The Osmose synthesizer by Expressive E is one of the most innovative instruments we’ve seen in recent review. It makes full use of all the latest tech to deliver a synth that’s uniquely expressive, playable, and unlike any other.
The Expressive E Osmose Synth Is a Hotly Anticipated MPE Keyboard Synth
The Expressive E Osmose is brand new. At the time of writing, you can pre-order or reserve one from a limited batch expected to ship around September or October of this year. This, at least partially, fuels some of the hype. However, most of the anticipation stems from its sonic power and its three dimensions of expressiveness through the MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) protocol.
What Is MPE?
MPE is a specialized type of MIDI protocol that provides each individual key, or note, its own channels for modulation, pitch bending, and other forms of expressive play. MPE isn’t new in and of itself, as we’ve seen it popularly incorporated into MIDI instruments by brands like Roli.
How Expressive E takes advantage of the technology is what makes the Osmose synth unique. It retains the look and feel of a regular MIDI controller or keyboard. Beyond each key’s typical resting point, though, is extended motion to make use of MPE.
The result is the ability to concoct totally different sounds than you’d otherwise get from a synthesizer, without having to adjust a player’s technique entirely. It’s more playable, more expressive, and enhances the overall feel and sound of the keyboard.
Why Is MPE MIDI Such a Game Changer?
MIDI Polyphonic Expression gives players more nuanced control over their articulation and modulation of electronic sounds. Normally, you’d only find that level of control and expressiveness in stringed instruments. In the last few years, MPE has really come into its own, and gives keyboardists/synth enthusiasts a distinct level of playability they’ve not otherwise had.
Expressive E Osmose Review: How Does It Stack Up?
Osmose Synthesizer Features
The Osmose is a 49-key polyphonic synthesizer with an MPE-ready key bed. It features a 24-voice EaganMatrix sound engine by their partner, Haken Audio. The engine powers multiple forms of synthesis, including FM, digital, additive, spectral, virtual analog, and physical modeling.
Out of the box, the Osmose comes with over 500 presets. Each preset maps patch-specific MPE parameters to every key, so you’re always taking advantage of the expression the protocol offers.
Layout & Interface
One thing the Osmose does so well is keep its interface uncluttered. There’s so little going on in terms of physical control, you’d wonder how it works at all. The centerpiece consists of a well-lit LCD screen, and a handful of backlit buttons and clickable rotary knobs.
Despite the minimalist arrangement, players of course have all the controls they’d need. From a strictly design perspective, Expressive E did a wonderful job of making this incredibly deep synthesizer intuitive and approachable.
How Does It Sound?
The video above does a better job showcasing how the Osmose sounds than any descriptive adjectives could. To be fair, we understand that this a promotional video by Expressive E that paints the synthesizer in its best light. Take an objective approach and use your ears to judge whether the Osmose lives up to the hype sonically.
Is the Expressive E Osmose Worth the Price Tag?
The Osmose currently retails for $1799. For an instrument this deep, it seems like a reasonable asking price. Between the MPE and Haken sound engine, there’s a massive world of sounds packed into the Osmose that would take a tremendous amount of time to fully explore. This synthesizer is technologically advanced and a serious tool for creators.
Our Take: Who Would Love the Osmose Synth?
Surely keyboardists would love the Osmose synth. The standard key bed feels familiar, but the added range of expression completely revolutionizes the sound and control. Sound designers and other artists who use synthesis in less conventional ways would also find the level of depth to be inspirational.
Anyone looking for a cutting-edge synthesizer would likely get along perfectly with the Osmose.