Review Intimate Strings Solo Bundle from Embertone

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For less than $100 an instrument Embertone’s Strings Solo Bundle gives you some of the most detailed, life-like solo strings available with all the controls necessary to create some beautiful performances.

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Review Intimate Strings Solo Bundle from Embertone

Intimate Strings Solo Bundle sells for $375 (USD) from Embertone

Thoughts

I have a confession. I have been avoiding solo string VI’s. You see, first impressions really do matter and when I started using VI’s over 15 years ago no solo string instruments on the market were passable for the level of work I needed to be able to create. That is all slowly changing with many new developers crafting some great sounding solo strings you can get away with using.

But once I started digging into Embertone’s Intimate Strings Solo Bundle my eyes are opened. This bundle sets a precedent as a complete selection of solo string virtual instruments giving the composer some of the most detailed, life-like playability I have heard. With the bundle each instrument will cost you less that $100 each – making this collection a fantastic buy.

 

Highlights

ARTICULATIONS
The engine is well thought out with “held” keys witches allowing you to jump back and forth from the articulations easily. Although the playable articulations do very from instrument-to-instrument each instrument contains the main articulations (sustain, staccato pizzicato, tremolo) a fantastic sounding set of legato sample transitions which include velocity sensitivity for different legato sample playback such as portamento. Digging in and working with the kontakt instruments I was thrilled to see they included sordino (mute) and sol ponticello (played at the bridge) for all the solo strings. The Violin and Viola both come with Sul Tasto (bowed over the finger board) while the Leonid Bass comes with a Harmonic articulation.
Embertone has thought these out carefully allowing you to trigger articulations that would be achievable by real life players. For example: you are able to play a sustain articulation with a mute on (sordino) and bow at the bridge (sol pont).

FriedlanderViolinEmbertone

Friedlander Violin from Embertone Main GUI

The samples sets sound phenomenal and moving from one articulation to the next is balanced and expressive.
VIBRATO
Each of the instruments has a Vibrato Display in the center of the front panel of the GUI. Just like a real player would play Embertone suggests that using “vibrato is most effective when it is varied/altered so that it never remains constant on one setting”. Playing back the instruments I found the vibrato to be very life-like and expressive.  Embertone has recommended that iPad users download the Touch OSC app to be able to control vibrato with simple finger movements. I loaded up my iPad and found playing the instruments with the additional controls for vibrato and color made playing the instrument that much more life-like. Plus it will save you time having to go in after tracking to create all of the CC data.

The vibrato has additional Style Presets. You can choose these with a pull down and changes a bunch of settings and parameters of the instrument that replicate different vibrato playing styles. The Vibrato presets are Default (specially tweaked by Embertone) Progressive (ramps up the amount of vibrato) Open String (simulates the way a player would play vibrato on an open string -bending a muted string), Passionate (soft fade ins, with wider response from note to note) and Gentle (narrower response for calmer playing)

Embertone Fischer Viola Vibrato Style with Color Mode on

Embertone Fischer Viola Vibrato Style Preset Menu with Color Mode on

COLOR
All of the solo strings instruments have a specialty script to adjust the “color”.  This allows playback to vary in timbre that simulates moving the bows contact point on the string (from bridge to fingerboard). This can be set with controller data and adds another wonderful dimension of realism.

Now I am thrilled with what Embertone has done with these solo stings. I think the playability is beautiful but I feel it is important to stress that with these instruments (just like many VIs) you will need to put a good amount of controller data into to get the realism you desire. Luckily, Embertone has given you all the tools necessary in a well thought out interface AND the added Touch OSC app to make this happen.
ENSEMBLE
Embertone’s programmer Andreas Lemke came up with the concept  and scripting for the instruments ability to go into Ensemble Mode. Using round robins, pitch-shifts, panning, and timing adjustments you can get up to 8 instrument playback simulation. The Ensemble page has additional controls for timing and intonation.

The ensembles sound pretty nice and I might try them for getting a small intimate section sound. I can especially see the usefulness of have a section instrument that can provide sordino, sol pont or sol tasto. Although I do like the sound and feature I think for my usual orchestral template I will probably stic to a dedicated ensemble patch for a fuller, grander sound.

Embertone Leonid Bass Ensemble Panel GUI

Embertone Leonid Bass Ensemble Panel GUI

CONFIGURATION PAGE
The instruments contains a Configure Page with controls for True Legato (turn off legato to save RAM), Retrigger (legato playback to held notes), Short Dynamic (Velocity or CC) Length Control, Release Samples (on/off) Portamento (cc mode for wind controller) Portamento Threshold (velocity setting for portamento transition) Responsiveness (change transition of legato sample) Transition Level Controls, Bow Noise Reduction (EQ isolating the bow noise frequencies) Intonation Randomize (tightness/randomness of pitch) Speed Range (responsiveness of the instrument.) Dynamic Keyswitch Threshold (MOMENTARY keyswitch with a low velocity)

Embertone Intimate Solo Strings Configuration Page

Embertone Intimate Solo Strings Configuration Page

EVEN MORE CONTROL

Each of the Embertone Intimate Solo String instruments has a Control panel. This panel will allows users to select custom CC control values for these controls and set key switches.

Embertone Solo Strings ControlsInterface

Embertone Solo Strings ControlsInterface

CPU and MEMORY
From what I understand the first release of the ISS Violin used a serious amount of memory/CPU. With the latest releases Embertone has made some serious Memory/CPU Improvements. That said these are pro instruments for speedy machines with good amount of RAM spo you should heed the requirements for using these instruments. With the latest releases of the instruments you now have the ability to purge the legato transitions you aren’t using and free up some memory, while keeping all the other articulations loaded up.

In total the Intimate Strings Bundle Solo downloads as a little under 13GB and is compatible with both the free & Full version of Native Instruments Kontakt 5.5 or higher. I will be using these instruments in my work and I recommend them for serious composers looking for a complete set of solo strings.

Don’t take my word for it though, you can get a LITE version of the instruments to try out for FREE.
Intimate Strings Solo Bundle sells for $375 (USD) from Embertone

Official Demos of Intimate Strings Solo Bundle

Official Videos of Intimate Solo String Bundle