Review: Century Strings Bundle by 8Dio

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With Century Strings, 8Dio tackle ensemble strings with depth and realism. The shorts are crisp and clean, the longs are elegant, and the arcs . . . some will find that the arc patches alone are worth the price of admission.

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Review: Century Strings Bundle by 8Dio

The Century Strings Bundle is lush and rich and infused with realism. The sound is natural and woody and dripping with authenticity. The shorts are crisp and clean, the longs are elegant, and the arcs…oh, the arcs! The price tag isn’t cheap, but these beautiful ensemble strings are hard to beat.

Century Strings Bundle sells for $598.00 from 8Dio

Thoughts

Since 2012, 8Dio’s Adagio has been a favorite string collection of many composers. Beginning with the release of Adagio Violins and culminating with Adagio Basses, Adagio set a new standard for realistically sampled strings. Two years later in 2014, 8Dio followed up with Agitato, a series of specialty products targeting some of the most sought-after articulations in the industry (ex. Williams/Mancini Grandiose Legato, Ultra-Fast Legato, Sordino Legato, True Ostinato Design Kits, etc.). In 2016, 8Dio released Anthology, a reimagination of both the Adagio and Agitato collections contained within a new, more user-friendly interface. This was a sort of ‘best of’ collection of both Adagio and Agitato.

8Dio is back with the first two installments of their long-anticipated Century Strings collection

Now, 8Dio is back with the first two installments of their long-anticipated Century Strings collection, including both traditional ensemble strings and sordino (muted) ensemble strings, available separately or with a 30% discount as the Century Strings Bundle. 8Dio claims that Century Orchestral Strings is ‘a leap forward in truly realistic symphonic strings.’ So, is the hype real, or is this just another string library to add to the plethora of string offerings on the market?

 

The first thing I noticed about the Century Strings Bundle was the shiny new interface, first introduced via Anthology Strings. One of the difficulties of both Adagio and Agitato was the overwhelming number of patches that each contained. The immense number of presets and articulations contained in Adagio and Agitato are impressive and wonderful, but they both suffer from being presented in a format that can feel overwhelming to a composer on the go. Adagio and Agitato demand that you spend time working through presets and articulations to find the sound you are looking for. With Century Strings this is no longer a problem.

The interface is clean and simple while allowing for a good amount of customization.

Best of all, every articulation is already present within the engine from the moment you load it up, so no more loading multiple .nki files until you eventually find what you are looking for. You can choose to either load a single articulation, or you can assign up to 10 articulations that you can control via user-assigned key-switches. This is so much easier to navigate than the Adagio and Agitato interface and means you can get to work on your track much more quickly; that is, once the instrument itself loads. I found the load time for each instrument to be much longer than expected, but once loaded every articulation is ready to go and can easily be deactivated to save on RAM if needed.

The controls are also intuitive and uncomplicated.

The typical dynamics and expression controls are presented along with controls for speed, release tails, vibrato, and legato volume. These controls are only presented as available for particular articulations and are conveniently grayed out when not in use.

Six different microphone options are presented, including Mixed, Decca, Wide/Far, and three close studio spot mics. This allows you to dial in your sound and tailor the room from large, lush orchestral strings to close, intimate studio strings. The samples were recorded in an environment that provides you with a lot of room control.

The articulations here include the usual suspects (Spiccatos, Staccatos, Tremolos, Pizzicatos), in addition to some more unique articulations (Harmonics, Loure, Suspended Molto Vibrato, Arcs – Oh, the Arcs!). Both Ensemble and Sordino Strings are presented as ensembles in the following format:1st Violins (6), 2nd Violins (4), Violas (5), Cellos (4) & Basses (3)

This feels big enough to compose sweeping, epic tracks, while remaining small enough to cover intimate, emotional scores

This feels big enough to compose sweeping, epic tracks, while remaining small enough to cover intimate, emotional scores with plenty of detail. Century Strings provides you with enough articulations to cover just about anything you would want to use ensemble strings for. These strings are meant for blending together, so combining the Sordino Strings with the Traditional Ensemble Strings will provide you with added depth and color.

One thing to be mindful of is that, as in Adagio, 8Dio have once again chosen to go with their center-panning approach. Rather than recording each instrument in its traditional orchestral placement, 8Dio chose to present each instrument in the center of the stereo field. This is not an issue for me but has proven to be controversial among orchestral purists. Again, this is a non-issue for me as it allows me to pan as I see fit, but something you should know prior to purchase.

8Dio have also included a healthy selection of onboard effects, including phaser, EQ, degrader, delay, transform, and reverb.
The $64,000 question is probably ‘How do they sound?’, but possibly the biggest question folks are asking is ‘How do they compare with 8Dio’s previous Adagio and Agitato libraries?’ My answer might surprise you.

The question folks are asking is ‘How do they compare with 8Dio’s previous Adagio and Agitato libraries?’

I love the sound of both Adagio and Agitato. For all their frustrating issues (ie. difficult patch navigation, some uneven tuning, some uneven note volume) I think it is hard to top their authentic sound. Many other string libraries are more polished and easier to use, but I have heard few that achieve the realism and warmth of Adagio and Agitato for emotional string writing. I can’t say that Century Strings will replace the Adagio or Agitato libraries in my own template completely, but they do add a new color, character, and dimension to my string palette. The strings in Century are gorgeous. There are no uneven volume or tuning issues here.

The shorts are crisp and clean, the longs are elegant, and the arcs…oh, the arcs! The arc articulations are sampled dynamic bowings that behave like real strings. There is only so much you can do to add realism to traditional sustained string samples by mapping expression, dynamics, or vibrato. While you can accomplish a lot via CC mapping or using the modwheel, most samples will still not be able to perfectly mimic what a player can do with a bow. Enter the arc patches.

There are very few string libraries I have heard that can match the arc patches for emotional string writing.

There are very few string libraries I have heard that can match the arc patches for emotional string writing. They completely drip with realism and emotion. The arcs are velocity based, so if you play soft you get a soft arc. Play harder and get a more pronounced arc. They were also recorded at different speeds, so you can dial them in to better match the track you are working on. The price tag here is not cheap, but some will find that the arc patches alone are worth the price of admission. I will probably end up wearing them out myself! Keep in mind that, unlike Adagio, there are no full ensemble patches featuring the entire string section in a single patch, and there are no solo instruments in Century (yet). However, Century here tackles ensemble strings with depth and realism. My understanding is that more installments are on the way in the Century series, so we’ll have to wait to see how those measure up. However, if the Century Strings Bundle is any indication of what is to come, the future of 8Dio’s virtual string offerings is very bright.

All in all, 8Dio gets it right with the Century Strings Bundle. These lush-sounding ensemble strings are hard to beat.

Facts

Includes Century Ensemble and Sordino Strings (204.9 GB)
Complete Room Control from dry to wet
1st Violins (6) and 2nd Violins (4) Violas (6), Cellos (4) and Basses (4)
4 Hall Microphones and 3 Studio/Close Microphones
Fluent controls over Dynamics (MW), Expression and Speed
Full Retail version of Kontakt 5.6 or later required

Century Strings Bundle sells for $598.00 from 8Dio

Demos of Century Strings Bundle by 8Dio

 

Videos of Century Strings Bundle by 8Dio