Spectrasonics Sonic Extensions: What is it?
Amid much secrecy, Spectrasonics released a teaser video as a warm-up ahead of its latest release. “It’s not going to be what you think,” the company said, and it isn’t! It’s probably fair to say that many were hoping for something along the lines of a much-awaited update to Stylus RMX, which might also explain why initial reactions in industry circles seemed somewhat muted. But dig a little deeper and there are some very happy surprises, so let’s get curious!
Sonic Extensions are a series of expansion packs for Omnisphere 2.8. There are four in this initial release, with each adopting a stylistic persona, presumably with more to follow. There is a caveat: you must have Omnisphere to use these Extensions, as they load and run within that package. This could make the initial prospect quite pricey, but Omnisphere is a Goliath in this domain and can cater for just about any genre of music you care to mention.
Spectrasonics Sonic Extensions: Performance and verdict
Each pack is something of an artist playground, with new samples and patches, and a streamlined custom interface that is unique to each Extension or even patch. There is an association between each pack and one of the Spectrasonics’ sound design team, so in the case of our first Extension candidate, Undercurrent has been designed and curated by Argentinian sound designer, Ignacio Longo.
Undercurrent is dark, brooding and often menacing, and packed with pulsating patterns, overdriven basses, tortured leads and noises. Scrolling through the patch content, Spectrasonics has made great use of its Custom Control interface, simplifying the basic editing process.
• Tom Wolfe (opens in new tab)
Tom Wolfe offers plenty of pack-laden content. Synth Vault provides some Omnisphere patches for free!
• The Unfinished
(opens in new tab)A sizeable set of patch-based libraries for Omnisphere and other well-known soft-synth packages.
If you prefer the full-on Advanced Editing mode, you can easily switch back to this, but the simplification is very engaging on a performance level, which underpins the live possibilities for these packs.
In the Custom Control environment, the usually favoured controls are represented, but sometimes other controls emerge, guiding your path to musical and creative nirvana. One such patch, Absent Soul, dials up a large Octave pot, which musically blends a higher octave into the mix, but with a hint of filtering too. There’s also the use of Scenes, which could be regarded as memories within a patch; perfect for recalling settings, within the same given patch.
As you cruise through the Undercurrent content, it’s clear that the presence of a heavy dose of new sampled content plays a large part. At 7GB, it’s a relatively significant amount, but not over-bloated.
New Nylon – Big Sky
Turning to the next Extension, Nylon Sky is miles away from Undercurrent. Based around an acoustic nylon guitar, artist Bob Daspit has created a concise instrument, which also sees the appearance of some new features. Apart from the multi-layering of samples, we are now treated to round-robin triggering, to avoid the cliché of the same sample being repeated in succession.
It’s a very beautiful instrument. The first nine patches are all centred around basic articulations, with the ability to blend three different microphone signals. The Clean and Expressivo patches are pure and very playable, while the Tremolo patch adopts a beautiful repeatedly-plucked classical or flamenco effect, which is stunning. Other more designed patches utilise some nice new effect plugins, such as the Sky Verb, which adopts a Blackhole-like persona, with shimmering upper colouration.
Electronics gone wrong
The final two Extension sets break back into the world of electronics. Unclean Machine is a collection of 2,000 new classy sounds ideal for vintage, retro and chip-tune styles of music. Cassette-based sounds and old-school synth patches undulate their way through yet more new effects, namely the Unclean Channel and Reverb. Again, these new effects are exclusive to the Extensions portal, and firmly an addition to the default Omnisphere construct.
There’s an immense amount of quirkiness to Unclean Machine, which has the capacity to raise a smile immediately. It’s probably the most stylised of the packages, with the obvious exception being the guitar-centric creations of Nylon Sky, but if you’re in the chip-tune league, it couldn’t be more valuable for great sounds.
Completing the lineup, Seismic Shock offers just that; much of the content is aggressive with harsh attacks, ripe for contemporary electronic scoring and dance or club music. This translates beautifully with larger monitoring, where you can really hear the bass extension in the frequency content.
Building the Extension
Having lived with all four Sonic Extensions for a few weeks, we’re in a far better place to consider this new direction for Spectrasonics. This is an exceptionally good set of sounds, built to reside next door to the rest of the great content found within Omnisphere.
If you invest in all four Extensions, you’ll have a very weighty upgrade for Omnisphere, providing new samples and effects that are unique to the Extensions themselves. You’ll also get those cool custom control interfaces, which are highly engaging on a creative level. It’s far more than just a set of new patches, involving previously installed samples. It’s all new and concisely organised.
There’s quite a bit of diversity across the packs, leaving you to pick and choose which may be of more use, but as these add-ons are only available from Spectrasonics, the temptation of the ‘more you buy, the more you save’ offer, is just too enticing. But do be aware, these Extensions do seem to hog CPU power, and older computers may struggle to play more than a few patches simultaneously, in multi-timbral mode.
MusicRadar verdict: A beautifully crafted set of new samples and patches curated into different genre-defined packages.
Spectrasonics Sonic Extensions: Hands-on demos
Spectrasonics Sonic Extensions: Specifications
- Omnisphere 2.8 or higher must be installed and authorised in your Spectrasonics user account in order to purchase and use Sonic Extensions.
- CONTACT: Sonic Extensions (opens in new tab)