MORE BUILDING BLOCKS
Each Layer has two filters, which can operate in parallel or series. Together they offer an array of responses ranging from bread-and-butter types such as 12 or 24 dB lowpass, bandpass, notch, and comb filters to custom filters with names like Fatboy, Rich and Moogy1, and Colorful Resophaser. A Filter Zoom page displays more detail than the Edit page, allowing you to select from 17 types for each filter, control the mix between the two filters, and offset individual parameters with respect to shared values (see Fig. A).
Omnisphere''s flexible modulation capabilities (appropriately called Flex-Mod) give you a choice of methods to set up routings. You can right-click on a destination and select from a menu of sources, define a single routing for each Layer on the Edit page, or open the Mod Matrix Zoom page to specify 24 routings shared by the two Layers. The latter, in particular, presents an easy-to-comprehend view of even the most complex mod routings. I especially appreciated an absolutely dynamite feature called Morphing Modulation, which lets you crossfade between two mod sources using a third mod source.
Envelopes can be simple ADSRs or as complex as you can imagine. Define new segments by right-clicking and either adding breakpoints or selecting a segment shape (curve, bump, spike, pulse, and so on; see Fig. B). However, no matter how complex an envelope gets, you can instantly change groups of segments with the Edit page''s ADSR sliders. By using looping envelopes to control oscillator pitch, I was able to program all kinds of ostinato patterns I would never have created with a sequencer or arpeggiator.
The Effects page presents a rack of modules that look exactly like those in Stylus RMX (see Fig. C). In fact, it provides all 27 of the same effects modules, as well as half a dozen new ones such as chorus echo, formant filter, and amp simulator. If your CPU can withstand it, you can load 4 effects per Layer and 4 more effects per Part—that''s up to 12 per Patch. On top of that, each Part has 4 aux sends routed to 4 racks of 4 mixer effects—that''s up to 16 more—and 4 master effects. Best of all, effects parameters can be modulation destinations controlled by any mod source, including envelopes and MIDI CC.
Each Part has its own polyphonic arpeggiator; Omnisphere sounds spectacular when all eight are playing together and in sync. Patterns can be any length up to 32 steps, and you can specify the duration and Velocity of each note or rest, as well as tie them together (see Fig. D). You can also drag-and-drop MIDI files to the arpeggiator to create your own grooves. The only function lacking that many arpeggiators have is latch; fortunately, you can use a sustain pedal to keep the arpeggio playing after you''ve released the keys.
The Multi page''s Live mode displays eight Parts onscreen simultaneously, each with its Patch name in large type. Clicking on a Part instantly switches to that Patch. Because Omnisphere doesn''t cut off one sound when you switch to another, you can play multitimbrally in real time—something I wish all synthesizers allowed you to do. You can also assign keyswitches or MIDI CCs to switch between Parts and thereby layer Patches on the fly.
Omnisphere''s Stack mode is the most graphically intuitive I''ve seen (see Fig. E). As many as eight Parts are positioned in blocks one atop the next, and you can click-and-drag their left and right edges and their upper corners to define their MIDI Note, MIDI CC, and Velocity crossfade ranges.
Omnisphere has numerous additional features that make performing with it a pleasure. One I especially liked is that you can program the pitch bend to play different intervals when you bend up or down; for example, you can bend up a whole step and down an octave, with different intervals for each Patch.
Omnisphere gives you plenty of sounds to explore, and I spent many hours just perusing and modifying the thousands of included Multis, Patches, and Soundsources. The Patch Browser supplies categories such as Keyboards (electric and acoustic pianos, organs, and Clavs), Retro Underground (Casio VL Tone, vintage string machines, and the like), and Synth Classic (featuring a vast assortment of vintage analogs).
Probably the most interesting category is Psychoacoustic, which contains many of the Omnisphere design team''s most exotic sound experiments: bowing a laundry-drying rack acoustically coupled to a pair of guitars, rolling objects around in Tibetan singing bowls, playing a steel drum with fingertips, and so on. Although mostly organic in nature, the sounds in this category are some of the spaciest I''ve ever heard. Now if you''ll excuse me, I need to get back to discovering what Omnisphere can do.