Library

Review : Jaeger (version 1.2) by Audio Imperia

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Just a few days ago, after much anticipation, Audio Imperia released a massive free update to their flagship orchestral library, Jaeger. This update is huge, and you can tell they took their time and really listened to user requests and critiques. This review is going to cover my overall thoughts and critiques of Jaeger ($599), including the recent improvements featured in the 1.2 update.

When Jaeger was first announced (see teaser above), it came as a bit of a shock to some. Audio Imperia, as a company, are known for their cutting edge sound design libraries. When I think of the name Audio Imperia, I Instantly think of AAA film trailer effects, such as intense braams, risers, gritty synth pulses, atmospheres, mechanized hybrid FX, and the like. This company not only carved out a niche, but earned a spot at the top, offering incredible designed sounds at really competitive prices. While a lot of their products did include organic instruments, such as Trailer Guitars, and their Klavier Piano series, I truly never expected them to release a full fledged orchestral library. There was such a massive market already for orchestral samples, from companies such as Spitfire Audio, 8dio, Cinesamples, Orchestral Tools, and East West, so when they did announce their plans to release Jaeger, my initial reaction was one of surprise, quickly followed by excitement.

The GUI is sleek and modern.

The GUI is sleek and modern.

I had yet to be disappointed by anything released by Audio Imperia, and the more I learned about Jaeger, the more eager I became to hear more demos and check it out for myself. The artwork and marketing alone sure go a long way to selling the product. They made it clear, this is not your mother’s orchestral library... this is modern, epic, and in your face. You won’t find any vague and pretentious marketing campaigns here! You know… the kind with musicians playing in slow mo, quiet string swells and minimalist ambiance (aka… Spitfire Audio). Instead, we get massive braams, blaring horns, tight string ostinatos, and the most gorgeous legato vocals you’ve ever heard. To top it all off, the visuals seem straight out of a sci fi blockbuster... you’re faced with this badass artwork of a giant mechanized robot (like the Jaegers in Pacific Rim), a big knob in the center of the GUI that looks sort of like the arc reactor on Iron Mans chest, and just an all around sleek, futuristic, mechanical design. Pretty freakin cool, if you ask me.

I held off on buying this library for a while. I recently had purchased Spitfire Albion One, I didn’t need another all-in-one orchestral library. I had also recently purchased 8dio’s Century Strings and Brass, plus Keepforest Evolution Dragon and Atlantica...I didn’t need more individual instrument sections or any more hybrid trailer FX. Plus, those companies had years of experience perfecting their craft... I’m sure many of us wondered that maybe Audio Imperia bit off more than they could chew. It’s their first attempt at anything orchestral and they chose to do an entire orchestra (minus woodwinds, more on that later...) How good could it be?

Pretty good, apparently..

Pretty good, apparently..

The first look and unboxing videos started to make their rounds on the interwebs (thanks Daniel James!) The reviews began to pour in! General consensus: it was GREAT. Not just good, but great, even excellent! It earned an astonishing 10/10, a perfect score, from MusicTech magazine. That’s pretty impressive. You couldn’t even begin to talk about vocal samples online without someone raving about the Jaeger legato vocals by Merethe Solvedt (of Two Steps From Hell fame). I had to admit, everything I had heard sounded stunning. Yet I continued to hold off on purchasing. I mean, if it had woodwinds, I would have been all over it from day one. To me it felt a bit incomplete, but I couldn’t get over the sound of that legato vocal patch I kept hearing. It sounded so beautiful yet epic, and the legato so natural and smooth you could swear she was standing in front of you, singing her heart out. They had a promo and sold the vocal library on its own, and of course I had to check it out. After buying just the vocal, about a month later I had caved and bought the entire Jaeger library. I had to have it. It was just too cool! 

Content and Sound

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Jaeger loads up into the file browser, or quick load, section of Kontakt, not through Native Access, therefor it is not compatible with the free Kontakt Player, which is always a tiny bit disappointing to me. Not because I personally use the free Kontakt player (though I know many who do), but because I just prefer having seamless access to my content in the library tab, and while it is such a small detail based on vanity, it feels so much more official having the nice little graphic there to click on to explore and load the content. Nonetheless, that is purely my personal taste.


Jaeger is a very good sounding library, no doubt about it. Its divided into sections labelled “hangars”, consisting of Strings, Brass, Percussion, Sound Design, and Vocals. The shorts are, for the most part, impressively crisp and punchy, in fact the staccatissimo brass is my new go to when I need to achieve a tight and punchy sound that bites right through the mix. While the brass shorts can be very aggressive and hot, I feel the spiccato strings, while perfectly usable, can sound a bit bland and lack detail. However, I do use them very frequently to achieve a full and lush Hollywood trailer sound, though usually layered under a more detailed ensemble that cuts through the mix. Alternatively, you can EQ them to bring out more of the highs. I noticed by default, the short notes were not syncing up to my tempo properly, instead sounding a bit sloppy and delayed. I realized I simply had to adjust the “sample start” slider all the way to the right, which made them perform like my other spiccato patches. While I first thought this was an odd choice, I do appreciate the amount of control this library offers, and by featuring a slider like this, it can consequently produce the tightest string ostinatos out of any library I own. Additionally, using this feature, along with a similar “Legato sample start” slider, can produce the fastest and most nimble legato lines I’ve heard, which is pretty impressive.

French Horns are essential for epic music, in my humble opinion!

French Horns are essential for epic music, in my humble opinion!

When I tested out the legato and long notes, the first thing that struck me was how incredible and lyrical the legato is. This is hands down some of the best legato I’ve ever heard, and by nature is incredibly beautiful, natural, and flowing, which, to me, somewhat stands in stark contrast of the “epic” and aggressive focus of the marketing. I found Jaeger had a beautiful and cinematic side to it, and was more than capable of producing soft and intimate lines that you’d expect in a John Williams or James Newton Howard score. I also found the horns, while beautifully sampled, did top out fairly early in terms of dynamics, especially for epic music. While they do provide an aggressive growl when they get louder, they couldn’t quite match the bold and precise sound of the 6 horns featured in 8dio Century Brass playing at their loudest.

However, when layered with the trumpets, trombones and tubas, the long and short notes of the full brass section are stunning... very rich, full, and bright, and along with the legato, the brass section is a true highlight of this library. The trumpets are bright and full of life, while the trombones offer an aggressive and raspy edge, rounded out on the low end by the tubas.

The strings have a nice, lush, Hollywood sound, and are much improved with the new 1.2 addition of NV (non-vibrato) samples as well as a vibrato slider, for more control over the overall sound. The cello and violin legato once again sounds fantastic, giving these sections a majestic and soaring vibe when needed. The strings, overall, do lean towards being more full and lush, as opposed to intimate and detailed, and although I find it is a nice balance overall, I would have liked a bit more detail in the spiccato strings. There is also a noticeable lack of dynamic layers with the short notes which is a bit frustrating.  I also noticed the basses are quite weak compared to the rest of the strings, producing a very noticeable drop in volume going from the lowest cello note to the basses when an ensemble is loaded.

This is what I picture when I hear the violin legato…lyrical and beautiful.

This is what I picture when I hear the violin legato…lyrical and beautiful.

Jaeger is a very dry library, meaning any reverb, or sound and space of the room,  is little to none. I have no problems with this, in fact I sometimes prefer it, so I can apply the same third party reverb to all of my tracks and give it a more cohesive sense of space. One thing I did know going in, is that everything in Jaeger is recorded centered, meaning if you want it to sound more realistic and natural, you will need to pan each section accordingly. To some users, this is a deal breaker, though I personally don’t mind panning on my own. It would have been nice, however, to have a pre panned mic setting, so you could have both centered and panned mixes at the click of a button. 

The library could have used more of this…

The library could have used more of this…

The percussion section, while offering the nice touch of featuring both distance compensated (DC) and non-distance compensated (NDC) mixes, seems to be the weakest section out of the bunch. While they do include some great sounding samples, do not expect to achieve an epic, Hans Zimmer style percussion sound from what’s included in Jaeger. Nothing here sounds bad at all, just a bit underwhelming as far as ensemble sizes go . What they do provide, including hits, rolls, and crescendos, all sound great. While the library offers a lot, I feel including some truly epic percussion ensembles would really sweeten the deal.

The package is rounded out with the absolutely beautiful solo vocals, performed by renowned vocalist Merethe Solvedt, and feature the most convincing legato transitions I’ve ever heard. They are pretty much perfect. You’ve probably heard enough about them already, but they really are the best available, and that’s damn impressive.

Merethe Soltvedt lends her incredible voice to Jaegers vocal patch.

Merethe Soltvedt lends her incredible voice to Jaegers vocal patch.

The sound design hangar is also incredible as expected from Audio Imperia. You can easily make a licensable trailer track using just sounds from the sound design hangar as your only FX, not even needing any post processing. If you have any Audio Imperia sound design libraries, you know what to expect. Absolutely top notch sounds and fx here, absolutely no complaints. 

Bang for your Buck

Overall, Jaeger offers a good value, but I believe it could definitely be improved, and I personally believe there are other packages that offer more for the price. Spitfire’s Albion One ($449), which earned a 9.0/10 score from my review, offers massive percussion, loops, synths, and woodwinds, while another 9.0/10 score went to Berlin Inspire (399 euros, approx $453.42), which offers solo instruments and combined sections. Overall, they still take the cake for me as far as content and value is concerned. While Jaeger does feature great sounding individual instrument sections, offering a level of detail that may not be attainable in the aforementioned libraries, it doesn’t help that the areas where Jaeger seems to be lacking are now going to be sold as additional libraries by Audio Imperia. That’s content that is included in some other packages, that you will now have to pay extra for. For instance: Audio Imperia scrapped their Decimator drums library for Cerberus, and are selling it for 299 dollars, touting it as the epic, percussive companion to Jaeger, as they are recorded in the same space. Basically, I can’t help but shake the feeling some things are missing on purpose with Jaeger. While it offers a lot of great sounding content, and is perfectly useable on it’s own, it’s lacking in quite a few areas that other packages often include. If you buy Jaeger as a first library , and want to truly have epic percussion, you may then feel obligated to buy Cerberus. If you want truly earth shattering low brass and horns that will melt your face off, you’d then invest further in Talos. And if you want woodwinds, be prepared to invest even more into the upcoming woodwind library. Please keep in mind, while I am offering quite a few points of critique, Jaeger is a very good library, but it still feels lacking in some areas, and with the release of so many companion libraries at fairly high prices, it can sometimes feels intentional. 

Final Thoughts : a bit of an identity crisis?


Nonetheless, the library was impressively beautiful, which struck me again as a bit odd, but by no means a bad thing. While it was very suitable for modern and epic music, it seemed it could equally perform at the opposite end of the spectrum, able to produce delicate and soft passages of equal measure, sometimes even better, than the more aggressive sounds. While I welcome this decision, it’s here where the lack of woodwinds really hurts it. For soft passages, to me there is nothing quite like the delicate and expressive sound of woodwinds, and they are sorely missed when you bring this library down to its softer dynamics. This library also combines first and second violins into one section, which again seems to highlight a slight lack of vision... this library is impressive, but can’t quite be a jack of all trades, and, on it’s own, it can’t yet succeed at fulfilling the needs of making truly epic music. For instance: those who want something purely for epic music have louder and more bombastic options such as Metropolis Ark 1, and those who want a more traditional library would most certainly favor a library with pre-panned sections, woodwinds, and first and second violins. You also only get legato patches on cello, violins, vocals, and horns, though it sounds absolutely stunning on those that do feature it. I feel this library could have easily ventured into GREAT or EXCELLENT territory if it expanded it’s content to offer woodwinds, and included epic percussion, maybe even louder dynamics on the horns.


Updates! 


One thing I felt was missing originally was the ability to load a full ensemble patch. I had saved some custom multis, one featuring every string section and panned accordingly. However, every time I loaded this multi up, the sample start slider was always reset, and I had to adjust the slider for four different instruments every time I loaded up a project, so my shorts played nice and tight. A minor annoyance, but an annoyance nonetheless  One of the new features included in the 1.2 updates is the ability to load up full ensemble patches , however, there are no options to individually pan each instrument section, so it’s a bit of a trade off.  Personally I use the ensemble patch for shorts but still load individual sections for every other articulation, so I can pan them individually. Nonetheless, it is very nice to have the ensemble patches available for quick loading and sketching. 

The feature that most interested me on the list of updates was the decision to include polyphonic legato. I felt this was generally a fairly new and cutting edge feature, implemented in only a handful of libraries I owned, but those that had it were an absolute joy to play and I favored them for their ease of use and effenciancy when writing. Polyphonic legato works differently in Jaeger, splitting each legato voice by velocity. I will quote Tomas from Audio Imperia here:
“For instance, when you enable three velocity splits you’ll be able to play up to 3 different legato voices, with voice 1 being linked to velocity range from 1 to 42, voice 2 from 43 to 84 and voice 3 from 85 to 127.“

While it doesn’t offer the fun factor and ease of use as something like Strezov’s Afflatus, it is an excellent feature and works very well, and I’m quite impressed they managed to include this in the update. 

Another very nice feature is the new vibrato slider, which enables you to load one patch and choose between a non vibrato or vibrato playing style. 

Overall, the updates are quite substantial (over 10gb), and add some really great features.

All updates are as follows:

  • Added new legato unison interval samples for all legato instruments. The feature is triggered when the sustain pedal is on.

  • Added strings non-vibrato samples and the corresponding non-vibrato to vibrato instrument patches.

  • Added ensemble samples and ensemble instrument patches.

  • Added velocity based polyphonic legato.

  • Added lite, super resource-friendly patches.

  • Added sustain pedal support.

  • Added Stereo Spread and Reverse parameters on Sound Design engine.

  • Release samples were denoised and sample starts were adjusted for all instruments.

  • Loops on sustained instruments now use equal power crossfades.

  • New percussion engine for percussion instruments.

  • Huge improvements in release samples behavior.

  • Release samples are not affected by dynamics after release.

  • Fixed non-persistent controllers issue.

  • Individual patches were hugely optimized and now load much faster.

  • 36.2 GB installed (up from just under 25 GB in Version 1.1).


I did notice all patches now load instantly, even before doing any sort of batch resave, which is very nice! 

The Verdict - 8.75/10

PROS +
+ Overall impressive sound, especially for the first orchestral offering from the company.
+ Brass is bright and powerful, offering some of the most crisp and punchy short notes I’ve heard.
+Amazing Legato for Violins, Cellos, Horns, and the impeccable Solo Vocal.
+Sound Design elements are second to none.
+1.2 updates are substantial and add quite a bit to the value of the library.

CONS-
-NO WOODWINDS! Even just a full ensemble would go a long way to flesh out this library :(
-Percussion is sorely lacking in ensemble sizes, especially for epic music
-Seems to lack a well defined vision…can’t quite do everything, can’t quite nail one niche.
-Doesn’t offer as much content as some lesser priced packages, feels a bit stripped down on purpose to sell Cerberus and Talos.

Review - Afflatus Chapter I: Strings by Strezov Sampling

The art style represents the unique quality of this library

The art style represents the unique quality of this library

Here it is! The big review for the massive new release from Strezov Sampling, Afflatus Chapter I: Strings! This library has been the talk of the town on social media and composer forums since the first teasers began leaking out, and hearing the demos, the unanimous decision was that it sounds incredible. A new revelation dawned once the library actually released : It’s EXPENSIVE, costing 799 euros at the time of writing, which is roughly $909 USD. When you see user opinion on this library, a clear pattern emerges: everyone seems to agree it sounds amazing, but many simply refuse to budge and purchase a library with such a high price, which is understandable since there are so many great string libraries out there already, many for a fraction of the cost. Also, many composers have at least one or two all intensive string libraries already, so many are wondering “what will this do for me that I don’t already have with my other libraries?”

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Details

This library is massive, coming in at ~123 GB Hard drive space for the library (59GB for installation files and 64 GB extracted full size library). This library does NOT require the full version of Kontakt and runs in the free Kontakt Player, which is a major plus for many users. Upon hearing the demos and reading the first details of this library even before release, you can get a feel for what Strezov is trying to accomplish here: incredibly realistic and flowing string performances captured in samples, with none of the nuance and emotion lost in translation. Here is an excerpt taken directly from their official site :

“Inspired by film and classical music icons this collection pushes the boundaries of traditional sampling methods by introducing revolutionary features like Auto Divisi combined with Polyphonic True Legato and a Thematic Approach towards playing techniques. Gone are the days of soulless samples.”

The more I delved into the details of what this library offers, the more excited I became. I have a few string libraries, each with their own pros and cons, but never have I had one that I can just load up and play with my keyboard and have it perform completely naturally, until now (and many more libraries will begin to implement this in the future, I can guarantee that). I had chalked it up to simply being the limits of sampling in general: I assumed legato patches would only be feasible on individual sections, playing one note at a time, and not being able to perform polyphonic chords or sections while still applying the beautiful legato transition. That is, until I got my hands on some newer libraries which implemented this exact technology (Genesis Choir by Audiobro and Silka Choir by 8dio, specifically, although this polyphonic legato is also a feature on Strezov’s Wotan and Freya Choirs). I really love using polyphonic legato featured in the libraries I mentioned, but I really desired a string library with the same features, as I (and most composers I know of) write more for strings than for choir.

The Interface/Content

Useful help messages pop up when needed

Useful help messages pop up when needed

One immediately notices the beautiful art design used for the promos and GUI of this product : very noir with a vintage color palette. Don’t let this fool you, as while some patches very distinctly emulate vintage style recordings/arrangements, there is something for everyone here in this library, from the classical and traditional film composer to the modern and more bombastic/aggressive styling. I was initially a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content here, as I started to realize why this library may be a bit more pricey than other standard string libraries. Not only do you get the incredibly realistic and playable polyphonic legato and auto divisi technology, you get full ensembles ranging from 50+players to a more intimate chamber size ensemble and everything in between. These patches offer instant gratification the likes I haven’t experienced with any other string library to date and are incredibly rewarding to just load and play to your hearts content.

You can enable and disable the legato for all the long patches, and there is a very useful “overlap” toggle button, which will allow for a more traditional legato transition once you play a new note, as opposed to playing both notes simultaneously. Some features I’d like to see in future updates : adjusting the speed and volume of the legato transitions between notes themselves, to enable faster and tighter legato phrases.

afflatusstrezovGUI2 patches ensembles.png

There are many unique combinations here as well, such as “Shark Strings”, which is a combination of 10 cellos, 8 basses, and 2 pianos (Jaws, anyone?). “Christmas Strings” are violas and cellos accompanied by a pleasant alto saxophone, “The Mouse Strings” are a detailed Pizzicato ensemble. “Contemporary Strings” is a short spiccato 12 string patch. There is a TON of content here and they’re all properly labeled and explained in the provided user manual. Some personal favorites are the Lush Strings (standard big Hollywood Sound) and Minimalist Strings Legato (a more intimate and detailed sound). I also really loved “Warrior Basses” which is a combination of bartok pizzicato, timpani, percussion and male shouts. There are also preset patches tailored to modern pop and ethnic/world music as well as modern and vintage film music and classical genres as well. As you can see, you really can get an immediate and focused sound for almost any single genre of music imaginable from this one library alone. Each ensemble comes with the option to use “All Samples” , “Full Section Only”, and “Half Section Only”, which can help save computer resources. Not all patches provide the option to enable Divisi (using only half of the number of selected instruments), but most allow the use of sordino or dampened/muted playing. This library also provides experimental patches, which provide many unique instrument combinations you would never normally find in a string library, and are listed below:

The addition of so many unique instrument combinations is really incredible

The addition of so many unique instrument combinations is really incredible

Some small critiques here about the arrangement and categorization of patches: These would ideally be arranged in “Long” and “Short” categories, where as some of them are labelled by articulation in the patch name, others are not, and it feels a bit inconsistent and leaves it up to you to remember that “Contemporary Strings” only provides the spiccato articulation, as opposed to simply naming it “Contemp Strings Spic” or simply having two categories for “Ensemble Long” and “Ensemble Short”. Another thing I noticed was there are limited keyswitches available. For instance, “Lush Violins 1 KS” only allows you to keyswitch between long/legato and tremolo. It would be nice to have at least one large patch that allows you to switch between Long/Legato, Short/Spiccato, and Tremolo, to prevent from loading up multiple instances of this library with each unique articulation patch, for users who may need to conserve CPU and RAM. Also, only two patches provide a marcato articulation (“Red Army Strings” and “Shark Strings Marcato”). These critiques are small, as the library provides a truly staggering and impressive array of content, and some patches are more niche (such as the combination patches). While many of us already have a more generic/standard library with the “bread and butter” articulations already, some users may never spend this amount of money on a String Library that doesn’t at least give them a patch with the ability to key switch between the basic articulations of long, short, trem, pizz, etc.

The Sound

The sound and playability of this library are truly amazing. There is a built in reverb slider to make it as dry or as wet as you want. Overall the samples are dripping with realism and emotion, capturing the nuance of a real performance in every stroke. The polyphonic legato feature is incredible, and a massive time saver (load up ONE polyphonic legato ensemble patch instead of each individual legato section). The sheer variety of sounds this library is able to produce is phenomenal. In one library, you get typical large orchestral string sizes, as well as smaller chamber sizes, sordino, harmonics, “vintage” film/classical sounds, “trailer” patches with a more bombastic and intense phrasing, trills, molto vibrato, as well as standard pizzicato, bartok, spiccato, marcato, not to mention the vast amount of combinations, experimental patches, and pads. This library can do the classic Hollywood sound: huge, lush, and soaring (think CSS and Hollywood Strings) ; while also easily tackling the smaller section sizes with increased detail and clarity (think 8dio Century Strings or Spitfire Chamber Strings). The sound of this library alone is absolutely incredible, and just has an amazingly sweet and realistic tone, but what really pushes it to the next level of greatness is how it plays and performs. Out of every string library I have tried, none so far come close to the instant gratification and ease of use that I got from Afflatus Strings. This library is capable of producing the most realistic and beautiful string sounds with an absolute minimal of tweaking, it just works, right out of the box, and enables any composer to skip with the fuss and painstaking editing and tweaking we’re so used to with other libraries. It doesn’t eliminate tweaking completely, as sometimes legato transitions need to be adjusted slightly, and sometimes legato transition volume can be slightly inconsistent (hence my recommendation for a legato speed and volume slider), but it succeeds better than any other library at getting the performance AND sound as close to perfection as possible.

The Verdict

We all knew Afflatus Strings would be great, no doubt. What I did my best to determine was answers to the following:
Does it bring anything new to the table? - Yes


Is it versatile, can it do modern music? (such as fast paced and tight action, as well as the more traditional film style focused on in the trailers and most demos) - Yes

Does the amount of content justify the high price, and can it be the one string library to cover all grounds? - It depends.

The answer to the third question definitely depends on what you own so far, and how much use you will get out of the unique combinations and patches. Some people may never want a string section combined with a saxophone, or low strings and two pianos playing simultaneously. Some others may still be put off by the high price and lack of in depth key switch options between articulations, or furthermore the lack of a comprehensive list of articulations (some standard articulations in other libraries aren’t well represented, long patches only keyswitch between trem and legato/sustain, etc.)

For me the library is incredible and delivers wholeheartedly on sound and content (and then some) and for long strings and the full patches, nothing comes close to matching the realism and sweet sound of the polyphonic legato, not to mention the auto divisi which is not a prominent feature on many string libraries whatsoever. I did have a few critiques that I do believe, if updated and addressed, could push this string library into the realm of perfection (an unprecedented full 10/10 score). I know there are planned updates to this library, so I have very high hopes these features can and will be implemented in the future.

*Future updates are bringing in First Chairs and SCENE D'AMOUR Celli

(Scene D’Amour = “very small string ensemble playing con sordino and with molto vibrato. Very emotional performances. Patches also have Tenutos”)


Final Score: 9.5/10

Pros+
+Incredible sound with unmatched playability.

+Polyphonic legato and auto divisi perform exceptionally.

+Massive amount of content, capable of a staggering amount of sound possibilities and combinations to match ANY style.

+THE library to beat for the traditional and classic soaring “Hollywood Sound” (John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Henry Mancini, Bernard Hermann, etc)

+Every patch is dripping with emotion, soul, and realism.

Cons-

-Some ensemble patches should be categorized or labeled better (into long and short, etc)

-High price is only fully justified if you plan to use the full extent of the library: unique combinations and playing styles, and varying ensemble sizes, may not be for everyone (although the price is justified for the amount of content, IMO. Normally you’d pay 500+ for an orchestral string ensemble, and 300+ for a chamber string ensemble, etc.).

-Limited keyswitch options and some missing articulations that are standard in other libraries.

Review: TIME Macro by Orchestral Tools

Hello all! I’m back, and as promised, today we’re going to take a look at Orchestral Tools’ TIME Macro. This is a fairly recent collection, and falls under the category of additional colors, or textures, to enhance and add nuance and realism to your tracks. This is a fairly non-traditional and unique offering, as opposed to a “bread and butter” set of standard articulations. Instead, this collection focuses on movement and swells, unique textures and timbres, and subtle sound ‘palettes’ that may not be possible to achieve using your standard orchestral libraries. These kinds of products are right up my alley, as I do enjoy having this kind of motion or movement embedded into the performance itself, so I can just open the patch and instantly play, without having to fuss around with CC01 modulation. The library retails for €349 , or approximately $399.

TIME is a recent collection of textures released by Orchestral Tools.

TIME is a recent collection of textures released by Orchestral Tools.

This library is categorized into Multis and Single Instruments, and then into Combined and Individual Sections. By nature, the sound is very atmospheric, textured, and overall amazing. I can’t help but get a major Spitfire Audio vibe here, as not only are some of these patches extremely similar to what’s offered in Spitfire’s Orchestral Swarm, but a lot of them seem to really revel in the softer dynamics, and instantly remind me of some of the sounds from Albion V: Tundra (example: sul ponticello and col legno articulations). The library offers standard sustains, but where it really shines is the unique offerings, such as the playing styles mentioned previously. The Sul Ponticello strings have a more harsh and grating sound, while the Col Legno are very soft and airy. A personal favorite of the String articulations was the “Sustain 5th Drops” and the “Trem Bursts”. These capture details and colors in the actual performance by the players, so it’s very natural, and something you would not be able to properly recreate with standard articulations. Sounds like these can instantly add realism, nuance, and atmosphere to any track you could think of.

timemacro OT.png

This library does focus primarily on long notes as opposed to short or dotted notes, although there are some of the latter. I found the Woodwinds Combined and Individual sections to be my favorites. I just love the magical sound of woodwind instruments playing at soft dynamics, and this library absolutely nails it. Every articulation here sounds very ethereal and magical, and would work wonders at building atmosphere or enhancing the colors in a fantasy styled composition. The Individual Woodwind Sections (High and Low) offer an “Airy Sustain” patch which sounds especially beautiful and haunting.

Managing articulations is a breeze

Managing articulations is a breeze

The three main patches in the combined sections are Strings, Woodwinds, and Choir. Having the addition of a choir here is very nice, and while it’s not comprehensive as far as features, it absolutely gets the job done and offers some wonderful sounds.

In the Individual Sections we have the Strings, Woods, and Choir, split into High and Low (or Male and Female for the choir), and this is where we also find the Brass articulations (which features Sustains and long marcato as well as the familiar textures), as well as “Harps and Vibes”, “Double Reeds”. The “Harps and Vibes” patch is very beautiful and delicate and a personal favorite.

The “Altered Time” sounds are breathtaking.

The “Altered Time” sounds are breathtaking.

There is a section called “Altered Time”, which plays around with reversing the samples and other time based experimentation, and it contains some of the most amazing sounds of the entire library. It’s exciting opening up each new patch and having a small idea of what it will contain based on the name, but it always is surprising and utterly beautiful when you strike the keys. The “Pendulum Winds” patch sounds almost like an organ in places, as the instruments play and swell in reverse and create a purely magical pad-type sound. Think of these as some sort of orchestral synth, as the sounds are very pad-like but incredibly organic, full, and rich. For owners of the library, make sure you experiment with each and every sound included in “Altered Time”, as they truly are magnificent.

The Verdict

9.5/10

This library is truly a unique and beautiful offering from Orchestral Tools. It isn’t cheap, at $399, and be advised it does not contain legatos, although it does contain all the sustains and motion/performance based textures you might possibly need. Alternatively, there is Orchestral Swarm from Spitfire Audio, which has some VERY similar sounds, although Orchestral Swarm seems to offer more in terms of dotted note articulations, and does not include a choir or any sound design style presets (like the Altered Time section), but it does retail for quite a bit less. If you are in the market for unique and atmospheric orchestral colors, or simply want a product that captures more of the player’s performance in the samples, than you really can not go wrong with TIME Macro. I use it very frequently to spice up soft/intimate tracks, just make sure you have the standard articulations covered before you purchase, as this library is more for additional and unique textures.

PROS+

+Amazing and unique sounds

+Beautiful and haunting textures

+Altered Time patches are breathtaking

CONS-

-A tad bit pricey

-No standard legatos, which would be nice, as you could do an entire track with this one library alone.

Review : 8Dio Century Brass Ensemble

Today we’re going dig into 8Dio’s Century Brass ensemble library and offer some honest opinions and thoughts about it. This full version Kontakt library was released at the end of last year, continuing their Century Series of orchestral instruments, which at that point only contained Century Harps (as of posting it now has Solo Brass, Strings, Sordino Strings, and Ostinato Strings as well).

century_ens_brass_poster.jpg

I was very attracted to a hearty discount of 40%, which they offered last year during a store-wide sale, and I had been searching for Kontakt libraries to gradually replace East West’s Hollywood Orchestra series, as Kontakt consistently provided me with better performance and ease of use than the Play sampling engine which is used by East West. I was really impressed by the demos of their Century Series. It seemed to offer an incredibly detailed sound, with an astonishing level of realism, versatility, and playability. They provided free “Try-Packs” of some of the patches available as well, and I was very impressed with the realism of the legato scripting in the Try-Pack for the 6 Horn ensemble.

The GUI/Interface

The Century Series interface is simple and clean.

The Century Series interface is simple and clean.

Century Brass is a library that does not register in Native Access, therefor you have to go to the file browser in Kontakt and load it up manually. I’m generally not a fan of this approach, and it honestly confuses me, as 8dio is a major player in this business and can easily afford the fee to Native Instruments to enable their libraries to be loaded up in the library panel.

Upon loading, however, I was fairly pleased with the simplicity of the interface (some might find it a bit bland), providing easy access to all the controls and mic positions. What really impressed me most is the way articulations and keyswitches are handled, allowing you to load up to TEN articulations in any order, and assign them to the keyswitch of your choosing. This seemed like a really nice way to sort of customize and tailor the library to the playing style of each user.

As for the articulations, there are an impressive amount here, including mutes, rips, crescendos, loure, flutter tongue, and one of the main selling points, according to their marketing, the Arcs.

Century Brass Ensemble offer’s a very large selection of articulations.

Century Brass Ensemble offer’s a very large selection of articulations.

The Sound

When researching this library I was confused about this term “Arcs” being thrown around all the time, but it’s just an articulation featuring the players performing a dynamic swell, starting at the lowest dynamics possible and naturally rising up to full velocity, and then slowly tapering back down. To me, I just call them “swells” when I am describing them to someone else. They really are quite spectacular to play around with, and immediately I found myself using this articulation in every single track. It adds another level of realism, instead of just controlling dynamics with the mod wheel or CC automation, having these dynamic changes already taken care of in the actual performance really is something special to have in any composers arsenal.

The overall sounds of the instruments here are spectacular, captured in pristine detail and capable of performing in a truly impressive dynamic range. Everything is recorded centered, so you’ll have to manually pan to simulate a natural orchestral seating position. From the name of the library and the imagery of the marketing, it does feel they are catering this towards a more traditional composer, maybe even to classical and classic film styles, and the library really performs beautifully in the soft and mellow ranges. However I was also thoroughly impressed with the ability to really crank it all the way up to ff, and get an incredible amount of growl, heat, and a bold, majestic sound. This could easily be used as the only brass library to compose a modern epic or trailer track as well, I have no doubt about that.

The default mic position is a mixed mic, and it offers a lot of closeness and detail while maintaining the width and space of a further mic. I found the default mix to sometimes be a bit too close, however, especially for the horns. For the 6 Horns patch, which is spectacular, I found it really sounded best with only the Decca mic enabled. There was just something different about the default mix, which is not a bad thing, just not what my ears were used to.

The trombones give an amazing amount of growl in the higher dynamics, yet still warm in the softer dynamic ranges. I found the short trombone notes to be really fun to play with and wonderfully brassy, while the trumpets were bright and natural especially in the higher register.

A Few Quirks…

I did find there to be a lot of articulations that may not be necessary and some unusual choices as well, such as a “speed” knob to control the quickness of the legato transitions and how fast the arcs played. I found this really odd for the crescendos and arcs to be controlled by a knob with no numerical value, instead of syncing to the tempo of the DAW, and found it quite cumbersome to have to tweak the speed knob over and over until it matched the tempo of the track I was working on (not to mention re-adjusting for tempo changes, etc)..

While for the most part the legato patches sounded amazing when I first heard them, the more time I spent with the library, I did notice some annoyances (from minor to quite major) and bugs here and there. The legato transition volume sometimes seemed inconsistent, and adjusting the “Legato Volume” knob did absolutely nothing. It seems sometimes the legato transition volume is affected by the velocity at which you play the key, but sometimes I would be playing a very soft horn melody, yet each time I changed to a new note, the volume of the legato transitions was wildly inconsistent with the volume of the sustained notes I was playing. This honestly made some tracks unusable, as I would listen to them later through headphones and notice that the transitions sounded completely off and unnatural. There’s also an issue with the legato patch triggering the last note that was played instead of only playing the note I want it to play (it will play the wrong note for a split second before jumping back to the correct note), which again rendered this library unusable for a certain project I was working on. I also noticed some inconsistencies in timbre/volume across the full range of a single instrument (it was rare, but you can tell some notes have a different timbre, as if playing that note triggered a different mic mix as opposed to the one I had selected.)

I did email 8Dio support about these issues, and they responded saying they were aware of the issues and they would be fixed in an upcoming update, so I have no complaints about support as they got back to me immediately and said they are working on a solution. I also noticed Colin O’Malley of 8Dio has posted on a VI-Control forum back in March 2018 promising they are working on a free update for this library to offer new mixing options including pre-panned mixes, etc. I was a bit worried after I read users feeling that 8dio sometimes abandoned their libraries instead of releasing updates and fixes, but it seems if that was ever true, they are doing much more as a company to listen and stay engaged and offer updates to their customers.

The Verdict-

8.5/10

PROS+

+Amazing detail and realism in soft AND loud dynamics.

+Vast Amount of Articulations, including unique and highly playable arcs.

+Intuitive GUI with ability to customize key switches and load up to 10 articulations, all in one NKI file.

CONS-

-Some strange choices such as the speed knob, only one length of marcatos.

-A few bugs and inconsistencies really bring down the usability sometimes, especially with the otherwise incredible legato patches.

TL;DR: Century Brass is a very good library, but it’s note quite achieved greatness yet. The wealth of articulations and versatility, as well as the realism and detail captured in the recordings, are some of the highlights of Century Brass. These standout features are slightly marred by inconsistencies and bugs, but I have high hopes they will address these issues in the upcoming 2.0 update!

*(In the future I will update this review and possibly adjust the final score to included the 2.0 updates)