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Spectrasonics Omnisphere Power Synth Review

spectrasonics omnisphere review

TL;DR:

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.


Review Preface:

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-50 and the JD-800.


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-based synth, Atmosphere, is arguably the most praised. Atmosphere created those lush, layered pads that only be created before by using a plethora of hardware units combined with expensive reverb units. Atmosphere allowed the ‘everyday’ user to have this sort of power at their finger tips, enabling them to create productions that could sound much more grand than they actually were.


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-based synthesizer does not show signs of ageing and it is still at the top of its game.


Package Contents:

Being a sample-based synthesizer, Omnisphere contains a total sample pool of 8,005 sounds that are separated into three main categories; patches, sound sources and multis, as well as also containing the sound set found in Atmosphere. All of this roughly covers 50GBs worth of data. As well as this extraordinary sound-set, it also boasts an extensive synthesis module with oscillators that can be sample-based or purely synth-based. A couple of neat features of this synthesis module are the option for granular synthesis and the ability to assign parameters such as LFOs, envelopes etc. to any other parameter. It allows the ability create an endless number of possible soundscapes from scratch, without even having to touch the sample library aspect.


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.


Supported Platforms:

Omnisphere supports both Mac OSX 10.7 (Lion) or higher and Windows Vista, 7 and 8 with native 32-bit and 64-bit both being supported. Omnisphere can be run in DAWs that can read AU, VST 2.4 or higher, RTAS or AAX. The capability of running AAX is a welcoming addition as it shows continued support for the product to ensure it works on all possible formats and DAWs.


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.


The Pro Audio Web BlogUses, Function and In-Use Thoughts:

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-ouput instance, which allows the use of one main instance and by using the routing functions within the virtual instrument, it is possible to route each separate layer into its own mix track within your DAW. Routing Omnisphere this way allows the use of the FX rack in a way in which affects every patch inside the instance, so there is no need to process the sounds in your DAW. A reason for doing this may be when to trying to create a big pad or soundscape to fill or lift up a composition; having eight different layers is one simple, and not too CPU intensive solution. The FX modules included in Omnisphere are quite good but given their lack of options, they can be quite limiting. I found I tended to use our my plug ins to process the sounds and rarely used the built in FX rack.


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 Pro Audio Web BlogThe 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-wheel to add a ‘shivering’ quality that is reminiscent of the Vangelis-esque sound we often associate with the Blade Runner score. The second, ‘Foreshadowing The End’ is a tense, aggressive, pad-like sound, with a medium attack time giving the sample space to breathe and then build up to increase the tension in any composition. The use of the mod-wheel opens the filter and allows the sound to roar and become overpowering. Its very evocative of the sounds heard in the video game series ‘Mass Effect’. Lastly, ‘Planning The Revenge’, is a rhythmic patch more tailored to film and video game scores. The percussive nature of this sample makes it suitable for chase scenes or in moments where tension is desired. The use of the mod-wheel here modulates the bit crusher and sample rate reduction. Although this patch shines without the use of any modulation. C3 also seems to be the note which yields the most satisfying results in regards to the tonality of the sound.


Review Conclusion:

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-and-a-half star rating.


Harnek Mudhar

Harnek Mudhar - 24th May 2014

US RRP: $499.00 | UK RRP: £345.00

Editors Rating:

Four and a Half Star Review
Chord Signature Tuned ARAY RCA Review
4.5/5 stars
Omnisphere by Spectrasonics is a flagship STEAM VST sample based synthesizer that fuses orgainic sounds with mind blowing psychoacoustic patches. Our software review yeilds brilliant results.