Review: Synchron Strings Pro (Standard) by Vienna Symphonic Library
Very realistic and detailed sound
100% versatile library and player
Large number of articulations
Pre-mapped CC parameters
Humanize and Stretch functions
You can extend the range up to one octave higher and lower
Standard version already contains the full set of articulations
No sordino patches
Synchron Strings Pro is the last Synchron library by VSL. It has a very realistic and detailed sound as well as a ton of articulations. It runs in Synchron Player, which gives you a total control on your programming work. If you aren’t looking for particular mic positions, like Surround and Back mics, the Standard version has everything you need, including the full set of articulations and the most common mic positions, like Close and Decca Tree.
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Review: Synchron Strings Pro (Standard Library) by Vienna Symphonic Library
Synchron Strings Pro is the new Synchron Series library by Vienna Symphonic Library. Recorded at Synchron Stage A, near Vienna, it comes in two versions, a Standard one and a Full. The Standard Version already includes the full set of articulations. The only difference between the two versions is the mic positions: Standard includes Close, Mid and Decca Tree mics, while the Full includes also the Back and Surround mics, which can be used in Stereo productions as well to achieve a wider sound. And for people like me that prefer to work with Close mic positions in order to create the recording ambient in post-production using a Convolution reverb, this is a pretty good situation because they’re not forced to buy a library with a ton of samples they are probably never going to use just to get a handful of articulations more.
The number of articulations included is incredibly high. They share some articulations with the Synchron Strings I but they also include a number of brand new articulations. On the other side, Synchron Strings I has some articulations that Synchron Strings Pro doesn’t include, like Cantabile, or fortepiano. Crossgrade prices are available so one can consider purchasing both of them to get the full range of possibilities.
In this review, I’m going to talk about the Standard Version.
Synchron Strings Pro (Standard Library) sells for € 445.00 from Vienna Symphonic Library
This library includes a full Strings section: 14 Violins I, 10 Violins II, 8 Violas, 8 Violoncellos and 6 Double basses. One peculiarity of the Vienna Instruments and the SYNCHRON-ized Series was that the dynamics were controlled by velocity; you had to turn on a button in order to switch to a Velocity Crossfade mode, which was assigned to CC2. This meant that people who prefer to work with Velocity Crossfade assigned to CC1 had to change this setting on every instrument and save their own preset in order to recall it on future projects. Synchron Strings Pro avoids this issue: it comes iwith two versions of each patch: XF and XF sus. Velocity Crossfade is activated in both of them, and both have the CC1 assigned to it. Plus, on the XF sus version dynamics of long articulations get controlled by VelXF (CC1), while dynamics on short articulations get controlled by velocity. I personally find this option very useful and time saving because you don’t need to change the CC28 (assigned to the VelXF on/off button) automation every time you need to switch between velocity and VelXF to control dynamics.
In addition, it comes with an Ensemble preset in two versions: a full range and a compressed range (meaning that it’s about one low octave and one high octave shorter, with basses sharing keys with cellos but ringing one octave lower and Violins I sharing their range with Violins II but sounding one octave higher), and an Octaves preset, that features groups of two instruments playing in octaves. Those presets are very useful for quick productions or live performances.
Since the very first time you open it, you can understand how deep you can dig with detail and precision. Articulations are divided by groups: Short notes, Long notes, Legato, Portamento, Harmonics, and so on. The library is very flexible: you can load a preset with the full bank of articulations, which are controlled by keyswitches, or you can create your own preset by choosing certain articulations from the patch window.
Even if you’re not familiar with Synchron Player you don’t have to worry: Articulations are organized on some columns (called “Dimensions”) that make it very easy to navigate between them, and the whole Dimensions configuration is called “Dimension tree”. Slots with a small arrow on the right side are like folders, and if you click on that you can see another Dimension showing up. Slots without any arrow are where the patches themselves are loaded on. Simple as that.
Some long and legato articulations have also patches with different release and attack, as well as different vibrato settings, allowing you to control even the smallest detail of your sound. But your choice is not limited to just one type of vibrato at a time: if you select the Xfades slot inside the Long notes and Legato folders, you will find five different types of possible crossfades from a patch to another one: senza vibrato to regular vibrato, senza vib. to molto vib., regular vib. to molto vib., pianissimo to regular vibrato and even flautando to pianissimo. The crossfade is assigned by default to CC20 but Synchron Player is so versatile that you can decide to assign this operation to any other CC, as well as to Velocity, Aftertouch, and even Pitchbend and the speed of your playing. This feature is available for Dimensions and Parameters like Expression, Volume, and so on, too. A similar function is available in the Tremolo articulation, in which you can switch between a long note with regular vibrato to tremolo, in the Harmonics, allowing you to switch from a regular sound to harmonics, and in the Ponticello articulation (from Regular to Ponticello, on Long, Legato, or Tremolo techniques).
This isn’t over: you can also create your own crossfade by clicking the “+” button and dragging into the slots the single patches you need.
Staccato, Spiccato, Staccato short and Legato come with an Agile variation, which allow you to use them for fast passages with no risk for the performance to be too clumsy. For everything else, you can use the Bold patch for the short notes and the Legato slot. In the Legato agile folder, you can find an Auto-speed function, which is pretty interesting and useful: indeed, you can switch between a regular vibrato sound to a legato agile depending on which speed you are playing.
Dynamics also include short and long crescendos and diminuendos, so you can achieve a more natural effect if you need to increase or decrease the dynamics on some long and lonely notes.
In the Perform tab you can find several parameters assigned to CC but, as I said before, you can also assign them to other kinds of controllers. Some of them are Attack, Release, Master Volume, Expression, Velocity Crossfade, Filter (which basically allows you to operate a low pass filter, very useful to get a non-exaggerated variation of the sound on long notes or to be used at the end of some notes, when the player stops playing), and Legato Blur (to make the tail of a note a bit longer to help the performance in the legato passages).
In the Edit tab, you can operate on humanizing by changing the delay of every note in a cycle of twelve during their attack, and the tuning, by choosing a setting from a pop-up menu, and of course you can change the Envelope’s parameters. If you click on the info icon near every section of the tab, you’ll be redirected to the manual’s page in which that particular function is explained. This is pure gold, especially if you are making your first steps into the VSL world. A clue is shown anyway if you look at the bottom of the Preset list in the right column of the player, where you can find a short description of the area where the mouse pointer is located.
The Stretch function is something you need to know about. It’s very useful especially on loops and riffs, but you can find it advantageous even in a library such as the Synchron Strings Pro. Thanks to this function, you can increase or decrease the tempo of a repetition, a loop, a riff, but even a Tremolo. In Synchron Strings Pro, there are four different types of measured tremolos (120, 130, 140 and 160 bpm) but thanks to the Stretch function, you can increase or decrease it. You can also sync the repetition to the tempo in your sequencer or make it a half time or twice faster. Last but not least, once you’ve turned the stretch function on and set a starting bpm number, you can even change it real-time, thanks to the Stretch Factor parameter in the Perform tab (assigned by default to CC 34) using a hardware controller or writing an automation in your sequencer.
To fully understand the potential of this function, I recommend you watch this tutorial by Vienna Symphonic Library in the videos section of the review at the bottom of the page
In the Mix tab, you can activate the mic positions and mix them together as you wish. Note that, even if you can see all of them, only the ones included in the version you purchased are effectively available. From the right column you can select a room preset among several, but you can also set your own and save it. In the Standard version you will find also presets that you can wholly use only if you own the Full version, like the Surround ones. The library comes with an algorithmic reverb integrated that enhances a bit the Synchron Stage’s ambience giving the library a wider sound. Anyway, if you are looking for a dry sound you can just activate the Close mic only and turn the reverb plugin off.
The mixer inside Synchron Player is like an actual mixer, so you can add more channels or create Aux channels on which inserting one or more native plugins like compressor, expander, limiter, filters, delay, if you aim to make a bit of processing on the sound directly in-the-box. You can then save your own preset for any future use. You will see then that every mic position has already been equalized a bit by the developers in order to reduce some annoying resonances.
Finally, if you click on the double arrows icon near the keyboard, you can extend the rage of the instrument up to one octave higher and lower. Keep in mind that those extra notes were not recorded, but the player stretches the samples, so the more you move away from the original range, the more the attack of the notes loses consistency.
The overall sound of the library is very realistic: it doesn’t sound too airy, but it gives you a lot of details and sometimes the feeling of the bow on the strings. Both the player and the library are versatile beyond every imagination and allow you to reach a very satisfying detail in your performances. You can achieve good results even when you play real-time but it’s when you program in your sequencer that you can get the best out of this library because you can add more variations to your performance. For this reason, I wouldn’t say that Synchron Strings Pro is a “plug-and-play” library: you need indeed up to four keyswitches in order to change articulation, which is important to add variety to a passage, but this is not a con at all.
Violins II sound differently and less wide than Violins I, and this is important in order to gain realism in a mock-up. Cellos and Basses are very detailed even on their very low notes, and the sound doesn’t lose consistency. Synchron Player is not that easy to use at first, but I don’t feel like considering this like a con, because it’s necessary in order to achieve that level of detail, accuracy and versatility typical of VSL libraries. The Tutti and the Octaves presets sounds good as well and could be particularly useful to those who aim to play strings on a keyboard in a concert. The CC pre-mapped parameters are a feature you don’t find everywhere but it allows you to save a lot of time when you have to program in detail and therefore you need to operate on several of them.
Synchron Strings Pro also works very well if layered with other libraries, especially of the same size or bigger. By doing this and carefully mixing them together you should have the detailed sound of the Strings Pro coming out from an airier sound of the second library that makes your section sounds bigger but more detailed and realistic. The only cons I can observe is that sordino patches are missing, which would have made the library more complete, but it’s not excluded that VSL will produce a Synchron library dedicated to the sordino alone in the future.
The Standard version of the Synchron Strings Pro weights 122.7 GB and runs in the Vienna Synchron Player, which is free.
You need to create an account on vsl.co.at in order to make the purchase and download the product using their own downloader. Be aware that you need to buy the ViennaKey to run the license, priced at € 24. It’s also recommended to purchase the Vienna Protection Plan (€ 70), to be renewed every 2 years, in order to get your licenses back free of charge in case your key breaks, gets stolen or lost.
Educational discount is available as well as Crossgrade prices from Synchron Strings I.
Demos are available on the VSL website for the product.
Synchron Strings Pro (Standard Library) sells for € 445.00 from Vienna Symphonic Library
Contributor Giuseppe Corcella reviews Synchron Strings Pro (Standard Library) by Vienna Symphonic Library
“Synchron Strings Pro is the last Synchron library by VSL. It has a very realistic and detailed sound as well as a ton of articulations. It runs in Synchron Player, which gives you a total control on your programming work. If you aren’t looking for particular mic positions, like Surround and Back mics, the Standard version has already everything you need, including the full set of articulations and the most common mic positions, like Close and Decca Tree.”