Back to the Future
Founded in 1994 by Los Angeles composer Eric Persing and his wife Lorey, Spectrasonics rapidly became a leading provider of industry-leading sample libraries. As Chief Sound Designer for Roland Corporation (since 1984), Eric was already well-established in the industry for creating many of the best sounds in their classic synths, including the ground breaking Roland D-50. Infusing his years of product design expertise, Spectrasonics has earned a reputation for setting the standard of excellence within the industry.
There’s Something in the Atmosphere
However, before we get into Omnisphere 2, it might be wise to look back to where it all started and this synth has it’s roots firmly in Atmosphere. Released in 2002, Atmosphere – Dream Synth Module – broke new ground as one of the world’s first plugin instruments dedicated towards unique sound design. Integrating a large library of unique sounds with a powerful, yet easy to understand interface, Atmosphere quickly became the go-to sound source for film and TV composers, songwriters and producers alike. It received rave reviews in all the top industry magazines along with numerous awards. All the legendary sounds from Atmosphere can be found in enhanced form today, in the current flagship synth Omnisphere 2.
Audio Import Importance
One of the features that I’ve really been looking forward to trying out is the Audio Import feature and it doesn’t disappoint. Importing audio is a very simple affair and once you’ve selected the files you want, you then have a number of different options available with which to mangle them beyond all recognition. The results are quite simply stunning. You could lose days of your life trying out the granular engine alone! It reminds me of what’s now referred to as “old school sampling”, when you actually made your own sounds to give your productions a unique edge (something that’s sadly lacking from many of todays more mainstream productions). Moving the Speed/Position slider yields some fantastic results, as do the Spread and Pitch Grains sliders, which are very handy when wanting to create lush, etherial pads out of some of the most unlikely sources you could imagine. I was able to transform a siren I’d recorded on my iPhone 6 from a seaport dock gate alarm into the most unreal, evolving pad I’ve heard in a long while. The ability to transform nothing into something has to be one of the most truly creative aspects of Omnisphere 2, not to mention addictive!
On the Crest of a Wave(form)
While we’re talking of sound generators, one thing I have to mention are the over 400 non-sampled waveforms now included in Omnisphere 2. This has really changed the possibilities of this already stunning synth into something totally different, opening it up to a new audience who previously may have thought that Omnisphere wasn’t for them. It’s impossible for me to list all of the waveforms here, but the range is diverse and features a number of classic synths from Roland, Korg, Yamaha, ARP, SCI, Oberheim and Moog, many of which I have owned. This turns Omnisphere 2 into a very credible VA synth in its own right, but the fun doesn’t stop there. It’s not just analogue waveforms that are on offer here though, as a number of digital tones and wavetables are also featured, further expanding the sonic pallet even further. The potential here is nothing short of staggering.
Browsing Through the Universe
There’s so many presets in Omnisphere 2, that it almost feels like you’re browsing though an entire universe of sounds. There’s now over 12,000 sounds to choose from and more than 4,500 of them are brand new patches and sound sources. If you cannot find inspiration here, you’re in the wrong job! The new mini browser really helps you find what you’re looking for quickly and when you want to go deeper, the full patch browser is still available. Having been lucky enough to spend the last four weeks with Omnisphere 2, I’ve had the opportunity to really delve deep into the patches and (even though it may seems like a tired and overused phrase), there really is something for everyone.
What may take most people by surprise is the number of EDM patches included in the latest version. Before anyone cringes, I’m happy to say they are of the credible, not cheesy verity (we’re talking about the more mature, electronic dance artist here, as opposed those still in school, who seem to make everything sound like an electro-folk-rave-jigg). Another highlight are the sounds from the Diego Stocco collection of custom built instruments. These are worth the price of the upgrade alone, IMHO (along with the new Phrase-based Soundsources for granular synthesis and the radioactive Melodic Cave Stalactites Sound sources).
Be warned though, you can get lost in this sea of sound and you’ll start to question how it’s suddenly time to start shopping for gifts for the seasonal holidays when it’s only July… Oh! So December has suddenly sneaked up on you too?
Another (yes, yet another) aspect of the original Omnisphere that has been greatly expended is the effects section. There’s 25 new effects units, which are:
- Quad Resonators
- Thriftshop Speaker
- Classic Twin
- Rock Stack
- Stompbox Modeler
- Metalzone Distortion
- Toxic Smasher
- Foxxy Fuzz
- Analog Phaser
- Analog Chorus
- Analog Vibrato
- Solina Ensemble
- Vintage Tremolo
- Envelope Filter
- Crying Wah
- Precision Compressor
- Studio 2-Band EQ
These are a welcome addition to the units Omnisphere already had and can take your sound designing to a whole new level, especially Innerspace, which is mind-blowingly good. Many effects sections on plugin synths seem like an afterthought, with not much control or complexity, but these new units really shine as a great example of just what’s possible and put many other plugin manufacturers to shame. It should also be mentioned that there’s 16 FX units per patch and a full modulation matrix of every effects slot and you can also lock the effects while browsing different patches.
Stop ARP-ing on About it
One last thing I should mention is the expanded arpeggiator. For those like myself, who grew up on analogue synths with step sequencers, you’re going to love the expanded feature set of the arpeggiator in Omnisphere 2. Why? Well, you can note transpose for step sequencing style patterns and better still, you can lock the current pattern while browsing sounds, so you can instantly hear how a new patch will sound without losing the pattern you’ve just created. There’s also a Speed Offset control that allows for slow down/speed up effects as well as new modulation capabilities as well.
To conclude, Omnisphere 2 is quite simply one of the most sophisticatedly stunning synthesisers on the planet. You’ll never become tired of it, there’s always something new to discover (no matter how well you think you know it) and that in itself is worth the asking price alone, as it’s not something you can say of many synths these days. Yes, you could just use the presets, as there are so many of them and all beautifully crafted, but you’d really be missing out if you did that. Omnisphere 2 is capable of driving your creativity in ways I cannot even begin to describe in words alone, elevating your ideas to a new sonic level, all thanks to this marvel of Eric Persing and the Spectrasonics team. While I could go on about the enhanced Orb with Attractor mode, the ability to tweak Trilian Custom Controls Interface inside of Omnisphere and do on, I’m not going to. I’ll finish by saying this – If you haven’t updated yet, do it and do it now – you’ll thank me for it.
Excellent graphical makeover that really improves the layout and usability of the synth.
Convenient mini browser to access things quickly, when you don’t need the full browser.
The ability to import your own audio and transform it in ways you’d never imagined before.
Over 400 waveforms transform Omnisphere into an impressive synthesiser without using sampled waveforms.
New “Spotlight EDM” library with cutting-edge, modern sounds.
Diego Stocco collection and Melodic Cave Stalactites Sound sources are fantastic.
Sound Lock literally ‘makes new patches’ as you browse with locked attributes.
Sound Match helps narrow a search for a certain sound when you are browsing by instantly finding similar sounds to one you have chosen.
25 New effects units which really add to the sound design aspect of the synth.
Free app for Apples iOS iPad platform that control many aspects of Omnisphere 2 in realtime.
Expanded arpeggiator with step-sequencing abilities and beyond.
Omnisphere 2 may have overshadowed other Spectrasonics products (Stylus RMX could do with an update).
Be sure to set a few hours aside when you’re going to install it, as it takes a while!
It will absorb your time like a sponge, with hours passing by like seconds… not really a con though!
So, what’s left to say about Omnisphere 2? Does it live up to all the hype that surrounded its release? Quite simply, yes! Upon it’s release day, Omnisphere 2 was quite literally “the synth that broke the internet” and to be honest, that’s how I’ll always think of it. You don’t get that kind of public demand for everything – this is no throwaway synth – the kind you buy, use a few presets from that impressed you on some You Tube video and then wish you’d never bought, because it’s a one trick pony. No. Omnisphere 2 is a synth for life – something you’ll never grow tired of, that will surprise you overtime you load it up and (in the right hands), will reward you for the rest of your life with sonic adventures you never dreamed possible – yes, it’s that good!
€399 Euro incl VAT
Upgrades – Regular
$249 US from Spectrasonics website
€199 Euro incl VAT from Stores (Code in box allows V2 download)
Upgrades – VIP
$199 US (For customers who own Omnisphere, Trilian and Stylus RMX (Standard Licenses)
Directly through the Spectrasonics website only (excluding VAT)
For more information, please visit the Spectrasonics website.