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Mark Of The Beast

Spectrasonics new virtual synth Omnisphere 1.5 raises the bar yet again

Spectrasonics have unveiled a major new version of Omnisphere, their flagship virtual synth. This beast has just got even meatier, with a load of new functions to the synth itself as well as an update to the general interface and a handy iPad application for those producers who like to get a little busy with their Apple devices.

Omnisphere is without doubt one of the most amazing-sounding and advanced software synthesisers ever released. The latest mouth-watering development is the release of version 1.5, which has seen many major improvements and facelifts that make it better-sounding, more interactive and easier to use. The best news of all for existing owners of Omnisphere is that the upgrade to 1.5 is free and if you’re still using Spectrasonics’ previous synths Atmosphere Trilogy and/or RMX, there are various paid upgrade paths all worth checking out.

The sounds that this software produces are nothing short of jaw-dropping, and the incredible sound design and manipulation power is discreetly hidden away in pop-up screens so as not to clutter the main interface with a huge amount of complex controls. Anyone who hasn’t got their hands on Omnisphere yet really has been missing out on something quite special.
It has a staggering 8000 sounds, which is fantastic but could easily be a complete nightmare to navigate if it weren’t for the improvements that have been made to the patch browser. A brand-new patch browsing window means finding sounds is very quick and easy, with new attributes added to the browser as well as a new five column view which means all of the categories are now visible on the screen at once without scrolling.

Also new to version 1.5 are expanded synthesis capabilities that can be tweaked and tuned via brand-new “Zoom” windows which give detailed controls for specific parts of the synthesiser in a window that can be opened and closed. This makes for a very user-friendly and uncluttered control interface, but it also means that a bit of time spent with the manual is the only way some of the real killer features of Omnisphere can be discovered. To really get the most from it, a bit of time must be spent learning the way it does things.

Harmonia is one of these new “Zoom” windows, which gives control over patches by adding up to 10 oscillators per patch as well as modulation of each individual oscillator. This means even the thinnest and weediest sounds can be quickly and easily fattened up into huge rich-sounding monsters with a few seconds of tweaking. Another of our favourite new Zoom pages is the Waveshaper, which has a crusher, shaper and sample rate reducer for creating cool and weird distortion effects, which can also be modulated for even more sonic madness.

The final new Zoom window is the Granular window, controlling granular synthesis. This splits a sound into thousands of tiny grains/parts which are then manipulated. Controls for granular synthesis are often quite confusing, but not with Omnisphere, where the whole process has been made user-friendly and downright fun, especially when using the new visualiser which gives a optic representation of how the controls are manipulating the sounds in real time.

Orb is another new feature of Omnisphere 1.5 — a circular controller which works in real time to intelligently analyse the sound and create musical variations. The Orb combines racks of effects, putting the controls at one’s fingertips in an easy-to-use interface that mashes sounds in a unique and rather fun way.

The last thing to mention about Omnisphere 1.5 is the Omni TR iPad app, which is a multi-touch controller and an app that truly belongs in a professional studio or stage environment. Hats off to the team at Spectrasonics for their work on the Omni TR, which seamlessly controls the synthesiser without needing to go near the computer, and has really blurred the lines between hardware and software synthesisers. This iPad integration gives truly hands-on touch control in a way that works amazingly, and isn’t just a gimmick or a clumsy attempt to map the on-screen controls from a computer to a tablet.

Omnisphere is an amazing synthesiser that creates and manipulates sounds like nothing else. The presets are amazing and this synthesiser is also a sound designer’s dream. The only thing that we can moan about is the agonisingly long installation process, where disk after disk is fed into a computer for hours on end, but there really is no way around this chore without bending the rules of physics, and let’s face it, Spectrasonics are probably saving that trick for version 2.0.

Price   £315.00
Contact   timespace.com
Build Quality
  9.0
Ease of Use   9.0
Features   9.0
Value for Money   9.0
Sound Quality   9.0
Hype   Possibly the biggest sounding and most powerful plug-in synthesiser around, complete with an app for adding touch control via an iPad.
Gripe   It takes an age to install the huge sound banks.
Conclusion   8000 of the hugest sounds known to man ready to be recalled in an instant, an outstanding interface and sound manipulation controls make Omnisphere a must-have synthesiser.
Overall Score   9/10
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