Review: Arcturus for Omnisphere 2 by Allen Polley

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What I really like about Arcturus is that many of the patches of sound seem to be a throwback to a bygone era and, perhaps, establishes itself as THE analog retro sound pack for Omnisphere 2

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Review: Arcturus for Omnisphere 2 by Allen Polley

For those of you who still dig old Grade B Sci-Fi of the 1950s and early 1960s, one of the things that would always stick out is the soundtrack. Cool effects were made by obscure, cutting edge technology of the time that sort of sounded cool to the ears yet went beyond our comprehension because we had no clue how the sounds were being generated. Fascinating instruments such as the Theremin, Novachord & Ondes Martenot would eventually become obsolete and give way to the massive Moog Modular and the era of analog synthesis, as we know it, would be born. What I really like about Arcturus is that many of the patches of sound seem to be a throwback to a bygone era and, perhaps, establishes itself as THE analog retro sound pack for Omnisphere 2. Just as Spectrasonics has given us the ability to layer more and more sounds, Allen seems to pull back a bit with the “less is more” approach…and, you know something? It damn well works!!

Arcturus for Omnisphere 2 normally sells for $39.00 from Allen Polley

Thoughts

Harking back to a time when Zeus ruled over the heavens, he had eyes for a young nymph named Callisto. Well, to attract her undying love, Zeus disguised himself as Artemis (whom Callisto only had eyes for) and, together, produced a young offspring named Arcas who would grow up to be a great hunter. Zeus’s wife, Hera, caught wind of this tryst and turned Callisto into a bear while Arcas was out hunting. To save their lives, Zeus transformed both into wonderful celestial stars. Callisto would become Ursa Major (the “Bear”) and Arcas would become Arcturus (protector of the “Bear”). Arcturus would reside in the constellation “Boötes” and become one of the brightest stars naked to the human eye.

Arcturus by Allen Polley is a sound library dedicated to the celestial mysteries of this bright star. It is, primarily, a library of brilliant analog-based patches that make use of Omnisphere’s many available waveforms and samples plus Allen’s own unique samples which he imported into the engine. Categories range from BPM based patches to Synth based patches to Textures. Many of the patches are single or dual layer while only some of the Textures make full use of Omnisphere’s full layering capability. When I said “less is more”, that only applied to the use of samples. The amount of modulation that is programmed, especially utilizing the ModWheel and LFOs take the simplicity of the patches and transforms them into something quite other-worldly. Allen also makes use of Omnisphere’s other oscillating generators such as Waveshaper and Harmonia which add layers of rich complexity to the imported waveforms.

The patch “BPM Bass – Arubass” is a prime example of taking a simple, classic waveform on one layer and adding a sine wave stepped down 24 semitones on a second layer. These are played through a Bassman amp and the programmed modulation produces a driving “slap bass” sound over a sub. The modulation applied is a ¼ beat delay added to the Aux Return, a 16-step arpeggiator at 1/16 and set to “as played”, the ModWheel set to control several of the Bassman parameters such as Boost, Rate & Depth, and lastly, the ModWheel is set to control the Feedback on the Retro-Phaser.

Another interesting BPM patch is “March of Tires” in which Allen imports his own sampling of a large tire and an old bus seat. The result is something that sounds like a Native Drum which is created by modulating cutoff, resonance, and pitch with the Mod Wheel and by adding a Waveshaper to slightly add saturation to the sound. Allen also has a delay FX on each layer, but it is turned off. By turning them on, you get an interesting repetition with a 1/8 dotted delay. When I was playing around with this patch, I also added a Chorus Echo which gave it a full-blown psychedelic sound ala the Chambers Brothers “Time Has Come Today”.

Arcturus User Samples

Electronic Mayhem is where the fun is in this library. This is where you can find all those quirky, idiosyncratic and disturbing sounds. A couple that really stick out for me is “Arcturian Metal Caves” and “Decontamination Chamber”. The former utilizes a duo Mystic Metal sample loaded direct from Omnisphere’s own sample library. Layered on top of one another, the use quad-layered use of Harmonia which has some of the layers slightly detuned and panned differently create a very disturbing atmospheric effect. Allen includes the ProVerb FX on both samples however, they are turned off. If you want to create a more ambient feel to the sound just enable one or both. The “Decontamination Chamber” is a single layer patch which gets it’s unusual effect by close miking a window air conditioning unit, using the ModWheel to affect the cutoff & resonance, and an LFO to modulate the depth of the Radio Delay FX.

At the opposite spectrum of the quirkiness found in Electronic Mayhem, is the beautiful (and I mean beautiful) sounds that can be found in the Textures Playable category. One such patch, “Lucinda the Dream Guide” is an attempt to produce Delta Waves (found between 0.5 and 4 Hertz). These occur during deep stage 3 of sleep or slow-wave sleep and the patch is meant to produce a peaceful, blissful state in the listener. It’s a stunningly hypnotic patch which is hard to describe in words. The Glow Drone sample is employed from the Omnisphere sample library and Harmonia is, again, used. Two of the layers are tuned up / down by 12 semitones and panned opposite one another. Additionally, the levels are modulated via a rounded square (no, that’s not an oxymoron in the synth world) LFO at a low rate.

Arcturis Lucinda Harmonia

Multis – there are 27 Multi Patches mostly layered with 2 and, sometimes, 3 different patch layers. All throughout the review, I was wondering where Callisto was hiding and, well, I found her amongst these set of patches. Most of the multis attempt to provide atmospheric ambience and it very achieves that goal. Surprisingly, not many of the multis are CPU intensive and they are a joy to play. If you want to add some subtle motion, just import one of the BPM Bass patches and adjust the arpeggiation accordingly.

Now, I have other libraries from Allen, including some I bought directly from him in the past. Allen loves to field sample and uses his innate skills to create sounds that, typically, you’re not going to find in other libraries. This, however, is something a bit different from those. This is like diving into a world of sound, one of which is filled with beauty, awe, and wonderment. If you are an Omnisphere user, I give this my highest recommendation.

Facts

Arcturus for Omnisphere contains 72 Sound Sources, 177 presets and 27 Multis. The library downloads as about 1 GB and requires Omnisphere 2.7.0f (or greater). There are also an additional 15 Unify patches requiring Unify 1.5.3 or greater. Lastly, with the purchase of Arcturus a free copy of the Arcturus Ambience Construction Kit is available at the time of purchase. A coupon code will be provided to get the 19 USD discount at checkout.

Arcturus for Omnisphere 2 normally sells for $39.00 from Allen Polley

Demos of Arcturus for Omnisphere 2 by Allen Polley

Videos of Arcturus for Omnisphere 2 by Allen Polley

Contributor Raymond D Ricker reviews Arcturus for Omnisphere 2 by Allen Polley
“What I really like about Arcturus is that many of the patches of sound seem to be a throwback to a bygone era and, perhaps, establishes itself as THE analog retro sound pack for Omnisphere 2”