Now here’s to something different! Balkan Ethnic Orchestra is the latest release of Strezov Sampling, a company we all know for flagship libraries like Storm Choir or Thunder. Balkan Ethnic Orchestra gives us access to a huge amount of Eastern European instruments – typical band combos, ethnical winds and stringed instruments, a choir and furthermore, pads and textures fitting the Balkan setting.

Content

All content is organized into 5 subcategories:
Band
Choir
Ethnic
Pads
Percussion

Let me just walk and talk you through these soundfields now, beginning with

Band:
(Trombone 1, Trombone 2, Tuba, Euphonium, Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Gypsy Trumpet, Gypsy Guitar, Gypsy Bayan, Double Bass, Gypsy Accordion)

Most of the instruments in the band folder are made with the same principle in mind. In this case, the Trombones, Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Euphonium, and Tuba are very similar to play which is nice – I like it when libraries build their own structures and transfer certain instrument’s principles across several patches. It just makes it easy to rely on and ultimately it takes less time to master the virtual instrument.

Especially the trombones have a great attack to them – breathy and punchy, without being too disturbingnt at lower dynamic levels. Short and long notes are often divided by using Keyswitches. When switching to the short notes, you’ll be presented a new, green area on the Keyboard – those are short notes with grace notes which is a very nice feature to have! you can change from normal shorts to grace notes without keyswitching – that’s nice for people who don’t like to keyswitch around all he time (like me)

It is my impression though, that some instruments was given a bit more of dedication than others. The gypsy guitar for example is a bit of a downer. Whereas the Double Bass sounds very profound and has a nice bite to it, especially when the close mic position is cranked up a bit. It also includes slides, up and down as well as a slap note for ultimate gypsy jazz realness.

Some instruments have really annoying release times – unfortunately, like in the case of the accordion, this leads to noticeable fakeness: Accordions do not have any release tail at all and by smoothening the ends of notes it immediately becomes fake, at least to my ears. I’d have preferred an uplifting key noise instead that also makes the sound more crisp which I think is not a bad thing when composing gypsy style music. Interestingly, the short notes do have the release noises and they are crisp like gypsy accompainment lines should sound like.

Choir:
This is the pearl of the library! Strezov Sampling just knows how to deal with choir and vocals. Available patches:
Quartet Ah Legato
Quartet Eh Legato
Quartet Syllabuilder

The Ahs and Ehs are just beautiful! The dynamic range is very satisfying – humble but powerful in the lower levels and thundering shaky vowels with lots of Balkan-ish vibrato when singing fortissimo. The patches have polyphonic legato that just works branchless. All choir patches feature female singers – we can only hope for an update with an added male pendant! If you’re a fan of The Witcher and its soundtrack – with these choral samples, you can add vocals just as epic as they are in The Witcher.

The Syllabuilder is very well scripted and super easy to use. You can chose from 10 different syllables and put in different note values to create your desired rhythms. For really getting into that feature, I’d recommend to watch George’s or Anze’s Walkthrough of the library.

ETHNIC:
I got the impression that Strezov Sampling really tried hard and succeeded when providing as much detailed sampling and variation as possible. In this category, “we have instruments, voice, stringed instruments and plucked strings.
You will hear unsampled before instruments like the Bulgarian gadulka (both solo and in an ensemble); you can also enjoy the Macedonian kemane, the Bulgarian kaba gaida from the Rhodope mountains and the the plucked sound of the tamboura.

Each of those instruments have a very specific sound and were recorded in a way that will allow for as much realism as possible.“ Although I’m not an expert, ethnic instruments never cease to amaze me, and the beautiful thing is that Balkan Ethnic Orchestra makes them very easy to play and ultimately, makes them sound real and nice. The ethnic instruments of course, can be played as an instrument but also come with many prerecorded phrases, which is great!

PADS
Easily to handle, all Pads and textures are organized within one single patch. The sounds are definitely inspiring and they sound too good to be called just an „addition“ or additional content. Especially when you plan to resample or heavily process the textures within the context of sound design – you’ll have a lot of fun and joy with it!

And last but not least, the PERCUSSION:
Kudos to Strezov Sampling for this section! The sound is amazing – crisp drums with profound sound and great character. While all percussion instruments being organized within one patch – all drums/percussive instruments have their own little area spread across the keyboard. This makes it really easy to control and fun playing with. (Same principle as HZ Percussion). The range of sounds is amazing for just one patch: We get drums, shouts, typical balkan-ish hand percussion, Tom Toms and so on…

GUI

I like the user interface a lot! It puts you in the mood right away and is in addition to that very appealing to the eye. The background picture could be a still out of a Balkan fantasy movie and really melts with the sounds astheticaly. The GUI shows standard options like chosen articulations, „Close“ and „Hall“ mic position faders that can be turned on/off individually. (They can even be routed to different outputs which lends some extra flexibility) If the loaded patch supports (true) Legato, it can be turned on/off, as well as the Overlaps, Releases and the Reverb. The close mic position can be panned to the left/right to your desire.

Sound and Playability

Most instrument’s dynamics are either controlled by the modwheel or velocity. Some instruments like the Gypsy Trumpet or the Gypsy Violin have grace notes, trills or other ornaments already baked in – this is smart AND frustrating at the same time. The trumpet in particular has a very nice sound to it and I find it to be a bummer if I cannot play JUST the legato patch, without any ornaments. An extra patch would be nice to have, definitely. (exactly the same goes for the Gypsy Violin)

Conclusion/Price

Even though Balkan Ethnic Orchestra delivers sounds that serve quite special needs, I’ve already added it to my master template. The product is well-crafted, the soloists and therefore the sounds are amazing, although some instruments seem to have been taken more care of than others. The range of sounds, from Balkan soloists to choral ensembles to typical band combos to percussions is very satisfying. It’s exactly the amount of instruments you expect to get in exchange for 399$ – so the price is absolutely fair!

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4.2Overall Score
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