allow for a much more flexible, synth-like modulation system. You now have five complex LFOs with 20 oscillator shapes, five envelopes with additional control over slope curves, eight macro knobs, and key tracking, velocity, aftertouch, and mod wheel external inputs.

Each of these can be easily assigned to any of over 100 parameters using a simple drag-and-drop system akin to that used on NI’s Massive.

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Although you may find yourself having to jump between different LFO and envelope tabs to edit settings, it’s still one of the most intuitive and elegant modulation systems we’ve seen.

Other new features include some tasty new filter algorithms called New York and Tokyo, new distortion modes taken from Trash 2, a global intensity dial that uses trademark iZotope compression and limiting to increase the loudness of the sound, and a small spectrum analyser view to give a more visual preview of the output.

For the most part, many of the main elements remain in place, with the ability to fill the central spectrogram view with either a single zoomed audio file, or all four channels from the audio pool. You also have the breakout Mix view to tweak the parameters of each sample on one screen, but due to the nature of the new modulation system, this now lacks control for amp envelopes and LFOs, which is a shame.

Eye of the Beholder
Unfortunately, that’s the majority of the new features. Many hoping for new drawing tools will be sorely disappointed, as the main spectral editing remains exactly the same. There’s also been no improvement in the CPU-hungry Radius RT stretching algorithm, which is now starting to look a little long in the tooth; and the fact you can only change the pitch and not the speed is an added restriction.

However, Iris 2’s trump card is the 11GB library of samples and patches taken from previous packs. Many of the presets layer multiple samples and feature good use of modulation and effects, although some perhaps rely on the reverb a little too much.

It’s a shame then that there’s not some sort of favourites system, as scrolling through the preset browser can be a little laborious. We’ll award extra points for good use of the macro controls, though, which make every preset instantly playable and tweak-able as you browse. One deal-breaking issue for those looking to upgrade from Iris 1 is that patches made with the original won’t load properly in Iris 2. However, we’re told iZotope is working on a conversion solution as we type.

Greatness still Awaits…
Of course the true joy and value of this instrument is in capturing your own sounds and transforming them into playable music, melodies and textures; a task now made even more flexible with the new modulation system. It seems odd then that iZotope has chosen to market Iris 2 as more of a traditional synth, as this bypasses what made it unique in the first place.

In many ways we feel reluctant to mark it down, as the epic sound library alone is worth the asking price, but it’s frustrating that such a potentially amazing product falls short by failing to update some key areas.

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