The Orla RS480 is housed in exactly the same smart, contemporary maple cabinet as the 400, both styled much as the Yamaha Stagea. It is 110cm wide, 60.5cm Deep, 95cm high and weighs 51kg. It has a 49-note Upper Keyboard, a 61-note Lower Keyboard and a 20-note Pedalboard: all of them with adjustable initial touch sensitivity. The Perspex keyboard cover folds up to become a very practical full length and full height music desk.
I think the biggest change between the models is probably the amount of input from European experts, as this one now includes some more sounds and styles that have come from the Orla team, who as you know, always are ready to listen to customer comment to ensure their products do just what we want. It has also been further improved by the use of a brand new sound board, which has made the instrument more powerful in terms of volume.
There are 16 Registration Memory buttons between the keyboards and these come pre-loaded with five sets of registrations to get you going, so that’s 80 presets, all useful ones. To swap between the sets you simply hold in the Shift button and then press Piston 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 to change banks. You can, of course, save your own presets and then store all of these on to a USB memory stick of your favourite sounds, which on the Ringway is just a simple one button operation. Whilst on the USB, the simple Song Record feature also stores to this.
The presets all include appropriate rhythms and backings for the sounds but by using the ‘D’ (disable) button you can use them with any backing style you want, as this makes the presets only change the actual sounds, not the rhythms or tempos. The banks provided are Organ, Combo, Orchestral, Band and a Default Set, prepared by the team here at Orla Direct to give a good variety of things we like in this country. It is worth mentioning that every preset in the Organ, Combo and Orchestral banks uses the Split facility to effectively create a third manual, with a suitable sound set there to make a good musical change by simply moving from playing on the Upper to playing using in the Split section, which in these presets has been set to the right hand end of the Lower.
The Registration Memories do not affect your choice of whether to play everything yourself or use Single Fingered or Fingered Chord options, or the one I like the most, Custom Bass, for which you have to play your own chords and root bass notes but it then syncopates them with the rhythm styles. An improvement has been made here over the RS400EU, as this new organ incorporates Orla’s sophisticated chord recognition system.
There have been some big improvements made in the year since the smaller one came out. The first most notable thing is perhaps the inclusion of more and better organ sounds.
These include some traditional Orla Flute settings, such as their warm 16′ & 4′ Flutes, a great jazzy 8′ & 1′ combination and some nice jazz organ with percussion. As well as Orla organ sounds, they have used their links with Reg Rawlings of Total Transformation Technology to include some Blackpool Tower Wurlitzer sampled sounds.
The range chosen, using slightly compressed samples here, includes Tibias, Tibias and Voxes and Full Organ. As I said, registrations in the group have been set using the Lower Split facility so, for example, the Tibias and Voxes on the Upper come with a Theatre Glockenspiel on the top end of the Lower manual, which is very effective.
There is also a range of Church and Chapel organ sounds, which perhaps mostly remind me of good electronic church organs, though there is a very convincing American Reed Organ and a very impressive cathedral organ, which is very good used with a lower keyboard split delivering a solo Trumpet so you are ready to play the many impressive Trumpet and Tuba Tunes from the classical organ repertoire.
One of my very few slight criticisms of the smaller model when it came out was that I found the Strings not quite to my taste, perhaps a little lacking in warmth. They have worked hard to take this comment on board and I am pleased to report they are now much improved.
I went around the organ by way of the registrations that are in it when you get it, as obviously these have been crafted to include the most popular settings and to show off the sounds. Exactly as on the RS400EU, there are two full polyphonic sound sections each for Upper and Lower, plus a monophonic Solo sound section which can be used on the Upper or Lower, either topping off the other sound banks or, unusually, you can use the Split facility on either Upper or Lower manual to use this as a right hand voice. They have very much ticked a box for me by including two mono sound sections for the Bass, as I always like this to give depth in one section and something slightly percussive in the other to give some drive and clarity.
There are 179 Voices, all available in every section, and 14 different drum kits. There are 120 Accompaniment Styles, 50 from Ringway themselves and then 70 from Orla’s very popular ‘Super Style’ library. These have all been looked through and adjusted to ensure they give the best possible results here. Each Rhythm Style has Intro, Ending and two variations of Style, plus it is possible to rebalance the parts of the Style if you want to create something a little different.
I’ve already pretty much covered the Organ sounds available, though I must mention they’ve made some brilliant preset gospel settings, a Waltz with the electronic organ on top and a choir effect on the Lower, and there is another more jazzy one that is really great.
The Combo Registration bank begins with a really lovely solo Piano with Jazz Guitar in the backing and a gentle slow foxtrot style, all perfect for great standards like Let There Be Love.
From the Grand Piano we move to an excellent Ragtime setting and then we rein to the magic Vibraphone and Piano sound of the great George Shearing, backed up here by Strings and Piano in the Style. The Pan Flute is absolutely superb and has been set up here with the Classical Guitar. It’s an Electric Guitar used for a nice laid back Country setting, just right for King of the Road, and then there’s a really nice strumming Guitar pattern in the next Style, just right for the Carpenter’s On Top Of The World. Stefan Grapelli is represented here with his Violin, and there are a couple of pleasing modern styles, nice for Saving All Your Love and Careless Whisper.
The Orchestral preset bank begins with some edgy Strings, then a fuller String preset combining a couple of different pitches. Next comes Strings with Piano and then Strings with Choir, which is a good sound to recreate some of the James Last classical recordings. There’s a Mandolin Orchestra, which thoughtfully has been set up with an Accordion on the split to the right hand end of the Lower Manual, so it is perfect for Speak Softly Love! Next there is a Guitar with the Strings.
The Brass section comes in with Trumpet and French Horn, and there’s even space to include some Pizzicato Strings. The Band registrations obviously include Trombones and Trumpets.
As we are now in the Band family of presets, they have of course included both 4/4 and 6/8 March settings, and there’s a very nice Brass and Bell Lyre registration to really give the feel of a Marching Band on a summer’s day!
Besides the Ringway having so many strong voices, and the Orla and Wurlitzer organ sounds included as well, you can also edit the sounds, which is a feature I really like on organs. It isn’t that I’d expect to make radical changes but it is so often handy to perhaps make a sound a little brighter or maybe change its vibrato to suit your taste or a particular musical situation.
Whilst thinking of sound adjustments, you can also Pan each individual voice from side to side, have individual Reverb settings for each voice (perhaps lots on the Strings to keep them warm but less on the Piano), and each voice can be easily shifted up or down by up to two octaves.
The Expression Pedal has a foot switch on each side; the Right one to move Registration Memory button selected, either up one at a time or through an order you preset: the Left one to control a choice of Damper, Rhythm Start/ Stop, Fill-In and Ending. Like the smaller model, this new Ringway RS480EU offers exceptional value for money. I am pleased it has the 61-note Lower manual and the 20-note pedalboard, as each of these allows for greater musicality. The range of sounds will cover just about every need and the improved styles are easy on the ear and enjoyable to play along to. I feel sure that, like the RS400EU, it is going to enjoy very great success.