Review: Legion Series: 66 Cellos Ensemble by 8Dio

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Want a huge cello ensemble, but don’t have the space or budget to accommodate dozens of players? Look no further! 8Dio are back at it with another huge ensemble offering in 66 Cellos. All of the strengths and weaknesses you might expect from such a massive cello section are found here. However, if you are looking for warmth and beauty, there is plenty on offer here.

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Review: Legion Series: 66 Cellos Ensemble by 8Dio

8Dio consistently pushes the world of sample libraries to unexpected places. 66 Cellos is unexpected. Who would think to fly in dozens of cello players from around the world to record a mammoth ensemble of 66 cellos? The unexpected road is full of beauty and danger. 66 Cellos is a little of both. For instance, within this single library you will find 66 cellos playing the glorious Arc articulations 8Dio has long been known for, but you will also find some of the synthy-sounding patches you might expect from a room full of the sound of bowed strings playing in unison.

Legion Series: 66 Cellos Ensemble sells for $298.00 from 8Dio

Thoughts

Among all the stringed instruments, cello is my favorite. I have long loved 8Dio string libraries, with their Century Strings being one of my favorite sample libraries ever. So, when I heard 8Dio had recorded 66 of these lovelies and created a sample library out of them, I couldn’t wait to dive in!

As with many other things, there are strengths and weaknesses to recording 66 cellists in unison for a sample library. The obvious strength is that you are going to get a wall of stringed beauty which simply could never be achieved within the traditional orchestral 12 cello section. The sound of that many cellos playing in unison is powerful, and oh, so cinematic. Couple that with the arc patches 8Dio’s string libraries have become famous for, and you have sheer cinematic bliss! However, there is a fine line here in distinguishing between the sound of 66 cellos and a nose-dive into sounding like a synthesizer. For me, 66 Cellos goes right up to that line, so much so that some are going to love its sound and find its tone blissful, while others are going to decry it for sounding “too synthy.”

66 Cellos is presented with two main folders (Main Microphones and Spot Microphones) that contain nine patches each. Each multi patch comes with multiple articulations that fall within the playing style of the overall patch heading. There are Arcs, Legato Looped, Legato, Ostinato, Poly Arcs, SFX, Shorts, Sustains Looped, and Sustains. Both Main and Spot Microphones folders also contain an Individual Patches folder, allowing you to load in single articulations to save RAM. I will give a brief synopsis of what you can expect to find within each patch below.

Arcs & Poly Arcs
In the interest of time, I’m going to combine my overview of the Arcs and Poly Arcs patches here. The Arcs patch comes with 8 articulations: Short Arcs PP-P-PP, Short Arcs P-MP-P, Short Arcs MP-F-MP, Long Arcs PP-P-PP, Long Arcs P-MP-P, Long Arcs MP-F-MP, Short Arcs (CC1), and Long Arcs (CC1). If you read my Century Strings review from a couple of years ago, you will remember my incessant fawning over 8Dio’s Arcs. In my opinion, the Arcs are possibly the best patches in the world of sampled strings. They achieve a realism that just doesn’t seem possible with traditional articulations, no matter how adept you are at MIDI CC programming. In 66 Cellos, the Arcs are beautiful. 66 cellos playing Arcs in unison drips with cinematic emotion. However, for me, the Poly Arcs are really the star of the show. One of the limitations of the Arc patches in previous 8Dio string libraries was that you mostly needed to play all the notes simultaneously. While there are of course exceptions to this rule, since each new note triggered a new crescendo/decrescendo, playing subsequent notes could result in some awkward swells. Enter the Poly Arcs! The Poly Arcs allow you to play entire phrases with a single swelling arc motion. This adds a whole new level of realism and beauty, as programming this kind of motion would be difficult for many composers. The Poly Arcs contain the same articulations as the other Arcs patch. The only drawback to these patches is that you will need to completely disengage the keys you are holding down prior to moving to a new chord, but this makes complete sense and is necessary in order to fit each note within the single flowing arc. I really love these patches and believe that many scores and tracks could benefit from them. If you own any of the previous string libraries from 8Dio, try layering the Arc patches in 66 Cellos with Arcs from their other libraries. This library creates a wall of sound that is wonderful for supporting a smaller, more detailed cello patch.

Legato & Legato Looped
The Legato and Legato Looped patches contain the same articulations of Sustain, Tremolo, and Sul Tasto, with the Legato patch also containing Marcato. The only difference here is that the looped patch contains loops to allow them to sustain indefinitely, while the Legato patches end naturally. The legato here is great for creating a huge lead line but is expectedly not so good at fast passages. I mean, would you really expect 66 Cellos to be able to play a fast passage in unison? That’s hard enough for a traditional 12 cello ensemble to do! My one complaint here is that there is a lot of portamento. No matter how hard/soft, fast/slow you play, you will likely hear some portamento. This would be great for soaring and simple emotional lead lines, but not so great for anything else.

Ostinato
I’m a huge fan of libraries that include prefab ostinatos. They make a composer’s life so much easier, as you can simply hold down a note and get the 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, etc. repetition you want. They also make your string patterns sound more realistic, as you get some of the baked-in bow changes, etc. that you couldn’t get from simply pressing a key over and over. There are a good number of patterns to choose from here, from Crescendo and Decrescendo ostinatos, to Spiccatos in varying dynamics and patterns. Again, I can see these adding depth and fullness when layered with other smaller and more detailed string libraries.

SFX
There are 4 sound effects articulations included in the SFX patch: Tuning Cluster 1, Tuning Cluster 2, Extremely Long Crescendo, and Seagulls. Each of these are likely what you would expect, except you probably have never heard them performed by 66 Cellos before!

Shorts
There are 4 short articulations: Pizzicato, Spiccato, Bartok Pizzicato, and Marcato. My two favorites here are the Spiccatos and Bartok Pizzicato. The Spiccatos are powerful and full of depth, while the Bartok Pizzicatos are brash and bombastic. Like much of what you find in 66 Cellos, you might not use these in every situation, but you will be glad you have them when the right track or score presents itself.

Sustains & Sustains Looped
The Sustains and Sustains Looped each contain Sustain, Tremolo, Sul Tasto, and Harmonics, while the Sustains patch also has Marcato. The Sul Tasto patch is gentle and gorgeous, the Tremolo is noisy and aggressive, and the Harmonics are unique and other-worldly. I love harmonics played by string ensembles, but I have never heard anything quite like the harmonics found in 66 Cellos. These are simply stunning.

Lastly, 66 Cellos is wrapped in the fantastic modern engine 8Dio has recently been using for their new libraries. The engine gives you full control over the microphone mix, a sequencer, modulator, and a plethora of on-board effects. The “Reverse” and “Chaos” buttons can yield some fun and unusual results by combining different parameters in random ways. Much more could be said about the engine here but suffice it to say that it’s powerful and has plenty of sound-shaping possibilities.

66 Cellos is a fantastic example of a developer pushing samples into new sonic territory. The patches here deep, beautiful, aggressive, gentle, and just about everything in between. Most of all, they are very usable, and add a new color to the modern composer’s pallet that they could never produce on their own. Bravo, 8Dio!

Facts

Legion Series: 66 Cellos Ensemble downloads as 11 GB. It contains over 15,000 samples with 10 different microphone perspectives. 66 Cellos requires the full version of Kontakt 5.8 or later. You can purchase Legion Series: 66 Cellos from 8Dio for $298.

Legion Series: 66 Cellos Ensemble sells for $298.00 from 8Dio

 

Demos of Legion Series: 66 Cellos Ensemble by 8Dio

Videos of Legion Series: 66 Cellos Ensemble by 8Dio

Contributor Raborn Johnson reviews Legion Series: 66 Cellos Ensemble by 8Dio
“Want a huge cello ensemble, but don’t have the space or budget to accommodate dozens of players? Look no further! 8Dio are back at it with another huge ensemble offering in 66 Cellos. Many of the strengths and weaknesses you might expect from such a massive cello section are found here. However, if you are looking for warmth and beauty, there is plenty on offer here.”