The sample library market has been recently stormed by solo instrument libraries. Out of all the instrument groups, the soul and nuances of solo strings are the hardest to capture in a sample library. Professional string players practice for years to achieve their unique personal sound. To put things in to perspective, lets look at some different factors a violin player must take into consideration when playing a single note on a open G string.
– The quality of the violin he is playing
– Quality of the strings
– Quality of the bow and bow hair
– Where on the string the bow is placed on the attack of the note (near the bridge (sul tasto), near the fingerboard (sul ponticello), or somewhere in the middle (the sweet spot))
– How fast he is moving the bow over the string and how much force he is applying to the bow.
We can clearly see, how many factors contribute to an overall sound of a string instrument. With a solo string library you are thus not only sampling an instrument but the instrumentalist himself as well.
For the Artisan cello and violin libraries (sold separately) Spitfire captured the performance of two world renowned musicians, who’s playing can be heard on numerous records and films; Chris Worsey – cello and Warren Zielinski – violin.
They were recorded in a semi-dry environment in London, which is great, since the instruments are not mudded in reverb and the user has a lot more freedom in putting the instruments into his own virtual rooms and halls.
The libraries are not recorded with your standard “close, room, ambient” microphone setup, but rather with 6 different microphones (valve, ribbon) placed in different position in the room. I see this as a bit of overkill, since the average user will usually work with the default microphone setup. Not to mention, that all the articulations (we will discuss them later on in the review) recorded with 6 microphone positions, make each library take over 7.5gigs of space on your hard drive and that is quite a lot for a “simple” solo instrument. The libraries are clearly not aimed at your Sunday free-time composer, but rather for the hard professionals, that are looking for unique solo string sounds.
Content and sound
And the libraries are truly unique. Their overall sound is full, warm yet rich in those lovely harmonics that we all love in string instruments.
The instruments come with three patches:
The performance patch is great to get the first feel for the instrument and for sketching your main idea. The samples consist of a nice attack followed by a sustain note with a hard vibrato. Because of the nice attack you can easily play nice staccato lines, but on the other hand I found it very hard to play realistic legato lines with this patch. The dynamics and stile of playing are controlled by velocity; the mod wheel only controls the overall volume.
The various articulations patch is the mothership of the libraries and will probably be your go-to choice out of the three patches. Uses key switches tom switch through the different articulations. I did have quite a few problems with keyswitches not being properly registered when entered into my DAW.
Individual patches overview:
Long Artisan: This is not your typical boring long note articulation. If you hold the note long enough you hear the player enrich the tone with various embellishments. This gives this articulation a very personal and realistic feel. Can be very useful. Some notes tend to be “artistically” out of tune.
Long Harmonics: Really nicely sampled. Rich and full tone
Long Sul Pont Distorted (only in Artisan cello): A very harsh sound. Great for making sound-design or for a nice horror scene :)
Long Sul Pont: Softer as its distorted counterpart
Long Sul Tasto: Your typical sul tasto sound. Very airy, with a nice vibrato if you hold the note for long enough.
Long Tremolo Sul Pont: Again, great for sound-design
Long Tremolo Unmeasured: You average tremolo, with a nice attack at the beginning of the sample. A bit on the harsher side, but it is to my liking.
Long “Performance Vibrato”: A sustain note with a nice emotional vibrato, when the note is being held for a while.
Short Pizzicato: One of my favorite articulations of the libraries. Really resonant and warm. The dynamic levels are captured with immense precision. Especially in the cello.
Short Spiccato Brushed: This is the spiccato sample I have been waiting for. Real great for making your “over the strings” arpeggios.
Short Spiccato Dig: Don’t have an amplifier and electric guitar? Try this patch. Really dirty and distorted sound. Very metal :). I love it.
Short Spiccato: Bright spiccatos with a great attack. I will definitely be using it in in a layer with my string ensemble spiccato samples.
The time machine patch consists of the shorter articulations (pizzicato and all spiccatos) in which the user can adjust the length of the notes. A really useful feature for those who like to tinker with their samples a little more.
Hint: In the setting tabs, always have the “purge unused samples” selected. This will greatly decrease your RAM usage while using these libraries.
As we expect from Spitfire the GUI is very straight forward, easy to use and with no unnecessary embellishments. On the main page you will find 6 faders for the positions and dynamics, reverb and expression faders. You will also find available articulations neatly represented as notes on a staff. Extra functionalities can be found in the setting tab.
The Artisan cello and violin will cost you 99£ (aprox. 136€ or 152$) which is a very fair price in what you are getting. The amount of content in this library is really vast and you will definitely be getting what you have paid for.
Pros & cons
Great playability on the short articulations, nice warm/rich sound, inspiring articulations, versatility of its potential use, uniqueness in its vastness of articulations choices.
A bit big for just a solo string library (more then 7.5gigs of disk space), lacking dynamics in long notes, not for non-professionals, some out of tune notes.
The Artisan cello and Artisan violin are not libraries for you free-time holiday composers out there, but if you are a professional and are seeking a fresh solo string library to enhance your arsenal you will not regret the buy.
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Blakus cello (Embertone)
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Solo violin designer (8dio)
Aria Solo Violinist (Aria Sounds)
Trio Broz – Solo Violin (Fluffy Audio)