Review: Symphony Series Woodwind Collection by Soundiron & Native Instruments

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With it’s wealth of articulations, stand out features (like the arpeggio tool) in an easy to use interface, the Symphony Series Woodwinds deserves some serious consideration. It falls just short of “that one magic woodwinds package” that does it all, but I can tell just from reviewing the library that I am going to get a lot of use and inspiration from SSW.

Jump to the Demos of Symphony Series Woodwind Collection

Jump to the Videos of Symphony Series Woodwind Collection

 

 

Review Symphony Series Woodwind Collection

Symphony Series Woodwind Collection is a Kontakt player instrument containing both the Symphony Series Woodwind Ensemble and the Symphony Series Woodwind Solo. The instruments were recorded in the Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, California and come with 3 microphone positions and a stereo mix option.

For the Symphony Series Woodwind Ensemble, Soundiron tracked 6 players per section for a total of 314 articulations and included NKIs for: Concert Flutes, Oboes, Clarinets, Bassoons,  (Tenor) Saxophones, Bass Winds and an Ensemble patch.

The Symphony Series Woodwind Solo library contains 148 articulations with several NKIs for: Concert Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, Bassoon, Tenor Saxophone, Contrabassoon & a Quintet patch.

The instrument’s articulations span a wide range including: sustains, true legato, arpeggios, staccatos, expressions and effects.

Symphony Series Woodwind Collection is available from Native Instruments

Symphony Series Woodwind Solo sells for $299.00 with crossgrade offered for $149.00 from Native Instruments

Symphony Series Woodwind Ensemble sells for $399 with crossgrade offered for $199 from Native Instruments

Symphony Series Woodwind Collection (both libs) sells for $499 with several crossgrades offered.
Owners of Komplete (2-10) or Ultimate (8-10) can get the collection for $299 from Native Instruments

 

KontaktPLayerInstrumetn

Symphony Series Woodwinds is a Kontakt Player Instrument compatible with the full & free version of Kontakt. It loads directly into your Kontakt libraries tab.

Thoughts

There are several woodwind ensemble and solo instruments out on the market and yet from my and many other composers perspectives, there has been a void in a complete woodwind package that contains amazing sound, a well thought out engine and scripting, all with an easy to use interface. With Symphony Series Woodwinds, Soundiron teamed up with Native Instruments with a goal to deliver just that. The Woodwinds Collection can deliver some very musical performances and is easy to use right out of the box.

The front of the interface gives you dynamic controls with the modwheel, attack, release, tightness and motion sliders that can be assigned to the MIDI CC of your choosing.

The interface is clean and very simple to use with the same look and feel as the Symphony Series Brass. Each instrument gives you dynamic controls with the modwheel. I personally like the ability to use dynamic controls to go to silence. I know this request doesn’t replicate real world usage, but that is something I would have liked to have had as an option for with the instrument.

SoloOboe

Symphony Series Solo Oboe Interface

Articulations

Each of the instruments comes with Effects, Expression, Staccato, Sustain NKIs with respective articulations accessible in each. I was especially thrilled with the Expression and FX instruments. They are very useful for adding real life and color to an arrangement and the instrument comes with lots of flourishes. Each of the instruments also have a Main NKI which allow you to place any of the articulations in the 8 available articulations slots for quick access.

I was especially thrilled with the Expression and FX instruments!

Each of the instruments also comes with a Legato NKI which contains the true legato sample playback. All the legato instruments in the library are very playable and expressive and I contribute that to Soundiron‘s inclusion of different legato articulations for different dynamic ranges. Most instruments including separate p, mf, f and a main legato articulations.

Articualtions-Slot-Sysytem

Symphony Series Articulation Slot System

Articulations of the instrument can be loaded via key switch of midi CC and the instrument provides an “Articulation Slot Setup” which allows you to customize which articulations are loaded to which slot and how they are triggered. Besides just using keyswitch data to change articulations the instrument also gives you the ability to change via velocity range which combined nicely with modwheel dynamics can give you even more expression in playing the instrument. My only critique here is I wish I was able to transpose my instruments keyboard playback range as easily as I can change my keyswitches.

Ensemble instruments also comes with a separate Arpeggio NKI. It sounds to my ears like the Arpeggio instrument samples were recorded live. I reached out to Soundiron to clarify but hadn’t heard back at the time of writing my reviewa  and heard back from Greg who said “The arpeggios are recorded phrases”.  The Arpeggio preset is a great tool to include with Major, Minor, 5th and Octave arpeggios at the ready.

If you are well versed in Soundiron instruments then you know they tend to include an ARP (scripted arpeggiator) in many of their instruments. The team has taken this to extremes with an Arpeggio Runs Tool in the Main, Legato and Staccato articulations.

ArpeggioRunsToolOptions

Arpeggio Runs Tool Parameter Options

I love the functionality of the Arpeggio Runs Tool . The runs use scripting to achieve hundreds of combinations of arpeggios although my ears don’t hear it as mechanical. In fact, the runs produced by the Arpeggio Runs Tool are very convincing. You can use it with any of the short articulations with controls over type of run, speed, number of notes in the run (count) and Mode.

I love the functionality of the Arpeggio Runs Tool.

I’m going to take a second to talk about the TYPE selection and MODE functionality of the Arpeggio Runs Tool . The TYPE selection allows you to select the usual suspects: major, minor, augmented, diminished, as well as trills. The engine also allows you to select KEY. When KEY is selected as your TYPE you have MODE settings to play: a run “up” or “down”, combining “up and down” or “down and up” and additional “As Played” and “Random” MODE settings. The last 2 allowing you to play chords on the keyboard that are transformed into runs. This is the kind of outstanding detail in scripting in an instrument that can make all the difference when writing.

Sound

There are audible room tails on all of the mic positions, even close mics so if you’re looking for “bone dry” playback, this instrument might not be for you. That said, the sound of the Church is open and resonant and sounds wonderful with just the MIX mic option alone. Taste in orchestral timbre preferences vary drastically, so be sure to listen to the demos and play through videos below to make your own judgment on sound color. After turning off the cathedral verb, turning on a little mid and far mic I started to get a sound I was really enjoying.

My favorite instrument included is the Bass Winds. It’s not only a personal favorite, but the instrument has the kind of beauty that makes you want to write more for Bass Winds. I found that with the Bass Winds, the true legato really shines. The 3 legato articulations for the p, mf, f articulations playback add so much expressiveness to this instrument. With the p articulations loaded you get a delicate dark tone and loading up the f articulation you get lots of grit and you can feel that hot hair coming out of the speakers.

The Woodwinds Ensemble patches sound great and will likely make it into many of my final mixes.

Also of note is the Woodwinds Ensemble patches. I found them to be extremely expressive and usable. So much so that if my woodwinds are not doing any heavy lifting, the Ensemble patch alone may make it into my final mixes – saving me lots of time by not having to separate out all my parts.

WoodwindsEnsemble

Now, to address a few of the criticisms and questions I had about the instrument:  I found a few little noises (Flute Effects Cluster pp G#3 had some noises in the tail) just from my time spent with the instrument. I hope to not discover many others. I know this is bound to happen while developing a library of this size and I hope it is cleaned up in a future update.

I would have liked to have a solo Bass Clarinet, solo English Horn and Piccolo instrument included in the Solo instruments.

It wouldn’t be fair to complete my review without mentioning some of criticism the Symphony Series Woodwind has been receiving about Section Size.The unconventional Section Size sampled is 6 players for each section. This is  not proportional to what you get in a standard orchestra and even excessive for a giant Hollywood recording session. I can understand some of the criticism here in theory.

If there is anything I have learned after doing over a hundred reviews it is that samples behave differently than the practice of real world experiences. The numbers all go out the window and the sound and usability in your template are what matter. I reached out to Soundiron to ask what the thinking was about this choice  but hadn’t heard back at the time of publishing and Greg was kind enough to get back to me saying “it’s mostly to get a bigger sound and be as consistent across sections as possible”.

Crossgrade for SSW Collection is only $299 which is a great deal!

My bottom line is that if you’re not against a slightly wetter sample playback – then you should seriously consider this instrument for your tool kit . . . especially, if like me, you have yet to find “that one magic woodwinds package” that does it all. These instruments can blend nicely and give a very expressive performance from delicate to full on epic inside your orchestral template, especially if you are incorporating the other Symphony Series libraries into your work. For owners of Komplete, the crossgrade for picking up the SSW Collection is a great deal.

Symphony Series Woodwind Collection is available from Native Instruments

 

Demos of Symphony Series Woodwind Collection

Videos of Symphony Series Woodwind Collection