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Review : Jaeger (version 1.2) by Audio Imperia

jaeger new promo.png

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

jaeger load.png

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: 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 - Hexeract by Auddict

Before I dive in and start on my official review of Hexeract, the synthesizer by Auddict, I am going to simply share some of my experience with it so far. If any of you have been following this space, you may know I posted a “first look” article about it, and a couple YouTube videos walking through all the presets and samples and offering some impressions. I’ll try to be as professional as I can here, but I’ll warn you up front, not much about my experience with this product has been positive.

Hexeract synth.jpg

Hexeract was released around Black Friday 2017, and it was absolutely rushed. It was very hyped up in forums, marketing, and on the official website. It promised a “new generation of synthesis” and told us wonderful claims such as:
“Hexeract is a limitlessly powerful software synth, which has vastly expanded the potential musical palette for all artists. Create sounds with Hexeract that you never before believed possible, with the resources and functions to create, indefinitely and infinitely.”

Now, I understand all companies must fuel the hype train and market themselves, but these are very bold claims, however I was genuinely excited about it, and come on, the interface and design just looks awesome. I purchased this product shortly after it released and, sadly, immediately ran into problems. This is purely my experience but I have read about many, many users reporting similar experiences.

My DAW of choice is FL Studio, and Hexeract simply didn’t work with FL Studio initially. Any time I changed the tempo of a project, it crashed. I ran into countless error messages and crashes, the magnitude of which I’ve quite honestly never experienced with any other product. I would get it to load up initially, and play around with the sounds, some of which were very cool, but ultimately it would crash, or upon loading the project again after saving and exiting, I would run into multiple error messages and the entire project wouldn’t load.

I contacted support, heard nothing for a while, contacted again and they replied after about a week. I got a reply not from the official support email, but my initial email had been apparently forwarded to the developer of the product. After explaining what happened, he told me he would take a look at it. A couple weeks went by and I sent some follow up emails which seem to go ignored, so I took to the KVR forums to kind of vent a bit on a thread about the product, and see if anyone had similar issues. I stated the product was simply unusable and wished I could just get a refund, honestly not thinking anyone from the company would read it. I got an email the next day, apologizing for the wait, and offering a refund if the problem didn’t get fixed. I felt better after that. He eventually sent me a hotfix that fixed the issue. Now I could finally test out the product!

THE REVIEW

This thing looks freaking amazing…

This thing looks freaking amazing…

When you load up Hexeract, it really is quite beautiful to look at. I love the design, the color scheme, everything about it visually hits all the marks. Initially there were only two banks of presets, but the have recently released an update to version 1.1.0, so I figured now was as good a time as any to revisit this product and write my in depth review.

The core of this product consists of three oscillators, which allow you to load up samples as well as standard synth waveforms. I found this to be quite interesting and unique, and kind of exciting to explore the potential sounds you can create with that. Knowing that Auddict is a fairly established and well regarded developer of orchestral samples for Kontakt, I was expecting some great quality samples to be included with this product.

I began by scrolling through the presets, checking them out one by one. They come organized in to different categories, which vary depending on which preset bank you are currently using, For instance, in preset bank 1, you have Bass, Bass Sequences, Bursts and Blares (similar to the beloved Hollywood trailer “Inception” sound, The Braam.), Ensembles (orchestral in nature, with some added synthesis), Hits/Kicks/Etc, Leads, Pads, One Note Pads, Sequences, Shorts, and Tailored Instruments. My personal favorites were the Bass Sequences, One Note Pads, and some of the Sequences out of the second preset bank. The sounds were spacey, yet mostly organic in nature. For the most part, the presets where movement or rhythm was involved were where this product really shined. The kind of sounds that you can find on other synths, like leads, pads, etc, were simply underwhelming. There was nothing cutting edge or groundbreaking about any of these sounds, largely sounding worse than what I could achieve with any of the soft synths I own.

While some of the presets are quite good, the quality of the samples is fairly bad overall. It all sounds very midi. This is especially disappointing as Auddict has very good orchestral libraries, and it would be nice to have some included here. Now I know this product’s focus is synthesis, but it’s simply another marketing boast that failed to live up to expectations.

I’m not kidding, this happened as I was writing the review and browsing presets.

I’m not kidding, this happened as I was writing the review and browsing presets.

Most concerning were the performance issues and overall flakiness and instability of the engine. Even after the 1.1.0 patch and update, I continued to run into quite a few issues. Sometimes when loading a preset and testing it on various keys in different ranges, the sound just cut out, and then the plugin would output nothing but silence no matter which preset you loaded. It had to be deleted from the project and loaded again, which would sometimes simply result in a crash. When this happens a few times, it get’s insanely frustrating. Note, this happens even with the 1.1.0 update. I also get pops and clicks, and harsh glitchy noises sometimes, as if trying to load a corrupted sample. (To be sure, I have uninstalled and reinstalled this plugin and re downloaded all content a few times.) I noticed on my previous machine, that loading around 6 instances of Hexeract caused some truly insane lag and slowdown of my DAW. Now that I have a more powerful machine, and the update promises better CPU utilization, I of course wanted to test this out. I have a project with around 15 instances of Hexeract, and during a part where about 10 are playing at once, my system again experiences the worst slowdown and lag I have ever witnessed. Note: I have a Core i7 8700k at 3.7 ghz, and 64 GB of RAM. This kind of performance is laughable and simply inexcusable.

I really held off on writing this review for many months, as I am an understanding person and I really just wanted to believe in this product and have faith the company will come through and deliver on all the promises. I realize however, that by being a reviewer of products, I would be doing a disservice to everyone if I was not completely honest in my review. Auddict released an unfinished and broken product, there simply is no other way to put it. While I commend them for trying, quite frankly they failed, and I believe they are in over their heads, resulting in lack of support and long delays in getting back to customers, if they get back at all.

While some of the presets sound awesome, there’s nothing to really LOVE here. There’s nothing this product does I can’t do MUCH better with any soft synth or a vast number of better sounding (and consistently stable) Kontakt libraries. More importantly than how it sounds, is how awful the performance continues to be even after a big patch/update. Don’t expect to get any sort of usable performance with more than a few instances loaded, whereas in any other project I can load 30-60 instances of Kontakt with absolutely no hiccups.

Like I mentioned earlier, I was really excited about this product, and it was massively hyped as groundbreaking and something that could do cinematic synthesis like no other. I can honestly tell you, in all my years of producing and composing music, I honestly have never been more disappointed in a product. I think it comes down to this : Auddict over hyped, over promised, and rushed the release of this to coincide with Black Friday 2017. The released a buggy, unusable mess, and almost a year later, and many, many dissatisfied customers chiming in on forums all over the internet, they finally released an update and new presets and promised to fix the issues. Mind you, the dev emailed me a hotfix for users of FL Studio back in June. There was NEVER an official release of this hotfix. I have had at least three FL Studio users see my videos or reviews and ask me for the hotfix, because they said they contacted support and hear nothing. I gave them all the fix that was shared with me, but honestly consider this: these users got better support from a random guy on the internet than they got from the actual company who released the product.

I don’t even care if the new presets offer the most mind blowing sounds imaginable. One thing remains : it still seems to have serious bugs and performance issues and I simply can’t consider this a reliable product at this time. I hope it continues to improve, but as for the recent patch, it was simply too little too late.

If you enjoy stuff like this, you’ll love Hexeract.

If you enjoy stuff like this, you’ll love Hexeract.

The Verdict-

4.5/10

Pros+

+Visually stunning

+Some great rhythmic presets, pads. Presets with rhythmic tendencies or evolving sounds really shine.

Cons-

-It’s simply a broken product. Bugs, Crashes, Poor Performance, even after waiting almost a year for a patch.

-Sub-par sample quality.

-Very Limited Amount of presets compared to other synths.

-Does nothing new for me, despite all the claims and hype.

TL;DR: Buy Synthmaster or Serum Instead, or INVEST in some trusted kontakt libraries from output, Heavyocity, etc. You’ll thank me later.

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)

Review - Spitfire Albion ONE. (A great starter/all-in-one orchestral library)

Hello everyone! I have so many reviews piling up that I need to get through, so expect to see a lot more in the coming weeks/months. Today let’s review one of the most used and recommended “all-in-one” orchestral libraries, Spitfire’s Albion ONE.

Albion ONE is the 10th anniversary re-release of their original Albion library.

Albion ONE is the 10th anniversary re-release of their original Albion library.

If you ever search around sampling/virtual instrument forums, this library is guaranteed to come up all over the place, constantly being recommended to beginners for it’s all inclusive approach, and for a good reason. This library has everything you need to write an orchestral track, saving time and hassle by having large sections that are easy to pick up and play instantly. Albion One combines the separate string instruments into one full-section patch, and the brass is split into Low, Mid, and High sections, while the woodwinds are split into High and Low. Each patch will load the most used articulations, including shorts (spiccato, staccato, pizzicato, etc) and longs (sustains), with additional legato patches for strings, woods, and brass. Large sections like this are fantastic for beginners and for those on tight deadlines, and helps in keeping the resource consumption to a minimum while providing big sound palletes to instantly play with.

The GUI.

The GUI.

This product really succeeds at being instantly usable right out of the box, and everything is recorded quite wet in their acclaimed Air Studios. It is great for beginners or those who aren’t full time composers and don’t want to dive to deep into orchestral writing and just need say, small string or brass sections in the background of a symphonic metal song or some other genre. The sound is overall quite good, even if the hall/reverb is baked in (which is a plus for some!). Instruments are all recorded centered, lacking the ability to properly pan instruments as they are combined into larger sections. I’ve also noticed all Spitfire libraries are VERY quiet when you load them up. I always have to turn them up +6.0 db to get them to match the rest of my orchestral samples, which isn’t a problem, just an observation worth noting.

The things I absolutely love about this library: The staccato and spicatto articulations are phenomenal! The short strings are an all time favorite and for a large ensemble have yet to be beat in my opinion. They sound absolutely impeccable and truly thunderous in the lower ranges, yet still provide a great amount of detail. Load this patch up for instant inspiration and endless hours of fun just playing on the keys. The low brass is also a favorite of mine, and provides an amazing amount of brassy bite and grit for intense action sequences (especially the “nasty” articulation). The Brunel Loops are subtle and very unique, providing wonderful textures of found percussive sounds and warped and processed to create clockwork style percussive loops, and the Darwin Percussion ensembles provided are also top notch and fill out the loud intense end of the percussion spectrum. I have yet to find such hard hitting drums in the lower register. The legato strings patches are also surprisingly good, giving off a rich, soaring Hollywood vibe. Think John William’s ET finale.

Some small quibbles keep this from being a perfect collection. Albion One advertises itself as “Epic Composer Tools” and I honestly have to somewhat disagree with this. Some of the sounds are incredible and are used in every single one of my compositions, but this library tops out fairly early in terms of dynamics, and is quite lacking in the horn section of the brass, which in my opinion is absolutely one of the most important section for epic music. I do realize you won’t get JUST the horn section as it’s combined into mid brass or high brass, but the mid brass especially is radically lacking bite and intensity in the sustains. The long strings are also overly synthetic and are rarely used for me, but they get the job done. Overall the middle ranges in this library are a bit muddy and lacking clarity to my ears, and I mostly use this for the lower end of the spectrum. I find this library has a strange dynamic range, as it’s not quite loud and bold enough for over the top epic, but also provides inconsistencies across the dynamic ranges, not providing a smooth enough transition from soft to (semi)loud.

I can absolutely see why this is such highly recommended for beginners, as it offers a very large amount of content and you get a lot of bang for your buck. The amazing and unmatched quality of some of the patches are sadly contrasted by synthetic string sustains and an overly muddy middle range. I still frequently use this as a base for writing a lot of my action oriented pieces, and then layering more detailed sections on top. It is one I will probably always keep on my system for the short strings and low brass patches alone, even if it doesn’t cover all my needs and provide enough detail for what I write these days.

The Verdict : 9.0/10

Pros

+ Unbeatable Low Brass and Short Strings.

+Large amount of content for the price (Orchestra, Synths, Percussion, and Loops)

+Hard Hitting Percussion could be the only ones you need.

+Brunel Loops and Stephenson’s Steam Band synths are wonderful and unique.

+ Perfect way to build a foundation for a more detailed piece, or for sketching.

Cons

- Not for detailed writing with the included patches, no solo instruments or sections.

- Sometimes overly muddy sound, especially in middle range (especially long brass) is lacking clarity and bite.

- Doesn’t cover enough of a dynamic range to be truly epic or for subtle/delicate passages.

- Lacking a piano of any kind which would round out the package quite well.

Review - New Spitfire Solo Strings

***UPDATE 10/11/2018 :
Spitfire has released an update for this library, which addresses one of my main disappointments with this library: the lack of an all-encompassing and expressive performance patch, ie Joshua Bell Violin by Embertone. This update has added exactly that! A Solo Violin (Virtuoso) Total Performance Patch. I must admit, I was not expecting them to add this, but it’s quite amazing and performs VERY well. I feel this now fills the gap that was missing between having a truly intuitive, deeply expressive, and instantly playable solo string instrument and having a library that does everything else well. They have also fixed the issue with the batch re-save that I mentioned earlier. Overall, I am very pleasantly surprised with this update, and I feel it’s only fair to update my final score for this library now that it has been significantly improved.

UPdated score (with Violin Virtuoso Total Performance patch)

9.25/10

Original review is as follows:

Hello all! Today we are taking a look at a new solo string library from the folks at Spitfire Audio.

The original Spitfire Solo Strings was their first sample library ever, and the release of an all new Solo String library from Spitfire has been long awaited. I owned the original Solo Strings and got a discount upon purchasing the NEW Solo Strings, and they cost me $189 instead of $399. 

This library loads up through Native Access so it has it's own panel in the Library Tab of Kontakt, which is a welcome addition.

This library loads up through Native Access so it has it's own panel in the Library Tab of Kontakt, which is a welcome addition.

This library features all new players and recordings from the original, as well as an updated GUI. I was expecting a MASSIVE step forward in terms of sound, and more importantly, instant playability. I must admit that, while delivering on the quality of the recordings and providing many useful and great sounds, in the end they did not live up to expectation in regards to playability.

The library has all inclusive patches for three separate Violins (Virtuoso, 1st Desk, and Progressive), Viola, Cello, and Bass. For more detailed info about the different types of violin patches than I could ever give in my quick review, see the official page here.

SSSGUI2.jpg

I feel in every Spitfire collection I own, the short notes always stand out as being spectacular, while the longs and legato leave quite a bit to be desired. I found this library to continue this tradition. The shorts are always crisp, tight, and highly detailed and realistic. I also thoroughly enjoy some of the new articulations, like the Long Flautando and Long and Short Harmonics. I feel this library nails the articulations that are unique and provide some very interesting textures and timbres to add to your existing orchestral palette. 

I found the standard long notes in the main NKI files to be quite lacking. It takes a lot of time and MIDI programming to get these to sound good in my opinion. With so many libraries simply sounding incredible from the first note "right out of the box", this was quite disappointing especially after so much hype and waiting so long since their original Solo String Library. The attack and release leave a lot to be desired and require a lot of tweaking to get these long articulations to sound realistic.

Legato GUI

Legato GUI

Now, when it comes to instant realism and playability for Solo String libraries, in my opinion there is NOTHING more vital than a highly expressive legato patch. I was honestly quite concerned when there was less than a month until the release of these new Spitfire Solo Strings, and there was yet to be a single demo showcasing any type of legato patch. In fact, there was no such legato demo until the library had already launched. With so many incredible and expressive libraries already on the market (such as Strezov Samplings' Macabre Strings, and Embertone's Joshua Bell Violin), I was hoping they would really deliver on this aspect and take a new step in expressive realism for solo string instruments.

The legato is definitely a step up from the original Spitfire Solo Strings from a few years ago, but still, in my opinion this again takes a lot of time and effort to get to sound realistic. It does allow for faster playing between notes, which is a plus, but it still does not have enough expressiveness and instant gratification to stand against some others currently on the market. I often have to deliver tracks for clients in a matter of days or sometimes even hours, and I (and many others) simply need something that just WORKS as soon as you open it up. This is the magic of modern sampling in my opinion, those moments when I am utterly blown away at the sound coming out of my speakers, and I am thoroughly convinced I am listening to a real musician playing this instrument in front of my as opposed to samples. Sadly this does not quite deliver that "wow factor" that so many other sample libraries have managed to achieve.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This library is more of an all-compassing solo string library and probably has every articulation you could need for solo string writing in a standard or classical arrangement, but in terms of expressiveness and true emotion it cannot deliver the “wow factor” of some others on the market. For the price you do get a lot, however I don't believe I will ever use the sustained notes in any of my compositions simply because I do not enjoy the sound. The short notes are amazing, as is to be expected from Spitfire audio, but the standard sustained notes are like night and day compared to the realism of the shorts and actually sound a bit grating. I wish they would have focused more on making this instantly gratifying and easy to play straight out of the box. For the basic articulations, it definitely delivers, but for emotional and virtuoso playing, I'd simply look elsewhere. I often use the short notes and occasionally the Flautando and Harmonics to add unique textures. I prefer solo string libraries for those fluid and emotional legato lines, which this library does improve upon from the original Spitfire Solo Strings, but doesn’t stand up to what’s available on the market from other companies. There is also too many violin player patches that don’t differ enough for me to be really impressed by one over the other, I do however know these could be very useful to some composers, I just am not one of them at this time. I must admit I used to be excited about new Spitfire Audio releases, but lately I have not been a fan of their marketing and focus as a company, as they seem to release countless string libraries and fail to truly innovate, not living up to the reputation they once had as an exciting and top of the line sampling company, instead lately I find them a bit boring and pretentious in the way they market themselves, which is strictly a personal opinion and does not mean they do not produce quality products, I just fail to get truly excited when they fail to innovate like the did with the Albion series and some of their artist specific libraries and composer toolkit’s. There is also a bug preventing a Batch Resave within Kontakt with this particular library, which makes loading very long every time I open it.
 

Spitfire Audio New Solo Strings (2018)

Verdict - 8.0/10

Pros

+ Vast amount of content and playing techniques.

+ Realistic sound, providing the superior detail and quality expected from Spitfire.

+ Unique articulations you may not find elsewhere.

Cons

- Simply can’t match the emotion and expressiveness of other libraries on the market.

- Long notes have an overall sterile and bland feel.

- Three violin player patches that fail to deliver anything significantly new or exciting to make them stand out from one another.