Review: Alchemist 2: Cinematic Textures by String Audio
Quality of the sound samples
Powerful but easy to use Kontakt engine
Addition of an EQ Engine and enhanced Randomization which is an improvement over Version 1
The amount of snapshots is mind-boggling. In addition, an extra .NKI file is provided with the Version 1 snapshots allowing migration into the new engine
The NKI files load extremely slow. A good idea to perform a batch re-save.
While the documentation is adequate, it might be a good idea for the developers to publish a flow chart as some parameters effect functions on different pages.
Whether you are doing underscoring, film trailers, avant-garde compositions or creating disturbing & edgy ambiences, the new version of Cinematic Textures packages everything you need, inclusively, in a well-designed, powerful but easy to manipulate Kontakt engine.
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Review: Alchemist 2: Cinematic Textures by String Audio
There aren’t many companies where I can say I own all of their sound libraries. String Audio is, indeed, one which consistently pushes the envelope with dark, cinematic sounds, noisescapes, and atmospheric environments. Whether you are doing underscoring, film trailers, avant-garde compositions or creating disturbing & edgy ambiences, the new version of Cinematic Textures packages everything you need, inclusively, in a well-designed, powerful but easy to manipulate Kontakt engine.
When it comes to dark atmospheres and cinematic effects, there is probably no developer that does it better than String Audio. From their Dark Matter and Cinematic libraries for Kontakt and their Lightless / Darkless patches for Omnisphere 2, they have given the composer and sound designer all the necessary tools, from which, to build their mysterious universes. They don’t just give you the sound samples, they provide a sophisticated engine with which to mangle and mutate the sources, to take the sound to places beyond and into dimensions that will astound the composer. All it takes is an understanding of how the engine works or, in other cases, hitting the random button to see where it leads.
If you thought Version 1 was good, just give the new version a whirl
it provides for increased randomization functions and an EQ Machine where you can enhance each level of sound. It also provides a whole new array of snapshots in expanded categorization and, as well, gives you the snapshots from Version 1 in a separate NKI for use in the improved engine.
Like most libraries that require the full version of Kontakt, you will have to install the snapshots manually into the folder designated in the instructions. If you are a veteran, you already probably know where to place the folder though, if you are new to the world of Kontakt, please pay special attention to the instructions because if you place the folder in the wrong place, the snapshots won’t appear after the NKI is loaded. Considering the amount of time it takes the NKI to load, you’ll want to get it right the 1st time.
Okay, so what is new…
For those with V1, you will notice the bottom section of the page is completely different. One has the ability to select the “Dry” or “Wet” samples. The dry, of course, disable all the effects associated with all 6 layers of the samples and “wet”, obviously, enables them. The “Bright” and “Dark” selections affect the Low Pass Filter settings resulting in an overall sound described by what you selected. Lastly, if “Long” is selected, the overall sound will be pad-like or if “Short” is selected, the result will be a plucked sound. My only gripe with these six boxes is that there should have been a red/green border around the box when disabled/enabled, respectively. The way it is currently set-up, you’ll just have to remember what you selected or figure it out by ear which, frankly, shouldn’t be all that difficult.
The other thing you will notice is that the 4 other engine pages are listed above the Random button. If one or more is selected, the parameters on those pages will be affected by Randomization, if used. If the “Attack” box is selected, the attack envelope function for all 6 layers is frozen if Randomization is used. Lastly, and one other thing to remember, the LFO Volume and LFO Pan associated with each layer is affected if you enable the LFOs on the Motion Engine page.
For the most part, the Color Engine page is left pretty much the same. For me, this is where the fun in this product is…a convolution reverb for each layer of sound which an incredible assortment of different convolutions in which to pass the sound through. As a refresher, the darker the color of the vertical bar (manipulated by your mouse), the more intense the signal gain. In addition, you can randomize all of the signal paths with a click of the button or, if you like some of the settings, you can freeze 1 or all 3 parameters per convolution. Lastly, there is an “ECO” button, when selected, will have individual layers bypass their associated convolution if the send level is less than 22db.
The Motion Engine is the page where one manipulates, yes you guessed right, the motion of the overall sound, i.e., it is a global setting. The arpeggiator is pretty standard with 16 steps and the ability to sync to the host tempo, fix the velocity to reflect what is displayed in the sequencer or enable a “Midi Thru” which allows additional played notes to be incorporated into the already playing pattern. There are 2 LFOs…one for Velocity and one for Pan. When selected these will affect the LFOs incorporated into each individual layer as displayed on the Main Engine page.
The EQ Engine page is brand new to the Alchemist Engine. It allows for High, Mid, and Low equalization of each layer. The EQ settings can be completely randomized on this page or the settings can be part of a global randomization enabled on the Main Engine Page. Unlike a lot of other parameters, there is not an ability to freeze a section if you do select to randomize the settings. I found that by using the Random button, the overall sound can be completely altered so, if you find that you really like what you are doing, remember to save your work else you may never be able to recover it.
One last thing to note is that the categories of Snapshots have been expanded from Version 1. You get 570 distinct snapshots, in total, enough to keep one busy for days on end…combined with the Randomization features, you could, potentially, go through your lifetime without getting the same sound twice. What you get here is so much more than just underscoring, you could easily develop entire soundscapes and/or scores with the sounds one can generate and manipulate in this library alone. Even if you never use the Random function, just the overall ability to manipulate the sounds with Effects, EQ and Convolution Reverb will let you hone in on your own distinct world of suspense and mystery.
Alchemist 2: Cinematic Textures downloads as just over 20 GB which includes over 13 GB of new samples. There are over 570 snapshots that incorporate over 6,000 high-quality sound samples. The library requires the full version of Kontakt 5.5.1 or higher; it will not operate in the free Kontakt Player.