Expressive E and the Osmose in 2024

I dont really follow the Osmose discord, so only tripped over this today …

(Naud is part of the expressive-e team, but no idea in what role…could be community manager?)

anyway doesn’t mean anything in itself, but its inline with a recent email which indicated, that ExpressiveE are still focused on improvements for the Osmose.

whats quite interesting, is the talk of collaboration … is this just Haken, or others?

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Naud looks to be a community PR person. Promises to relay concerns and suggestions to the dev team. Posts from Naud are generally PR-type messages and teasers, and very little specific answers to questions or problems. Issue posts are generally answered by community members.

I’ve asked for more details about collaborations or how they decide who they partner with, but silence. I suspect this is more about marketing partnerships among MPE-capable devices and software than anything technically deeper.

Maybe we can look forward to a “certified for Osmose” sticker. :wink:

I previously opened a ticket about getting some kind of 3rd party developer support/info/contact, but again crickets.

yeah, I assumed it was pr/marketing… and thats ok, you’d not expect details until there is something to announce/release - but its still nice to know there are things going on in the background.

as for developer support, Id just reach out using the normal (support) channels, usually they’ll help if they can - though, with small companies, I don’t expect them to start dedicating resources (e.g creating documentation) , they often don’t have time to spare, so need to dedicate it to the benefit of all users (rather than devs)… so usually I limit my expectation to answering very specific questions.
(even then most of the time, I usually just work it out for myself ;)).

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Collaboration with hard and soft synth makers doesnt need to be hugely technically deep to still make a real difference to the scene. Because there are plenty of people out there who dont really understand the details of MPE or what synths are supposed to work. And there are also loads and loads of MPE synths that dont really come with a load of MPE patches. So if they raise the profile of pairings that work, make the config more obvious/better documented, and make some presets that are designed with the Osmose in mind then that will be enough to make a difference to some users, and increase their confidence in using the Osmose as a controller for these other synths.

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its a tough one…

I think perhaps Expressive E should have a more direct support channel…
probably something like a forum (even it they just host it on KVR). but having seen how that goes for other manufactures/developers - frankly, Im not surprised they don’t want this.

also I think it depends on expectations…
for me, Osmose is first and foremost a hardware synth, not a controller - and it does what it does out the box, and has hundreds of great presets , and the haken engine, love it or not, is documented pretty well (imho)

controller support, I think the osmose needs some work on its firmware in this area.
there are some odd decisions about the way some things work.
and indeed, I do think a quick document on how to connect to a daw would be useful.
(but its not hard, and most figure it out)

but I dont think expressive-e are responsible for presets on other synths.
(in the same way as my Virus TI, works as a midi controller, but theres no explicit support for it in other soft synths … except Omnisphere ;))
sure, if they have a forum, they could allow for sharing, but I think thats where the responsibility ends.

again, sure, if they want to form a collaboration with someone to make some presets for a.n.other synth, great… or even update their own synths to have some Osmose preset, that’d be cool too… but I don’t have this as any form of expectation.

Don’t get me wrong… I do understand why some want to use the osmose as a primary controller. it may be the only MPE controller they have, and the Haken Engine is intimidating for some, and its not suitable for all sounds.

But beyond, supporting MPE well (and documenting how to hook up the Osmose), Im not sure thats on ExpressiveE.

… anyway, more positively, and going back to original post.
it does look like Expressive E, recognise there is some work to be done in this area.
sure, they are not saying exactly what (not uncommon for developers), but its nice to see they have some focus on it, and time will tell what that yields.

I dont think its a question of responsibility exactly, but rather them looking at what will help maintain product momentum in every possible direction. Yes there is plenty to do on the firmware and editor side of things too, but I still expect them to look at other areas as well. This isnt me building false expectations based on my own needs and wants, its based on their own hints and partly based on the approach they’ve taken previously. And also the fact that when it comes to the Haken side of things, some of it is out of their own hands so they are likely to look in other directions in parallel. And they have probably seen that a portion of Osmose owners arent huge fans of the internal engines sound (I am not in that camp really so I wont try to pick apart those peoples stances, but they are out there and vocal and some of them look to sell their Osmoses in the used market as a result)

Anyway for me its a complete certainty that when they speak of collaboration, they arent just talking about Haken. I’m pretty sure they recognise the benefits of marketing stuff in conjunction with other peoples synths, and they wouldnt have mentioned ‘namedropping’ in their message otherwise. There are a number of potential candidates. I wont be surprised if u-he is one of them given that they got an Osmose to evaluate right at the start of the Osmose becoming available to early backers, and have been adding something more closely resembling proper MPE support to a number of their synths (in publicly available betas last time I checked).

On the firmware side of things they put out a job advert for an Osmose firmware developers last year, so I never doubted that they would do more in this area in future, but that it would probably take a while to ramp up. It was a long time ago now that the vacancy was advertised, so I suppose its taking even longer than I thought to release some firmware with slightly more meaningful changes/additions, but still within the bounds of reasonable expectation for now I suppose. I think its fair to say that Its taken long enough that they’ve felt the need to reassure people about this via their recent messages.

Also they have an informed view of what their current ongoing sales momentum is like, and we dont.

yeah, its interesting…

the above assumes that marketing as an MPE controller is an important part of the sales strategy. for sure, doing so does broaden the appeal, so if they can do it , it feels like a win-win.
(though frankly, most would consider the Osmose very expensive as ‘just a controller’, so the synth engine is important too)

but, the question is… what’s in it for 3rd parties (like u-he?) ?
the Osmose market is tiny, compared to the full market.
e.g. you’ll sell a few hundred copies for an osmose specific sound pack, compared to how many for a generic sound pack?

and if expressive-e create the sound packs , for which synths? there are hundreds of vsts we all have our favourites? … and sound design is a resource intensive process, it cost EE money to do this.

but, this is where I think it makes sense to design for their own vsts,
they have to make presets for these anyway, and so know them well, and can do things like ‘cross selling’ ( * )
( * ) hopefully Osmose owners wouldn’t expect to be given these vsts for free, but given expectations these days… there will be some !

so yeah… Im not sure, what their intentions are… beyond making the hardware as good as possible… it’s pure speculation.

as for collaborations, that could be more with haken, or different partners, Im not sure Id bet one way or another on that one. esp, as know there are some things in the work at haken, so that may be a collaborative project… or it could just be with sound designers bring more to the Osmose/Haken Engine. again more speculation.

For sure there are a range of possibilities. I still think that I can be pretty confident that it wont only be Haken, but its certainly true that I cannot accurately predict which other companies or sound designers will be involved, how many of them, the exact extent of partnership, whether they will all be in the soft synth world or whether some hardware synth companies will also want to get on board.

Yes if it were Osmose-only stuff then thats got even narrower sales potential than broader MPE for the other companies, but there can be other factors at play too beyond the direct commercial benefits. Its sort of a miracle that we got MPE support in as many synths as we did so far, and the exact reasons why we got that over time may also be a mixed bag - in some cases it may have been because MPE support became a marketable feature, or one customers kept asking for. In some cases it may have been that the synth makers got an MPE controller or several MPE controllers themselves and actually liked the experience and wanted to make their synths work with it. For some years ROLI burnt so much money that we could also imagine them throwing money at some other companies to encourage particular developments, but I dont know if that actually happened in practice, and ROLI certainly found plenty of other, less productive ways to burn through their funding.

When it comes to EE themselves, yes we know they have some history of making their own soft instruments, usually by using UVI Falcon to make offerings that can work on Falcon or the free UVI Workstation. They havent, as far as I can tell, done very much to really encourage Osmose woners to buy the EE soft synths that support MPE, and we also see the opposite problem of some Osmose owners getting confused and thinking that the non-MPE instruments EE also made (often to promote the Touche/generate more income from Touche owners originally) are a good fit for the capabilities of the Osmose, which like any other non-MPE synth they arent. On a potentially related note, back in October 2023 that same EE person told me on Discord to ‘Expect cool news about software in mid-November’. That timing estimate was missed due to the usual phenomenon of stuff always taking longer than anticipated to polish up for launch, and ‘news about software’ could mean a number of different things, and we still dont know what they were referring to, but its a small clue anyway.

As for other synth maker collaborations, I freely admit that I dont have that much to go on at all. I know of one sound designer who is affiliated with u-he who has an Osmose. And I know u-he was keen on the Osmose because Urs actually communicates directly with people on forums and sometimes likes to share his opinions in a less guarded way than other companies do. But of course this doesnt mean they are really the leading candidate and that there are no other partners, only that this is the obvious one that, as an outsider, I can actually find some hints about in public. For example “loving our Osmose!” back in late December 2022, at a stage where Urs was even pondering whether to support MPE+ (though I’m pretty sure much later comments suggest he has gone off of the MPE+ idea). Some of his other comments over the years are also great examples of how a synth maker may be inspired by a particular MPE controller in a way that other MPE controllers didnt manage to inspire. Of course this doesnt tell us whether ultimately they will go beyond adding generic MPE support to their synths as a result, and even if there were Osmose-specific plans then plans can change over time. But anyway here are a few other examples from him:

June 2022:

“We’re tentatively intending to collaborate with Expressive E, as their Osmose has been a revelation for us, when we tried prototype half a decade ago.”

June 2023:

“We’re also in love with our Osmose and we want to work with Expressive E and others to get the most out of MPE.”

(you can find these comments by finding Urs on KVR and then searching for Osmose whtin his posts).

Anyway I would certainly agree that even when armed with the above quotes, and other stuff he said, the most realistic thing to expect from other synths and MPE is better overall MPE support - even when influential people at the companies love a particular MPE controller the sensible thing for them to do is to do better at MPE in general, rather than send narrow signals to their customers that make them think they are only supporting one MPE controller in particular. But I do think you can take a mixed approach and do both, you can partner with one in particular but still send some signals that the resulting improvements apply to others too. Certainly even the likes of UVI, that have had some kinds of synergy with Expressive E in the past, tend to feature as many of the best known MPE controllers as they can if they are making MPE-specific marketing material for their offerings (eg there is a MPE demo of their Synth Anthology 4 product that is a good example of that).

Where things get a bit messier in that respect is when it comes to presets, due to the variations between the different MPE controllers and especially the really obvious Osmose difference in terms of MPE Y not being on a totally independent axis of control. And I think that beyond the handful of companies like UVI, Expresive E and ROLI that really bothered to do soft MPE synths that specialised in that area and so included lots of actual proper MPE presets in some of their offerings, factory presets is the weakest area for many other MPE synths, soft and hard. Cherry audio did bother to get some of their sound designers to contribute to MPE factory presets to some of their obviously MPE-capable synths. There will be a few other examples like that that I wont try to remember and list right now. And I suppose its not surprising that hardware synths that gained MPE support havent seen much MPE preset love, either in new factory content or from 3rd parties. I’d like to see a few companies at least dabble with that, especially for higher end synths where every sale counts and we arent talking about a gigantic number of total synth unit sales. On the soft synth side of things I think Arturia have the biggest obvious hole - they took the time to add MPE to a fair number of the more recently updated synths in their V Collection range, but to date they didnt really bother to market this aspect and certainly didnt bother with the MPE preset side of things. THe best you can hope for from a fraction of their factory presets is that some of the ones that support poly aftertouch will translate ok to MPE (similar to the situation with the Modal Electronics hardware synths presets and MPE) They would certainly be on my fantasy wishlist if such a hole was to be partially plugged in future via some kind of collaboration.

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u-he was pretty late to the MPE party, but in fairness Urs concerns were valid… early on, there was a lack of standards and no daw support. Urs was waiting for this, so u-he could do the effort once, when it was ‘standardised’, which is kind of what happened.

indeed, Howard does have an Osmose, though in fairness… from posts Ive seen from him, his main interest was seemed to be, could he use the Haken Engine for new presets (rather than MPE presets) - though, I guess, he could be interested in adapting presets he has worked on in soft synths for the ‘osmose mpe’

as for (lack of) MPE presets, again, I think the issue for me is simple… all surfaces are different. this is not unique to Osmose (but more exaggerated).
Ive tried to play presets designed for Roli/Soundplane/Continuum/Generic (e.g. Live) with other surfaces Soundplane/Eigenharp/Osmose/Erae Touch. it’s almost always been a very lack lustre experience.
so much so, I hardly ever bother anymore, I either use the preset designed for the surface they were created for, or design my own (for that surface)

I know this is not what many want… they want presets. but I just dont see that happening.

a novation 61 keyboard is very similar to an Arturia.25 keyboard for sound design.
but an erae touch is nothing like an Eigenhaarp/Soundplane/Osmose to play - and sound design relies about more than just a bunch or parameters linked via some midi messages.

and as I say, u-he might love the Osmose, but can Howard sell a pack that requires a user to have an Osmose and u-he repro 5… and want to use them together.
the market is small, do you charge $50 for the pack?

(I’d love a u-he/expressive-e collab, but I suspect u-he have bigger fish to fry - though not been following Urs on kvr for quite a while, so who knows)

frankly, if I were Howard, Id just work on some Haken Engine presets - I think they’d sell better.

however, the case is different for Expressive E…
they can cross sell between their software and hardware, and as you mention, many (osmose) users are almost expecting this from them.
so it might be a small market, but they are the ones that are in the best position to exploit it.

btw: I didnt know their EE instruments were (all?) based on Falcon, I might get them…
as I quite like Falcon… though its mpe implementation is a bit poor.
but if EE are invested in UVI Falcon, perhaps UVI is a natural collaboration partner.

Yea, Urs himself mentions the difficulty of writing MPE presets that work well with all controllers. Anyway we have to wait a while to see what their exact plans involve for initial full launch of the non-beta MPE versions of a bunch of their soft synths, since I think their target for that slipped from Q1 2024 to Q2 2024. By the way if any MPE-heads want to contribute to their thread about testing MPE beta versions and providing feedback and tips for setup using different combinations of controllers and DAWs, please take a look at MPE support public preview revision 15139 (ACE, Bazille, Diva, Hive) - u-he Forum - KVR Audio I am reminded when skimming through that thread again that although in my brain MPE tends to remain a relatively straightforward thing, it quickly gets a bit harder to talk about. ie once you chuck in variations between DAW config, combine it with other progress on the plugin front such as Per Note Expression in CLAP etc, consider the sometimes slightly ambiguous wording and potential interpretation of the official MPE spec document (even the updated version which is a bit better) and peoples needs when it comes to mono modes etc, and things can get a bit more confusing discuss in precise detail. Preconceptions and variations in understanding quickly become apparent, and my confidence wavers about whether everything I said on that thread was spot on or not.

Anyway yes if you are looking at things from a direct revenue commercial perspective its no suprise that the MPE presets scene is the way it is. Thats why I pin some of my hopes to partnerships that are looking for other benefits and synergies, even if they appear to be on the fringe. Just have to wait and see, as ever, I wont get too carried away with my hopes at this point.

As for EE, I only own their MPE-compatible software offerings, not the other stuff, though I suspect the other stuff is indeed Falcon based too, I just havent double-checked. But yes all the MPE ones are for sure Falcon-based and do sound rather nice. I only recently bought Falcon 3 (when Falcon 3 came out and was on discounted sale) and havent had time to pick below the surface yet. I will say that some of Expressive E’s presets in their MPE instrument collection have a very lovely sound. They arent Osmose-specific though, and I havent gone through them to evaluate which ones have a design that is somewhat Osmose-problematic (I only got as far as auditioning them using a Push 3).

Falcon is a great product, good value too… Ive had it from the beginning, and it’s, so far, been a free upgrade ever since, including the major updates.

It’s a bit intimidating at first, as it’s pretty much an instrument builder, but it’s logical once you get the hang of it - but its still not the first thing I grab for creating new sounds :wink:

as for MPE support, in 1.x it was done with a kind of script… but 2.x improved it a bit, to make it a little less obscure. I must admit, hadn’t got around to downloading 3.x, as its a pretty big download (including the ‘samples’ library), downloading now… so it’ll be interesting to see if the MPE support has improved further.

‘improved MPE’ was one of the things mentioned in the whats new section for Falcon 3 but as I never got deep into trial version of v2 I wasnt well placed to see exactly what had changed. When I find time I am keen to see how well I can get the new bowed string and harmonic resonator oscillators working with MPE.

The MPE is still script based but the script has a GUI and maybe some of the options in that interface for it are new.

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Fun timing after me ranting about presets:

One of the new purchasable soundbanks for the new Pigments 5 is, to quote Arturia, described as “Push the boundaries of keyboard expressivity with Expressive Explorations, which has been designed with MIDI Polyphonic Expression in-mind.”

The sound bank section of their website was having some trouble when I went to have a look, so not sure what the demos are like. I will grab it (or the bundle currently on discounted sale) anyway to support this sort of thing.

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The launch of UVI Glass Orchestra, with MPE support, hasnt featured Osmose so far. Rather there was just an incredibly half-arsed MPE bit of Venus Theory briefly using it with a Sensel Morph that was not even placed on a stable surface.

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yeah, I doubt we will see content creators using the Osmose for demos too much, for a few reasons:
a) I don’t think many were given an Osmose, and it was an expensive purchase (for demos/preset creation)… though I do think there are some out there.
b) Y axis issue - as discussed above.
c) confusion - osmose is (primarily) advertised as standalone synth, so that could potentially confuse some about usage of plugin.
d) other mpe controllers are (arguably) more visually ‘intriguing’, than what looks like a conventional keyboard (e.g. leds, alternative layout)
e) familiarity/use what you have, some of the creators have been using other mpe controllers previously… not likely to switch given the whole mpe area is relative niche.

as Osmose owners, we could argue all these points, and point to the the success of the Osmose, and its widespread acclaim. but Id be surprised if many switch over to Osmose for demos etc. though, of course, Im sure there will be a few, we know some sound designers really like it!

I think it’s an intriguing time now for the Osmose…
I think they are now pretty much ‘freely’ available, and we are over the honeymoon and marketing (social media) hype. so, now is the time where we sit back and enjoy it, make music with it… and really get to know it well.

from there, time will tell… will it age like a fine wine, and so more will be drawn to it, and we start seeing it crop up in more regularly (where its not the ‘main feature’), or will it be like many other mpe instruments, which has an avid following, but remains niche?

and of course, this is all running in parallel with increasing adoption of mpe.eg. Live, and even in the Push 3. again,
how widespread will that become, or will it just be a feature that few really use?

Yeah I only picked on the UVI demo because in the past they showed a few signs of using more MPE controllers, very much including Osmose, in some demos. Will wait and see if they intend to release any more demo material for the Glass thing, perhaps not but you never know.

Meanwhile I also still wait to see what the software Expressive E mentioned turns out to be, whether they announce anything at NAMM etc.

I think one problem with the world of videos, including influencer videos, and MPE, is confidence in playing abilities. Even in the wider scene there has never been a large crossover between those willing to make videos, and those who are confident enough in their MPE playing abilities to put it on video. Narrow down to the top influencers or those paid to be involved in official product marketing videos, and the potential pool shrinks to almost nobody so far. The likes of Osmose and Push 3 havent changed this, not yet at least.

Looking beyond the world of video creators, I saw signs that both Osmose and Push 3 turned more people on to MPE, and for example I certainly found Push 3 users who didnt expect much from the MPE pads but were then very pleasantly surprised. But not at the sheer scale that I can claim that some great new trajectory has been released, I’m not confident that escape velocity has been reached to enable a certain escape from the gravitational pull of planet niche. I would claim that MPE has gradually reached some milestone in terms of how many synth companies feel that maybe they need to consider including it, it may be at a point where the marketing departments want it, but some companies are still skeptical and not without some reason. I suspect some companies experience plenty of users asking for it to be supported, but then dont hear or see much from those users when they do add MPE support. And sometimes when I find quirks in a particular synths implementation of MPE, I often dont find many other people talking about those quirks online, filing bug reports etc, making me wonder how many people are actually using it.

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What has occasionally been attempted barely scratches the surface. For example Expressive E were sensible enough to take an early Osmose around to various artists with name value and then make a whose series of ‘artists meet Osmose’ videos. But these videos just show first impressions and resulting hyperbole. What I’d ideally like to see is for someone to run with that idea on a more sustained, serial basis, charting the journey of at least one artists actually becoming a committed player of said instrument.

That would be a lot of work and money and would require the right person. ROLI could have done it if they had chosen to burn a chunk of their money on that instead of all the other stuff they burnt vast amounts of money on back in those giddy days.

If I had a time machine I would go back and pinch a million quid off ROLI, then give it to Flying Lotus to make a series of followups to this, lol: (warning, contains swearing)

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I strongly agree. Related:

Bullseye, but there is no centralized MPE community to pool these companies and users together, so the latter argument is more difficult to quantify.

Well said. Related:

Support - Artists

I am done with MPE discussion at this point, so mention my username when action is desired at Poly Expression.

Just a little update regarding my speculation about u-he and the Osmose.

Urs said this recently in relation to NAMM:

Quote is from: Meet Zebralette 3 at NAMM - Page 18 - u-he Forum - KVR Audio

I wasnt at NAMM myself but its good to know that my earlier hunch is still at least somewhat valid. Their MPE-enabled synth versions are still in beta till later this year so I can imagine some Osmose presets arriving at the same time as the non-beta versions of those.

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