Review: The Silver Screen Toolkit by Instant Sonics

Today we’re going to explore a brand new sound design library for Kontakt, The Silver Screen Toolkit by Instant Sonics. This is a brand new library, the first one released by Instant Sonics, so it’s fairly unknown at the time of this write-up. Instant Sonics reached out to me in order to get an in-depth and honest review of their brand new product, and provided a copy, free of charge, for me to test and critique. There is very little information out there about this product and the company behind it, so I will share what resources there are so far, and try to go beyond that and provide a very detailed and in depth look at this library!

First off, here’s a demo track made ONLY with sounds included in the Silver Screen Toolkit and a third party reverb- and be sure to check the detailed walkthrough/demo video at the bottom of the page!

This library retails for $150.00 here at the official site. The official thread here at VI-Control can provide more details about the specifics, and there is also more info and it’s available for purchase here at Kontakt Hub. It’s primarily a sound design library, aimed at modern cinematic music, and provides a very large variety of sounds. I’d say it’s very much focused on providing electronic, modern, cutting edge sounds and effects for hybrid and trailer music, though I could see it covering underscore, ambient, even straight up EDM. The nature of the sounds is very electronic as opposed to orchestral. The library provides 3.6 gb of content.

The Interface

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The interface of this product is very basic and not flashy at all, unlike similar libraries such as Collision FX by Soundyeti and some of the libraries from Sampletraxx. However, this doesn’t bother me, as it is clear and very easy to use. With an unknown library such as this, I’m much more concerned with the quality of sounds and ease of use than having a flashy and cutting edge interface. Upon installing (quick and easy extract from the .rar file into your libraries folder) I was initially a bit shocked to see that this library contains a whopping 44 .nki files! However, they are all labelled appropriately and easy to navigate (unlike the aforementioned Collision FX). Each .nki file is very focused and specific, for instance, providing a separate .nki file for every “Complex Kit” drum patch, instead of loading up one .nki and cycling thru the kits in the interface itself. Some may find this a bit overwhelming at first glance, but I really don’t mind it, as they all have names that are very easy to identify.

The GUI has three sections: “Waveform”, which displays the visual waveform of the sample being played, and contains a slider for the sample start time. Keep in mind, this is a global settings, and not only does it change the sample start point for the current sample, but for every other sample contained in the .nki file as well, which could easily be an annoyance for some.

Beneath that, we have controls for Attack, Release, Speed (which controls the speed of the long samples like risers and swells), and a Gate. The speed knob is nice, in case you place a riser in the MIDI sequencer that doesn’t quite sync perfectly with the timing of your track, you can adjust how quickly it will play with this knob, although there is no numerical value associated with the setting here. Alternatively you can adjust the placement of the actual note in the sequencer. If you set the speed knob to the slowest setting possible, the sample becomes very strained and stretched. Either way, it is nice to have it there, just in case you wish to tweak these sounds further.

The gate is one of my favorite features, as it simply applies a “trance-gate” type effect to the samples, which can be set for various note intervals, and adjusting this slider controls the tightness of the gate effect. Use this to instantly add stutter effects and movement to any of the samples.

The effects rack includes Filters, Damage (distortion/overdrive/bitcrusher), Reverb, Delay, and Post Filters. I really liked having a low pass filter built in to the GUI, and the Damage section can really add a lot of character and punishment to the sounds.

Content and sound

As you can see below, the library contains a MASSIVE amount of .nki files, and is separated into four major categories, Drums, Effects, Instruments, and Pulses.

That’s a lot of patches….

That’s a lot of patches….

DRUMS

The “Drums” category contains 10 separate kits, each labeled as “Complex Kit” and numbered 1 through 10. They provide highly processed drum samples, some mangled and distorted, some more traditional, yet all very electronic. These are mapped across the keys like so:

Green keys play the various   bass drum     type samples, yellow plays   snare   sounds, and the red keys play   hi-hat   type sounds and assorted auxiliary percussion.

Green keys play the various bass drum type samples, yellow plays snare sounds, and the red keys play hi-hat type sounds and assorted auxiliary percussion.

Some of these sound very glitchy and crushed, somewhat similar to some of the kits from Heavyocity’s Damage, others are more clean and remind me more of a radio friendly hip hop or trap beat. Either way you have a fairly wide variety of sounds here, although some of the kits sound overly similar, they all provided quality sounds.

Effects

Next up is “Effects”, which is the largest category here, and where my favorite sounds this library produces are contained. They contain sounds such as Alarms, Booms, Bends, Braams, Drops, Hits, Risers, Swells, Transitions, and Whooshes. Most of the sounds are self explanatory, and there is a lot to enjoy here. Some of the samples do sound a bit similar, just thrown through different processing techniques, with the further ability to add your own distortion, delay, reverb, and filters with the built in effects rack. Tonal effects such as “Braams” have pitch control mapped to the lower keys of your MIDI keyboard.

The standouts here are Bends, Drops, Risers, Swells, Swell Drops, Timbres (basically atmospheric textures), Tonal Reverses, and the Whoosh Hits. Each of these patches contains a nice variety of sounds, and many of them are instantly usable in any kind of trailer or hybrid track. My favorite sounds produced by the Silver Screen Toolkit are those that are saturated and heavy, and there’s definitely a nice amount of them included. The risers are modern and intense, the swells are massive and brooding, the Drops are earth shaking and provide incredible sub-bass, as well as the Swell Drops. The Timbres really add atmosphere and textures to your tracks, and are more subtle, but still can be aggressive and moody. The Whoosh Hits are short on the riser and very punchy on the hit, and are perfect for transitions and endings. The Tonal Reverses have a very long attack and build up to a short, but thick and aggressive, swell.

instruments

Long Instruments patch and the variety of sound banks included.

Long Instruments patch and the variety of sound banks included.

Next we have the “Instruments” section, which contains Long (synth leads, bass pads, etc) amd Short (plucks, etc). There is a variety of sound banks here, and while it may not seem like a lot, they can be stacked in any combination, resulting in some fun experimentation and many possibilities. They cover a variety of tones, from soft and airy to harsh and gritty, but some seem to lack the thickness of some VST synths, especially in the bass spectrum. I find these to work best for leads, though they can also easily provide pad sounds as well, and they work exceptionally well while playing with the low pass filter. Having melodic synth-like instruments here is a very nice addition and they work very well, especially with the “Glide” setting which enables portamento. The Short Instruments patch contains less sound banks, and generally covers pluck sounds. Just these two instruments alone, and the effects included, are easily capable of producing slick and modern EDM sounds, and truly surprised me with how well they performed, as some Kontakt based “synths” leave a lot to be desired. The variety of sounds isn’t anywhere near what a standalone VST synth can offer, and don’t expect anything like a massive and thick supersaw, but they are very capable of holding their own in any hybrid track.

pulses

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The last section is Pulses, which come in High and Low variations. These also have pitch control mapped to the lower keys. I think these could have been better labeled as well. For instance, some contain melodic arpeggios and others are just one pitch 16th notes. Some are also light and airy and very clean, while others are overdriven and harsh. There are some great sounds here, though not much customization (no step sequencer, no multi note arps, etc). I preferred the high melodic pulses, as they are really nice and modern. For the most part, the Low Pulses were just the same 16th note pattern, with each sample simply having different levels of distortion and other processing applied. While there is still some good content, overall I found them to be lacking, and in need of some more customization options, such as a step sequencer or an arpeggiator.

Small Critiques

While this library provides an amazing variety of sounds and many of them are top notch, not every single sample is a winner, and some seem a bit too harshly processed. The “Assorted” patches were strange, as they contained some good sounds but were scattered across the keyboard seemingly at random, never knowing what you’re going to get, and once you do find a good sound, it’s very easy to simply forget where it was mapped. I think the “assorted” patches could be better labeled, such as “assorted percs”, “assorted tonal”, “assorted atonal”, “assorted texture”, etc, as this patch contains everything from a short metallic hi-hat to a distorted dub-step type wobble. The alarms category is pretty underwhelming, and overall provides content you can make with a VST Synth and bending the pitch (certain sounds in general didn’t seem to be anything groundbreaking, just synth based with some basic processing, and I feel I could make these sounds on my own). For the most part, the “Booms” were lacking in the sub-bass spectrum. The Braams are also lacking the intensity and character provided in other libraries, such as Keepforest’s Evolution Atlantica, and this library seems to be lacking in the bass area, which would otherwise make this an almost perfectly rounded package. There’s plenty of sub bass drops and what not, but as far as a Bass Instrument, it seems to be lacking in this area.

The Verdict

8.5/10

Other than the critiques mentioned above, the sheer variety and quality of sounds included is very nice, and you could easily make an entire track simply with this one library, as it provides drum kits, trailer effects, melodic synths, and pulses, all in one 3.6 gb Kontakt Library. Many of the categories included here could easily be sold as one single Kontakt Library, and they have included all of them in one, and none of them feel truly tacked on, with the exception of some of the pulses. I think this would be a great library for the beginner trailer composer, as it includes everything you could need in one place. To those more advanced who own more dedicated libraries, there may not be a lot here that’s new to you. I personally own many more specialized products, however you also have to consider the price paid for what you get, and I do believe this is a good and well rounded package. I can almost guarantee you I will be using the effects provided, as they are easy to use and offer nice options for tweaking the samples, and while some of the sounds lack the character of more expensive libraries, they also serve as a great starting point to apply some of your own sound design techniques and take them to the next level.

Pros+

+Impressive variety of content.

+Many top notch and instantly usable sounds.

+Easy to use interface and nice assortment of effects and customization options.

Cons-

-Some sounds lack the polish and character of more expensive libraries.

-Pulses could benefit from extra features (step sequencer, etc)

-Some of the sounds could be better categorized/labelled.

Review: Silka Choir by 8Dio

Per request, we are going to be talking about 8Dio’s Silka choir today! 8dio’s choir libraries are widely considered to be some of the best you can get when it comes to overall sound quality, so I was eager to pick this one up at it’s intro price of $348 dollars (Currently a whopping $598). The only choir libraries I owned before this, were EWQL’s Symphonic and Hollywood Choirs, which are very solid choir libraries and capable of covering a wide range of styles. I remember listening to the demos of Silka and just being blown away by the nuance and realism on display. It was immediately apparent that this is NOT a choir library for a bold, epic “Choir Wall” sound.

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According to their marketing, Silka means “Gentle, Flowing”, and that is exactly the vibe you get from listening to the demos. The aforementioned Hollywood Choirs from EWQL is entirely built around an amazing feature, the Word Builder, which allows the choir to, in theory, sing any words or phrase you can think of, just by typing it out. However, it can sound very choppy, in fact it cam sound the opposite of “gentle and flowing”. For this reason, and the high praise for the previous choir libraries from 8dio from users across the internet, I was eager to dive in and check out the new Silka Choir (I even spent days trying different phrases and tweaking the multitude of settings in Hollywood Choirs word builder, just trying to get it to sound similar to the Silka demos, in order to determine if I should really spend the money on another choir library.)

The Sound

After purchasing, downloading, and installing, I loaded up one of the “4 Syllable Soft Arc” patches featuring the full choir (Male and Female combined), and just went to town. The first few hours playing around with this were incredibly fun and satisfying. The Arcs are absolutely amazing, and could quite possibly bring a tear to someones eye with the angelic nature of these samples. I own 8Dio’s Century Strings and Brass, and their “arc” articulations have been invaluable to me and make their way into almost every single track I make. I believe this is one of the key factors in Silka to getting this library to sound so instantly realistic and expressive: recording the singers naturally starting at low dynamics, building up louder to the middle of the pre-recorded phrase, and then slowly fading back to sing softly again to finish the phrase, or “arc”. In the past these dynamic swells have always been done simply by automating the CC01 (or dynamics) of the library, but having this already baked into the recordings themselves, as performed by the actual singers, takes things to a new level of realism. Check out this examples below, as the results speak for themselves.

I think it’s worth pointing out some of the amazing scripting that goes into these Arcs. This library allows for polyphonic legato, and melisma singing. (I’m going to compare again to EWQL Word Builder again, so bare with me). One of my biggest complaints with EWQL’s World Builder, was how every time you pressed a new key, or performed the next note of your sequence or phrases, the choir immediately started singing the next syllable, and did not allow you to shift between notes while continuing to sing the same syllable, which ends up giving it that choppy quality. Silka allows you to change the note you are playing, in the middle of the phrase, without actually interrupting the phrase itself. You can have multiple singers all singing a chord, all perform a legato slide up to a different chord or note, all while continuing to sing the same syllable in unison. I most likely lack the skills to properly explain this and what it means, so please check out the demo video to hear this in action, as it really is a big deal IMO. Another nice feature of the Arcs is a sequencer built in, which allows you to play any of the pre-recorded phrases in any order that you wish, so things don’t sound repetitive.

The built in sequencer for cycling through the different phrases.

The built in sequencer for cycling through the different phrases.

After the initial “high” of having this kind of heavenly sound stream through my speakers at a moments notice, I started to explore the rest of the library. To me, the absolute highlight are the multitude of Arcs they have included, which sync to your DAW’s tempo, and can also be played at double or half speed. However, there is a lot of content in this library, which is why this review and full testing took a bit longer for me this time around.

I definitely enjoyed the Triplet Loops/Triplets as well as the Arcs and Intimate Legato patches.

There’s quite a bit of content here

There’s quite a bit of content here

The legato patches sound fairly good, especially the “Legato Intimate”, though they all sound best at a softer dynamic range. I find any choir library sounds synthetic when playing one single note at a high velocity, and Silka was no different in this aspect. Which brings me to my next section.

The inevitable quirks…

Granted, there is a LOT of content included in Silka. More importantly to me, however, is how much content there is that I will actually USE. I feel this library is centered around the Arcs, and for good reason, as they are phenomenal. However, I can’t ignore the fact that rest of the content here feels like an afterthought, tacked on to justify the very high price of almost $600.00. There are no standard sustains included here. I kind of expect every single choir library to include basic sustain articulations (Ah, Oh, Oo, etc.), especially one with a $598 price tag. Instead, when loading up the sustains, you get an “Oh”, but it is all performed in an arc or swell. When it comes to sustains, I want a steady dynamic “Oh” that I can completely control with CC01. All this offers is the syllable being sung in a dynamic arc, which is pre-determined in length and quite limited in it’s uses, to be honest. The rest of the sustains are more like effects, which seems really strange to me. (See the list below)

sstains.png

Next up, we have the “Fast Repeated Staccatos”, which would be good in theory, however, they play a bit off beat sometimes even though they are syncing to my DAW’s tempo. Little things like this pop up here and there, and just show that this library can only do one style (granted, it does that one very well).

The Legato Sustain patches don’t actually sustain… they hold on for a few seconds and then stop, which is incredibly confusing, as every other legato patch sustains indefinitely as long as you hold the note. However, for a patch with “sustain” specifically in the title, they do not actually… sustain.

As amazing as the arcs initially sound, they too can be difficult to time right and have them sit in a track with a steady rhythm/tempo, sometimes having to play with different phrases to find one that actually fits in with the timing of your track. Overall, every sound provided here is amazing for a slow, soft track, with a lot of “breathing room” to let the arcs fully sustain and finish the full phrase, but for something that has a steady 4/4 rhythm and needs to be tight and precise, Silka is definitely not the right choice.

Lastly, sometimes you can hear phasing at high dynamics and some articulations would output nothing but silence until I exited and reloaded them again. I don’t know if it’s laziness or something else, but 8dio produces AMAZING sounds…. the problem is, after owning MANY of their products, they just have never made an all around GREAT product. Other companies produce amazing sounds AND amazing products, where everything just works (interface, usability, sound all being consistently stellar). It frustrates me that 8dio hasn’t seemed to produce such a product yet There are always some bugs and inconsistencies, and considering this, I feel overall they are overpriced. This is just my honest and possibly harsh opinion, but they lack the polish and cohesiveness that other companies consistently deliver, and it’s all the more frustrating to have to run into these problems and point them out in reviews, because honestly, the sounds are incredible.

The Verdict

This library really, really shines when it comes to the arcs and really nailing that dynamic performance. In turn, customization and versatility is sacrificed for having an instantly playable phrase that just sounds amazing. This review was probably the most difficult I’ve done so far, as when I first got this product I was in love just playing around with it, but, in context, it has quite a few flaws. When I do reviews I have to really look at so many aspects, not just how it sounds out of the box, but how it performs and holds up while writing music, and the overall practicality and versatility of a product, especially when it’s priced so high. I believe Silka is a VERY GOOD library at nailing the Arcs and the dynamic swells and realism of a real choir. However, when it comes to versatility, it’s sorely lacking. It was quite frustrating to see so many issues popping up as I was really testing all factors of this library, as the sound is so incredible, I wanted to love it. I still like it, but there are many things that need to be addressed here, and many articulations that just feel tacked on as an afterthought. In order to understand some of my compalints, let’s try to look at another product, Fluffy Audio’s Dominus Choir, which costs only $379 dollars. It offers very similar sound and performance features, at a fraction of the price. When you’re aware of such things that are also out there, I can’t help but feel 8dio is drastically overpricing it’s Silka Choir. Also consider, 8dio also has a choir library called “Insolidus”, which is incredibly similar in features and sound, and both libraries are a whopping $598 each. I’ve even seen users who report that Silka simply feels like an “Expansion” of Insolidus choir. I don’t own Insolidus so I can’t directly comment on that, but it’s definitely a viewpoint I have seen floating around. Writing these reviews can be incredibly difficult, and I also have to consider the technology present in other libraries I have purchased recently, such as Audiobro’s Genesis Choir, which has all the melisma, polyphonic legato, syllables and phrases, plus more features, for a price of $279 (granted, it is only a Childrens choir, but a damn good one). As amazing as Silka’s Arcs sound, I cannot ignore the broader picture that it is vastly overpriced, and is not as playable or usable as it may seem at first glance. There are other libraries on the market that cover so much more ground for a similar price, or you can simply settle for something just as focused for a fraction of the price.

7.0/10

Pros+

+The realism and expressiveness present in the arcs is incredible.

+Polyphone legato during arc phrases sets a new bar for realism in an 8dio library.

+ Nails the intimate choir sound.

Cons -

-Bloated articulation list. Many feel like an afterthought.

-No standard “Ah, Oh, Oo, Mm” Sustains.

-Phasing issues in certain key ranges.

-Not as playable and practical as it initially seems, quite limited in it’s use.

-Very niche and only covers one style of singing, all while sporting a very high price tag.

-Too similar to Insolidus choir to justify an entirely new product with the same price.

Review - COSMOS by Impact Soundworks

Check the video at the bottom for a walkthru of the sounds included!!

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Cosmos is a fairly new Atmospheric library from Impact Soundworks. I feel that as a company, Impact Soundworks’ products offer an amazing bang for your buck. I own a number of their libraries, and always love the simplicity and focus, and the prices are some of the best you can get, while still providing a vast amount of fantastic content. Needless to say, I was excited when I heard the demos of Cosmos…beautiful atmospheres and deep rhythmic pulses… what’s not to love?! (Granted, I’m a sucker for these types of sounds in the first place…)

I made my purchase and downloaded the product in a 4 part .rar archive. Delivery of the product and installation was quick and easy.

The interface for Cosmos is fantastic. I love products that are focused and simple to use. Too often, I feel libraries go after the all-inclusive approach, and try to do everything. I dislike this for a couple reasons: One, they provide so much content it can be utterly overwhelming and too often an absolute pain to navigate and find the right sounds. Secondly, the price of these libraries can be utterly ridiculous, easily clearing the $500 dollar mark. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Cinemorphx from SampleLogic…guilty on both accounts)

Simple, easy to use, and a wonderful image of a nebula.

Simple, easy to use, and a wonderful image of a nebula.

The library comes with two main instruments - Ambiences and Phrases. I loaded up the ambiences first. There is an option to scroll through the sound sources on the left side of the GUI. In the middle is a step sequencer, and underneath are filter controls, then in the bottom left corner are ADSR controls.

The ambiences are quite amazing. They are very evocative and inspiring, often evolving over time, with subtle pitch changes or harmonics coming into play. They seem to be either very warm and beautiful, or a bit more abrasive and tense, but always very spacey. There are two categories of sound sources provided: Tonal and Atonal. Naturally, the atonal sound sources are where things can get more ominous and capable of building some real tension. While they are all very evocative of outer space, they are also quite versatile. I did notice that most of these will sound best for underscoring or building an atmosphere, not so much for very melodic chords. I say this because many of them have some sort of subtle melody, harmonics, slight pitch modulation, etc, already built in as you hold one note. All in all, the ambiences in this library are incredible.

Navigating the phrases is a breeze thanks to the tagged categories and instant sound previews.

Navigating the phrases is a breeze thanks to the tagged categories and instant sound previews.

The second instrument provided is phrases. These come in Arps, Pulses, and Gates. Navigating through the content here is incredibly simple and intuitive, providing tags for each type of sound, etc, and also featuring an option that previews each sound before you even load it up. This is incredibly helpful and I wish more libraries would organize their files this way. The arps range from cinematic to EDM flavors, and the notes in each arpeggio is pre-determined. There are keyswitches you can load up multiple phrases at once and switch between them on the fly. I preferred the sounds of the Pulses and Gates, but that is just my own personal preference based on the style of music I compose. The pulses and gates can be soft and beautiful, or aggressive and dark, and all sound just phenomenal, and instantly useable in a wide variety of genres. I encourage playing with the resonance and cutoff for these, as they can really morph from something dark and subtle to a bright and edgy sound.

Products like this are often some of my favorite (including another from Impact Soundworks called Sonic Forest) and I end up using them MUCH more than the bigger, more expensive and wide ranging libraries. . They’re fairly small, extremely focused, and provide amazing sounds with just enough controls to be tweakable, yet not overwhelming. Not to mention, the incredibly low price you pay for such amazing content. I can highly recommend Cosmos not only for media composers like myself, but for electronic music producers and more.

The Verdict-

9.25/10

Pros+

+ Amazing sounds, evocative and inspiring.

+ Browsing through the phrases is quick and intuitive with tags and sound previews.

+ Amazing price for the amount of content.

+ Simple, focused library that can really shine and deliver the outer-space inspired sounds.

+ Perfect amount of content and controls, easy to get into and tweakable, yet never overwhelming and confusing.

Cons-

- Arps follow pre-determined notes, some were a bit harsh/EDM for my personal tastes.

- Ambiences generally don’t allow playing chords, more of a one note pad due to evolving nature of the sounds.

Cosmos is selling for $49.00. Check it out here!

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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.

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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 Legion Series - 66 Tubas

66_tubas_poster.jpg

You guys asked for it, so here it is! My review of 8Dio’s newest addition to it’s Legion Series , 66 Tubas. I’ve been on a bit of a hunt for some insane low brass ensembles, so this came at the perfect time for me. I purchased at the intro price so I believe I paid around $138 dollars. Currently it retails for $248 dollars here at the 8dio website.

So, this one is fairly self explanatory. It’s 66 freaking people each playing a tuba in one giant room. It sounds HUGE, deep, brassy, a bit farty, and they threw in a bunch of sound design presets as well.

Obviously, this is not the kind of library for the purists out there, as you’ll never be able to reproduce these sounds with a traditional orchestra. I feel it really embraces the Hans Zimmer approach to sampling, which is a mindset of pushing the boundaries, and usually “bigger is better”.

The GUI

66tubas gui.jpg

The interface is fairly straightforward, easy on the eye, and provides the most needed controls all laid out right underneath the main articulations. The “Chaos” button randomly sets all the parameters and is appropriately named. Sometimes it can be fun to see what you get here. This library is pretty solid for sound design as well, especially for drones. The “Stack” button allows you to stack multiple articulations at once, and can definitely come in handy. It’s also nice to have an option to reverse each sample right there in the GUI. This library loads in the quick-load section or in the file browser, and has separate folders for main and spot mics, each including a DFD (Direct from Disk) folder, two time machine folders, and a separate section just for the sound-design presets.

66tubas arts load.jpg

The Sound

66 Tubas is humongous, that goes without saying. What I did notice immediately, is that the first patch that loads from the sustains section is very quiet (playing at a gentle PP), and you’ll notice that when playing through the patches, some of them are surprisingly mellow. This library sounds incredible in the range of C3 all the way up to a surprisingly high C5. I find that going lower than G2, the notes on their own don’t really hold up, as they are so deep sometimes it’s even hard to tell what note is playing. However, when you layer this low end with the higher notes, or with a standard trombone or horn library, the result is impressively massive. This library is generally also not a “smack-you-in-the-face” type of brass sound. It is a very wide, thick, and slow burning type of sound, in my opinion. It’s not as brassy as a trombone ensemble, and the sound isn’t quite up front at all, but more subtle and provides a nice growl at the higher dynamics. I believe most of this is due to the amount of players here, and I honestly think they did go a bit overboard with the amount of players and it cost them in terms of providing a focused sound. The sound can become very muddy, and there really is no close mic sound, and there also is not much of a difference between the various mix mixes, besides the trailer mix (which was my preferred mix). The trailer mix is more up front and provides a nice balance.

This library goes up to a surprisingly high register, and can be transposed even higher with the pitch selection in Kontakt. I found the higher notes to be nice when layering, but by themselves, I noticed a bit of phasing, and some overall quirks that made them unusable in an exposed setting. Like I mentioned previously, there is also a muddy quality to the recordings overall, simply from having so many players in the same room, I believe. This is a very niche library and truly provides a sound you absolutely cannot get anywhere else, and I give 8dio serious props for that. I can definitely see it being used for modern epic tracks and trailer work, but anything that requires a more focused sound would best stick to more traditional ensemble sizes. In terms of being used in my own work, I see it having definite potential as a layering tool, but not much else.

The Verdict-

7.25/10

Pros+

+MASSIVE, thick Sound

+Highly unique product that pushes the boundaries, you will not find a library like this anywhere else right now.

+Good for layering and providing a wide, thick low end.

Cons-

-Frequently too big for it’s own good. (Muddy sound, lack of focus)

-Notes in extreme low register are hard to make out

-Notes in higher register have strange phasing issues

-Inconsistencies in Legato sustain patches

Here’s a patch walkthru and pointing out some of the complaints I mentioned above.

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 - Native Instruments Symphony Series: Percussion

Hello everyone! I’m continuing my promised onslaught of reviews with my most recent purchase, Native Instruments’ Symphony Series: Percussion!

NI perc logo.png

Details

I am a big fan of Native Instruments, and when I bought Komplete 10 Ultimate a few years ago, I was a bit surprised by the lack of in depth orchestral samples. Granted, they had some amazing VSL patches included in the Kontakt Factory Library, plus two of my all time favorites, the epic percussion of Action Strikes and the outstanding riser and impact designer, Rise and Hit.

So of course, the following update, Komplete 11, contained exactly what was missing from 10, an all new collection of orchestral samples created in partnership with Native Instruments and various developers (Soundiron on Symphony Series Woodwinds and Brass, while Audiobro, creators of the acclaimed LASS, contributed to Strings)

Slightly different GUI’s for Symphony Series (left) and Essentials

Slightly different GUI’s for Symphony Series (left) and Essentials

Each new collection comes in two versions: Symphony Essentials, which is the version included in Komplete Ultimate collections, is a light version, only containing the basic articulations and not including as many features. Being the person I am, of course I had to strive for the upgraded and much larger Symphony Series, which includes everything in Essentials plus a lot more (the full, complete edition). For previous Komplete owners, the crossgrade price was $199.99 (regularly $299.99)

sonuscore.png

The most recent edition to the Symphony Series was created in partnership with Sonuscore, which immediately got me excited, as this is the same developer as the aforementioned Action Strikes.

Setup and the GUI

After downloading and installing via Native Access, I immediately started playing around with these new sounds. I was enticed by the fact they included a great variety of orchestral percussion instruments, so you got all the usual rhythmic instruments (cymbals, bass drums, snares, toms, gongs, triangle, etc) as well as tuned percussion (timpani, celeste, vibraphone, xylophone, low piano hits) and a nice variety of kits.

I LOVE the clean interface on display here.

I LOVE the clean interface on display here.

The GUI for the Symphony Series in honestly one of my all time favorites. It’s clean, simple, intuitive, and there’s a lot of features and customization available. Being able to control the attack is something that is sometimes overlooked in sample libraries, and there are very deep microphone and mixing options, and everything is very clearly laid out, showing information regarding keyswitches, mapping, round robins, etc. The big knob in the center controls dynamics on tremolo articulations for the Timpani and Cymbals. All in all, the interface is flawless.

The Sound

Let me just state this up front, that this is NOT the percussion library you want to get in you’re looking to achieve a modern blockbuster/ “epic” sound. It is very traditional. Think John Williams or classics like Max Steiner as opposed to Hans Zimmer or Brian Tyler. For me, it is replacing Hollywood Percussion by East West/Quantum Leap, as I greatly prefer Kontakt over the Play engine.

I knew what to expect after listening to multiple audio demos, but was still very pleased just playing around with the new sample set. Also being an owner of Symphony Series Woodwinds, I knew that this was not going to be a dry library. This library is recorded wet, which may be an annoyance for some users. Enabling the close mics eliminates the natural reverb, however. The overall sound quality is great, some of my favorites being the powerful timpani hits and rolls, punchy snares, CC1 controllable cymbal swells, as well as the very useful kits, which include different instruments in each category mapped across the midi keyboard.

As for the different mallet instruments included (celeste, vibraphone, xylophone, glockenspiel), I was not a fan of the default stereo mix option for these. You get a LOT of the sound of the room, which may help for placing these instruments in a natural orchestral seating position, but for playing them by themselves. they sounded too distant to me. There was also an unnecessary amount of room noise in my opinion, which made some of the mic positions unusable, as you could almost hear more noise than the actual instrument itself. I preferred to isolate the close mics, or even the spot mics, in order to get the exact sound I wanted. It is not that much of a big deal to need to mess with mic positions, but just beware you may have to experiment and play around a bit with the mic positions to get a sound that is favorable to your ears, and that some of them feature A LOT of room noise which seems like a very strange decision.

The following video goes thru some of the sounds included in NI Symphony Series Percussion, and then compares them to some of the patches included in the Kontakt Factory Library.

All in all, this is a good orchestral percussion library, no doubt. Are there better ones on the market? I can almost guarantee it. However I don’t think their angle is to offer the most mind blowing and realistic samples ever heard. What the Symphony Series can offer is a wealth of content, perfectly usable in any project, for a VERY good price. 29 gb of content for $199 is a steal. I don’t really like the default mic positions but, that is really an easy fix. (KEEP IN MIND: The Symphony Essentials version of this library only offers ONE microphone position, and it is the one I don’t like, so please keep that in mind if you decide to purchase the smaller Symphony Essentials version) This library will also not do those massive walls of taiko drums or anything Hans Zimmer-esque, so for the epic/trailer composers that’s something to keep in mind. It is nonetheless worth every penny.

The Verdict:

8.0/10

Pros:

+ Large amount of content for the price. (Tuned and Auxiliary Percussion)

+ Intuitive GUI, one of the best I’ve seen

+ Perfect for traditional orchestral arrangements

+ Overall high quality sounds and lots of effects

Cons:

- Won’t do epic

- High amount of room noise in some tuned percussion. (Enable Spot/close mics and add reverb to eliminate this completely)

- Baked in reverb/hall sound isn’t the best

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.

8-20-2018 News and Updates Part One- Upcoming new app release and more!

Hello all! I have been incredibly busy this year, writing away for numerous projects. The new app from Cheetah Mobile will be releasing before the end of the year, which I contributed two tracks for. Here is a preview of the levels from the official demo (I wrote the music for the levels "Home" and "Starry Dream")

It's been a pleasure working with the team at Cheetah Mobile all the way in Beijing, China!

Another fun venture has been contributing many tracks for advertisements and promos for SWOKE E-Juices, in Paris, France. The art design that does into these simple promos is really quite incredible to witness. Many thanks to the owner, Aurelien, for keeping me busy with writing for these promos! Many of the new promos can be viewed HERE on their Facebook page, so please go check them out!