Spitfire Harp has been a staple in my template for a number of years now and over that time I’ve come to appreciate both the nuances of its characteristic ‘Air,’ studios sound and also the flexibility that it offers. Here are my overall thoughts on the library:
Built for Kontakt 5 and with approximately 6.8GB worth of compressed sample content, it’s impressive to see the range and scope of sounds that have been recorded and crafted from the Harp. Not only are there multiple articulations to choose from (glissandos, various pluck types including normale, flagolet and slid as examples) for your main harp patches, Spitfire has also designed numerous patches called “Harpospheres.” Derived from the recorded harp, ambiences, drones, synthetic leads, pulses and even basses are all in abundance here, all with an organic twist thanks to some great sound design processing.
Overall the sound of the library is of a high standard that is bolstered by a terrific sounding space. The library’s main harp patches excel at delicacy and intimacy and are also capable of cutting through in even a more busier or complex sounding production. You have individual control over a close, tree and ambient microphones. This allows for complete flexibility and control over the sound of the harp and also in the amount of reverb that you wish to dial in as well.
I do feel that the library would’ve benefited from having an additional FFF dynamic for real hard plucks, as even topping out at a velocity of FF the patch does feel quite surprisingly soft. Despite this, my experiences have shown that isn’t too much of a problem so long as you balance your mixes appropriately to allow the harp to shine through by giving it the space it needs to breathe. Utilizing exclusively the close microphone I have found helps as well, providing a much more tighter and direct sound.
One other minor issue I have personally found with the library is that the Harp was recorded with the player in their set orchestral position. This is a debateable as being a problem of course, as some people do prefer this for more authentic placement. However, I’ve found that this makes it very difficult to experiment with repositioning the Harp spatially in your mix without running into phasing issues. Whilst there is functionality for a stereo collapse on the close microphone available to compensate, this of course means you lose both the tree and ambient mics. I have also found this solution to be less than ideal as it ends up creating a Harp that sounds hollow with a collapsed reverb on top of it. A better compromise I have found for placement is to make use of spatial positioning plugins. I managed to get good results with VSS2 here, rather than relying on the panning methods found in Kontakt or your DAW.
Generally Spitifre keep a fairly consistent layout and aesthetic design across their entire range, so if you’ve used any of their products before, you’ll be in familiar territory with their Harp library.
Overall there’s a great deal of flexibility in how you can sculpt, mix and shape the sound of the patches to suit your needs. You’ve got access to all of your standard controls, including microphone mixing, volume control, dynamics and releases. Another great feature is the speed control for the ‘Gliss,’ articulation. Spitfire recorded two speed types, a slow and fast for glissando and this is a terrific feature for getting the ‘Gliss,’ sounds to stay properly in line with the flow of your music.
There is also a step sequencer called the ‘ostinatum,’ if you prefer to sculpt repeating patterns this way. Personally I haven’t used it as I found that you lose a level of unpredictability due to the absence of a ‘swing,’ control.
The Harposphere’s patch set interface allows you to quite quickly sculpt the sound that you’re looking to make for your given composition. Distorted and crunchy basses, pitch glide effects and wobbles are all easily crafted thanks to the library’s GUI.
One thing that it lacks at present is that the “Wobbles,” section only has a frequency parameter as the control for modulation speed. This means that tempo-sync isn’t possible without going into the back end of the patch in Kontakt and modifying it directly. Spitfire are great at providing long-term support and updates to their libraries so hopefully this is something that could be added in a future update!
Ease of Use
Aside from the minor issue above, you shouldn’t have any hassle in integrating this library into your workflow. For those that prefer individualized patches; Spitfire has you covered with their “individual brushes,” folder, allowing you to load up specific articulations and sounds as needed for your given project.
A particular stand out feature from the scripting of the library is the ‘Harp Pedalling,’ option. This allows you to remap notes directly onto all the white notes of your keyboard i.e. making a G# note triggered on a G key. When used in conjunction with the slid articulation, this is a great way to rapidly produce scale runs for your compositions.
Sptifire Harp is currently sitting at £129. When considering the amount of content on offer and flexibility that Harposheres offers, I found this to be an excellent and a competitively priced offering. Spitfire also provide bundle options which can help to bring the cost down: this is something to keep in mind if you are looking to go for several of their libraries.
Despite a couple of minor GUI quirks, Spitfire Harp is a library that offers a great deal of flexibility and playability. Combining an excellent set of performances, with an industry renowned space and terrific engineering work, those who are looking for a library that works in both intimate and epic scoring productions will be well placed with Spitfire Harp.
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Check out other Spitfire Audio news at TAS.