Using The Expressive E Osmose As An Expressive Controller For The Waldorf Iridium

Waldorf shared this no-talking demo of using the new Expressive E Osmose synthesizer as a controller for the Iridium.

They note, “Expressive E did a great job with the new Osmose synthesizer keyboard, which can also be a great companion for our Iridium. We’d like to share some impressions.”


0:00 Intro
0:37 Granular Beat Sequence
2:40 Marimbantum
3:34 PPG Runner
5:28 The River
7:22 Vangelis Split
9:42 Bottle Bank

The Osmose features a patented mechanism, Augmented Keyboard Action (AKA), that delivers three dimensions of control on every single key. Unlike most expressive synth controllers, AKA is designed to be an extension of traditional keyboard performance.

23 thoughts on “Using The Expressive E Osmose As An Expressive Controller For The Waldorf Iridium

  1. I’m pretty sure most will buy this to use it with a module or software and not really the internal sounds. I could not find a single video where those internal sounds and parameters sounded good or could be made to sound good. With the most expressive keyboard, you’d be tempted to use the most expressive synth or software. Maybe a controller is in the works cause the design is phenomenal.

    1. The internal synth engine is fantastically powerful and sounds great. It comes down to taste, preferences and the fact that demos are going to focus on things that show off the capabilities of polyphonic expression.

      If it’s not your jam, though, the Osmose and Hydrasynth both are great controllers.

      1. Hi Torgood, have you tried the Osmose? I had been wondering how useful it is outside the presets that we’ve seen (which I think sound really great, but maybe will get cliched after a while).

        This video shows that it is great with other MPE synths, so no need to worry about that.

        My final question is whether the Osmose is a good controller generally, including with non MPE synths. Of course, I know I can in theory play a non MPE synth with it. But suppose I want to put down a piano track, or a rhodes track, with a VST or whatever. Will I find the unusual key movement too distracting to get the perfect performance? Will I have to put the Osmose back in its box and get out another controller, or will it be ok?

        1. I was able to try out the Osmose at Synthplex. It was a pre-production model, but even in that form it was the most expressive keyboard I’ve ever played.

          It had reams of presets even at that time, so they are much more varied than what you’ve seen in demos.

          An important point is that the way you play has much more of an effect with the Osmose on the resulting sound than most synths. Think of it this way – most synths that you’ve played are essentially percussion instruments. Your main performance control is how hard you strike each key. With the Osmose, the keyboard can act more like a wind or string instrument, where the sound is controlled continuously by how hard you blow or bow the instrument.

          People that don’t care about that probably won’t be impressed by the Osmose. But for people that do, it’s a must-buy.

          The key selling point for the keyboards of the Osmose and the Hydrasynth is that they are good traditional keyboards, plus they have the additional expressive capabilities. So, if you have classical keyboard training, it all transfers over 100%. This is very different than the Roli keyboard or the LinnStrument, which are better for doing big pitch bends, but awkward for use as a traditional keyboard.

          The Osmose works as well as any standard MIDI keyboard for playing traditional keyboard sounds. I’d use a larger, weighted keyboard for piano performance, though, just because if feels and plays like a piano.

    2. I found those sounds from the Osmose synth to be absolutely gorgeous. Those examples showed how flexible and capable that EaganMatrix engine is. They spotlighted the physical modeling more than other aspects; which was a good choice. We’ve heard so much FM & VA. It also seemed like a good marriage of a synth architecture and a multi-dimensional realtime control keyboard.

    3. Osmose has a very expressive and good sounding sound engine. It does not cover “all the bases” but it is also clear from this video, it is a better match for osmose’s keybed capabilities.

      1. Wait, “literally” or “figuratively”? Are you qualified to insult someone else based on one opinion?

        H.R. doesn’t care for the sounds he’s heard in those demos. That opinion makes you uncomfortable, I suppose.

        Full disclosure, I like reading H.R.’s amazing comments here on Synthtopia.

        In comment threads like this, there’s a kind of short-hand that you might not be familiar with: “Didn’t sound good” = “I didn’t like the sound.” It’s not that complicated. It’s just an opinion. (Sheeesh.)

        However, you’ve taken an extra step: “I disagree with your comment.” = “You don’t know anything.”

        That says a little more about you than the OP.

        1. He said people aren’t buying the Osmose for the sound engine and that the sounds aren’t expressive

          They totally are – and the sound engine is 100% one of it’s unique selling points

          The Eagan Matrix at a fraction of the cost of a Continuum

          1. I agree with you. I think I love both the controller design and the sound engine. It seems really deep. I wonder if I could begin to figure it out.

    4. I agree that the internal sound engine doesn’t sound very good. It has a plastic, thin, one-dimensional sound, IMO. Its UI makes it a real pain to program too. If Expressive E developed just a controller, then I might consider it, but even then, I don’t trust the company.

    5. it sounds particularly good jamming with other instruments I think, so playable… there are some dodgy patches and I’d prefer less factory sounds and more user spaces, but get the right patch for what you’re doing and it sings

  2. Ive had my Hydrasynth-49 for about 18 months and my Iridium Keyboard for about a year now. It has taken me well over a year to get to be what I call proficient with just the polyphonic aftertouch. When I say “proficient” I mean the ability to predictably control it under most conditions with all 10 fingers. Like most people (including most pianists) I can exert a lot less force with the pinkies on either hand than I can with my thumbs or the next three fingers in. This is especially true with a greater than an octave stretch. For both the Hydra and the Iridium, the keys only move in one direction, so the only thing your brain needs to translate is pressure. On the Osmose, or any other similar controller with keys laid out like a piano, but for which the keys can move in three dimensional space with control messages being produced by each dimensional movement, there is a lot more for the brain to keep control of. From only a numerical perspective, there is about nine times as much information for the brain to assimilate with a 3D controller than there is with one offering only poly aftertouch. Now, couple that with the availability of two hands, often doing independently different things. Most people who play synths, haven’t even allowed their brains to assimilate playing reliably with two hands, let alone about having to control the force and direction of each of the fingers on those hands. So, I think that few people could ever expect to achieve virtuosity playing such a keyboard.

    I understand the allure of wanting to be able to bend or add vibrato to a note independently of whatever the pressure vector is controlling, and I guess that if all you really want to do with an MPE controller that looks like a standard keyboard is to add some flourish to a lead line, that’s OK. However, I’m pretty sure that is about as far as most people will ever get playing the Osmose. Personally, I’d prefer to pay $79 for a quality control pedal than $1800 for a keyboard that really won’t allow me to do much more. If you were about six years old and beginning to learn a musical instrument, then maybe this kind of controller would make some sense. If you are older than 18, it is a lot less likely that you could ever master such an instrument before you gave up trying due to frustration. Seriously, I would definitely consider purchasing this only if the “trial” period is long enough for you to figure out that this really isn’t what you thought it should be. If it is, than that’s great. But, unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that it won’t be for most.

    1. it’s not the vibrato per note that makes this special. It’s the dynamics control and that is pretty easy to grasp at least for me it was. But i am not sure how this will translate with run of the mill synts/vsts, etc which is why at this point i have my doubts on how well it can work as a controller.

      1. When you say “easy to grasp” do you mean, “I understand how the keyboard works based on descriptions and videos” or “I have played the keyboard and I found it easy to exert the kinds of control I was intending to exert”? I’ve never played an Osmose, but I understand how it works. That is what led to my conclusion that I probably wouldn’t be able to master it in what’s left of my usable lifetime, given the amount of time it took me to master only polyphonic aftertouch on the Iridium/Hydrasynth.

        1. I mean it felt easy for me to get a handle of some aspects of the control. Individual note control of vibrato, is indeed a difficult thing to master, but “wiggling” a chord or having a solo note on top of a chord with its own vibrato is quite easy. More interesting for me though was the touch control. You do not need to press down on a note to have it play, you just need to touch it, so there is a huge expressive range in the area between velocity and aftertouch (y-axis on the osmoses in contrast to the contunuum or the seabord) . So it feels as if you can control the envelope of the sound with your fingers and that is easy and amazing fun. However i am pretty sure that this is partial to Haken’s engine, which was made to work with the continuum. I have my doubts if one could get something like that with a vst, limited by classic adsr envelopes.

    2. Thanks for the excellent write-up. I never played keyboard or anything. I do have two Roli Blocks which in the past allowed me to play 5 notes at a time on its combined 50 pads via my left hand, while I kept the right one on the synth. It having lights to show which notes are in a certain key kept me from learning music theory. But that didn’t really get me anywhere except noodling.

      Anyway, I think I made the right choice to jump into the Linnstrument quite recently (I bought myself a lapsteel about a year ago, to get the hang of string and note memorization and now the Linnstrument makes a lot of sense to me). For sure I don’t get the most of it, because I completely transfered the bar technique (including Open D tuning), so there’s no real chord playing like guitarists. But I take that as something that’s going to characterize my playing when I get a bit better at it. Because… The issues you feel with muscle strength and those keybeds are somewhat elevated by the Linnstrument, and I suppose the Continuum as well, because of sensitivity settings? No idea if those are available on the Osmose as well? But that might also be what makes it quite a bit hard to play, because of how soft one needs to play, there’s the issue of trying to hold back strength in all fingers. Kind of like the opposite of what you are experiencing. Then again, by starting to play a string instrument at the age of 40 I was bound to run into issues with these fingers not really listening to what my brain tells them.

  3. Yeah, taste. Goes without saying in cases like this. I’d be happy to hear the full extent of the synth but its not really available right now…cause marketing. I’m sure it’ll be covered at some point once the availability of the synth goes up. Shows you the power of marketing and youtubers. My wallet has been ready.

  4. Personally, I am not that impressed either by what they demo with the engine. It’s just okay. I mean, the demos have nice presets, but you’ll find those on any half-decent synth that bothers hiring a good sound designer. If they ever stuff one in a box (not eurorack, like they’ve done) I might consider it if they upgrade the UI, because it’s so clunky (which I find weird, seeing how it was developed initially for the Continuum, which is a premium instrument). I’d like to use it with the Linnstrument to create more unconventional sounds compared to the classy and cinematic sounds that Expressive E and Haken try to impress us with. The only digital I got is a Nord Modular G1, and as far as digital goes, I think I might consider this to be a nice addition to what I have.

    1. Presets are presets in any synth it is always the same situation (actually i believe there are a few here that are quite special). People willing to make them are not very good. However most synths i know are not able to create these sounds, they don’t have the flexibility of the signal chain for it. This not a 2-3 oscillator synth passing throu a filter with a couple of lfo’s, envelopes. (which accounts for 99.9999999%) of the market.

  5. I have and love my Hydrasynth. I did the Kickstarter for the Osmose and am waiting for the shipping confirmation.

    From what I’ve heard, I like the sounds from the Osmose engine. The editor looks VERY complex so I think it’s a worthwhile idea to pursue using it as a midi controller. I tried one in Toronto and it was different but in a very cool and expressive kind of way.

    I think using it for its own sounds will be a lot of fun and each person playing it will have their own sound and approach because of how sensitive it is.

    I think it will take a long time for users to get around to making their own sounds on it from the software but I can’t say for sure until I have it in front of me. In some ways, it feels impenetrable like how I imagine the DX7 felt for folks that came up on analog synthesizers 40 years ago.

    As an intermediate step, it might be good to pair the Osmose with a synth engine that can take advantage of its unique controller capabilities but also offer a more simplified set of tools and GUI compared to the Eagan Matrix.

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