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Last-Minute Music-ish Gifts for Audio Pros

This is a fascinating $99 hand-held synth/looper/controller from Artiphon that can be a simple desk toy for the musically curious or a potentially useful tool for those looking to create music using a different electronic instrument. About the size of 1 1/2 hockey pucks, Orba has eight touch-sensitive pads; a loud built-in speaker; LEDs; haptic feedback; MIDI, USB and headphone outputs; and some simple buttons for playing and various tasks. You can tap, bend and ‘play’ different onboard sounds, ranging from drums to various synths, and since everything is in a given key, you can’t play a ‘bad’ note. Simple looping allows users to make beats and layer sounds, or you can use it as a controller via MIDI. Onboard sounds can be added to and changed via an accompanying smartphone app. Those with a passing interest will enjoy being able to intuitively generate music with little effort, but for those who want to dig deeper, Orba proves to be surprisingly flexible and an interesting creative tool to try when you’re looking to break out of the usual creative routines.