Mural Vol. 3 is the third installment of Spitfire’s BML Symphonic strings. For BML Symphonic strings Spitfire has recorded a hand picked 60 piece string orchestra (16,14,12,10,8) in the world renowned Air Lydnhurst Studios with its iconic reverb. While the basic and most used articulations are covered in the previous volumes 1 and 2, volume 3 features more unconventional, but for the most part still very usable articulations. Even if you are not an owner of vol. 1 & 2, vol. can still be an upgrade to your current string libraries. Since I do not own vol. 1 or 2, volume 3 is extremely hard to review. But I will do my best to review this product from the standpoint of vol. 3 functions as a standalone library.
Content and sound
To test out Mural vol. 3 I composed a little demo. At first I felt quite frustrated, since the common articulations are missing, but when I started to listen carefully at each individual articulation, that Mural vol. 3 offers, I started to feel more comfortable with it. Firstly I would like to point out, that the overall sound is just spectacular! The best musicians in London combined with the best scoring hall, best sound engineers and recording equipment makes for a great sound! While playing through the patches, you almost have a feeling, that the musicians are right in front of you playing your music.
Now lets get into the content:
To simplify things, Spitfire categorized Mural vol. 3 articulations into three groups; Core pallet, Decorative pallet and Legato performance pallet. Before we delve deeper into individual articulations, I would like to make some broad observations. First off, I find the way the articulations are grouped quite strange. Also, you will need a lot of time to get used to what keyswitch triggers what articulation. As you can see bellow, there are a lot of rests in the articulation box. That rests represent the articulations in Mural vol. 1 & 2. So if you are not a owner of the previous volumes, navigating articulation Mural vol. 3 is quite a struggle. Spitfire also does not offer anyway too re-assign the keyswitches, so I ended up making a custom “Expression map” in Cubase 8, to simplify my usage. I advise Spitfire to make a patch where only the vol. 3 articulations are shown. Clearly Mural vol. 3 is intended as an upgrade to the previous volumes and not as a standalone product. I wrote to the Spitfire support about this, but have gotten no reply….
In the core pallet you will find not so “core” articulations. In the violins 1 Core pallet you will for example find sul G longs, marc. attack longs, short brushed, short brushed con sord., short harmonics and short con sord. The articulations in different instruments slightly differ.
Lets look at some short articulations first. Out of the short one of my favorites must be the short half pizz half spicc.
Double basses articulation: Although it has only two dynamic levels (piano and forte) it is very rich in its sound. Orchestrators often give double basses to play half pizz-half spicc, since like this you get the deep richness of double bass pizzicatos and the nice bright attack of their spiccatos. Spitfire perfectly captured this sound.
The short con. sord shorts are also really nice in violins 2, violas and especially in the cellos. As you would excpect, because of the sordinos, the shorts sound quite warm, but to my surprise while playing forte, they have quite some nice bite to them. Again only piano and forte dynamics are available.
The brushed short articulations have a very soft sound and are recorded only in the piano dynamic. But what you really get out is a pianissimo. Especially the brushed con sordino shorts are so quite, that you have to boost the signal to even get a decent level sound out of them. But of course, with doing that, you are also boosting the noise and your mix quickly gets mudded with hiss. I tried hard to find a way to incorporate the brushed articulations into my track, but I just did not find a way. On the other hand, I am sure some people might find this articulation useful.
In the realm of the long articulations favorite has to be the rachmaninov vib. articulation, that can be found individually in violins 1&2, violas and celli. Here Spitfire recorded the strings playing very “appassionato” with a wide vibrato and pretty hard attack. This articulation is great for strong emotional passages and I see myself using it for a long time to come. Playing legato lines with this patch is pretty straight forward and is to my liking. The down side is, that only piano and forte dynamics are available, between which you can cross fadeusing cc1.
My next favorite is the longs con sord.-normal split articulation. This is also a method film composers often use in the recording process to fatten up the strings. As expected, this articulation has a very lush and rich sound.
The violins Sul G, violas sul C and Celli sul C articultions are also pretty great as well, but have a down side of being recorded only in a messo-forte dynamic.
The measured tremolos (150bpm and 180bmp) have been recorded with violins 2 and violas. They of course come in very handy if your track has a temp of 150bmp or 180bpm (or of course 75bpm or 90bpm and their variations on dotted quarter note = x) , but since the patch does not use the Kontakt time machine pro feature, the articulation only plays at the tempo it has been recorded at. You have three dynamic levels (p, mf, ff) between which you can crossfade using cc1.
I absolutely love the major and minor trills articulations in the violins 1 and celli. They are just great for creating rich textures and making your mockups sound a bit more unique and real.
Lastly I would like to point out the legato runs articulation, found under the legato performance pallet. While other string libraries offer a run builder, I found the Mural vol. 3 run builder by far superior. I am not saying that is sounds completely “real”, but with a bit of tweaking you will be able to fool more than just the average Joe. This articulation goes great with the Rachmaninov vib. patches (for an example listen to my demo at the 1min mark). For more details about this patch I advise you to take a look at the tutorial video by Spitfire.
The GUI is very intuitive and consists of the main window and settings windows . On the main window you can select your desired articulation, adjust the dynamics, expression, tightness (very useful) and release. As mentioned in my BML Bone Phalanx review, you also have a quick room-close mic mixer, which I found pretty redundant and hard to use, since even the slightest adjustment of the fader drastically alters the sound. Luckily you are able to adjust all the mic positions in the settings tab. The abundance of mic positions makes it very easy to get your desired sound.
The price of the instrument is 399£ (544EUR, 614$) without added tax. Again, this is quite expensive, but Spitfire instruments are not for your average user. If you are already an owner of Mural vol. 1 or 2, I do suggest you get yourself vol.3 as well. Spitfire also offers a great deal on the Mural symphonic strings bundle. They will not charge you for the volumes you already own! But, if you are not an owner of the previous volumes, for 399£ Mural vol. 3 does not offer enough; because it is missing the basic articulations you will need in almost every orchestral production.
If you are already an owner of one of the products from the Mural symphonic series, I think Mural vol. 3 will be a great addition to your template. For other, that are not owners of the previous volumes and you are searching just for some new or extra sounds to beef up your orchestral template, purchasing Mural vol. 3 might be a good for you. If this is not the case, I rather suggest you first purchase Mural vol. 1 and go from there, or spend your money on an alternative string library. But here what happened to while playing around with Mural vol. 3 and hearing what I can do with it. It really got me thinking, what I could have done, if I also owned vol. 1 & 2. I am really thinking about investing into the other two volumes. The whole Mural series I think has great potential.
- Superb sound
- A lot of different articulations to choose from, some of which are very unique
- Great run builder
- Without the most basic articulations the library by itself is a bit limited
- Expensive for most potential buyers
- A lot of the articulations have very limited dynamic levels.