Recording - September 2015 - 60

Soundware Showcase

Spectrasonics Omnisphere2
by Allen Goodman and Mike Metlay

Spectrasonics, the virtual instrument company founded by
famed sound designer Eric Persing, has been stunning computerbased music producers for years with its remarkable offerings. The
company set a high bar with its powerful yet easy-to-use samplebased synths like Atmosphere, Stylus, and Trilogy (later Trilian)...
but nobody, and we do mean nobody, was prepared for the phenomenon that was Omnisphere.
Spectrasonics calls Omnisphere a "Power Synth," which is rather
like saying Albert Einstein "was a pretty sharp guy". Even by 2015's
standards, the original version of Omnisphere would still be at, or
near, the top of the virtual-instrument heap, but when it was released
in 2008, it hit the software instrument world like a thunderclap.
Omnisphere combined an enormous library of raw sample
material, a very powerful synthesis framework called the STEAM
Engine (developed in-house and exclusive to Spectrasonics), and
a clean, easy-to-follow multiple-tabbed user interface that allowed
users to decide just how deep they wanted to dive. Engineers and performers who wanted
quick browser-based access to ready-made sounds had access to thousands of them, neatly
organized and searchable. Hardcore synthesists and sound designers were offered a wide
and deep palette of tools for many different types of synthesis, modulation/control, mixing,
effects processing, and performance interfacing. Initial skepticism in the audio world gave
way to gasping and gawking at the sheer possibilities contained in Omnisphere.
In our first review (May 2009) and in the version 1.5 followup (September 2011), we
called Omnisphere a "desert island synth" (as did many other musicians) and wondered
what Spectrasonics would do for an encore. After four years of waiting and wondering, now
we know; Omnisphere 2 is here, and it adds tons of new and upgraded features and greatly expanded content. Since it's been so long since our last Omnisphere coverage, we'll skip
the "Reviewed & Revisited" route and reintroduce newer readers to Omnisphere as a whole
before diving into the new goodies.
What is Omnisphere?
The "omni" in Omnisphere isn't much of an exaggeration. Starting with a detailed and
diverse Soundsource (sample) library with everything from unusually-recorded and homemade
acoustic instruments and vintage synthesizers to machinery and found-sound items, it then adds
a wide variety of synthesis capabilities including a library of wavetables. STEAM isn't just another sample-based virtual synth. Yes, it has many of the features you'd expect, including multiple
filters, diverse integrated effects processing, and an extensive modulation matrix. However, it
60

RECORDING September 2015

also includes FM and granular synthesis, as well as a variety of synthesizer building blocks from multiple
arpeggiator layers to waveshaping
and much more.
Note that Omnisphere isn't meant to
be a "software sampler" like MachFive
(whose core UVI engine was used for
early Spectrasonics products before
STEAM) or Kontakt or ENGINE. It
doesn't have multisample keymapping,
articulation control, and the like. But as
a tour through its architecture shows,
that's about all it doesn't have.
Each single Patch in Omnisphere
is made up of two Layers, A and B,
with global controls for scaling,
polyphony, MIDI control, and more,
plus six LFOs and four modulation
envelopes. Within the tabs for each
of Layers A and B, you'll find controls



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - September 2015

Contents
Recording - September 2015 - Intro
Recording - September 2015 - Cover1
Recording - September 2015 - Cover2
Recording - September 2015 - 1
Recording - September 2015 - 2
Recording - September 2015 - 3
Recording - September 2015 - 4
Recording - September 2015 - 5
Recording - September 2015 - Contents
Recording - September 2015 - 7
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Recording - September 2015 - Cover3
Recording - September 2015 - Cover4
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