Iris 2 is a new and improved version of a virtual instrument, a sampler and a synthesizer in one. When iZotope released the first version of Iris, it was a tool with decent capabilities, but a bit limited with regards to flexibility. Iris 2 is exactly the opposite. There’s no limit on what you can do with this application.
Iris 2 comes with a whole new modulation system, an associated new interface, a spectrum analyser and enhanced effects and filters. There’s also a huge library of samples that comes with the app now (11GB). The basic workflow is still the same as with Iris 1, but over 100 parameters can now be modulated using up to five LFO’s and Envelopes, MIDI Expression Controllers and Macro Controls. Up to four slots allow you to load samples or osccilator waveforms.
The LFO’s contain 20 different wave table types, while the advanced ADSR envelopes have adjustable curves, draggable nodes, invert mode and modulation of all four parameters.
The basic operation is the same as with Iris 1: you load a sample in the spectrogram, then with the tools in the left sidebar you make selections that activate the samples’ sound range you’re interested in. Finally, you start altering the sample(s) sound characteristics with the effects and filters available in Iris 2. For example, you have the option to create Master or Send effects like Distortion and Chorus as in Iris 1, but unlike the first version these effects can now be modulated by dragging LFOs or envelopes to the small controls next to the knobs.
The difference with the first version of Iris is that you can create much more complex synthesized sounds. Combined with a vastly bigger sample library iZotope Iris 2 enables a virtually limitless creativity.
The Master Mix controls Pan and Gain can be modulated with up to three envelope/LFOs (all controls that can be modulated have three slots). Gain is a logarithmic control with a range of 105dB, and the modulators affect the gain on a logarithmic scale as well. The third Master Mix control, Velocity, can’t be modulated as that wouldn’t make much sense.
Right under the Master Mix controls section, Iris 2 has a new Master Spectrum Analyzer. It’s the same meter you’ll find in iZotope’s Insight metering suite. As I experienced myself it is very accurate and reacts in real-time to the filters, modulators and effects you apply to your samples. It also shows how precise Iris 2’s spectral filters are.
A Master Filter section provides 17 models of classic synthesizer filters and modulator-capable control over cut-off frequency and resonance. Filter modes include New York, Tokyo, Retro, Saturated and others. In Iris 2 filters have a cutoff range of 30 Hz to 20,000 kHz. Iris 2 filters being authentic analogue models, resonance is a natural byproduct. It makes certain harmonics to be boosted when the filter is activated, something that is most obvious when using the New York and Tokyo models. If you like to control resonance, its value can be set in a range of .05 to .95.
While Master Filters are applied across all four possible samples, effects can be set to apply to the entire mix, but also to each of the samples individually. In Iris 2, the Mix window differs from the one in Iris 1. You now get a full master section in its own window. An All View is also available. This view gives a quick and ‘live’ overview of all sample slots and selections.
The modulation system in Iris 2 allows you to be a lot more creative than you could be with Iris 1. For example, the LFO’s include a slider to adjust the shape of an existing LFO — ranging from sines to pyramids to stairs — as well as a Sync setting that changes the Rate value from decimal value in Hertz to a note division based on the audio editor host tempo.
Modulation assignment options include LFO’s, Envelopes, Controller Mods and Macro knobs. In addition, you can ‘composite’ these modulators in a combination such as “Multiply”, “Minimise” and “Maximise”.
All of this power comes at an obvious cost. In stand-alone mode, my mid-2011 iMac had no problems number-crunching all of Iris 2’s processing. However, that all changed when I ran Iris 2 inside Logic Pro X. The CPU meter didn’t take long to go into the red zone. It resulted in audible distortion. To make full use of Iris 2, you therefore ideally have at least a higher-end iMac — let’s say one of the two last generations.