In this review, we will be going over the new Kontakt sound library created by Native Instruments called Symphony Essentials which is a five part library with everything you need to create a beautiful symphony right in the comfort of your own studio.
Native Instruments has collaborated with Soundiron for the woodwind and brass sections, the strings were done by audiobro.
Symphony Essentials is loaded with solo and ensemble libraries of different sections and instruments of an orchestra which have been meticulously recorded and processed into the high-quality Kontakt libraries we have grown accustomed to from Native Instruments.
Included in the Symphony Essentials bundle are Woodwind Solo, Woodwind Ensemble, Brass Solo, Brass Ensemble and String Ensemble and each of these has at least five different instruments to choose from so you can sculpt your own symphonies from scratch in no time at all and all without having to have your studio filled with lots of musicians and their instruments which most of us just don’t have the space for.
Now seeing that this is a five part library with the same interface, controls, and effects I will try to keep from becoming too repetitive by going over them once and then pointing out the differences across the instruments and ensembles of the symphony essentials library.
So let’s get into what Symphony Essentials has to offer and discover the symphonic beauty that Native instruments have created for us.
Woodwind Solo is comprised of six solo instruments in the woodwind type of instruments a Bassoon, Clarinet, Contrabassoon, Flute, Oboe, Saxophone and the Woodwind Quintet which allows you to play five woodwind soloists in one instrument.
At the center of all of the Symphonic Essentials instruments is the dynamics knob which allows you to effortlessly glide between all the recorded dynamic layers of the instruments and is pre-mapped to your Mod wheel on your keyboard playing with this knob can let you create some really expressive phrases in your music.
Underneath the dynamics knob we have sliders for Attack, Release, Tightness and Vibrato allowing you to change the character of your notes and create even more expressiveness in your music.
Attack controls the hardness or softness of the notes attack phase.
Release controls the amount of time the note plays on after the note is released
Tightness controls the start position of the sample allowing you to cut into the initial transient of a sample which can allow for tighter note attacks.
Vibrato allows you to modulate the pitch and intensity of a note which can add more natural movement to your sound.
There are seven types of articulation to choose from in all of the Woodwind Solo instruments: Sustain, Staccato, Staccato double tongue, Crescendo, Decrescendo, Sforzando and Swell. These can easily be assigned to different notes on your keyboard for easy changes between articulations as you are playing. When you change the articulations the two additional controls next to the articulation selector will change to fit the type of articulation being used.
The left additional articulation controls have options for legato playing, seeing the progress of a long note on Crescendos, Decrescendos, and Swells and on staccatos we have round robins that cycle between 8 different recordings to keep the note pressed from sounding too static.
The right additional articulation controls have two options an arpeggio that can be set to use notes from six different scales Major, Minor, Augmented, Diminished, Major sevenths and Minor sevenths.
Trill will create a custom trill between two adjacent notes Key which lets you input your own chords to cycle through on your keyboard and Repeat which repeats a note by the amount specified in the count control. Repetition lets you select the amount of repeats a note makes and the timing at which it is played and also lets you control the amount of pitch drift the instrument has.
All of the instruments in the Woodwind Solo library sound absolutely stunning and have been recorded with the utmost care giving you a spectacular library of unique woodwind instruments to play with. All of these instruments are super easy to play with and can be really expressive or subtle and subdued when you want them to be.
It’s like having 36 woodwind players across six sections of an orchestra with the Bass Winds, Bassoons, Clarinets, Flutes, Oboes and Saxophones all living inside your computer and the Woodwind Ensemble Essential has all of them laid out across the keyboard for you for easy simultaneous playability.
Each of these ensembles is a section of an orchestra allowing you to play each section separately on a different midi channel with its own midi notation letting you create a custom woodwind orchestra from scratch.
The articulations in the Woodwind ensembles mostly have the same types of articulations except for some differences in expression types with four extra types of expression to choose from Sforzando Fast, Sforzando Slow, Swell Fast and Swell Slow.
As with the single woodwind instruments the secondary options for the articulations in the ensembles changes according to the type of articulations used switching to either show progress, legato or round robins or arpeggiation and repetition.
The other subtle difference between the Solo and ensemble instruments is on the main page where the Vibrato slider has been switched out for a Motion slider this brings in LFO type of effect where the slider governs the speed of the LFO to bring in more or less movement.
The sound quality of the Woodwind Ensembles is really great you can definitely hear that you are playing either a great soloist on their own instrument or a whole section of woodwind players.
The Woodwind Solo and the Woodwind Ensembles are two great libraries on their own but the real fun starts when you start using them together with different midi channels and notation this allows you to create a huge custom woodwind orchestra in one instance of Kontakt which is pretty awesome to do.
Now that we have covered the Woodwind section of the Symphony Essentials orchestra let’s move onto the Brass Section starting with the solo instruments.
The Brass section of an orchestra is known for some of the powerful and brilliant sounds in an orchestra with big horn blasts to convey a sense of urgency or moments of valor and victory but when played softly can convey a real sense of mystery and menace these qualities make the Brass sections a big and important part of any orchestra.
Symphony Essentials Brass Solo is comprised of five soloist instruments Horn 1, Horn 2, Trombone, Trumpet and Tuba as well as a Brass quartet where four of the major Brass instruments are programmed out all over your keyboard.
Horn 1 and Horn 2 is the same instrument but have two separate sets of recordings for each of them where Horn 1 has a more distinctive and bright tonal quality to it and Horn 2 has a more mellow quality to it.
There are quite a few more types of articulations to play with in the Brass solo instruments with 80 articulations spread out over the five instruments these are easily mapped to the keyboard slots in the articulations slot setup page. Having the articulations mapped and being able to switch them in real time is allot of fun and can really liven up your piece of music.
The secondary options for the articulations such as Legato, Round Robins, Arpeggio’s and repetitions like with the woodwind instruments switch to best fit the type of articulations being used at the time.
Once you have a nice section of instruments set up in your DAW each playing their own midi notations with their own articulations and such you want to be able to set up some form of automation to not have all your instruments blasting at the same time this is done quite easily in Kontakt just by clicking on the automation tab and dragging one of the numbers to the parameter you wish to assign then all you do is draw I your automation in your DAW and you are done.
The Brass instruments of an orchestra for me bring allot of character to certain pieces of music from the hard blasts to the sweet mellow solos of a trumpet in most of the great moments there is almost always a brass instrument involved in some way and Sound iron and Native Instruments have done a great job of bringing those instruments to life in a easy to use great sounding and really fun to play with library for Kontakt.
The Brass Ensemble library in the symphony essentials libraries is where you can really get your full brass orchestra sounds going with your own 32 piece brass section just waiting to be told what to do by you.
The four sections of brass ensemble Horns, Trombones, trumpets and Tubas are recorded using 8 players per section allowing you to create up to a 32 piece ensemble that can blast out some really powerful brass sounds in your piece of music these are already set up together for you in the Brass Ensemble Essential nki to just get playing straight away.
When you open up one of the ensemble nki’s in the symphonic essentials libraries in addition to the articulations tab and the effects tab you are greeted with an Ensemble tab which is where you can control the Volume, Panning and Key ranges of all the sections in the ensemble.
These controls are essential to getting your 32 piece Brass ensemble to sound just as you want them and allowing them to take their own space in the virtual stage you are trying to create.
In the Brass ensemble, there are 73 articulations spread out over the five libraries to set up and play within the articulations setup tab which really brings the ensembles to life.
I personally really like all of the articulations you find in the Brass Solo instruments and in the Brass ensembles as they give you a lot of options in what you can do in the styles of music you can create.
The brass ensembles library really brings out each section wonderfully each have their place and unique sound they bring to the full ensemble so creating epic moments or mysterious and menacing moods is really easy to do.
The Sound quality of the Solo instruments as well as the ensembles in the Brass section of Symphony essentials is really top notch Native instruments and Sound iron have really created two beautiful brass libraries with the solo and ensemble packs.
The string section of an orchestra is where feelings are made from happy to sad and everything in between if there is a feeling a string instrument can convey it to you in elaborate detail so there is now wonder why the strings section is so important in an orchestra.
The String ensemble library of sounds was created by native instruments in collaboration with Audio Bro and not Sound iron like the other libraries we have just gone over however that most certainly does not mean that the sound quality is less than the others because it isn’t.
Each section of the ensembles is again recorded with great attention to detail and sounds stunning and really fits into the whole Symphony essentials package.
The articulations in Strings Ensembles are split up in two styles long and short and there are not as many as say the brass section but they do provide you with all the articulations you need to create a beautiful strings section that does not sound static or boring.
In the secondary articulation controls we have controls for the round robins where we can set them to cycle continuously or have the first note be randomly picked and the second randomly out of the remaining recordings so that there will be no sample played repetitively with a small know next to it that says slam which adds compression to your short staccato articulations and is great for when you want those articulations to be larger than life.
When repetition is activated each note you play is repeated in a loop the repetitions themselves can be set to play at intervals of 1/8, 1/8t and 1/16th and can then be set to have an accent on just the first note of the repetition or on the 1st and 3rd notes.
Across all of the instruments and ensembles of Symphony Essentials, the effects are identical with an EQ, Reverb, Compressor and filter to choose from.
The Eq is a 3 band equalizer with gain and frequency controls with an additional bandwidth control for the mid frequencies.
The Reverb has over 100 impulse responses which are separated in eleven different categories Cinematic, Cathedral, Chamber, Room Large, Room Small, Hallway, Underground, Outdoor, Forest, FX Long and FX Short with controls for the size of the reverb a filter to filter out unwanted high or lows and a mix control to adjust how much of the reverb you wish to hear.
The compressor and filter can help with reducing the dynamics of a certain instrument to not have one overpowering instrument drown out others or shape the tone of an instrument to bring it out more in a mix. Both the compressor and filter are easy to use and do their job well.
The strings ensemble is a nice library that really fits together well in the whole symphony essentials package and really rounds it all out to be a full and beautifully sounding symphonic package as with the other libraries the recording of all the ensembles in the strings package is done with the highest degree of care and that shows in how the ensembles sound.
In conclusion the Symphony Essentials package may not be as large as the symphony series that native instruments also sells but it is not as expensive and still has allot of different sounds and articulations to play with. The sound quality of all five libraries is absolutely stunning and have had allot of effort put into them to sound like they do.
If you want to get into orchestral scoring and music this is definitely a great package that will help you on your way to creating a sonically captivating and beautiful symphonic pieces of music.
- Easy to use.
- Sound wonderful.
- Really easy on the CPU.
- Lots of sounds and articulations
- No strings solo instruments