I first heard about Omnisphere when I saw Jordan Ruddess (of Dream Theater fame) demo it at the 2009 NAMM show in Los Angeles. Needless to say, I was instantly a fan. Throughout this review I’m going to walk you through several key elements of this plugin. I’ll be covering what it is, what it can do and how it can help you. I will also be sharing some of my personal opinions about it. Please keep in mind that reviews are opinionated by there very nature and this one is no exception. Please also consider that my opinions about Omnisphere come from several years of working with it in a professional environment.
So first thing’s first…
What is Omnisphere?
Credit: SpectrasonicsOmnisphere is the flagship “power synth” by virtual instrument giant Spectrasonics that replaces its predecessor, Atmosphere. It boasts over 40 GB of samples that can be tweaked in seemingly infinite ways. It’s the first synth by Spectrasonics to be released on their new STEAM Engine (more on this below). Omnisphere is extremely flexible due to its innovative synthesis techniques and ability to be controlled as much as you could ever want. This allows the “tweakers” among us to have endless amounts of fun with this plugin, while simultaneously remaining intuitive and easy enough for those of us who just want to play music!
What can it do?
In short, anything. I know that seems like a mildly disappointing answer but once you get your hands on this plugin, you’ll quickly realize exactly what I mean. If you need proof, just look at the number of total sounds this synth has: 8,005. That breaks down to 5,121 patches, 2,740 soundsources and 144 multis. Do you see what I mean? There have been plenty of times I’ve been working on a track for a client and thought, “You know what this needs…a group of Tuvan monks chanting.” Without Omnisphere, I’d have to call my monk guy and set up a recording session, etc. Who has time for that? Omnisphere allows me to throw an uncannily real-sounding Tuvan monk group on the track in seconds. I realize this sounds a little cheesy, I just get super excited about this synth.
Omnisphere has a ridiculous amount of awesome features and there’s no way I can cover all of them in one article. Instead, I will try to focus on the features that I like the most and encourage all of you to get the product and experience them for yourself.
Here are my personal Top 5 features of Omnisphere:
1. Omnisphere has an extremely simple interface
I’ve worked with some virtual instruments over the years that have terrible, inefficient or ugly interfaces. Fortunately, Omnisphere isn’t one of them (although I must say, the sounds are so good I’d be willing to overlook a bad user interface). Everything you need to work with your sounds is easy to find and tweak.Credit: Dallas Dwight
2. Omnisphere has an amazing search browser
One big problem I have with VIs is the simple fact that I spend more time trying to find the right sound than I do actually making music with it. No so with Omnisphere. The browsing capabilities are quite extreme. You’re able to easily find what you need by searching through either Category, Type, Genre or Complexity. I find it useful to continually refine your search using a combination of these parameters. This is perfect for those unfortunate situations where you want a certain sound but can’t decide exactly what it is.Credit: Dallas Dwight
3. Omnisphere comes with awesome stock presets
So many VIs come with patches that are essentially useless. In some cases they can be tweaked a lot to create a gem, but even then there’s no guarantee. Omnisphere is the opposite. The patches it comes with are so good that I sometimes have tried to “tweak” a preset, only to revert to the original because I was unable to make it any more perfect for the song I needed it for.
4. Omnisphere has incredibly unique samples
While you can easily find your typical cello, choir or kick drum, it is the decidedly stranger sounds that tend to catch my eye. The Spectrasonics team does a great job capturing sounds that would never even cross your mind. Instead of a cello, how about a bowed piano? Instead of a classical choir, how about a group of Gregorian men? Instead of the kick drum, how about darkness pad with a sharp “thump” at the beginning? The possibilities are truly endless when you combine the options you have, with the amount of tweaks you can apply.
5. Omnisphere has a killer effects rack
Each patch is able to be even further tweaked by any combination of 32 built-in processors, up to 12 at on time. Furthermore, if you load multiple patches to create a multi, you can add effects to them separately (so reverb will only affect one of the patches, as an example), or to the entire multi as a whole. Also, the effects are really great (and the presets are top notch as well). Credit: Dallas Dwight
How can it help you?
Quite simply, Omnisphere will take your recordings to the next level. I’m honestly surprised that more people aren't utilizing this tool (lots are already…I’m still shocked it’s not more). It’s capable of appeasing even the most uppity synthesis guru on the market as well as producers in any genre. It will aid you in the composition process in many ways as well. For example, the patches are so great that I often get inspired to write new music just based on the sound of a preset I stumble across. This can be both a blessing and a curse though, sometimes it’s easy to get sidetracked by a cool sound and lose track of what you’re doing. This is probably a knock on me more so than it is on the software though! Lastly, Omnisphere feels right at home on the live stage as well (you can even use your iPad to further control the synth when performing)…although I admit I haven’t had much experience with using Omnisphere live. The point is, the option is there!
What is the STEAM Engine?
I mentioned earlier that Omnisphere is the first VI by Spectrasonics to utilize their brand new STEAM Engine. So what is this and what does it mean for you? STEAM is software created by Spectrasonics to run Omnisphere (and Trillian, their incredible bass VI). In the past, the company licensed its core technology and built their VIs to run on that licensed technology. Now that they have created their own core technology, this means that they build their VIs specifically for their technology meaning stronger compatibility, stronger response to technology updates and changes as well as multiple synthesis development possibilities. If all this sounds like a little too much, just know this: STEAM is a very good thing for Spectrasonics and Omnisphere users in many ways.
My Personal Opinions
As you have no doubt noticed by now, I cannot possibly recommend Omnisphere enough. Regardless of your experience or background as a musician, Omnisphere will help you do whatever you’re doing…better. It’s that simple. The sheer amount of sounds coupled with the incredible flexibility offered via the STEAM engine, you are going to be able to find (or create) the exact sound you need for any project you’re working on. For me personally, when I’m working on a project and need something to beef up the sound of the track, I automatically reach for Omnisphere immediately…and it hasn’t failed me yet. I also love that you can easily expand Omnisphere with Spectrasonics expansion packs that give you even more sounds to work with!
Omnisphere is my go-to plugin for pretty much everything. I highly recommend it to anyone who is consistently creating music because it will inspire you. Not many virtual instruments can do that. Besides, if it’s good enough for Hans Zimmer…it’s good enough for me and I think you’ll find that you feel the same way.