Get Intimate With Omnisphere

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Get Intimate With Omnisphere

Post  Admin on Sun Jan 10, 2010 5:13 am

Master Class: Get Intimate with Omnisphere
By Geary Yelton


FIG. 1: Using Omnisphere s parameter
presets is the key to quickly building new
sounds from scratch.

For anyone who enjoys programming synthesizers, Omnisphere may be the ultimate virtual playground.
Spectrasonics' flagship soft synth takes you as deep as you want to go while making every parameter
relatively easy to find. Its architecture and nomenclature are standardized enough that anyone
with any experience using synthesizers should be able to easily navigate its well-organized parameter pages.

With envelopes offering an infinite number of stages, dozens of possible modulation routings, and a huge
and ever-growing pool of patches and waveforms, Omnisphere gives you plenty of resources for
experimenting and developing your own timbral palette.

In this tutorial we'll take a closer look at several functions of special interest to anyone who wants to
create original sounds.

Build a Better Launchpad

You can approach Omnisphere as you would any other synth, either modifying existing patches or
building sounds from the ground up by defining an oscillator-filter-amplifier pathway. Either way,
the best place to start is usually the Edit page. The Edit page presents the building blocks of
synthesis in sections that provide clear-cut access to the oscillators, filters, envelopes, LFOs, and

When you first instantiate Omnisphere, the Default patch gives you a predictable starting point for
building new sounds from scratch. Omnisphere lets you quickly construct new patches with a
minimum of effort, thanks mostly to its ability to save and recall parameter templates. I'll guide you
through the simple process of building custom templates you can use as launchpads for creating
your own patches.

In the Default patch (reinstantiate Omnisphere to get there if necessary), begin by clicking on the
Edit button if you're on a different page. Click on the little triangle next to the Oscillator header, and
you'll see a menu that lists the oscillator presets (see Fig. 1). Select Giant Unisync and play a few
notes. Drag the Oscillator section's Hard Sync slider until its value reads 0.830, turn the Analog
knob down to 0.000, and play a bit more. Return to the menu, choose Save Osc Preset, and name
it Giant Unisync 2.

FIG. 2: Eight additional oscillators are
hidden until you enable Harmonia mode,
which gives Omnisphere some additive
synthesis capabilities.

Now let's check out the Filter presets. To hear any changes, you must first click on that section's
Power button, located immediately to the left of the Filters header. (Turning off a section's Power
button conserves CPU cycles.) After you've listened to a few factory presets by selecting them
from the pop-up menu, select Dual Stereo Bandpass from the Specialty Filters.

Next, go to the Envelopes section and increase the amplitude release time slightly by raising the R
slider. Select Copy Envelope Preset from the Envelopes pop-up menu, click on the Envelopes
section's Filter button, and choose Paste Envelope Preset from the pop-up menu. Reduce the filter
envelope's decay to 0.00, and then choose Save Envelope Preset and give it a new name. You
have created a simple new patch just by recalling and manipulating oscillator and filter parameter

Oscillator Magic

Oscillators are the heart of Omnisphere, even more than they are in most synths. You might not
know it to look at the Edit page, but Omnisphere gives you as many as ten oscillators per Part
one for each Layer, and in Harmonia mode, four additional oscillators per Layer. What you can do
with those extra oscillators depends on whether you click on the Oscillator section's Sample or
Synth button.

Starting with the Default patch again, click on the Sample button at the top of the Edit page's Oscillator section and use the Oscillator browser to find the Psychoacoustic waveform Bowlimba. Now click on Mult (short for Voice Multiplier) in the row of buttons below the Oscillator
browser display. See that menu that says Unison? Click on it and select Harmonia. Four rows will appear, each with a button on the left, a pop-up menu on the right, and three knobs in between (see Fig. 2). Each button turns its corresponding oscillator on, the menu determines its octave, and the knobs control its level, panning, and fine-tuning. To hear the additional oscillators, click on the Power button immediately to the left of the menu that says Harmonia. Enable all four Harmonia oscillators and try different settings to get a feel for how the Voice Multiplier works.

If you click on the Synth button rather than Sample, little arrowheads will appear just above the knobs. Clicking on the right-hand arrow assigns additional functions to the same knobs Shape, Symmetry, and Sync and to the menu to their right. Shape offsets the waveshape relative to the main oscillator; because there's no waveform display, though, you'll have to adjust it by ear. Symmetry is another means to alter the waveshape; when applied to a pulse wave, it alters the pulse width. And the Sync parameter offsets hard sync relative to the main oscillator.

You can assign host automation to control any of these knobs, but you can't apply any modulators
as you can with the main oscillator's corresponding parameters. However, you can modulate the
mix of Harmonia oscillators relative to the main oscillator in the Modulation section. Just select any
modulator you like in the Modulation section's Source menu, and then sel Oscillator→Harmonia
Mix in the Target menu. If the source is, say, Key Tracking, the harmonic content will grow more
complex as you play higher notes of the keyboard. If the source is Mod Wheel or Aftertouch, you
can manually control the spectrum to impact expressivity as you play.


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