What if I told you that for $149 you could buy a complete sampled orchestra that includes solo instruments, ensemble instruments, ensemble orchestral sections (some large, some small) and a playable full “Symphony” patch, and even choir, guitars and taikos, and that it would only take up 10 GB of hard drive space and run in the free Kontakt player that works in any DAW?
You would probably say, “OK, but I bet it sounds pretty awful.”
But it doesn’t. In fact, it sounds pretty darned good!
In a way, I am not surprised. This has been produced by Sonic Scores' Don Williams and Tracy Collins of Indiginus. Sonic Scores are primarily known for their well regarded notation program called Overture. If you follow my reviews then you know how highly I regard the Indiginus guitar and Wurlitzer libraries, as well as the Solid State Orchestra. They are all among my “go-to” libraries.
The sample content consists of “a collection of industry proven orchestral sounds that cover all the essentials of the orchestra, including strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, keyboards, guitars and more.” I believe it. The moment I played the strings, I knew which developer had provided them.
If I list all the solo instruments, ensemble instruments and Multis with their articulations this article will be crazy long, so allow me to link you to the appropriate website listing: https://sonicscores.com/amadeus/ Suffice to say, it has all the bread and butter stuff that you would probably want for 90% of what you would ever compose.
A couple of exceptions: there is no marimba, which seems like an oversight to me. Also there are percussion sounds that are only available in one keyswitch instrument where they are mixed in with others that are available in separate patches.
I love how clean and easy to understand this is. In the center you see the articulations and their key switch notes. Notice the arrows that allow you to change octaves to lower or higher by clicking an arrow. It will not let you choose octaves that interfere with the playing range. By highlighting the SET KEY SW rectangle you can change the trigger note for an articulation.
Smack dab in the middle of that is Legato and if you click the information button, it opens an area that gives you the ability to tailor the scripted legato behavior. No “true legato” samples are recorded, but the scripted legato works quite nicely.
To the left, you have Envelope Controls for attack, how much the velocity affects the attack, and release for the tails of the notes.To the right are the Performance Controls. You can control dynamics with velocity, any MIDI controller you like, or both.
Clicking on a Sustain's articulation brings up the Vibrato Control. You can choose between a constant vibrato or an adjustable. I like to control the vibrato from a mod wheel, CC1, personally. (There is a scroll bar that show the MIDI CC movement, which I like).
Underneath all that are Effects; a simple 3-band EQ, High and Low Pass filters, and Reverb. There are Impulse Responses for Hall, Auditorium, Stage, Church and Plate reverbs. All these FX sound perfectly nice but I never use built-in effects as I like more control.
On both the website and in the manual, the Symphony instrument is touted, and for many users perhaps rightfully so, as it is pretty unique. You have an entire orchestra in one instrument. Sections can be triggered by key velocity and you have independent control over the volume, key range, key velocity range and transposition of each orchestra section, with a row of buttons that turns each section off. There are a number of presets and you can create your own.
There is also the Auto Preset Change setting that lets you change orchestra presets without key switching whenever you lift your fingers from the keys and pause. And a Chords button that depending on the octave you play, choose a major or minor chord. Why anyone would want either of those options is beyond me, but admittedly as a trained guy I may think differently from some other users.
Finally, there is a Mixer.
A handful of instruments (choirs, and taikos) give you a mixer to choose and mix close and decca tree mics. I do wish there were a lot more. Electric Guitar gives you an Effects Mixer.
It comes with a downloadable PDF, always a plus in my view. On the website you will find an overview walkthrough and audio demo. All in all, this is an impressive package.
Pros: Affordable; small footprint with little demand on resources; terrific GUI, clear and easy to navigate; easy customization of control over keyswitch assignments, velocity and vibrato control; decent EQ , reverb, and filter FX.
Cons: No “true legato”, only scripted; no marimba; some percussion sounds are only available in a patch mixed in with other sounds that are available in other patches. Only a handful of instruments give you mic choices.
Conclusions: Is this the sample orchestra of your dreams? If you have a bunch of high quality orchestral sample libraries, will you retiring them all in favor of this one? No. But you may love it as a sketch tool to work really quickly and find that you keep a lot of it and add others after. And if you are a beginner trained in orchestration who needs an affordable small footprint library that is pretty complete with all the bread and butter articulations, this is for you. Or if you are not a trained orchestrator and want to work with multis or the full “Symphony” instrument, this one is definitely a fine choice for you.
Learn more about programming orchestral parts: https://ask.audio/academy?nleloc=category/audio/topic/orchestration