Review: Santur By Cinematique Instruments

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Despite have some counter-intuitive interface issues, Santur is a wonderful sounding instrument. It was clearly sampled and scripted with a large amount of care and attention to detail and, it’s extremely reasonably priced.

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Review: Santur By Cinematique Instruments

World instruments can often be overlooked in terms of their inclusion in the sample collection of a composer. In the history of sampled world instruments, because there was a less of a demand for these more niche sounds, the quality of those that did exist was often lacking. This lead to a vicious cycle of composers shying away from them because of their notorious lack of realism. Fortunately, in the last little while, this has changed and is now no longer the case. The Santur from Cinematique Instruments is an achievement in high quality deep sampling. It allows this middle eastern hammered dulcimer to be realistically and affordably included in the music of any composer today.

Santur sells for €30 from Cinematique Instruments

Thoughts

When I first loaded up the instrument I was struck with some frustrating UI issues which I will get into in a moment. I don’t want to start there however, because that might cause some users to overlook the tremendous quality of the instrument. The Santur is a hammered dulcimer originating in the middle east. It’s a 72 stringed instrument that is organized in groups of 4 unison strings. Cinematique Instruments has done a terrific job in capturing the detail and nuance of this instrument. For every note, they recorded three velocity layers each with four round robins. This allows a high degree of realism and fluidity when performing a melody on the patch. The instrument also comes with a series of effects such as a reverb, a tempo synced delay, a two band EQ, and a distortion for adding some extra bite to your sound.

The instrument features a wonderfully realistic tremolo. The four round robins is what allows for their tremolo script to really shine. This can be activated either via a keyswitch, or through the use of a sustain pedal. I really enjoy when sample developers offer this flexibility because it allows a musicians prefered performance style to be accomodated. If I’m programming a detailed passage, I would prefer to input keyswich data, however if I’m simply sketching and playing the instrument, I don’t want to be bothered with keyswitches and instead find the option to activate tremolo using my sustain pedal to be very freeing. Once tremolo mode has been activated, it can be controlled in two ways. The first is with the modwheel. Increasing the modwheel value increases the tremolo amount. A value of 0 will have no tremolo and 127 will be full speed. Any value in between will change the speed of the tremolo offering the user the ability to create an incredibly expressive performance. The second way is through use of note off messages. When you press a key, it triggers a note. When the note is released, it triggers a second note. This allows the user very easy and intuitive control for performing more rhythmic tremolo phrases.

As realistic and playable as this instrument is, I found myself frustrated with a series of user interface issues that made certain aspects of it less than intuitive. The first one is the knob on the bottom left of the UI that toggles between the hard and soft mallet. It lists three items: Hard, Mallets, Soft. Before reading any of the info on the library and opening the instrument I expected this knob to toggle between three things, a hard attack, an attack using some kind of mallet, and a soft attack. I found myself confused as the knob was jumping between Hard and Soft. It was then that I realised that they meant Hard Mallets, Soft Mallets.

The word mallets in the middle was meant to apply to both but was confusing because it was the same font size, color, and relative placement suggesting it had equal value and was a third toggle option. Was this just me? I sent a large group of composer friends to their site to view their screenshot of the UI with the question “how many articulations are there that you control from the bottom left?”

Every single one without exception replied with some variation of “Three… why do you ask?”. Part of this confusion may be because you are toggling between these options using a knob. Why is a knob the best device to toggle between two options? Why not a switch?

Even if the word Mallets was elsewhere so it was clear there were only two options, a knob would suggest to a user that you could cross fade between the two mallet types. This is not the case. My eyes then wandered over the to reverb and delay controls. Clicking “space” or “4th DLY” toggles between different space types and delay amounts. Why aren’t these drop down menus? I had no idea I could click on them until I accidentally did. Also, these are the darkest text in the whole UI for some unknown reason.

For both distortion and tremolo, their text becomes brighter when they are activated. This is intuitive and makes sense. The fact that the UI is inconsistent and this doesn’t occur for the reverb or delay makes it confusing. I also understand that these are perhaps knit picky complaints, but a well designed UI goes a long way to increasing user enjoyment of a library. Any instrument’s interface that causes a large collection of users confusion might be an opportunity for improvement..

Having said that, despite my complaints about the interface, this is a wonderful sounding instrument. It was clearly sampled and scripted with a large amount of care and attention to detail and for only 30 euros, it’s extremely reasonably priced.

Facts

The Santur, from Cinematique Instruments, comes as one patch taking up a little under 1 GB of storage space. It features two malet types as well as a collection of built in effects including a tempo synced delay and reverb. Each hit was recorded at three velocity layers with four round robins each, allowing for smooth and natural performances. As well as the individual hits, there is a tremolo function which can be controlled either through use of a note off message or via a mod wheel. The full version of Kontakt 5+ is required. This instrument will not work with the free Kontakt Player.

Santur sells for €30 from Cinematique Instruments

 

Demos of Santur By Cinematique Instruments

Videos of Santur By Cinematique Instruments