One category of plugin instrument you should have in your arsenal is a hybrid power synth / sampling workstation. While not always a go to for quick sound design, they’re VST’s that cover a wide spectrum of synthesis types and allow to explore some pretty complex and deep sound creation possibilities. Let’s take a look at some of the heavy hitters and what you’ll get out of them.

Spectrasonics Omnisphere

Arguably the best know of the bunch, Omnisphere grew out of Atmosphere, originally a rompler based on UVI’s sample engine. While the first iteration was slightly limited in the sense you couldn’t use your own samples, the latest update to version 2 has added basic sampling along with wavetable oscillators and a host of other features making it a real powerhouse of a synth. The real draw card here is Omnisphere’s legendary sound library that ships with the instrument covering thousands of presets and sound sources from vintage synth samples and wavetables to more esoteric sources like their famed ‘burning piano’. At $499 its a fairly hefty price tag, but you get what you pay for with the excellent content on hand.

UVI Falcon

A recent addition to my plugin library, I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Falcon and the endless possibilities it affords you. Advanced sampling options such as the IRCAM granular, Stretch, Scrub and Slice modules accompany a wide variety of synthesis options including wavetables, analogue, FM, pluck and drum oscillators all held together by a stellar line up of quality effects. The interface and patch architecture takes some getting used to but offers you endless modulation possibilities and is basically only limited by how much processing power you have on hand. That said, in general, its pretty light on CPU so you can really go to town when building sounds. Things can be taken a step further as well with scripting handled in LUA for creating custom instrument interfaces and modules. While the bundled presets are not as plentiful as some of the other options out there, UVI does have an excellent library of instruments created in the falcon engine to add to your setup, for example, the massive 120 gig Vintage Synth Vault 2 with thousands of presets and sampled vintage synthesisers.

Steinberg Halion 

Halion is another fantastic option, often overlooked, covering pretty much everything from in depth sampling to detailed synth modules including analogue, fm, wavetables and more. Shipping with a ton of useable content, much of which originates from Yamaha’s Motif series keyboards, there’s a lot on offer here. Similar to UVI’s architecture, programming takes a bit of getting used to as opposed to Omnisphere and Avenger which take on more of a traditional synth approach to their interfaces but there are a ton of possibilities available when you get the hang of how things work.

Vengeance Avenger

Avenger features a more traditional interface whilst maintaining it semi modular architecture, but yet still manages to offer up a ton of synthesis options for your sound design. The on board sampling is a little rudimentary, but it does offer up Wavetable synthesis, a granular engine, a drum sampler and sequencer, FM, subtractive synthesis and a ton of useable effects. The preset library isn’t as vast as some of the other offerings, but they are quality useable stuff, albeit a little on the commercial dance side of things.

Verdict

So which one to get? Here’s my suggestions.

Best overall

UVI Falcon. The possibilities are endless and it is truly a joy to play with, not too mention personally I think the sound engine on offer here is the best of the bunch.

Best value

Vengeance Avenger. Its the cheapest of the bunch at $200, however you’re still getting a ton of bang for your buck with all the tools on hand here.

Best sound content

Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2. Without a doubt, hands down the best bundled content out of all the offers on hand. Their sound sources and presets cover everything from esoteric to simple but incredibly useable and high quality multisamples and more presets than you can shake a stick at.