Embertone ISS - Intimate Solo Strings Bundle by Diogo C
Product: Intimate Strings Bundle
Formats: Kontakt Libraries (compatible with free Kontakt Player)
Price: $500 USD MSRP
The scope: Embertone packs up the four instruments in their “Intimate Strings” series in this Solo Strings bundle - here goes a quick breakdown of each instrument and core features:
- Leonid Bass: An Italian upright bass from the 18th century, played by Leonid Finkelshteyn
- Blakus Cello: A big-sounding cello played by Blake Robinson
- Fischer Viola: A prized Italian viola played by Christopher Fischer
- Friedlander Violin: Perfect violin played by Dovid Friedlander
All four instruments were thoroughly captured and each of them boasts thousands of samples, all beautifully scripted for Native Instruments Kontakt sampler. All four have pretty much the same articulations, features and interface, which organizes all parameters through four tabs: “main” for the core performance aspects including articulations and play modes; “ensemble” to configure a stereo ensemble with up to eight voices; “configure” for the advanced performance parameters and instrument tweaks like bow noise and responsiveness; and “control” for settings keyswitches and CC parameter assignments (check out the attachments for screenshots of all tabs). All instruments are equipped with a decent sounding albeit limited “church style” convolution reverb, which might not be fit for a mixing job but it plays a good role on adding reverb for playing and jamming purposes. There are four main articulations on each instrument: sustain, staccato, pizzicato and tremolo. Sustain has additional sub modes intuitively labeled as “normal”, “emotional”, “immediate”, “harsh”, “slurred legato”, along with “re-bow” and “portamento” for note transitions. There are also options for “Sordino” i.e. muted sounds and “Sul Ponticello” for sounds that are played close to the bridge. On top of that there are two global play modes: “legato” mode for soloing with the most realistic transitions and “poly” mode for chord playing and pad-style sounds.
Sound quality: All four instruments are very expressive, definitely realistic and convincing when properly programmed. The level of detail is really good, with sufficient articulations, very responsive velocities, round-robins to keep things as human as possible and here we have one of the best variable vibrato systems I’ve seen, both in terms of sound quality and versatility. Overall these are “focused” instruments - they don’t offer a plethora of articulations and mic positions like other libraries out there but they have the core aspects required for most projects, and most importantly they have it with great sound quality. It’s important to notice that they’re not initially impressive and lack a bit of a “wow” factor, due to the fact that they’re totally dry and captured closely. The onboard reverb does not help with that and as stated above you’ll likely have to resort to a dedicated reverb plug-in. They’re not “mix ready” and I think that’s a very positive thing since it allows for our individual creativity and leaves us with a choice instead of delivering a “finished” sound that may not work on many situations. In that regard, they’re totally flexible and with the proper post-processing users will be able to fit them on basically any project.
Ease of use: Straightforward and pretty much effortless to use. Since all four instruments share the same interface and core features except for some different keys assigned on articulation switches, once you learn one you learned them all, which is definitely a positive aspect. The learning curve is not steep by any means, as the instruments have rather uncomplicated controls and clean interfaces that won’t get in the way. The only complaint that I have, albeit a minor one, is that some of the labels are a bit hard to read due to the font size and color. In terms of computing performance/system resource consumption these instruments are well optimized, even though the RAM footprint isn’t negligible, reaching 2GB per instrument on average when using their best quality patches. For testing purposes I decided to load all four instruments at their highest possible quality and I ended up with almost a load of over 8GB, which is a significant load. That can be an obstacle depending on the computer configuration in hands, so users will have to be savvy on systems with less than 16GB of RAM in order to run some instances of these strings while still having enough resources for other instruments. In terms of CPU these instruments are efficient but not exactly super light, so once again the user will have to play smart and plan their session wisely on less than powerful/older computers. The documentation provided on all instruments is sufficient and covers the basics of operation very well, worth a read if you don’t immediately understand some particular function or control. I also enjoyed the fact that Embertone included some patches with preconfigured mappings for the mod wheel, MIDI CC and there are also patches compatible with TouchOSC if you wish to use such protocol. One last aspect to be mentioned is the delivery method, which uses the Continuata Connect app for a very smooth download/installation experience - take the serial number, paste it on the app and it will take from there.
Features: We very good feature set here, with a good amount of possible tweaks to the instrument that can encompass most styles. I particularly liked the sustain modes, which adds some good depth and helps to cover a lot of ground. The “poly” mode is another nice feature if you need to play chords and along with the “ensemble” mode these instruments can create some huge sounding strings parts. The vibrato system and bow position configuration are also cool aspects. Overall it’s a solid feature set.
Bang for buck: A great value, especially considering that the compatibility with the free Kontakt Player, but I’d like to see some further incentives to buy the bundle. As it stands right now it’s the same price if you buy each instrument separately or the bundle, which is something that actually pleases certain people, but nevertheless I think there could some sort of reward for those investing in the whole pack. With that out of the way, this is arguably one of the best solo string bundles out there in terms of bang for buck.
Recommended for producers and musicians looking for a string quartet that sounds great without getting overly complicated.
Expressive, realistic and convincing sounding
Easy to operate
A bit taxing on system resources
Click below for full resolution (1080p) screenshots.