In my unbiased opinion, Omnisphere is the greatest software synthesizer available today. I know this may sound like hype, but up to this point in music technology, there has never been a combination of such a high level of sound quality, flexibility, and variety of instruments for this affordable a price. When I first started using software to make music, I found that the stock instruments in my DAW left much to be desired in terms of sound quality, realism, and editing capabilities. I assumed this was just the way computers sounded, and that was the trade-off for the ease of operations a DAW provides. After discovering Omnisphere, I realized that was far from the truth. In reality, we can have both.
The quality of sounds in Omnisphere’s library helped me realize what software really can sound like. Ranging from crystal clear, modern synthesizers to rare world instruments, full male and female choruses, and all the way back to vintage keyboard collections, there is something for every mood and musical direction.
Spectrasonics have recently updated Omnisphere and overhauled the software, somehow finding a way to top the limits of what I believed they could pull off. The 2.6 update is designed around Spectrasonics’ new “Hardware Synth Integration” feature, which “transforms over 65 well-known hardware synthesizers into extensive hands-on controllers that unlock Omnisphere’s newly expanded synthesis capabilities.” In addition, the Spectrasonics team have added over 1,600 brand new sounds, bringing the total number of included sounds to over 14,000. Specially designed to be used with classic hardware synthesizers, Omnisphere have included many inspiring new sounds featuring a wide range of categories and many have a distinctly "classic analog" flavor.
I had a chance to create a track for ILIO that showcases some of the new sounds, along with sounds from the original library. In my experience with Omnisphere, I’ve realized that I can find nearly any sound I have in my head by either searching descriptive words or simply scrolling through presets. In addition, an exercise I frequently practice while composing with Omnisphere is to close my eyes and click through five presets at random. Without fail, I will find an interesting new sound that fuels my creativity to try something new or different. That is exactly what I did for this track.
Every sound in this song was created using Omnisphere, with the exception of the drums and my voice. Assigned with the objective of creating a dance track, I started with the “five preset challenge,” and by the third try, I came upon a synth that instantly moved me towards playing some dreamy-feeling chords. Immediately after getting a quick idea down, I starting searching for a bass synth. I was moving towards a “house” feeling on this track, and I wanted to use a deeper sub-bass that still had some top-end character.
Using a Novation Mono Station, I was able to make use of Omnisphere 2.6’s Hardware Synth Integration. Choosing the Novation Mono Station controller layout, the software automatically mapped out each parameter to the correct knob, slider and button. Using the hardware, I played with the bass’s filter using the cutoff knob of the global filter knob. The bass patch had the cutoff about halfway up, giving the sound a perfect combination of low and mid-range definition. When I opened the filter all the way, the sound became more aggressive, which worked in the track. I also edited the ADSR envelopes, mainly the release time of the sound, while opening up the filter. There were dedicated sliders for each aspect of the envelope. I pushed the release slider to its longest setting. This lengthened the synth and added to the chaotic nature of the bass. I also messed with the echo and reverb effects on the bass through dedicated knobs, directly to the recording, which can be heard midway through the track. Having this much control over each individual parameter on a patch brings forth an immense feeling of freedom, making up for all the times when I’ve said to myself, “If only I could just...” Those days are over!
After the intro and bass breakdown, I came back to the opening chords with a Rhodes-style keyboard sound. Usually, I would opt for Spectrasonics’ Keyscape when using classic electric piano sounds, which I recommend to anyone looking for the final answer in sampled electric piano instruments and much more. Instead, I kept it inside Omnisphere and found a preset from the original library. While I do edit most presets in one way or another, sometimes they sound good as is, and this was one of those cases. The Rhodes sound reintroduced the track’s focus and moved back into the full arrangement. From this point, I wanted to introduce a bunch of new sounds, starting with a synthesized organ, a resampled vocal stab, a distorted guitar, and a lead synth. Also, I brought the opening bassline back into the mix. Fun fact, while recording this track I decided to grab a cheap mic and use breathing as a form of percussion. I recorded the breathing straight through in one take, so by the end of the song, I was severely light-headed and nearly passed out. Listen to how intense the breathing gets near the closing of the track for a good laugh.
Overall, Omnisphere has once again blown my mind with the new sounds and hardware editing functions included in the 2.6 update. Just 10 years ago, the overall collection available in Omnisphere would have cost so much from buying other synths that you might never have the opportunity to use the majority of the sounds available. Luckily, those days are over. I am a true fan of this instrument and I cannot recommend Omnisphere enough to any producer, songwriter or musician looking for an all-encompassing production tool that fits inside any budget.