Spectrasonics – Omnisphere – Review

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Spectrasonics Omnisphere
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.

PROS:
-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

CONS:
-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

18 Replies to “Spectrasonics – Omnisphere – Review”

  1. yes agree spectrasonics stuff is top notch – i love it – they have that interface for an ipad which would be great to use.

    i used to buy old synths – had quite a few and loved playing around with them – i have to admit that omnisphere is just so perfect i dont tamper with it barely – pity really – i bet the people that have the time and energy to get underneath and inside it really learn to fall in love with it as its probably one of the best synths ever made.

  2. It’s worth adding I think, if you’ve forked out for omnisphere, go buy the additional Bob Moog Tribute Library. It’s a $100 well spent.

    1. “It’s worth adding I think, if you’ve forked out for omnisphere, go buy the additional Bob Moog Tribute Library. It’s a $100 well spent.”

      +1

      There’s a ton of useful stuff. Some really great patches, by top programmers.

  3. Ever since I got a new computer (8 core with 16 gbs of ram) I have been a total Omnisphere junkie. In the session I have open right now, there are 22 Omni patches loaded, and one Trilian. The only issue I’ve seen is subtle clicks here and there if I’m using a lot of sustained notes together. Freezing the tracks gets rid of the problem, which is probably a bottleneck from the external hard drive.

    I combine it with Trilian’s library, and the the cool extra ‘VIP’ sounds you get for owning both. The strings are definitely not the kind you want to rely on solely, but like most Spectrasonics sounds, they have a great juicy low end, perfect for boosting thinner yet more realistic sounding samples like EWSO, VSL, even LASS and Hollywood Strings. There are also some really nice gospel choir samples, that work well under more realistic choirs like Requiem.

    I’d recommend removing (or at least pulling WAY down) the ‘chorus echo’ effect that seems to be on most of the pads. It’s a cheesy effect and gets really messy when you have tempo changes.

    Also, I find I have to carve out the ‘low mids’ and some mid range frequencies in the pads when stacking a lot of tracks. It seems like almost every patch fills up those frequencies (with that previously mentioned juicy low end!)

    1. I’m just waiting for Kore 2 to go 64bit then I’m upgrading to Win7 with tons of ram for the same reason! I feel about Kore the way you guys obviously feel about Omni. K2 is the hub of my setup and the only reason I’ve haven’t gone 64bit yet. It’s the single most powerful and useful tool in my audio collection and NI had to go and discontinue it.

      1. Eb,

        ‘Freezing’ may be called something different in your DAW. Basically, it renders a track, including all effects on the track, to a temporary audio clip that lasts until you ‘unfreeze’ it. It’s very handy for tracks that have heavy CPU usage instruments and effects. Freezing a bunch of tracks frees up a lot of cpu resources which can then be used for other things.

        1. Interesting, thanks Matt. I use Pro-Tools 9. Do you know if it’s possible with PT?
          It’s practically a moot point now that I have VE Pro though!

          Eb

    2. “cool extra ‘VIP’ sounds you get for owning both” Nice, I didn’t know about this. I bought omnisphere about a month ago and just ordered Trilian. Is it a simple download from the site?

  4. HI Denis,

    Thanks. Unscathed, but it seems to have been raining ever since. Flooding in the area continues.
    All of the regional rails are down today!

    I guess I thought the if you used VEpro, you could host Omnisphere in a different formats than RTAS, avoiding the wrapper issue. But, I know nothing about Protools. I know that Bidule would allow me to host formats other than AU in DP7.

    Thanks again for your good wishes.

    Cheers,

    Michael

  5. Great review Jason. I would add two more points.

    1. A CPU hog
    2. In Protools the RTAS version uses a wrapper, it’s not a completely native RTAS version. This makes a CPU heavy plug much less efficient than VST or AU.

    All that being said I love Spectrasonics stuff and Omnishere is fantastic.

      1. Hi MichaelL

        Yes VE Pro does work with Protools and is in fact the workaround that many composers use to host VI in PT either on a slave or on the same machine. Rtas is pretty terrible at hosting Vi’s and as I said above it isn’t helped IMO by the wrapper approach in Omnisphere. I think all of Spectrasonics stuff uses this approach.

        Glad you got over Irene unscathed

        1. That is what I do. Yes Micheal host Omnisphere outside of Pro tools in VE Pro as well as all other sample libraries…it will change everything in a very good way.

          1. Yes, I use VEPRO with DP7 to host all of my libraries and soft synths. I have no problem running 10 to 15 instances of VEPRO, hosting Omnisphere, Symphobia, LASS, BFD2, Stylus, Kontakt and multiple PLAY based libraries

            CHeers,

            Michael

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