Review: China Zheng by Amplesound
Beautifully sampled, the sound is incredible.
The most feature-rich and playable Guzheng on the market.
Huge amount of articulations- licks, scales, glisses, and more.
Easy to use interface.
A variety of tailor-made presets based on different tones and styles.
Amplesound knocks it out of the park with their Guzheng library, China Zheng, offering a beautiful tone and many features not available elsewhere, while presented in a simple, clean interface.
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Review: China Zheng by Ample Sound
Amplesound has long been known for their excellent guitar libraries, so I was eager to try out their newer Ample China series. So far, this collection includes the Pipa, Guzheng, and most recently, the Qudi (a wind instrument). Needless to say, the library did not disappoint, offering a feature-rich library sampled with care and detail.
China Zheng sells for $169 from Amplesound
The Guzheng is a Chinese plucked string instrument (technically, a zither) that almost anyone is sure to recognize as soon as they hear it. It is a staple in almost any Chinese instrumental song, and has a beautiful, almost harp-like tone, just with a more biting attack. It’s played by a musician who usually wears picks on each finger to pluck the strings, and is often played in a very expressive tremolo style, complete with slides and bends, which are performed by pressing on the strings with the left hand. For a sample library to really capture the true character of the instrument, it would surely take a lot of work and care, as there are so many ornaments, and the playing style on it’s own is so unique and distinct. If you are not familiar with the name of the instrument, I encourage you to do a quick Google search to listen to some samples, as it’s an incredible instrument and is very closely tied with traditional Chinese music, and I can almost guarantee you are sure to recognize the iconic and distinct sound it produces.
Amplesound have gone above and beyond with this library, paying very close attention to every little nuance and technique that makes this instrument so expressive and wonderful. It’s hosted in their standalone VST sampler, so if you own any of their other libraries, it will instantly be familiar. The sampler itself is very efficient and a joy to use, and light on resources.
There are three separate layouts, or ways of playing the instrument: Keyboard mode, where each note is mapped across your keyboard, which gives you access to every tone the instrument can produce in any variety. For instance, an actual Guzheng is tuned to a major pentatonic scale, so you will only have access to a specific set of notes, you will not be able to play semitones or chromatic scales. This is in part what gives the instrument such a distinctive character, as this scale is closely tied to the traditional sound of Chinese music. In Keyboard mode, however, you can play the Guzheng just like you would a piano, and have access to the full chromatic scale.
In instrument mode, only the instrument’s true playable notes are mapped to your keyboard, so this would be the major pentatonic scale. You can change the key of the instrument at any time. This option gives you a much more authentic performance, as it only uses the notes that the real instrument would be able to produce, though it will not be as flexible as using keyboard mode.
Finally, there’s gliss mode, which plays a glissando between whichever two notes you press in sequence on your keyboard. How fast you press the next note determines the speed of the glissando. If you hit a C, wait one second, and hit the C an octave above, it performs a slow, methodical glissando to that note. If you immediately press the next note, however, you get a faster, fluid glissando between those two notes. It’s a nice way of creating natural glssandi between whichever notes you desire.
Overall, the ornaments and tremolo performances are what really define the Guzheng, and I was truly impressed with how Amplesound handled these aspects of the library. There are a very wide variety of articulations on offer here, from standard plucked sustains, to harmonics, tremolo, almost every variety of bend, and even a full range of pre-determined glissandi as well as a variety of pre-recorded licks, which all sound simply incredible. The tone of this library overall is pure, pristine, with just the perfect amount of ambience for my taste. If you want a more dry signal, there are 5 mic positions available, so you can dial in practically any sound you desire.
The bends are extensively sampled, and the transitions between notes and articulations is of special importance here. If you hit a key, and then tap one of the keyswitches for the various bends, it seamlessly performs that ornament on whichever note you are currently playing. You don’t have to hit the keyswitch first and then press the new note, you can truly do this “on the fly”, adding whole bends up, whole bends down, fast “tap” bends, slow bends, anything, simply by utilizing the keyswitches. It all works seamlessly and sounds natural no matter which note you’re playing, and adds nuance and realism to any performance. The tremolo articulation is also very important, and it is very expressive and natural. Everything is velocity sensitive too, including the tremolos, so pressing the key softly will give the note a very soft, slow attack, then swell up in dynamics as you hold the note. It’s very expressive and sounds amazing, but if you want a harder attack, just hit the key harder, and you’ll get an instant, sharp attack followed by the natural tremolo dynamics of the performance. Even more impressive, is how natural it sounds to transition from playing a sustained note to a tremolo, or from a tremolo to a sustain. Simply hit the keyswitch and it instantly changes to the new articulation, and the way it flows is incredibly natural and impressive. Creating realistic, beautiful performances for the Guzheng has never been this easy or sounded this good.
In addition to the main articulations, you are given a variety of presets which each focus on a slightly different tone or style of playing, as well as a built-in dynamic EQ which also gives you a variety of EQ presets to play with. The pre-recorded licks and performed glissandi all sound incredible too… there’s just a ton of content packed into this library, and it really feels like they have gone above and beyond to deliver the most comprehensive, realistic, and instantly playable Guzheng library on the market.
The China Zheng retails for $169 and includes 8 GB of content, and requires an iLok account to authorize before using.
China Zheng sells for $169 from Amplesound
Contributor Brian Freeland reviews China Zheng by Amplesound
“Amplesound knocks it out of the park with their Guzheng library, China Zheng, offering a beautiful tone and many features not available elsewhere, while presented in a simple, clean interface.”