Review: Chamber Strings 2.0 by Light and Sound
Good sounding samples
Lots of microphone choices to shape the sound
Good set of articulations
Some unique articulations
Some tuning issues
Some bugs within some of the articulations
Some excess noise in the higher register of Violins I and II
Some inconsistency in the volume level between some articulations
Chamber Strings is a nice first offering from Light and Sound as they enter the world of sample instruments. There are an admirable number of articulations and a healthy supply of microphone positions accompanied by a good sounding set of chamber string samples. While this freshman offering is not without its flaws, it does offer a good value for anyone looking to enter the world of chamber strings – that oft overlooked bridge between the larger ensemble and solo string offerings that seem to be flooding the market right now.
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Review: Chamber Strings 2.0 by Light and Sound
Chamber Strings 2.0 by Light and Sound sells for $299.00 + VAT from Light and Sound
New ensemble and solo strings seem to be coming out in droves these days. For the most part, when surveying the sample string market, it seems composers must largely choose from either the big, epic Hollywood sound, or the quiet, lonely sound of solo strings; especially those of us who are on a budget. Light and Sound have entered the crowded space of string developers with something different; chamber strings. Light and Sound’s Chamber Strings captures the string section in a more intimate way than larger ensemble string libraries, but still with punch and power. The entire string section is represented here: Violins I (6), Violins II (5), Violas (3), Celli (3) &
The samples in Chamber Strings are well done. They have the warm, yet detailed sound you would expect in a chamber string section this size. This makes them effective when standing alone, or when using to layer with other string libraries. There are some programming issues here that you will want to be aware of:
Slight tuning issues – This can be detrimental but can also help to offer a sense of realism that is sometimes missing from more polished libraries.
Programming issues – Some of the short notes are not as crisp as I would have liked. For instance, some of the round robins will inexplicably play two notes instead of one. Again, this can be both an annoyance and somewhat of a blessing, as it can simulate the realism of human imperfection.
Inconsistent Volume Levels – There is a noticeable volume difference between some of the articulations. This would be a non-issue for anyone using separate channels for each articulation, but could be an annoyance for those who regularly use keyswitches.
I find the sound of Chamber Strings to be one of its great strengths, and this strength is only enhanced by the multiplicity of microphones on offer here. The number of microphones offered in Chamber Strings far surpasses what I would expect in a string library at this price point. You can mix and match any of the following:
Decca Tree (D) – Three microphones in a “T” like arrangement above the conductor’s head. This gives you a larger sound than you would normally expect from a chamber string library.
Sides (S) – These are two outrigger microphones positioned at the same height and depth as the decca tree but placed at the far right and left of the hall. This gives you the ability to get a wide sound from Chamber Strings.
Rears (R) – These are two microphones with the same width as the side microphones but placed further back. These are the most distant mics and are helpful when blending Chamber Strings with larger libraries.
Stereo Pair (XY) – This offers a stereo pair of microphones placed next to each other in an X formation. This staple of chamber music gives you more detail while maintaining some of the sound of the room.
Close Ribbon (CR) – This is a ribbon microphone that was used to capture the section and is good for recreating the sound you might hear in older recordings.
Bleeds (B) – Unique to Light and Sound, this microphone position was created by leaving all of the microphones open for the other sections and then panning them to their natural positions to create a stereo image. Light and Sound then included one close microphone that was positioned toward the back of the section providing a stereo microphone image with the natural bleed you might expect to hear in real recording sessions.
Close (C) – This is where the detail is at – a close, detailed microphone that gives you with the most control. You can use this alone or in conjunction with other positions to add more detail and nuance
The large number of microphone positions here offers you a lot of control and allows you to tailor the sound of each instrument more than you might initially expect in a string library at this price.
The standard articulations are on offer in Chamber Strings, along with a few more to boot. The legato longs for each instrument are really nice and you also get dynamic legato longs and legato tremolos. This is a notable feature, as I haven’t seen these kinds of dynamic legatos or legato tremolos before. They sound great. One thing to note is that portamento has been excluded from Chamber Strings, and I do miss it when trying to add realism to my legato lines. The shorts are crisp and come with a speed slider for faster or slower playing (essentially, ranging from a slower to a faster staccato). By default, the slider engages Time Machine Pro which only has a voice limit of 128. You must keep this in mind when trying to play multiple notes, as you can quickly hit the voice threshold and begin to experience notes dropping out. However, you can disable the slider by ctrl + click on the speed slider. Another unique articulation that I find useful is the Doubles articulation. Pushing the key plays a short note that is followed by a rebow upon release. There are three dynamic layers and three round robins that prevent the machine gun effect that could have easily crept in here. This is a helpful articulation when you want to play a very fast and driving single note. Both the Longs and Dynamic Longs sound great. I did find there to be more “air” in the high register of the Violins I and II instruments for both the legatos and longs, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The longs and are given even more expression through use of the pedal. Light and Sound have scripted a unique pedal feature for some of these articulations that allows you to use a softer attack and a diminuendo when the pedal is engaged. This comes with a bit of a learning curve but seems to be a nice addition once you completely figure it out (which I have yet to do). Light and Sound offer some nice walkthrough videos on their website and I would recommend you watch them before diving in fully. However, I do think the instruction manual and video section could be enhanced to make this library’s unique features and articulations even more accessible.
I find Light and Sound Chamber Strings to be a welcome addition to the plethora of string libraries on offer. Chamber strings are probably the least represented within the sample world of strings, so Light and Sound deserve a pat on the back for bringing us something in this space. There are some flaws within the library, but I know of nothing that competes within this price range. With Chamber Strings, Light and Sound have given us access to some great sounding chamber string samples that won’t break the bank.
Seven microphone positions
Requires the full version of Kontakt 5.6.8 or above.