Review: Con Moto – Violas & Con Moto – Basses by Performances Samples


Con Moto – Violas and Con Moto – Basses complete the family of strings that encompasses the maverick sampling approach of Performance Samples. For lively, expressive and realistic sustains with plenty of ambience they are amongst the best on the market right now.

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Review: Con Moto – Violas & Con Moto – Basses by Performances Samples

Two years since we first heard Con Moto – Cellos the whole string section is finally complete with the joint release of the violas and basses. For those less well acquainted with this series, Con Moto means ‘with motion’ and all of the sections have been recorded and manipulated with this in mind. The net results are very expressive samples that breathe with a liveliness that many other libraries struggle to achieve. With much of the conceptual ideas and sampling techniques already perfected, the main goal of the violas and basses was to match the high bar set from the previous sections. The superb Capellen orchestra is again employed with six violas and six basses in a clear, reverberant hall.

Con Moto – Violas & Con Moto – Basses sells for Violas – $109, Basses $69 from Performances Samples


Performance Samples have a very unique approach to sample libraries in that the production and programming of them entail a complexity that is the total opposite of the very minimal interface. I have to admit when I first encountered them some years back, I was underwhelmed by the standard GUI, which lacks any hint of fancy graphic design and in 2020 nothing has changed. It is purely functional and in use this minimalism is actually perfect, giving enough control but not too much that you endlessly fiddle. As both of these libraries share broadly the same functionality I will explain that first and then talk a little about the different sections themselves.

Basses – Main GUI

As shown above we have 4 mic positions – first chair, close section, Decca Tree and wide – with volume, mute, solo, panning and individual assignable outputs for each. You can load/unload each position from RAM too (the full lot needs about 700MB). There is a button to engage legato and configurable controls to select the dynamics CC and the legato/polyphonic keyswitch.

Clicking on the B box in the lower right brings up various dynamic and register options. There are controls for both increasing and decreasing the dynamic range ie. you can have the low dynamics at the same volume as the high dynamics, or expand them so the relative volumes are more extreme. Two other sliders decrease the relative volumes of the low and high registers also. A makeup gain knob is there to restore any volume lost in these processes. These features work equally well to either better balance performances after you have recorded your midi data, or as parameters to set before you play that will influence your playing.


Advanced Controls

The mic options are pretty much ideal for all but the most specialist user and enable a variety of spatial blends to be dialled in. Everything is recorded with an equal balance across the soundstage, leaving Kontakt in charge of panning to reflect correct orchestral placement, which comes up by default. This does make them usable for more contemporary orchestral seating. Especially in more hybrid mixes having basses too far right can unbalance the low end, so it’s handy to have that flexibility. The first chairs give a relatively dry and intimate timbre and basically amount to having a solo viola or bass that you can add into the other mics for increased definition. Both of the section mics sound clear and present with a good stereo spread. The Decca is where the real action is with all the Con Moto libraries and it really shows off the lush reverb of the recording space. This is a wet library for sure and even the section mics have plenty of ambience, so this is not the ideal library if you are after something edgy and close to place in your own space with 3rd-party reverbs. The wide mics only enhance this as they are the most ambient and produce an epic stereo spread. However, it should be said it is a clear, rather neutral and tonally balanced space that never builds up into echoey mush. A nuanced blend of the closer mics with the hall mics can really give the best of both worlds – direct and focussed yet also powerful and huge sounding.

The viola section consists of six players and I found them to breathe and flow effortlessly under my fingers, the energetic bow-change legato making them exciting to play. There is a nice woody timbre and by bringing in more of the first chair mic you can really start to hear the grain of the bow on the string for added texture.


All of the samples for the Con Moto series are extracted from longer phrase performances and with that comes an increase in the realism and emotion, as the players are not being asked to perform repeated single notes out of context, but to actually play as they would naturally. The violas can handle slow and moderately loud sweeping lines very well, as you might expect, yet also work excellently for loud and fast playing. Whilst you might not quite get super convincing quick runs out of them, they do facilitate connected ostinatos at quite a pace. This makes them very versatile for a variety of styles and situations.

The six basses can create a truly thunderous sound, going all the way to fff and I found the first chair mic especially useful to give a tight focus if you have the roomy Decca at full tilt. As the basses often maintain the longest notes in a composition it is here that the Con Moto approach is particularly important. It was achieved by sampling sustains with distinct moderate-tempo bow changes that were then smoothed out in the editing stage to produce a sustained note that is never static. It subtly undulates giving a sense of what the developer calls ‘re-phrasing’. The legato incorporates this bow change and whilst not the smoothest, it does imbue a phrase with plenty of expressiveness.

Both the basses and violas have 3 dynamic layers which are very smoothly blended, taking us from mp to fff. They don’t do very quiet or fade to silence though, which is something to bare in mind depending on your requirements. The vibrato is in the Goldilocks zone of not too much and not too little and increases nicely with the dynamics. Like all the Con Moto collection the releases share the same sampling aesthetic of being derived from real performances that vary according to note length. These are bold and vivid, giving an amazing sense of the recording space and convincing phrase endings once your fingers leave the keyboard. There is a bit of a noise floor apparent, more noticeable on the basses, and they can sometimes seem to fade out a little abruptly, but within a larger arrangement it’s not a noticeable issue. The attacks are lively without being aggressive and fit perfectly with the energy of the sustains.

As a bonus the basses also come with 4 banks of FX with 149 individual samples, which cover a range of unusual articulations such as squeaky pitch drops, a variety of crescendos, percussive hits and low rumbling textures. This extends the usability into more aleatoric realms.

Basses – FX

Any drawbacks to this library are very honestly mentioned by Performance Samples themselves on the webpage for each instrument. It probably helps to counter any potential post-purchase grumbles and it’s a nice touch, living in a world of constant hyperbole, to be so revealing about the limitations. For both libraries the issues are very similar, namely a slight ‘room bump’ on the attack of the more ambient mics due to extracting the samples from connected performances, an at times disjointed legato with obvious bow change, a rough nature and how compressing the high and low registers does not work properly with legato. I have to say non of these is a big deal. The legato is generally smooth and only slightly lumpy on certain intervals. The ambience bleed is mainly only in the wide mics and hardly noticeable within a full mix. In terms of the rough nature being a drawback, I actually see the less processed rawness of the samples as a positive attribute! For the high/low compression issue, simply avoid using with legato. One thing that end users should be aware of is that there is 140ms delay (80ms for the bass FX) which is there to enhance the legato and releases. This can mean they lack a degree of responsiveness when playing in live, but it is a sacrifice worth having and can be compensated for by applying the same midi offset in your DAW.

I was very glad to see that both of these libraries lived up to the top notch standard of the violins and cellos. Phrases flow in a beautifully animated manner that I found hard to match with most other libraries. The innovative ‘active-bow’ sampling and editing technique which Jasper Blunk (the main man behind Performance Samples) developed for these libraries should be much applauded for how it pushes forward the level of emotion a modern composer can get from mere digital files and a midi keyboard. For those interested in finding out more about the sampling method, the Performance Sampling website has recently added some behind-the-scenes blogs with audio examples that detail not just active-bow sustains, but other subjects too that are well worth checking out.

I would advise anyone interested in the basses and violas to consider the full Con Moto string bundle, as they really do work best together (check out the demos below for great examples of the full string section). They also blend brilliantly with other Performance Samples libraries, especially Oceania which shares the same sampling approach, and Caspian and Fluid Shorts which share the same hall.

However, even with a full Con Moto collection it should be noted you will only be getting polyphonic and legato sustains, so these are very much not a comprehensive string library with a multitude of articulations. With that in mind the price probably puts them into a specialist area for writers who seek energetic and emotional longs that have a distinctly wet ambience. It is likely these will attract composers who already have a workhorse string library in their collection. I did find them very flexible though in terms of styles they could cover – anything from fantasy adventure, to slower, romantic drama to bold and powerful epic genres. For working at speed they are ideal too, as they are hugely responsive and realistic parts can be created with a minimum of further midi editing. Both the violas and basses are worthy additions to complete the Con Moto set and for sustained strings they are undoubtably up there with the best of the rest.


Both libraries use Kontakt lossless compression of 48k, 24bit files. All samples are extracted from real performances. There are 6 players in each section, with 3 dynamic layers and 4 mic positions. The violas are a nimble 1.22GB in size and the basses a little more at 1.42GB. They require a full version of Kontakt.

Con Moto – Violas & Con Moto – Basses sells for Violas – $109, Basses $69 from Performances Samples


Demos of Con Moto – Violas & Con Moto – Basses by Performances Samples

Contributor Sam Burt reviews Con Moto – Violas & Con Moto – Basses by Performances Samples
“Con Moto – Violas and Con Moto – Basses complete the family of strings that encompasses the maverick sampling approach of Performance Samples. For lively, expressive and realistic sustains with plenty of ambience they are amongst the best on the market right now.”