A few years back Expressive E swung by the Engadget offices to show off its first standalone synthesizer, the Osmose. That was late 2019, and the instrument was originally expected to ship in the Summer of 2020. Well, as we all know, almost nothing has gone as planned since 2020. And it’s only now, nearly three years later, that Osmose is actually ready for consumers. Today the first units started shipping those who placed a preorder all those many moons ago. Expressive E is also reopening preorders for the next batch and are expected to start shipping soon.
While I can’t pass full judgement on the Osmose from my short demo over three years ago, it still is shaping up to be a very unique and exciting instrument. The core synth engine is borrowed from MPE pioneers Haken Audio and delivers a combination of FM, virtual analog and physical modeling. That physical modeling engine is particularly big deal since it really shine’s on Expressive E’s unique keybed.
The 49 full-sized keys don’t just move downward, but also side to side. This gives you an additional dimension for exploring sounds, the most obvious case being to add vibrato just by wiggling your fingers back and forth. And since the Osmose is built expressly for MPE, that means each note is controlled individually, so you can play a chord, then bend only the highest note while keeping the bass notes the same. That makes the Osmose the first traditional keyboard (at least that I’m aware of) that supports MPE.
While there is a builtin sound engine with 24-notes of polyphony, the 5-pin MIDI dins and USB connection mean you can control any soft or hardware synth with the Osmose too. That includes passing along MPE data to compatible instruments.
To the left of the keyboard are an array of controls and a color LCD for navigating the synth’s interface. There will also be an app for both Windows and macOS that allows you to create and edit sounds. The Expressive E is available for preorder now at $1,799.