Today I want to have a look at a special gem that many of you have been waiting for. It was June 14, 2016 in Berlin, when Native Instruments announced “Symphony Series – Woodwind“.
I was certainly waiting for this, especially after I had it done the review of “Symphony Series – Brass” a while back, and if I hadn’t been drowning in other projects this review would’ve come a lot sooner. But now that it’s there let’s not waste any more time, and a closer look at this magnificent piece of sampling art.
The Ensemble library includes 314 articulations, with features like extended key ranges, multi-layered true legato, a variety of sustain types, round-robin staccato with multiple tonguings, trills, sforzandos, swells, crescendos, decrescendos, and a wide selection of orchestral woodwind effects – clusters, sweeps, falls, risers, stabs, stingers, cacophonies and more. It features six players recorded in meticulous detail for a total of 57.9 GB of content.
The heavyweight of this library already indicates the amazing quality of the samples, certainly something to look forward to playing with, and a good reason to make some space on your hard drive.
The variety of articulations doesn’t just look good on paper and provides a very comprehensive set of tools to work with. Just like the other “Symphony Series” libraries, it shines in flexibility, precision, and ease-of-use, while maintaining the highest industry standard, and providing inspiration, and new ideas as well.
It might not be the biggest ensemble ever sampled, but it really does make a solid point of showing, that size doesn’t always matter. I would even go as far as saying that what some can’t even achieve with a much bigger ensemble, this library manages with “just” six players.
Something else that surprised me positively, was the inclusion of saxophones, which classically aren’t part of the woodwind ensemble. But it does of course make a lot of sense to include them, as they fit right in, expand the capabilities of this library beautifully, and show the developers awareness for the needs of a composer in modern times.
The Solo volume includes 148 playable articulations, focuses on content like long-form true legato and a variety of sustains, staccatos, dynamic expressions, and effects, with intimate detail and expressive character. Even straight out of the box, the sound is natural, full of personality, and truly huge. Altogether it becomes 33.4 GB of pristinely sampled solo instruments.
This library builds the perfect expansion for the ensemble library, even though I really see and experience them as one. The quality, sound, and flexibility of the solo instruments match the ensembles, and playing together or answering each other, they form a perfectly fitting unit.
This library is also inclusive of the saxophone, which lends its unique character to all kinds of styles, and compositions, from classical to modern. And I imagine the solo instruments will find a lot of application without the ensemble in the musical pieces of our current pop culture.
“Symphony Series – Woodwind” is aimed at all professional composers who need premium sound quality in an easy-to-use design.
It was recorded at Montclair Presbyterian Church in the Oakland hills, with 14 Neumann studio mics, from distances of 1 to 25 meters. The result is an amazingly detailed and powerfully rich sound, with outstanding noise-free fidelity and stunningly vivid acoustics. Create your perfect blend with the master, close, mid, and far mic arrays. With loading, gain, pan, and routing for each position, you have full control over your mix – plus compressor, EQ, and 100 room, hall and FX reverbs to choose from. All mixer settings can be stored, and easily recalled for other NKIs.
Both instruments in “Symphony Series – Woodwind” were created in a collaboration between the award-winning team at Soundiron – a small workshop specializing in premium, professional-grade virtual instruments, and Native Instruments, who hardly need any introduction do anyone, as the probably biggest and most versatile company for digital music software and hardware at the time.
The advanced user interface is extremely adaptive to different workflows. Assigning articulations to key switches is extremely easy, and all articulation types are color-coded for fast visual recognition.
The interface provides three options for switching articulations: MIDI note, velocity range, or MIDI CC messages. It easily stores settings as Snapshots for instant recall in another project and enables you to instantly generate dynamic arpeggios, runs, and trills with the Arpeggio system. Flawless KOMPLETE KONTROL S-Series Keyboard integration immediately puts key parameters under your fingertips and encourages you to let your creativity flow.
Something I particularly enjoy is the way the articulations are handled in this library. The implemented, and easy-to-manage articulation slots, prevent unnecessary and time-consuming MIDI programming. They allow to stack articulations on the same key switch, assign velocity control and velocity activation, and even provide articulation-specific volume control, with absolute minimum effort.
The articulation volume control is something to take a close look at, since it provides a great way to save resources on your system, by stacking several articulations, like pizzicato and legato, on top of each other, and automating the articulation volume control, instead of having two different patches loaded.
Apart from that, the interface holds of course the mixer we already know and love from the other “Symphony series” libraries. Not much has changed here, it still provides very accurate mixing of the different microphone positions, as well as loading and unloading them.
The subtle but powerful effects section below is also still there, with a vast array of impulse responses and presets. Nothing new, but still worth a mention, since it is excellently executed technology, that contributes to the flow, flexibility, and ease-of-use of “Symphony Series – Woodwind”.
This library made it feel incredibly easy to shape my own performance with Smooth Dynamics, Attack, Release, Tightness, and Motion controls. I created instant single, double, and triple tongued attacks for sustains, expressions, and staccatos with automatic Repetition control, including dynamic accenting for staccatos in the blink of an eye, and the sound was still amazing.
I could precisely time the expression articulations to score cues thanks to the dedicated visual display, tempo-synching, and time-stretching options. And in the end, all still sounded fairly close to an orchestral recording.
The simulated legato in this library is something I would like to see in a lot more libraries. It provides a lot more flexibility, fire the response control, up into an unrealistic but very interesting range. Something that was harder to achieve with older libraries.
Also, the solo/duet switch is something I haven’t come across before and really enjoy. With “solo” toggled the patch is basically monophonic, and on “duet” a maximum of two notes at a time are playable, which lends itself to fill up melodies with harmonies amongst other things.
I was also happy to find some first-class true legato patches, with a much more naturally slow feeling to it. Extremely fitting for the darker, sluggish, and dreamy parts of the piece. They sound extremely real, and I can’t think of much else that has this much character.
Another factor that contributes to the extreme flexibility of this library sound is the expression playback options. Depending on the patch they have different speed settings, such as natural, sync, and varispeed, as well as a speed slider, to manipulate the playback speed.
In addition to the recorded arpeggios, the Arpeggio Module allows to instantly generate cycling arpeggiated phrases and sustained note runs, trills, and chord evolutions. It’s all playable in real-time, and possible to restrict the arpeggios to scales and patterns. This is pretty much the cherry on top, but it is an extremely delicious cherry.
To be honest, there’s a bunch more cherries hidden in this library, like staccatos with velocity sensitivity that is adjustable, or a ton of effects articulations to explore, from clusters to risers and more, but I really don’t want to take all the fun of exploring a way by telling you everything.
“Symphony Series – Woodwind” is an extremely capable library. It’s not cheap but it is well worth its price, and I don’t think you could find anything of a higher quality for less money. However, it is complex and requires some basic understanding of orchestral music and composition to unfold its full potential. It is definitely something a beginner could learn to handle, and he would do well fairly fast, and not need something else for a long time.
That being said it is clear that this library is addressing professional composers who are looking for top-level sound and a lot of customization. I would recommend this library to anyone who is a serious hobbyist or professional.
Apart from that, the library is extremely fun to play, especially within the S-series keyboard, and some of its very innovative features provide a lot of inspiration, which is something that shouldn’t be undervalued.
- 42-piece woodwind orchestra (36 ensemble players, 6 soloists)
- 43 Presets and 38,890 samples in the Ensemble library
- 37 Presets and 21,574 samples in the Solo library
- 91.3 GB source (50.3 GB installed with lossless NCW compression)
- 24 bit / 48kHz stereo close, mid, far, and master microphone positions
- Works with the free Kontakt Player and the full version of Kontakt (v5.5.1)
- Seamless Komplete Kontrol S-Series Integration
More Details: SYMPHONY SERIES – WOODWIND