Review: Dominus Choir Pro by Fluffy Audio
A great sounding choir library.
Performance is accurate and consistent.
Word building is easy once you learn the basic system.
Latin language implementation is probably the best in the choral library market, and flexible beyond Latin.
CPU usage is worth keeping in mind in larger projects, but it is not unreasonable.
Dominus Choir Pro is a beautiful sounding, and easy to use choral library based on syllable-building. It sounds excellent, has a well-designed interface, responds quickly and reliably, and is a heck of a lot of fun to use. Dominus is a choral library that will inspire new ideas for a wide range of styles.
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Review: Dominus Choir Pro by Fluffy Audio
In a nutshell, Dominus Choir Pro is a full choir with separate male and female sections with multiple mic options, user definable synchronized phrase playback, a word-building system based on classical Latin, and a key-switch system for recalling phrases. But that hardly describes the capabilities of this library.
Dominus Choir Pro sells for $649.00 from Fluffy Audio
Dominus Choir runs in the full version of Kontakt 5 (or 6), and just like Fluffy Audio’s Venice Modern Strings, includes 4 stereo mic positions – spot, close, mid and far. Each section has multiple keyswitched articulations, which can also be loaded individually. Dominus includes Legato, Marcato and Staccato articulations. Legato includes both monophonic and polyphonic, with “true legato” for all vowels (more on this a bit later). Dominus has 346 syllables for legato, and 60 for Marcato and Staccato, each, with over 200 pre-made words. The word building system is designed to deliver quick results, and it works very well. The library interface is divided into two sections – the Words section, and 3-tab section for Engine, Mix, and Word Edit.
Dominus sounds great. As with Venice Strings, all four mic positions are equally useful, and sound very good individually, as well as in combined mixes. The vocal performances are consistent and accurate. I have yet to find any tuning, entrance, or ending problems. The main setup page is shown below:
The way Dominus works is you define a word, or even a phrase and the timing for each syllable. That phrase can then be selected via key command, and played however you want, within the timing defined for the phrase. In other words, if you have a phrase made up of three syllables and define the first to be a half note, and the second and third to be quarter notes, if you simply hold a chord, that phrase will play the first syllable for 2 beats, and then proceed to the final two syllables on the next two quarter notes. You can also move pitches while a syllable is being held for its note duration – i.e. you can create a 4-note, 8th note phrase for a syllable defined to hold two beats (half not duration) by playing a legato (slightly overlapping notes) line. Note releases trigger Dominus to move to the next syllable. Dominus allows you to set a quantize value for words, or play free-form, but the word or phrase will be synced to tempo either way.
Dominus uses an ingenious system for defining words using overlapping syllables. Unlike other libraries where you might define each consonant and vowel separately, then need to tweak the transitions to create realism, Dominus does the transition work for you. When in Word Edit mode, with no syllables defined (i.e. use the backspace carat to delete any currently defined) and you will arrive at the starting point for syllable selection as shown below in Figure 2.
Using the word, “Dominus”, we would start with “DO”, and that will automatically switch the syllable list to all of the options for a next syllable. Here we would select “OMI”, and that will be followed by a new screen with all of the options that could be selected next. Here we select “INU”, and on the next screen, “US”. If you watch the word being built, it isn’t displayed as a combination of the syllables you have selected – i.e. “DO-OMI-INU-US”, but the actual word to be sung “Do-mi-nus”. Each syllable includes a transition from the previous, and to the next, creating a much more realistic performance than simply linking syllables or consonants and vowels. You can also set the note value for each syllable as selected in the Word Edit pane, or after the fact in the Word pane. Once you get the hang of putting words together, the process is very fast and simple. And if you know Latin, it is even easier to create realistic and accurate Latin phrases, chants and choral compositions.
Of course, the key to using Dominus for longer lines or full choral pieces, is to define each word with the specific melodic and metered phrasing you intend within each line and part, and then record parts as needed. This may mean creating many key switched options, and multiple versions of one word, but it is still far faster than piecing together consonants and vowels. For quick short vocal additions to scores, trailers, or other music, Dominus has probably the most flexible and efficient approaches I have seen to date.
The Dominus Engine:
There are a few options for tweaking the performance of words in Dominus. Under the Engine tab, as shown in Figure 1, there is a display that automatically shows you what part of a word is being generated – starting or ending syllable, and vowel legato. This updates in real time as you play a word. For end user tweaking, there is a “Preroll” on/off switch that provides a more predictive start to each word – i.e. a word may start with a consonant like “r” or “l” that actually leads into the beat. And when enabled, the Word Quantize setting places words directly on the beat. This is available for specific cases rather than typical usage. Some phrasing benefits from sliding word starts back slightly. This isn’t always the case, but with any choral library it makes sense to adjust word entrance timings to fit the line rather than defaulting to hard-quantized midi notes. Release / Legato adjusts the release time of each syllable – so a higher value (slider right) will give a more blurred transition, and the slider all the way left creates a more definitive transition. The faster transition is still realistic, and I have preferred it in most of my work with Dominus so far. I like that Fluffy Audio have kept pretty much every adjustment and aspect of this library within a realistic range. This means you can tweak nuances and easily backtrack without wrecking a performance.
Velocity Lock does what it implies – it locks the velocity to one level for all notes played in a chord so one note doesn’t stand out above the rest. This is not only advantageous for simplifying the initial performance, but once turned off, you could, for example, set all notes to a single lower velocity except the melody within a chord progression to emphasize the melody. This works very well in practice and removes the need to separate parts for individualized CC control, unless so desired.
Keyboard Layout is another powerful feature of Dominus Choir. There are three options in how Dominus interprets input or recorded midi note ranges: Real Notes, Spaced, or Overlap. Real Notes simply plays notes as triggered, regardless of the actual range of the male and female components. Spaced separates the two across the keyboard for separate, but simultaneous performance. And Overlap creates a typical choral range overlap where tenors and altos will often overlap, and the library will also, playing both male and female samples where the ranges overlap.
Polyphonic and Monophonic modes round out the main interface. In Polyphonic mode, Dominus will play chords, with full legato for each note. This works well, but does require slightly more cpu overhead due to the intense scripting required for polyphonic legato. Monophonic is of course a single note at a time. Out of curiosity I compared one instance of the Male Choir “singing” a chordal phrase in polyphonic mode vs. 3 separate instances “singing” each part independently to see how much difference there is in cpu overhead. The first, polyphonic instance, did require noticeably more cpu/ASIO load in Nuendo than three instances playing single-note phrases for the exact same part. I still consider Fluffy Audio’s polyphonic legato mode to be one of the most efficient of any library using this concept (most common in some string libraries). But if you want to conserve a little more overhead, splitting out parts, despite the additional instances of Kontakt, will in fact save some ASIO load (your results may vary in another DAW).
Staccato and Marcato Engine:
There are a few notable differences in the Staccato and Marcato Engine sections: Syllable speed can be increased for shorter notes; and if preferred for some reason, “Auto Shrink” can be turned off – this automatically adapts the syllable lengths to best fit note durations/performance speed. Most users will want to leave this on, as the natural detection system sounds most realistic. Finally, Dynamics Mode can be set to either velocity or the mod wheel. This is always a great option to have in any library as there are times where using a modwheel to control dynamics is more effective than velocity alone, and phrases with several staccato or marcato notes, is one of those.
I have only touched on the capabilities of this library as it is built with a simple interface to deliver fast results, but once you spend time with it, you will realize that the capabilities go far beyond just triggering a few words. It sounds excellent, has a well-designed interface, responds quickly and reliably, and is a heck of a lot of fun to use. Dominus is a choral library that will inspire new ideas for a wide range of styles. Where some choral libraries can be tediously frustrating, Dominus removes a lot of the stress of coming up with choral parts on a tight deadline, or even if there is no deadline. Is this the best choir library on the market? Of course that designation might depend on what each user deems most important, but I will say that it is my primary choral library now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Dominus Choir Pro is 53 GB installed, 53 GB for the downloaded files (total 106 GB free needed to install).
All samples are 24 bit / 48kHz stereo.
PC: Windows XP, Vista, 7 or higher; 4 GB RAM
MAC: OS X 10.5 or higher, 4 GB RAM
Kontakt 5.8.1 Full is required.
Fast internet connection.
Dominus Choir Pro sells for $649.00 from Fluffy Audio
Contributor Dedric Terry reviews Dominus Choir Pro by Fluffy Audio
“Dominus Choir Pro is a beautiful sounding, and easy to use choral library based on syllable-building.”