Concluding their year of renovation for now, British sample library developer Spitfire Audio just released another orchestral library: Symphonic Strings. What was originally known as the Mural series, a massive four-part symphonic string library, is now celebrating its reincarnation as a modernized, streamlined single volume. Just like with other recent releases from Spitfire Audio like Chamber Strings (former Sable range) and Symphonic Brass (former BML Brass range), with the new Symphonic Strings, the developers want to provide the user with a comprehensive, deep-sampled product while keeping the playability and ease of use as high as possible.
Compared to Chamber Strings, which had a smaller, more intimate sound, Symphonic Strings goes for the big and bold, featuring a 60-piece string band.
Let’s have a look and listen at Spitfire Audio’s new symphonic string compendium!
Composed of 60 of London’s top players, Symphonic Strings was recorded with 30 violins, 12 violas, 10 celli and 8 double basses. With over 175 different articulations, featuring multiple round robins, dynamic layers and three microphone positions to choose from, Spitfire Audio strove to deliver the definitive, encyclopedic compendium of orchestral strings.
In addition to the five individual string sections, the library also features a variety of ensemble patches, ideal for quick writing and sketching.
To ensure, every string section sounds from the right position in the stereo field, the library was recorded in situ – meaning at their position in the orchestra. No additional panning needed.
As with the other recent releases, prolific composer and scripting wizard Andy Blaney programmed all the legato patches for each individual section.
Symphonic Strings, which includes Mural volumes 1,2,3 and Ensembles, comes as a roughly 100 GB large NKS-ready Kontakt instrument.
DOWNLOAD & INSTALLATION
Symphonic Strings, like most other Spitfire Audio products is a download-only product and can be downloaded via Spitfire Audio’s own library manager after the purchase. Be prepared to bring along some time since a 100GB download can take quite a while.
After successfully downloading all the necessary files, the library manager unzips and install the library automatically as part of the installation process. You can then add the product to Kontakt’s Library Tab. Symphonic Strings is a licensed Kontakt library following the NKS standard, which means it is fully compatible with hardware from Native Instruments and will run even with a free version of Kontakt 5.
Luckily for owners of other Spitfire Audio products, the interfaces of all recent libraries work exactly the same and look very similar, too. Therefore, if you know one, you know them all. For those, who have no experience with a Spitfire Audio library’s GUI, feel free to stop by at any of my recent product reviews since I already explained the interface’s structure quite comprehensively:
The folder structure of recent Spitfire Audio libraries is usually quite similar, too. On the top layer, we have all the different string sections plus the ensembles instrument laid out as multi-articulation patches. These patches include a bunch of the most essential articulations for a given section. The selection of pre-composed playing techniques usually includes various longs, shorts, trills, pizzicatos and tremolos.
Going down one layer of the library’s structure by clicking on the “advanced” folder leads you to another five folders, each packed with different patches for different purposes. Starting with the top-most one labeled “Extended techniques”, you’ll get to a wide collection of more elaborate and experimental articulations. Those are again composed into several multi-articulation patches split up into “core” and “decorative” versions.
The “core” patches include various con sordino, harmonic and brushed articulations, while the decorative patches concentrate on more experimental playing techniques such as sul ponticello and measured tremolos. Of course, all those are available for each string section (except for when a certain instrument group isn’t technically able to produce a certain technique).
Let me skip ahead for just a second and continue with one of the most interesting features of the library, the performance legato patches. In contrast to the normal legato patches, a performance legato patch not only includes true legato transitions and an adapting legato style script, but it also adds distinctive attacks to the notes depending on velocity. This allows you to perform both smooth legato passages and accentuated marcato lines with one single patch, just by differing your velocity and by leaving gaps between the notes.
Back to the original order. Next in line is a folder containing all of Symphonic Strings’ available articulations for every section, laid out as individual patches. These are very useful for situations, where you know you just need to use one or two playing techniques from a section. Not having to load up a whole multi-articulation patch every time can save you plenty of RAM in some situations.
The last folder is called “Other patches”. It includes several economic – meaning CPU saving – patches for every section as well as a couple of so-called Time Machine patches. The latter one include a “stretch” control, allowing you to tighten up or lengthen out the sound of different short articulations.
On to probably the most essential question of a sample library review: how does it sound?
Well, with the highly praised original sample collection of the Mural range under the hood – which by the way was awarded “Best Sample Library Of The Year 2014” by Music Tech magazine – what could have possibly gone wrong regarding the sound of Symphonic Strings?
In the tried-and-tested Spitfire Audio way, all the samples and articulations were recorded meticulously and with high attention to detail. None of the patches feels static but feature an inherent liveliness that makes it a pleasure to compose music with. Especially the longer articulations distinguish themselves by having a very broad expressive range, from glassy and fragile in the lower modulation wheel area, to a soaring molto vibrato sound at the wheel’s top limit.
Compared to Chamber Strings, this new release brings the bigger guns, meaning a more cinematic tone you might know from soundtracks like The Lord Of The Rings or The Chronicles Of Narnia. In fact, Harry Gregson-Williams (the composer of the latter movie) was one of the very first who used the original sample library on a Hollywood blockbuster.
With the three different microphone positions available (Close, Tree, Ambient) you have plenty of tonal options from bitey and upfront to a wide and grandiose orchestral sound.
Of course, the baked-in ambience of London’s noble AIR Lyndhurst Hall on all the samples plays a huge part in making the library sound as it does.
Overall, Symphonic Strings features a polished and powerful sound, authentically reproducing a large string band in a concert hall.
Again, Spitfire Audio managed to revive and condense a successful range of libraries into a new one with a contemporary approach. A great deal of the brand’s magic lies in the playability of their instruments, the ease of use and the tonal variety of the recorded material.
Although no new sample material is included, Spitfire Audio effectively took a renowned product and even stepped it up on notch. The smart programming of not only the performance legato patches but also the multi-articulation instruments makes it a breeze to come up with convincing and great sounding string arrangements.
Spitfire Audio’s self-proclaimed “encyclopedic compendium of strings” is exactly that – a truly extensive scoring tool for any compositional need.
Symphonic Strings has an introductory price of €599.00 ($636.00) which will lift up to a regular price of €799.00 ($848.00) thereafter. After having the first impression of quite a steep pricing, I realized that before Symphonic Strings was out, you had to cough up a whopping $4,500.00 to get the whole Mural range. Compared to that, Symphonic Strings’ current price is nothing less than a steal, especially when bringing in the fact that the whole product was re-programmed and -scripted.
Like with most of Spitfire Audio’s recent renovations, you get a fair discount on Symphonic Strings if you already own one or more volumes of its legacy library Mural. If you already own the entire Mural range however, you can update to Symphonic Strings for free.