Review: Polar Ice X for Omnisphere by Rocky Mountain Sounds

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Though “cold” in sound, there is not a sense of a dystopia or despair. In fact, I find the sounds moving, uplifting, and mysterious.

Jump to the Videos of Polar Ice X by Rocky Mountain Sounds

Jump to the Demos of Polar Ice X by Rocky Mountain Sounds

 

Review: Polar Ice X for Omnisphere by Rocky Mountain Sounds

One would never think that you could get a geography lesson from playing a sound design library. Patches with, seemingly, mysterious and obscure names can be found throughout Polar Ice X, the latest Omnisphere 2 installment from Jason Schoepfer of Rocky Mountain Sounds. A BPM Pad named Alimiski refers to a migratory sanctuary for several species of birds located in James Bay off of Ontario. Another BPM Pad named Aishihik refers to a remote village in the Yukon region which is home to the indigenous Asheyi people. I could go on and on as there are numerous examples of cold and remote places with patches named after them. Has Jason been to some or many of these places? I can only imagine him dressed in a parka with sound recording equipment capturing the sounds of glacier calving, migrating colonies of birds, or his own footsteps through the snow escaping a polar bear as it tries to chase him down.

Polar Ice X normally sells for $59.49 from Rocky Mountain Sounds

Thoughts

One only has to look at the title of the library to get a sense of what the theme is or what the sounds are like. Though “cold” in sound, there is not a sense of a dystopia or despair. In fact, I find the sounds moving, uplifting and mysterious, even the tension filled dissonance of the AMBI patches which utilize the ORB as the primary modulator. The patches are ideal for use in film scores and ambient / electronic compositions. Jason Schoepfer who, in essence, IS Rocky Mountain Sounds resides in Canada and has produced other sound libraries for Omnsiphere such as RedMod Moog Tribute and Dystopian Rains. For owners of the product Unify, you can also make use of additional patches created just for that VST (useful, as long as you own the main Omnisphere library). Jason, as a sound designer, also creates his own samples utilizing his own Juno and Prophet 12 synthesizers and collecting field recordings. In this library, alone, 126 user samples were created and imported.

Polar Ice X Sample Page

As you can see from the sample page above, there are several categories of patches included in Polar Ice X. Overall, there are 1,020 total patches in the library plus an additional 52 multis…that’s an incredible lot of patches to go through. I will point out one thing which you can take away as a tip and that is that there is a commonality amongst a lot of lot of the patches. You will notice amongst the BELLS, EVOLVING and PAD categories that many of the patches share the same name (typically, one of those mysterious, remote places I mentioned in the opening paragraph). The Bell Pad, for instance, is usually a duo sample source patch with a user sample in the “A” layer and an Omnisphere Glockendream sample in the “B” layer. For those that have a like named patch in the EVOLVING category, the Glockendream is turned off and the Orb is turned on. Subsequently, in the PAD category just the user layer is turned on making it a single sample patch.

However, Jason just didn’t leave it at that as there are several differences within the 3 in how they are modulated, especially in the AMBI (Evolving) patches that utilize the Orb. In these cases, the Orb is used a lot to modulate the filter cutoff and Velocity is used to modulate the sample start point (offset). The results can be quite dramatic and, at times, unpredictable giving these patches quite a different character.

Polar Ice X Orb

Modulation – depending on the controller you are using it is a good idea to see how a lot of the patches are modulated. For samples using the “Harmonia”, Jason likes to employ the use of Aftertouch to modulate the varying levels. If you don’t have a controller with Aftertouch then you can easily change the source within the Mod Matrix of Omnisphere to something else, perhaps the Modwheel or an LFO. For some of his patches, Jason also utilizes Bias as a modulation source. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen another developer use this. This is a modulator similar to Key Tracking in that you define a key as a mid-point and the further away from this mid-point you play (up or down) the more pronounced the modulation will be. For many of the SYNTH BASS patches, there is extensive use of free running triangle shaped LFO’s that modulate both the waveforms and some of the FX. In addition, there are customized arpeggiators created but they are turned off.

Vocals – typically duo layer using a combination of Omnisphere supplied vocal samples and user samples, many of which are labeled Voicebergs or Metal (for the Ice Crystal Vox). Clever utilization of FX is used both globally and per individual sample. The Omnisphere vocal layer typically utilizes an Ultra Chorus and Vintage Compressor while, globally, the Proverb and 7 Band Equalizer are employed. Modulation employs both the Mod Wheel and Aftertouch (again ensure your controller is capable of Aftertouch). These patches got a lot of attention while I was testing out the library and, along with the Bells and Textures, were amongst the best designed in the library.

Textures – Personally, I can spend days playing with these and combining them with other patches in the library to create my own multis. Samples are typically a combination of Genesis Soundscapes and Omnisphere supplied Whale samples. The Orb is used to modulate the Common (global) Aux Send FX, an LFO is used to modulate the Tremolo speed (FX) and the Mod Wheel the Tremolo depth (FX). In addition, sometimes a Crying Wah effect is used to accent the whale sound. Surprisingly, I found most of these non-CPU heavy and easy to play, even polyphonically.

Multis – 52 multis are supplied combining patches from multiple different categories. Most Multis combine 2 to 3 different patches and make use of Omnisphere’s Stack mode. It’s a good idea to see how these are laid out across the keyboard so you can make modifications as you see fit. You will see a lot of use of fade from one sample to another or samples tailing out further up the keyboard. If you want to add tension / motion, it would be a good idea to add one of the SYNTH BASS samples to the stack and experiment.

Overall, this is Jason’s strongest offering to date. There is a meticulous attention to detail here and the user samples created for this library are brilliant. A lot of times with a library this size, you’ll get a sense of sameness to many of the patches, not so here. Every patch is beautifully crafted and incredibly useful. This gets my vote as the top Omnisphere library I’ve played this year, hands down!!

Facts

Polar Ice X for Omnisphere contains 126 Sound Sources, 1,020 presets and 52 Multis. The library downloads as about 1 GB and requires Omnisphere 2.6 (or greater). The Unify patches require Unify 1.4 or greater.

Polar Ice X normally sells for $59.49 from Rocky Mountain Sounds

Demos of Polar Ice X for Omnisphere by Rocky Mountain Sounds

Videos of Polar Ice X by Rocky Mountain Sounds

 

Contributor Raymond D Ricker reviews Polar Ice X by Rocky Mountain Sounds
“Though “cold” in sound, there is not a sense of a dystopia or despair. In fact, I find the sounds moving, uplifting and mysterious.”