Once you get an idea of just how much Omnisphere 2 has to offer, its price tag feels justified pretty quickly. The clearest example of this is in what the synth calls the "soundsources." There are two places where the signal path starts: one based around recorded samples that have been layered, velocity mapped and so on (the soundsources), and one based around DSP-generated waveforms. (Incidentally, if you only used the latter, it would still be as capable as some of the most advanced soft synths.) The range of soundsources is as imaginative as it is sizable, including Diego Stocco's famous burning piano (carried over from Omnisphere's first version), the Tesla Coil Synthesizer (where a 20,000-volt Tesla coil was connected to the internal circuitry of a Roland JX-8P), cave stalactites (where the stalactites in a radioactive cave in Eastern Europe were played with mallets), various circuit bent curiosities and plenty else. All of these are recorded with a great deal of expertise and sound like they're being played in front of you.
For the vintage synth enthusiasts, there are lots of classic synths, and because they're recorded rather than modelled, they have the thickness and authenticity of the real deal. Wherever you choose to delve in Omnisphere, there's a considerable wow-factor to the way it sounds, and while many soft synths require careful effect treatment to sound professional in a track, Omnisphere does this with its eyes shut. Even the presets sound great. There are many of these, and they're navigated using a browser that has a lot of useful features that allow you to quickly find the type of sound you're looking for. These features include several layers of categorisation, a keyword search that can be used to search for certain instruments and characteristics of a patch and the new Sound Match and Sound Lock features. The first finds similar sounds to your current patch, with an indication of how similar it is, and the second holds certain characteristics of your current patch as you navigate through to other patches.
As Mark Strauss pointed out in his review of Version 1.5, Omnisphere used to be a tool that leaned towards cinematic sound design, and it wasn't so strong at electronic synth sounds. This is an area they've focused on in Version 2, with the number of DSP oscillators being expanded from just four to over 400, which are now wavetable-based in the same way as Massive's oscillators. There are also upgrades in a range of areas ranging from modulation to granular synthesis and a suitably aggressive library of EDM patches. It's now easy to find or sculpt the synth bass, lead, pad or effects sound you're looking for. It also now has the much-demanded ability to load your own sample as a soundsource. And there is, as you'd expect, a wealth of new soundsources and patches. Both electronic music producers and soundtrack designers should find plenty to tempt them into upgrading.
Omnisphere remains one of the deepest synthesisers, hard or soft, that exists. There are pockets of specialized functions included all over, one example being the live mode, which allows you to program eight patches and then set up one or more MIDI controllers, with lots of customizability. There's an iPad app; something called the Orb, a graphical interface for manipulating effects; an arpeggiator; an envelope editor for the filter, amp and modulation envelopes; an LFO section; six different waveform editing effects; 58 effect types, which can sit on any of three different mix layers. The list goes on. The way they've handled all this is basically to go for more display pages rather than crowding fewer of them. Magnifying glasses next to a section open it up into a full screen display and expose all of its functions. The hierarchical sound combination structure, in which soundsource/DSPs are mixed together into patches that are then mixed together into multi patches, is also handled with clarity. At first, you might find yourself clicking around until you find the page you need, but the GUI design makes sense throughout, so this passes after not too long. It all feels much less overbearing than you expect, and you can stay on the surface quite comfortably if you want, using only the patches and higher-level editing functions.
Omnisphere 2 is something like the Ferrari of soft synths, and that may be a good or bad thing depending on your style. It's incredibly solid, but some may wish to assert their individuality in their sound using a more limited but niche-sounding synth. The expansion has brought it right into the world of electronic producers, and some of the patches are bound to start popping up in dance music in the way they have in soundtracks. The sonic power and extreme possibilities are such that if you only buy one synth, hardware or software, over time you'll become more and more grateful that you made it this one.
Ease of use: 4.2