Omnisphere Review: Omnisphere by Spectrasonics is a flagship STEAM VST sample based synthesizer that fuses organic sounds with mind blowing psychoacoustic patches. Our software review yields brilliant results.
Before Spectrasonics, Eric Persing was the Chief Sound Designer for Roland in Japan. During his time working for Roland, he built up quite a repertoire for sound design and synth programming. He helped work on many of Roland’s products with the most notable being the Roland D-
With this success under his belt, in 1994 he founded Spectrasonics with his wife Lorey. The company embedded itself within the music world by creating high class sample libraries, whether they were tailored for eclectic world music such as the Supreme Beats and Heart Of Asia libraries, the critically acclaimed series Distorted Reality or the surprisingly funky beats found in Liquid Grooves and Ethno Techno, each of these sample libraries had an instant usability that was not found anywhere else at the time. Eric’s passion to combine usability and high functionality became one with the release of a trio of virtual instruments in 2003: Stylus, Trilogy and Atmosphere. Although these three products have been used on countless records, the sample-
In 2008, after five years of being at the top of the virtual instrument world, Atmosphere was discontinued. However, not all was lost as it paved way for what has become a new synth powerhouse: Omnisphere.
When initially released, it boasted a 42GB core library pool that put other synths to shame; including it’s predecessor, Atmosphere. Six years on it is still going strong and has seen many updates with the latest, v1.5, integrating iPad functionality and The Orb. Given how popular music production and composition has changed over the past few years, there are a plethora of virtual instruments on the market but very few offer the amount Omnisphere does. This sample-
Being a sample-
Processing and mixing can be done entirely in Omnisphere itself as it contains a fully integrated FX rack. Each patch can have up to 12 simultaneous FX processors from the 32 original processors available as well as the the ability to choose from hundreds of presets.
Given the amount included within Omnisphere it can only be bought as a boxed version. It comes with six discs that all need to be installed before using the product. The installation process is straight forward with the preferred option to be to install the discs via a Spectrasonics account online to ensure the most recent version of the software is downloaded. Licensing is also done through a DAW and a Spectrasonics account via serial codes, which means there is no need to worry about having an iLok for activation.
Omnisphere supports both Mac OSX 10.7 (Lion) or higher and Windows Vista, 7 and 8 with native 32-
Depending on the usage of Omnisphere, it can be quite CPU intensive which is why 8GBs of RAM is recommended. The minimum requirement is 2GBs of RAM but for ease of use, 8GBs or higher provides more efficiency. Installation and testing took place on Mac OSX 10.9.2 and functioned very well.
I’ll start by saying that Omnisphere is a very comprehensive package that can be used in almost any composition, whether it be a film score, dance track or a contemporary pop song. With the use of its extensive search function, finding a sample or soundscape could not be easier. It is rare to find a package like this that houses a sound for every occasion, and if you are still searching for that sound, the ability to create your own patches is there within the synthesis module. The creativity Omnisphere brings to every composition really makes it stand above the rest, especially considering the ease with which this is done. However, one of the drawbacks is not being able to load your own samples and manipulate them. Being stuck with the stock samples is not necessarily a hindrance considering the sheer size of the library, but some further usability would have been a welcome integration into their multitimbral STEAM engine, which offers development possibilities into a variety of hybrid synthesis and control capabilities.
From opening my preferred DAW it takes very little time to set up an instance of Omnisphere and sketch out the basics of any track. As there are no roadblocks in regards to taking time to create and shape a sound, it keeps the creative process flowing. As a composer, the ability to have something like this is very welcoming. In tandem with this usability, Omnisphere can be opened as a stereo x8 multi-
With v1.5 of Omnisphere, Spectrasonics have introduced its most innovative feature to date: The Orb. At a glance, it is a circular control that induces various tonal changes to any patch that is chosen. If certain transformations are left to be desired, or you want quick alternatives, there is a ‘Dice’ button that changes target parameters ‘under the hood’ as it were. Even though you are not notified of what is being selected for control, by hearing the changes you can determine the good from the bad. The Orb can be controlled via a mouse, a track pad or other hardware controls but where it really shines is for iPad users thanks to the free App; Omni TR.
The iPad control delivers instant controllable timbral variations from the heart of Omnisphere’s STEAM engine. The two controls, Angle and Radius, correspond to the scenes of parameters and also the intensity of the effect. The most dramatic changes take place furthest from the Orb’s centre and there is also the ability to restore the original sound by hitting clear. It may be a simple means of patch customisation but the Orb can be addictive and instantly satisfying. In addition to this, a few seconds of the Orb’s motion can be recorded into the patch if desired. To show that this feature is enabled the Orb turns red to when a recording has been made, and to be more precise in your control, the movements can also be automated in your DAW.
Out of the 8,005 samples, there are three that standout above the rest. The first, ‘Dream Searching Soft’ is an ethereal sound with a vibrant motion, yet staying subtle enough for it to be used for pad work. The soft attack of each note adds a gentle tone to the sound that makes this sample shine. The granular intensity can be affected with the use of the mod-
Spectrasonics ‘Omnisphere’ still stands as one of the most comprehensive and thought out virtual instruments on the market. It provides all the tools you will need to create any form of composition and much more besides. During my time with Omnisphere I found that I had at least one instance of it in every project I was working on and on the whole, navigation of the virtual instrument was very easy and simple. Its scope in samples is impeccable and in tandem with its synthesis capabilities and the iPad integration, there is no reason not to own Omnisphere. Even though the ability to load your own samples into Spectrasonics STEAM engine would have been a nice touch, the breadth that Omnisphere’s samples cover certainly makes up for it. It may be a six year old virtual instrument, but Omnisphere still reigns supreme and for the price, it should be added to the ‘must have’ list for every composer and producer. For this reason, The Pro Audio Web Blog awards Spectrasonics ‘Omnisphere’ with a four-