Review: Signs of Life for Omnisphere by PlugInGuru
An immersive and very well implemented expansion (pads and textures are especially incredible).
Features a variety of synthesized sounds created from natural field recordings.
Contains bonus samples, presets, and even the original environment/nature recordings to use as soundscapes, which allows you to create your own synth patches with the material.
While it is fairly versatile, it is still a niche product: the sounds of nature are present in nearly every patch, which some users might find distracting.
A deep and immersive journey through the Costa Rican countryside, and billed as being “Powered by Mother Nature”, Signs of Life is a beautiful, and often meditative, expansion that’s also surprisingly versatile.
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Review: Signs of Life (Omnisphere 2.6 Expansion) by PlugInGuru
Created by John “Skippy” Lehmkuhl (aka The PlugInGuru), Signs of Life is an ambitious and unique expansion for Omnisphere 2.6, created from authentic field recordings captured over a 15 day period in Costa Rica. Far from featuring run-of-the-mill synth sounds, this expansion is rich, lively, and filled with character.
Signs of Life (Omnisphere 2.6 Expansion) sells for $49.00 from PlugInGuru
It would be a disservice to really review this expansion without explaining the backstory and passion that went into creating it. To start with, John (The PlugInGuru) spent 15 days in Costa Rica, using a field recorder to capture the sounds of life: nature, animals, wind, trees, jungle atmospheres, etc. He then spent 6 months using these original field recordings to create the unique synth sounds featured in the library. With this expansion you get over 238 patches, as well as some bonus content like “Radioactive Signs of Life”, drum loops, drum one shots, and even MIDI files to re-create the drum loops within Kontakt 4-6 and Logic’s EXS24 sampler.
To really get a feel for what this library achieves, all you need to do is load up one of the patches and hold down a key. For instance, I loaded up the pad “Amazone Choir” and as soon as I played a note (or a chord for some patches), I was transported into a sort of dream-like Jungle scene, as a lush pad swirled in my headphones. I recognized the chirping of birds and the gentle, atmospheric hum of insects and wind. Now, before you assume that the expansion is simply “synths layered with nature recordings”, let me assure you, the sounds that are created are truly unique and mesmerizing. While you may be able to recognize certain elements, such as the chirping of birds or the flowing water from a nearby river, the nature recordings themselves have been warped and transformed into living, breathing synthesized textures, sounding almost like a drug-induced trip through the jungle: slightly recognizable and familiar, but also foreign, weird, and exciting. Another patch, “KEY – Mountain Winds” is a much shorter sound with a sharp attack, but you can still hold down the notes and hear the sound of a mass of crickets chirping, though slightly warped and processed with effects.
It is a fairly exciting concept, realizing that various sounds and effects you hear when playing with some of the patches, are in fact sounds created by living creatures and the environment they inhabit. As I’m hearing the familiar “swoosh” effects so often used in EDM, I think to myself: Is it white noise, or a recording of the wind? Are those swirling high pitched noises sine waves, or birds chirping? In this way, Signs of Life is truly a marriage of two concepts: natural and man made sounds. While sometimes our interpretation of these two categories can clash in our minds, here they are expertly blended, so well, in fact, that it leaves me questioning what I am truly hearing.
While playing with the pads and textures, it’s apparent to me that it’s here the expansion truly shines: as you hold these long, sustained notes, the sounds truly come alive. I’ve always favored pads and textures with a sense of movement, or a sense of “life”, so to speak, and with Signs of Life, that is precisely what you get. It’s easy to start playing around with a few patches and become mesmerized, in part from the beautiful sounds on display, and also in part from the inevitable curiosity I have: listening carefully, trying to identify the natural sounds that are hidden (sometimes VERY well hidden) within these synth patches. Keep in mind that some of these patches are meant to implement up to 4 MIDI CC’s, as opposed to just the usual CC01. It’s easy to program these controls to your MIDI controller, or just control them with automation or virtual knobs within your DAW or the plugin itself.
A really nice bonus is including many of the original field recordings. Well, they may not be entirely original, possibly edited or processed with reverb, but they are not synthesized in any way, just containing authentic nature soundscapes. To find these, just scroll through the presets/patches and load up any of the “zENV” patches, which I assume stands for “environments”. This means you can create your own sounds and pads using the same source material. In addition to that, Omnisphere’s incredibly deep engine allows for a ton of customization, swapping out different waveforms and sound sources for any of the patches included.
All in all, Signs of Life is a fantastic expansion with a very passionate backstory. I personally love the sounds of nature and do some field recording myself, so sounds like these are right up my alley. I do believe the sounds would serve best for ambient and more “chill” music, or tracks in which there aren’t too many layers. They would fit very well into cinematic underscore, especially for underlying scenes in the outdoors: not only do you have the actual sounds of nature, you can create chords and melodies with them as well! It is worth mentioning, however, that having a lot of other layers going on in a track may cause the subtle details of this expansion to get drowned out. I also feel this library excels at long, evolving sounds: pads, textures, atmospheres and soundscapes. The short patches, such as keys, didn’t always seem like a good fit to combine with the living, breathing nature of the source material. I can guarantee one thing, this is certainly a unique and one of a kind library, and I wholeheartedly appreciate and respect the time and passion that went into making it. I’m a bit jealous actually, who wouldn’t want to spend 15 days traveling the Costa Rican countryside! The results speak for themselves, and you get a ton of content to boot. For owners of Omnisphere looking for immersive and evolving sounds (and even just synth nerds and nature lovers like me), this is definitely a winner.
Signs of Life comes in at 1 GB and requires Omnisphere 2.6. It includes 235 patches (plus 135 bonus patches) and 20 multis, as well as other bonuses: .wav files of drum loops, one shot drums, MIDI files, and some behind the scenes content such as photos of the real places the field recordings were captured.
Signs of Life (Omnisphere 2.6 Expansion) sells for $49.00 from PlugInGuru
Contributor Brian Freeland reviews Signs of Life (Omnisphere 2.6 Expansion) by PlugInGuru
“A deep and immersive journey through the Costa Rican countryside, and billed as being “Powered by Mother Nature”, Signs of Life is a beautiful, and often meditative, expansion that’s also surprisingly versatile.”