Review: Mercury Micro Boys Choir by Soundiron

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Mercury Micro is a fine introduction to the stellar quality of the Soundiron boys choir range, with very usable and accessible patches. Great for the basics, but for more advanced composition, users will want to look to larger versions of the Mercury libraries.

Jump to the Demos of Mercury Micro Boys Choir

Jump to the Videos of Mercury Micro Boys Choir

 

 

Review: Mercury Micro Boys Choir by Soundiron

Soundiron are one of the big hitters in the sample library world and creating huge, believable choirs has always been one of their specialisms, going all the way back to their former days as Tonehammer. Mercury Micro is the baby of the family, being the youngest brother in the Mercury trio of products (Mercury Symphonic Boys Choir, Mercury Elements). All of these libraries benefit from the big-brother instruments sample set and feature a boys choir with Micro being the most basic and pared down version. Albeit dwarfed by the range of features in the full Symphonic and Elements incarnations, Micro is nonetheless a superb starter library with a minimal learning curve.

Mercury Micro Boys Choir sells for $29 from Soundiron

 

Thoughts

I came to Mercury Micro with some excitement as I purchased Soundiron‘s Requiem Light last year. This is the developer’s trailer focused adult choir which I am using in some epic work. I have found it to be a really accomplished library with the top flight sound quality we have come to expect from the Soundiron crew.

I was able to load up the Mercury Micro sustains patch and quickly get my head around the interface and straight into playing with the sounds.

Recorded in the Montclair Presbyterian Hall, just outside of San Francisco, the Pacific Boychoir truly make a lovely sound. All the articulations are very pristine, pure and well edited. The performances are superbly executed and well captured by an array of Neumann mics. Ambience is ‘baked in’ so you have no control on the wetness of the sound, but it is done tastefully, as the recording space is the same as used for the top of the range Olympus choir libraries.

Rest assured it is a tried and tested hall sound. However, the sustains lacked much of this natural reverb, which leads me to suspect that in Micro they are only giving you the close mics on the sustains (staccatos and poly-sustains seem to have more ‘hall’ in them). In addition to the recorded ambiance most of the patches come up with the Kontakt convolution reverb engaged, so be sure to check that out too, as you might want to take it off and use your own favorite plugin reverb (though it does sound pretty nice anyway).

With the Micro incarnation of Mercury, the ambience is ‘baked in’ so you have no control on the wetness of the sound.

 

Mercury Micro is straightforward to understand and learn. There are 3 main patches followed by 17 FX nki presets. First up is the sustains which focuses on two vowels only – ah and oo.

 

As in all the patches, you get the expected selection of tweakables such as attack, release, offset, panning and a blend slider to fade smoothly between vowel sounds. The latter works pretty well enabling you to conjure up a range of morphed vowels, which does expand the tonal palette. All of the parameters are preset to midi cc for which you will need to consult the manual, though of course they can be customized to suit. With such classically themed libraries the dynamic swell is always one of the most important elements and while they may only include pianissimo and forte samples here, you can get a convincing dramatic swell going on, as my audio examples show.

By the way, in order to show off the samples in their rawest form, unless stated, all the audio in this review does not include the added virtual reverb or vibrato.

There is a good range of pitch on offer, from F2 to C5, though the very highest two notes sound a tad pinched and do not sit perfectly with A4 and below. I also found once you get that high and play a few notes together it seems to create an odd grinding resonance, not entirely pleasant to my ears. Arguably though, these piercing highs will work fantastically in a dense mix and really poke through a larger wall of symphonic glory.

 

I really liked the pad button which takes off the release samples and puts a generous curve on the attack and release. On lower registers and with the reverb dialled in high it gives an instant atmospheric sound.

Each patch has additional control for reverb and EQ and the sustains also incorporate vibrato and legato parameters. Neither vibrato or legato is derived from real samples, so we have fairly average virtual emulations. I think work would have to be done on both for it to be truly convincing when playing monophonic melodic lines, though it is passable contextually.

This is where the more equipped larger Mercury products come into their own, with true legato and round robins to add realism.

Moving on we have a staccato NKI, again focussing on the two main ah and oo vowels and with a tempo-sync option which automatically adjusts note length to match tempo.

 

I found it not without time stretching artifacts, but it does the job ok. Sadly, it is this articulation that lets the side down, as the lack of round robins becomes really apparent and any repeating notes get the machine gun effect. You will get by if layered and buried in a mix, but it will not sound great when exposed. Again, this is where you get the feeling that this really is a very introductory product, almost like a glorified demo of the full monty. That being said, as the audio examples show, if you are creating phrases in harmony it is still a really crisp and lush sound. Note that the second example here shows the hybrid vowel tone you can create when setting a mix of ah and oo.

The third main articulation on offer is the poly-sustains, featuring two articulations from Christian liturgy – “Kyrie” and “Eleison”.

 

 

They are beautifully done, giving you instant epic Gregorian vibes and being tempo-sync-able it is simple to fit them in neatly across a range of speeds. In this example Eleison is just played free time in harmony.

I then used the exact same notes but engaged tempo sync at 80bpm and added a swell and convolution reverb.

I also found engaging the pad button and slowly blending between the two can also give you a washy, dreamlike and constantly evolving choir pad. The full blown products encompass phrase builders and many more sung words, which I have no doubt would be hugely exciting to work with. Of course, you can still do plenty with what is on offer here as the sound quality and authenticity is top notch.

Finally, a most welcome feature is a set of sound designed FX presets which really do show the varied tones you can coax out of what is a limited amount of original audio. Through back-end Kontakt tweaking and by abusing the front panel vibrato, reverb and EQ settings the pristine source samples are morphed into warbling swarms, ambient soundscapes and dissonant atmospheres to great effect.

Certainly an inspiring alternative when you want a less synthy and more organic pad. With a minimum of notes you can get some powerful textures.

Unfortunately loading the final FX Inner Limits kept crashing Pro Tools, so this might be a bug (let me know if anyone else is having this issue).

Mercury Micro is going to appeal to two main end users. At such a low price of entry it will probably cover the needs of composers who only use choir occasionally and just want the quite specific tone of a boys choir as an additional colour, alongside a larger more comprehensive adult choir. On the other hand are those that are seriously thinking about the more fleshed out Mercury Elements or even the full blown Mercury Symphonic and want to give it a proper road test before flashing the cash. Either way, what you get for $29 is a bit of a steal really. My main grievances with Micro are things that are kind of unavoidable in such a starter library package – lack of round robins, no legato, restrictions on vowel sounds – rather than being criticisms of the samples themselves.

What you do get here are highly polished and professional sounds that when combined amongst other instruments and not used too much in isolation will bring a whole new timbre and feel to both traditional and hybrid scoring.

Mercury Micro is the boisterous little brother of the three Mercury siblings, punching above his weight and I am certainly eager to see what those teenage years have to offer in the shape of the more comprehensive choir packs Soundiron have to offer.

Facts

209 Samples at 24 bit / 48kHz make up the 303 MB Installed. it features 3 main nki patches with a further 17 more sound designed presets. Somewhat unusually the wav samples are unlocked and can be directly imported into almost any wav-compatible plugin or DAW. You will need the full version of Kontakt 5.5.2 to run this.

Mercury Micro Boys Choir sells for $29 from Soundiron

Demos of Mercury Micro Boys Choir

Videos of Mercury Micro Boys Choir