Review by Jason Farnham (www [dot] jasonfarnham [dot] com)
Remember when you used to go in the music store and play a new keyboard for the first time, and it sounded so cool that you were really inspired, and wanted to spend 5 hours there just writing a song? And you ended up just buying the thing on the spot, without even thinking about if you could afford it or not? Spectrasonics Omnisphere synth plug-in (RTAS, VST, AU) for your DAW is that kind of instrument. Sure, there are some cons, but as for bang for the buck, ($479 to be exact), with over 40GB of sounds, this synth plug-in is a great addition to your virtual instrument arsenal.
I have a Virus TI 61 key synthesizer, so when Omnisphere came out, to be honest I wasn’t even interested in knowing about it. However, as I noticed more and more of my composer friends casually mentioning it in their blogs- the more I became intrigued. I had been under the impression that most of the patches would be ultra synthy-analogue sounding Nord Lead kind of sounds. I was wrong. This thing has everything, from Daniel Lanois-esque landscape baritone guitars with delay to fresh electronic arpeggiated blips with auto-pan. Don’t get me wrong, the mod retro cutting nasal synth leads are there too, but
you get traditional sounds as well, which leads nicely into the next paragraph….
There are a variety of sounds each categorized for convenience, like Keyboards, Strings & Pads, Synths, etc. Try the “Traditional” category, and play through some of the Vintage Guitars: These samples are pretty good, especially the baritones! I wouldn’t say they are believable enough to stand on their own, but mixed and embedded well within a track- they become quite credible.
Ease of use? Check. One of the things I always look at when thinking about purchasing a new plug-in is “How easy is this thing to use, right out of the box?” I just don’t have time to sit there and tweak for hours until I find the right sound. With Omnisphere, you can dial up a factory patch and it sounds amazing right off the bat. And these are expensive sounding patches. Sure, you can still tweak to your heart’s content-using the on-board effects, envelope filters and such, but most of the time, I’ve found it’s not really necessary. You can also stack and layer multiple patches together if the single patches aren’t thick enough for you.
It’s also really easy to save the patches you like, or the patches you’ve edited as favorites. I’ve created my own folder just for this, and I always find myself going back to it when I need to find something for inspiration on a track I’m working on.
Speaking of inspiration… Omnisphere is great for helping you to get the creative juices flowing. The “Arpeggiated” menu is my favorite; I’ve created a number of songs that are built around some of the modern factory patches there, where I just said “Wow, that sound is great- I should make a song out of that!”
Okay, there are a few things they could have done better: The envelope filters seem lacking a bit- especially the Cutoff and
Resonance knobs- I’d like those to sound a bit more extreme when I dial those all the way up and down, as they would on an analogue synth. Also, because there are so many different sounds to deal with, it can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you’re working on a track and are looking for that one particular type of pad to glue it all together- and you can easily spend too much time demoing patch after patch in sub-menus until you find it. Finally, in the “Strings / Pads” menu, the pads work great, but the strings- not so much. It’s probably better to use Vienna Strings or East West Symphonic Orchestra for authentic string needs.
To sum it up, Omnisphere is like your child- wonderful in so many ways- and while it doesn’t always do exactly what you want- you can’t imagine your life before you had it.
-Great tool for inspiration
-User friendly- factory patches that are ready to go
-“Arpeggiated” folder is fantastic
-Easy to save your favorite patches / edited favorite patches
-Nice vintage electric guitar patches
-Amplitude envelope parameters leave something to be desired
-Sometimes difficult and time consuming to locate a certain sound you
want because many of the patches in a submenu sound alike
-Strings just okay