I reviewed Atmosphere on Patcharena after owning it for about six months, and gave it 4/5. I have now owned it for a few years and I'm going to give it top marks. Here's why I feel compelled to amend my initial thoughts.
Initially, my only complaint was that it was too professional, too polished, and stood out too much in my mix. Now computers, software and interfaces have come a long way, and I realise Atmosphere was just four years ahead of its time.
My Access Virus has taken over most of my VA duties, and with such a powerful synth I have taken to weeding my VST arsenal to those that can compete. Interestingly, my default setup is now all Spectrasonics.
I love its clean interface, and for me seeing this blue monster on the screen reassures me of its quality. The LFO sync 1.2 update really helped, too.
Sound quality is still second to none, and the presets are still amazing. Take any lead sound, add your choice of effect, and just play away. Eric Persing is a world class sound designer, and this synth shows that quality input results in quality output. The pads are especially good, and using the computer's power results in some sounds no waveform-based synth could produce. The strings and the ambience drones are still called upon weekly!
Features? Gets 9/10. The basis is still ROM, and as such you cannot alter basic waveforms or deviate too much from the base sound except using filters and simple LFO functions. It's more than compensation that the supplied sounds are so diverse and so impressive. The reason for 9/10 is the hope that any upcoming Atmosphere "2" will add RMX style 'chaos' and 'FX bus' sections.
Documentation has always been good, and this VSTi requires little in the way of manual page-turning once installed. Load a sound, play, eventually remember you're supposed to be recording something! Another issue is the Challenge/Response protection. The website is 24/7, and reinstalls are allowed indefinitely with a minimum of fuss. You feel that the whole setup is geared towards the jobbing professional, where downtime could mean lost revenue. If only all Challenge/Response setups were this simple.
Arguably expensive at £225, but three years of usefulness and more to come, with much lesser ROM based and synth based plugins in the same price range. I can think of a number of 'big name' plugs I feel are overpriced. This is underpriced [but don't tell Spectrum!] With even the benefit of hindsight, I'd pay as much or more for this as I did. And I'm sure Spectrasonics would be as reasonable with upgrade pricing as they were with RMX.
Reliable? This was the first VSTi I bought. I have, like us all, bought many since. Some I still use,but a lot I don't. And this synth has never, repeat never, crashed, blue screened, failed to load, lost registry keys or stalled my host; despite computer changes, hard drive formats, sequencer changovers. That's a 10/10 in my eyes.
No definite word on an update yet, but here's what I'd like to see: RMX style FX busses, more incredible presets, the ability to name your own presets, and the ability to layer more than two sounds. Perhaps even some tempo linked 'variphrase' style sounds from the 'Symphony of Voices' library, if that's at all possible!
Apart from that, this synth keeps getting more relevant to my musical needs. A thankyou to the Spectrasonics team!
Atmosphere is an extremely useful and inspiring tool for just about any electronic composer/arranger......not only for new age and soundtracks and special effects (which Atmosphere is obviously well suited for), but also for pop, dance, and even classical.
Most of the sounds fall into the categories of evolving soundscapes, lush pads, bell tones, and complex unusual timbres that can be dreamy, spooky, trance-like, and eerie.
But one of the big surprises for me was the string patches: they are simply gorgeous, and they instantly inspire all kinds of melodic/harmonic ideas. you can get lost for hours sitting at your keyboard with the Cathedral Strings or Adagio Expressivo patches. Unlike most ROMpler/workstation generic string pads, these strings are actually good enough for classical arrangements! It's true that a "dedicated" orchestral library like GPO or EWQLSO Silver will give you more "realistic" sounds and a greater range of articulations........but those sounds, in all their pristine purity, don't "inspire" me to make music the way the Atmosphere strings do. You can really fatten up your orchestral arrangements by layering these sounds behind your "real" string parts.
My only real gripe is that, just as with Trilogy, some of the patches don't come with enough velocity sensitivity for my taste, and you have to manually adjust this to get it just right.
I've owned this for quite some time, and it's long overdue for the review it deserves.
In short, this is some of the best money I've ever spent. I don't understand when people say that this is overpriced...thousands of sounds and over 3 gig of info and presets for roughly $360.00...fantastic!! I paid over $600 for my Roland XV-5050 which has far less waveform content, and lacks the overall quality of the sounds in Atmosphere.
It's GUI is very elegant and just looking at it tells me I'm using something cool. Some may consider it a bit large, but I think it's perfect. When I have a GUI up I want to be able to see it. You can always minimize or close the window. I think it's far more annoying to have a GUI that is too small (Imposcar for example is a little too small for me).
The sounds are really, really, REALLY, good. Although it is a rompler, you do get to adjust some basic "synth" paramaters. Also, the ability to combine sounds to make your own patches is cool. It covers Atmospheric sounds really well "duh!" but surprisingly, it's not a one trick pony. It also features quite a selection of synth sounds sampled from your favorite big name hardware synths as well. Some basses are included as well, but are the most limited of the bunch. Pads, some fantastic strings, sweeps, and drones are the main focus of this product, and I couldn't think of anything Spectrasonics missed.
The presets are fantastic, and inspiring, which is what I look for in a rompler.
Now, my only couple of quibbles are....
1) No syncable LFOs yet. This was promised, and apparently still is, but instead of with the current engine (from my understanding it came to light that they can't achieve it with the current one) it is likely we'll receive it with a most likely "paid" upgrade to a newer version/engine.
2) Loads into RAM. I know, obvious right. BUT, if you are at all lacking in RAM keep in mind some of the larger patches can EASILY consume over 100 meg of your memory, and we're not even talking multiple instances yet. I don't particularly care that it doesn't stream from disk or anything, just something one of you guys may have a problem with. On the note of multiple instances though, Atmosphere has EXTREMELY LOW cpu usage...so load them up if you've got the RAM.
Basically, if I was forced (and I mean FORCED!) to whittle down my collection of VSTs, there's no way I would even consider putting this one on the chopping block. I think that says it all.
Atmosphere is a collection of wonderful pads created by synthesizers and effects I could never afford. The number of patches is overwhelming but arranged logically into subfolders with names that give hint to their sound and source. The variety is great but tweaking of patches is limited. The UVI engine cannot perform a fraction of the synthesis functions used to create the sounds. Thus, Atmosphere is more like a simple Rompler than a synthesizer. In exchange for the limited editing of patches you gain CPU efficiency. Other VSTi’s can create patches that compete with the sound of Atmosphere but they do so at many times the CPU overload. The one thing that Atmosphere does need is lots of memory. Some of the samples are very large and Atmosphere does not use streaming. If you use many instances of Atmosphere then you will need in excess of 1 gig of memory. This should not present too much of a problem as you most likely will not be using many pads in one song.
User Interface - Looks nice but too large.
Sound - Absolutely wonderful.
Features - Not many to speak of unless you count all the synthesizers and effects units used to create the sounds.
Documentation - Just enough, supplemented by a Yahoo group and interaction with the developer.
Presets - More than you can keep up with, and they are great.
Customer Support - Hard to say without customer problems.
Value For The Money - Good, even for the expensive price.
Stability - Never crashes my system.
I would buy it again.
Sweepy, dreamy, tinkly, rich, deep, I could go on forever describing what Atmosphere, and it's that and more. If there ever was a synth that was based on value for money in a per-usable-patch comparison, this has got to be the best $369 you could spend your hard earned cash on. While that price might be off-putting to some, it's a dream come true for those of us who lust after pads, and it delivers the goods. The one thing that would have been nice though is if the slow attacks on the sounds were not already incorperated into the sound themselves, and gave the end user the ability to adjust how fast the attack was would have been a very welcome addition. Also, we're still waiting on syncable LFO's, but still hoping the wait is coming to an end soon. So if you've ever dreamed of rich texture beds to lay your sonic works of art gently into, Atmosphere is the place to rest your dollars in.
I have long been a fan of Roland ROMplers and was very excited when I heard that Eric Pershing was releasing a VSTi dedicated to pads. Since getting Atmosphere I am not disappointed. When buying this products you are not just getting samples and patches, you are getting a lot of extensive work done with a large variety of sound sources and effects. While the price of Atmosphere may seem high, consider the price of just renting all of the units used to create these sounds, not to mention the time involved.
Make no mistake, this unit is for pads. Long, lush pads. It can be used for other parts, but pads is the strong point. As with any ROMpler the danger here is when too many people use the same presets. You can mix and match combos of sounds, and edit those sounds within the VSTi, but it still comes down to the original sample. Some of these sounds are very good, and that makes a lot of people want to use them in their songs. Too often the evolving part of the sound is samples rather than synthesized with the VSTi so there is not really that much you can do to change the sound without a loss of quality. This is a very basic synth playing samples of some very nicely processed synths and effects.
As mentioned before, the LFO does not sync with MIDI. This is a major limitation when trying to do any sequenced effect. But, if you are creating these patches with a real Moog Modular or Oberheim SEM then you will also be without MIDI sync. What this lack of MIDI sync does is restrict the ways you can use Atmosphere. Even so, it is a great deal considering the usefulness and quality.
Amount of detail in creating the samples that make up the patches.
Great use of effects in the sample creation process.
Lack of LFO sync to MIDI.
Much of what makes up a fantastic sound is sampled rather than created with the synth engine. This makes for limited editing of patches.
Challenge Response copy protection.
Atmo ... in a word - quality
Many synths have lots of presets, but most of these seem thrown in there for good measure and only get in the way.
The result is lots of VSTIs with too many non-musical, awkward, jarring or odd sounds.
Not so with Atmo.
The presets are all musical, all carefully considered before they were included.
I haven't found a duff one yet.
So far, any preset I've picked at random and listened to has something in there that somebody's thought about in a musical way.
The detail is right.
V few synths can make that claim.
So that's what Atmo gives ... usable professional quality sounds ... ideal for pads.
I have lusted after atmosphere since the first mini write up I read in Computer Music last year - yet I put off buying it.
It is absolutley stunning- the presets alone really define a great canvas of material to work with - and it works well in the mix ( sometimes I can be heavy handed with pads - but they seem to "flow" right into place for me with Atmosphere)
Overall - the tweakability of the patches is exaclty my speed - mix and match two layers, tweak envelopes on each patch, mix and pan each channel, and you can creat some truly astonishing hybrid atmospheres and effects - this is the first VST I've ever started saving patches for within a day of installing-
CPU load is ok on my Mac - watching voice counts is really a great way to keep the overload syndrome from happening- and any other idiosyncracies I have are due to my own not reading through the manual yet.
overall, this is by far the best single sound source I have tried for truly great rich sounds and textures - this paired with Absynth is a killer!
Customer support - haven't had to use it yet, and there are no updates yet - so we'll see.....
Virtual "Rompler" done right!
This is in my opinion the first virtual instrument plugin that in many ways easily outperforms it's hardware counterparts. First of all, it sounds just incredible. Originally intended to be the ultimate pad sound machine, it is now almost an allround "Dream Synth". The price may be a little steep for some hobby-ist, but considering the quality, size and effort that the developers put into the core library, I think it is justified.
The UVI engine performs quite well, the overall sound is transparent and fat. CPU usage is moderate and it has some of the best filters I've heard so far in the virtual intrument world. And don't make the mistake to see this plugin as a pure preset machine. Since you can layer 2 of the 1000 sounds and change quite a number of sound parameters for each layer, the sound creation possibilities are almost endless. The controls offered to manipulate the sounds behave also quite musically, means if you turn a knob, you get a "result" and not some abstract behaviour that I've seen in other plugins.
Envelopes are fast and flexible enough to shape the sounds into various directions, though I would like to see more than the 4 standard stages sometimes. Nice also that the voice allocation follows the standards set by hardware synths and gives held notes a higher priority. This is something that a lot of other soft synths and samplers don't do correctly.
+ Huge library
+ Quality sound
+ Layering concept
+ Musical behavior
+ Correct voice handling
- LFOs not syncable to host (planned for an update)
- Fast pitch bends sound stepped
- Challenge response copy-protection (though they allow unlimited installs)
- Price may be an issue
- Long installation procedure
(The installation procedure takes ages, since Atmosphere decodes and copies data from 6 CDs onto the harddrive and the progress bar moves very slowly. The first time I thought the computer crashed, so I started from scratch...)
This is the first Synth i am using that is really samplebased (i have Plex, but that's different).
And it was a Suprise.
It sounds just great. The sounds are mostly atmospheric, there ARE some Leads and basses and Stuff, but you can get better Synths or Samples for those, but when it comes to Pads and things like taht i think Atmosphere ist the best Thing i have ever owned.
There are TONS of Presets and you can easily create new ones in Minutes.
Things that are not so great:
the GUI: it simply TOO BIG!
Installation: it took me about 9 hours to install because my system crashed several times.
There's been a lot of hype around this synth...maybemaybe too much hype. So, don't raise your hopes too high. The sound of Atmo is great. I believe a lot of time'n'energy has been devoted to sampling, processing and patch creation of this instrument. The interface is simple and well laid out although unnecessary large (maybe just to make it appeal more attractive or to save space for future enhancements).
There are however a couple of things I have to critisize. First of all although the core library seems to be huge and the abundance of presets is nearly overwhelming the variety is not as large as I expected it to be. Atmo is very focused (or you could also say rather limited) synth. It is very much centered around lush evolving soundscapes with long release times (there are a few other things of course).
Now, it's possible to programme your own patches around the core library and so to strech Atmo further. You can take a preset and change the filter and modulation settings. Or you can start from scratch by selecting an empty preset and selecting a patch (layer) for it. However this procedure deletes all the mod and filter settings you may have tweaked to the defaults set in that particular patch you just loaded. To get back your settings you must program the patch from start again every time you just set the layer to play a new sample. Ouch!
Personally I think the price of Atmo is slightly too high. Such great synths as Pro-53, Absynth and FM7, let alone Z3ta+ are much cheaper and I dare not say that Atmo would be more flexible or better sounding than those competitors. However some kind of 'Atmo Light' with at least half smaller sample library and price tag and less clumsy auditioning of the pure core sample library would be a great choice. As a lush soundscape synthesizer Atmo sounds absolutely great.
Atmosphere is a real amazing package...I think for the million plus combinations you can have just with presets alone, then you can make your own and save them.....it is worth every penny!..I have a real keyboard that cost twice as much as this package did, but atmosphere would have to be about 10 of my keyboards in sound.
The GUI is straight forward, but the rack mount bars could be removed. the right out of the box sounds are out of this world.....I made a demo track in about 15 minutes.
there website pretty much says it all, the demos do it some justice, but atmosphere should be on everybody's arsenal list!
I had high expections for Atmosphere and I have not been let down. As a fan of Distorted Reality and Bizzare Guiter, I had reservations that this may just be a rehash of these sounds, which is cleary not the case. Atmosphere can sit along side existing Spectrasonics sample CDs nicely.
The sheer number of sounds on offer is awesome and of very high quality and attention to detail. The initial press press release of Atmosphere gave the impression of an ambiant and pad system. While it does this well, the sounds available have more on offer and should be useable in any number of musical genres, though clearly it is the ambient and movie soundtrack field that I feel this will be used a lot. Expect Atmosphere to be coming to a cinema to you soon. Really this is no wild boast, considering the number of movie score producers on the manual and demo credits, and Eric Persings association with the "LA Movie Producer Elite".
However there are a few gripes though not really reflective of the score I am giving, and are really minor if nothing at all:
a) I would have prefered a little bit more vocal patches and different "Choir" sounds. But I am not not too bothered considering it excels in other areas.
b) The GUI is functionally well laid out, but why those two stupid bars and the top taking up screen space. A minimum mode should have been incorporated.
c) The Layering system is an important and usefull feature. But why stop there, it would be nice to specify keyzones and velocity ranges, as well as even more layers.
However Atmosphere surpasses everything. It offers the sounds I like for Tangerine Dream, Jarre, Eno, Sylvian, Glass etc type sounds and "atmospheres". The Interface is so clear to use functionaly to the sounds that it was not really necessary to read the manual.
I used it on both Logic 5.5 and Cubase SX windows. On Logic it crashed on Cubase SX it did not. I do not know why, nor did I care since I am crossing to SX anyway.
DISCLAIMER: I Beta tested Atmosphere on Cubase SX/Windows and SONAR.
Atmosphere is the most incredible sounding synth I've ever played. I enjoy a number of great softsynths, but Atmosphere is the first one to give me way more than I wanted or expected, it's forcing me to grow musically, and I can't complain about not having the right, or enough sounds anymore. I'd say it tripled my expectations.
The sound is rich, bigger than life, and when wearing headphones I frequently get fooled into thinking my studio monitors are on, when they aren't.
The string ensembles...OMG what a suprise, the best strings ensembles I've ever played.
The number of sounds is stunning, almost too many! Basses, Synths, Pads, Strings, Ambient patches... I'll never get through all of these.
The interface is very clear and user-friendly. Well designed.
I was tempted to vote a 9 for features because I would prefer mult-timbrality...but I couldn't do that -everything else about the synth goes so far beyond my expecations that I have no choice but to give the product a perfect score.
As of now, The best synth in history...IMO :)
Initially I thought this would be a pretty expensive but probably indispensible addition to my setup (as I'm nuts about pads). I was wrong, it's not only indispensible it's an absolute beauty to use. It's one of those instruments you could just sit,play and get lost in within seconds. Each sound inspiring a whole new tune in your mind.
The sheer variety of instruments alone is staggering from ambient pads to strings to voice morphs, bass and literally hundreds of hybrids between. Couple that with the layering system and superb sound quality and , well, Im running out of superlatives, but you get the idea.
The interface is well designed, aesthetically pleasing, simple, yet quite powerful (For tweaking that is, since you are dealing with pre-recorded and not natively generated sounds).
The manual is short, but concise and clear. It takes all of 10 mins to read through it and know the Synth inside out (and I don't mean that in a bad way, anything that can get you playing without having to spend hours working out just how it works is fine by me).
Performance is also top notch. with relatively little CPU usage per instance - options are provided for saving memory/processing by enabling/disabling layers and 32/16bit sound, so it's quite flexible.
So far it has been 100% stable for me within Sonar 2.1 (utilising FxPansion's Wrapper 4.1), and that's with 11 instances all running at 32 bit (~40% cpu usage on an Athlon 2200, 700mb ram usage), coupled with a complex Dr008 drumtrack.
If I haven't made it clear so far, this is the best Synth I have ever used, in every dept. It's a wonder to use.
I've been using this for a week now and would say I know it pretty well.I've used hardware synths for years so found this very very simple to use.I haven't used the manual once other than to authorise.
Due to it being a sample player it has very low CPU overhead.It also means that it will stand or fall totally on the basis of the core wavetable.No worries here as it is fantastic.The sounds can be both generic and distinctive which makes for flexibility.With some of the more distinctive sound types I dont think you will say "oh thats Atmos" youre more likely to say "That sounds like the Waldorf Wave or a Jupiter 8 or what the hell is that",praise indeed.Sample start offset is a welcome inclusion as slow samples can be made to really snap and bite.Ditching an attack phase can render the sample totally different
Filters and enveopes are fine, with the facility to deselect filters not in use so reducing CPU load,as does layer deselection.The implementation of the master filter is also good.Modulation is functional rather than complex.The facility to sync lfos to clock needs adding at some point.Layers can be linked for simultaneous edit,always good.Overall the synth engine is very good and a breeze to edit.
What sets this baby apart is the core wavetable.If you want me to equate the "sound" I'd say it is highly Virus and Waldorf with a side order of Prophet/Jupiter.I mean that as praise as i own and use those machines every day.This machine can sound as full as the mighty "Wave" (also used as part of the core.). The presets are exellent but serve as a shop window,get in there and slap it around a bit,make it your own
Minor criticisms asside this really has raised the bar.Sounds great,simple to use,low overhead (memory asside)and stable as a rock.Eric intends to update and expand the core in future which will be great and a focus on the "harder" side will make this an even more lethal weapon.
Buy this baby now
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