Review: Sample Logic XOsphere 2

As a media composer, I get excited whenever I see a sample library that promises to make my life easier and my work faster and better. XOsphere 2 seemed like a tool that could deliver on that promise. So when an email with a steep discount popped up in my inbox, I took the leap and grabbed it. In this article, I’m going to tell you what I think of this library, now that I’ve had some time to try it out.

The content – What is XOsphere 2?

According to Sample Logic, XOsphere 2 is “the last atmosphere tool you will ever need”.  It contains more than 2000 sound sources and presets – all of them pads and ever evolving soundscapes.

The descriptors of these sounds contain terms like “dark”, “airy”, “piercing”, “slow motion”, “voices” “synth – electronic”, “echoing”, “detuned”, “organic”, “reversed”, “pulsing”, “stutter”, “metallic”, “experimental” and “build up”. Just based on that I knew that I was in for a lot of interesting atmospheric sounds.

But XOsphere doesn’t only let you load up individual presets: The default way is to load a “multi instrument”. There are four slots in each multi, so whenever you load up a new multi, four sounds will be loaded into Kontakt. These individual slots are called cores and each have their individual effect chains, including a variety of filters and FX such as EQ, saturator, compressor, chorus, cabinet, lo-fi, formant, pitch shift, stereo spread and many others. All these effects can also be automated with a built-in step sequencer.

But the feature that’s the centerpiece of XOsphere 2 is the XY pad that lets you control the blend between those four sounds. This control can be easily automated within the user interface by hitting the record button and drawing in the desired blend over time. This is not a groundbreaking feature and Sample Logic has used this on a lot of their instruments, but it’s certainly a smart idea to include this in an atmospheric pad instrument. Aside from the effects for the core instruments, there is also a master FX section that affects all cores together.

Additionally, if you like an element of surprise, XOsphere comes with a cool randomization feature that lets you randomize features such as the source sounds, the FX chains and the mix parameters.

The Sounds

What about the sounds themselves? Sample Logic have clearly hired some amazingly skilled sound designers for this library. The patches are beautifully atmospheric and cover a variety of moods and tones. There are emotional vocal pads, mysterious metallic soundscapes and tense brooding atmospheres. Most sounds are quite long, a lot of them evolve for over 20 -30 seconds before they repeat. If you then combine them with another core at a different length, you have already created an everchanging soundscape.

Although the start point for each sound is adjustable, the loop points themselves cannot be changed. So if you don’t enjoy that particular loop point you’re stuck. That itself wouldn’t be such a problem if the included sounds were relatively simple and background-ish. But many of them are pretty full-on with spotlight stealing sound design, chord changes or melodic elements. And as impressive this makes the presets sound, it soon becomes a problem when you’re looking for a sound that fits your track.

What I mean is this: The multi instruments included in XOsphere 2 could easily be their own tracks. And even if you just listen to the cores on their own, they often come with so much content that it takes away a lot of flexibility. Typically, when I’m looking for an atmosphere for a project, I’m looking for an interesting texture that fits in well with the elements I already have. And it’s not that XOsphere 2 doesn’t have these sounds, but that you have to wade through a lot of presets to get to them. A lot of them have simply too much going on, in my opinion. Often you have to stick to pressing one key and playing around with the filters and effects to get something that fits.

Obviously, these kinds of judgements are very subjective. Every composer works different and is looking for something different in a tool, but XOsphere 2 made me feel somewhat limited despite the limitless ways to change sounds and the 2000 presets.

And yes, you could always bounce these atmospheres, edit them and make them fit better, but a part of what I’m looking for in a library is that it makes my workflow simpler – I don’t want extra steps and complications.

Audio example

The following examples are “multi” instruments. Only one MIDI note was played for each of the examples. No automation was added:

The next three examples are “core” instruments (single instruments). Again, only one note was played and no automation was used:

The interface

While the interface is clean looking at the first glance, I’d recommend taking a look at the manual or watch an introductory video before you start playing around with XOsphere 2. Most elements in the GUI are self-explanatory but navigating between cores, multis and source sounds can be confusing at first.

To load up new cores, multis or source sounds, you use the internal browser which allows you to filter the presets by categories. You are also able to favorite presets and filter by favorites, which is important, because scrolling through 2000 sounds when you’re looking for a specific one can be tiring.

One issue I had when I first played around with XOsphere 2 was that the individual presets would take very long to load (we’re talking 20 – 40 seconds). When I contacted Sample Logic, they suggested I should do a batch resave of the Kontakt library. While this reduced my loading time for the most part, I still have this issue occasionally – especially in bigger projects.

One last thing I’ll note is that because of the built-in complexity of the sounds, I rarely use the XY pad. So I’d prefer if there was a simpler version of the UI that would let you load just a single core and gets rid of unnecessary UI elements.

The Rating

Should you get XOsphere 2?

XOsphere 2 clearly has a lot going for it. A sheer endless amount of high-quality sounds and the possibility to easily manipulate them with complex automated effects is the dream of every composer. Unfortunately, many sounds are too complex to fit them easily into already existing productions. I’m sure that XOsphere 2 can be a great tool for many composers who look for ready-made atmospheres to plop into their tracks. However if you’re looking for more versatility and compositional freedom, this library might not be what you’re looking for.

Pricing

When it comes to the value, at $349.99 I find it overpriced (you could get Omnisphere for $150 more). But at a sale price of $79.99, I think it’s a good deal – especially if you’re a media composer who’s looking for new atmospheric pads all the time. It might, however, not be the last atmosphere tool you will ever need.

Pros:

  • Beautiful sound design
  • 2000 sounds in many genres
  • Great for any underscore

Cons:

  • Many sounds are too complex to easily fit in the background
  • GUI can be sluggish
  • No option to change loop points

Rating

Sound quality: 10/10
Presets: 7/10
GUI: 7/10
Versatility: 3/10

Overall Rating 7/10

Value for money (at $349.99): 5/10

Requirements

  • format: Kontakt 5+ (full version required)
  • size: 13 GB

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