Review: Venice Modern Strings by Fluffy Audio
Beautiful, rich sound.
Four stereo mic positions, all nicely recorded.
Ability to morph between articulations.
Longer tails on the Bass pizzicatos may not be to everyone’s liking.
Venice Modern Strings has a rich, full and inviting sound from four nicely recorded mic positions. Recorded in Venice, this library captures the romance and elegance often associated with this historic and iconic city.
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Review: Venice Modern Strings by Fluffy Audio
Fluffy Audio’s Venice Modern Strings is a great sounding string library with quite a bit of performance flexibility, some of it rather unique. With several great libraries under their belt, Venice Modern Strings shows a high degree of library development experience. Venice Modern Strings captures a balance between the presence of a fine string section, with the warmth that often seems elusive for sampled strings. Even if you haven’t heard of Fluffy Audio, Venice Modern Strings deserves a listen.
Venice Modern Strings sells for $399.00 from Fluffy Audio
Venice Modern Strings comprises a full string section of Violins 1, Violins 2, Violas, Cellos and Basses in an 8-6-5-5-3 configuration, so it has a slightly larger chamber orchestra sound. Performance options that go beyond simply switching articulations set this library apart for me.
Venice runs in the full version of Kontakt 5, and includes 4 stereo mic positions – spot, close, mid and far. Each section has multiple keyswitched articulations, which can also be loaded individually. Articulations include legato, polyphonic legato, sustain, staccato, long arcs, short arcs, pizzicato, flautando, sul tasto, tremolo, staccatissimo, tremolo sul ponticello, harmonics, scratch, and air. In addition to keyswitched and individual patches, VMS includes ensembles (with all of the above articulations), and low memory patches.
The first question we all ask is how does this library sound? It sounds great – it has a rich, full and warm sound, while retaining the clarity of the recording. Too often when I see a library or plugin described as “warm” my first reaction is “in other words, muddy and lacking a clear high end.” This is not the case with Venice, however. These strings sound present without being harsh or strident. The recording space sounds full, but is not large, so the natural ambience is minimal. Using predelay on any added reverb (using the spot or close mics) works best as the shorter natural hall decay is present. This is not a dry library, but not as wet as some others. I do find I am cutting a little of the lows from VMS when mixing with other instruments, but at least the lows are there for a richer, fuller sound when so desired (such as string-only arrangements).
The multiple mic positions are all equally useful, and though the variation is not as drastic as some (i.e. from mid to far), I appreciated that the spot mics sound just as good as the close and mid mics, and the far mics add more of the natural space without drenching the strings in a long decay. In some libraries, spot mics can be too narrow (usually being single mics/mono recordings), and harsh. But this is not the case. Fluffy Audio used a stereo placement, and while there is a bit more of the closer musicians than with the close mics, the section still sounds rich and full. The spot mics will add a bit more bite and intensity, where the close mics tend to be richer. The mids are not far off from the close mics, so you can use them for a different approach to the space. The far mics are of course placed back in the recording hall, so being designed as an enhancement to closer mics, they add distance and ambience.
I find VMS to excel at emotional scores, while not sacrificing the dynamic range needed to handle stronger cues as well. All of the instruments are standard range. Some libraries use the C extension to extend the Double Bass range down to C1, but Venice utilizes the standard low string, E1 and extends the upper range to Bb3. Other libraries usually have the C1 extension but vary in the upper limit. This is just something to be aware of when writing, especially if you move from another string library to Venice, expecting to extend to the low C instead of the normal open E.
It is worth noting a minor difference in the Bass pizzicatos from other libraries – these were allowed to ring out. Many libraries use shorter (likely muted in performance or alternately fingered) pizzicatos to make faster passages more practical. The longer ringing notes can sound muddy shorter passages. Editing the decay and for the individual Bass Pizzicato patch worked well in this case. Even if it isn’t realistic to have an open string muted, it helps with arranging and mixing when using additional reverb on the spot or close mics. Editing the Velocity Control to fit your playing style and controller response (Advanced page for pizzicatos) can significantly improve expressiveness, so don’t overlook that option simply because your controller has the kind of response you like. On the positive side, the Bass pizzicatos have more body and depth than most libraries. Some of this is a function of the size of the section and space, but it is great to hear strong basses.
The staccatissimo are derived from measured tremolo samples, and while I know Fully Audio did this intentionally to draw from actual performances, but the attacks sound edited (especially when you hear the same level of attack regardless of velocity, with only the tail/ambience level increasing with velocity). In context, they are usable, just not quite what I prefer to hear in this articulation category.
The staccatos are mostly fine, but due to the close presence of the smaller hall, they lack some of the tight punch users may be used to with other libraries. The individual staccatos patches can be edited to shorten the decays, and this can help with clarity when you wish to use your own reverb, and intensity when used for ostinato passages.
The polyphonic legato works well enough on slower passages, but there is a release tail that will overlap during faster transitions, and I had no luck editing it in the individual polyphonic legato patches. For the most part, I generally don’t use polyphonic legato as it never sounds realistic compared to simply writing divisi and using a divisi-capable library. It may be fine for others.
The interface is nicely designed, and intuitively laid out:
Clicking on the mic position names enables/disables that mic (and loads/unloads the corresponding samples). The tall bar above the enabled mic is the level control for that mic. Pan and width are easily adjusted above the mic position name. At the top right on the main GUI page, is a cog icon. This opens the Instrument Settings pane:
This is where we can customize CC controllers, adjust the engine accuracy (higher settings of course using more cpu), and define CC11 as a global expression controller (enable this when using the Morph feature – more on that below).
The “Advanced” window opens with a click and reveals additional controls for the currently selected articulation. “Legato” has three different modes – glissando, legato, and bow-change legatos. The “Legato” advanced controls include three options for triggering these three different legato modes – velocity, pitch wheel, or a user definable CC control (the default is 40). Lowest values trigger the glissando, middle values the legato, and highest values trigger bow change legatos.
VMS also offers control over legato speed which is useful for different run and phrasing speeds. The Staccato overlay offers two options – a slight staccato added to the start of the note, and the same added during the legato. Both are subtle, so don’t expect to add a sfz attack to the start of a legato phrase with this function at least. Combined with legato speed, and the legato type control, this one articulation contains a wide range of flexibility, especially if you assign a CC controller to each slider for real time performance and automation. The results can go well beyond most libraries’ single-patch legatos. This may be one of the most easily and extensively controlled legato strings on the market.
For short articulations, the Advanced page includes a velocity scaling graph to customize velocity response. For Staccato and Staccatissimo, there is an additional option to control the tightness of the attack (which can be assigned to a CC controller) for a sharper attack. This is great for accenting notes and adding a little extra bite from time to time. There is also an option to enable Kontakt’s Time Machine to alter the length of staccato/staccatissimo samples. However, this seemed to just abruptly truncate the samples to one very short, and in my opinion, not very useful length (and it does reload the revised samples when enabled, so give it a few seconds to reload).
For sustained articulations (not including legatos), the “Advanced” page reveals one of Venice Modern Strings’ most valuable features – the ability to morph between two user-selected articulations.
As shown in this screen capture, one option is to morph between sustain and tremolo (or any other sustained articulation). Just assign the A-B slider to a controller and crossfade a sustain into a tremolo. A quick note here, under the Instrument Settings section (top of each articulation screen), enabling “CC11 for Expression” allows CC11 to control the levels of both A and B articulations, making it easier to crossfade between the two as CC11 becomes the global level control for both articulations.
The Morph feature goes beyond just fading to a new articulation. With “Automation” turned on (middle of the screen capture), Morph becomes a tempo-synced creative tool. The Shape selects the LFO shape (sine, linear or random) with rates from a quarter note to 16 bars. The phase can be either “sync” or “random”.
The articulations cover most of the basics, with trills being the most obvious omission. However, the included articulations are well chosen and performed. So far, I have found no tuning or timing problems. The legatos are very playable, with a wide range of control options that remain consistently musical. The flautandos and sul tastos have a beautiful air to them that isn’t always as pleasing in other libraries. At times I wish the staccatissimos were naturally a bit shorter (without resorting to using the length control), and spiccatos would be a welcome addition for the extra bite.
There are several things I really like about this library: the sound is rich, full and inviting; the choice of articulations serves a broader creative approach; the mic positions all sound great; and the morphing function greatly enhances the phrase performance options. While there are quite a few options for great sounding string libraries, Venice Modern Strings sets itself apart with its sound and playability.
Venice Modern Strings contains 114,000+ 24 bit/48khz samples; 55 GB installed
110 GB disk space is required during download and install.
PC: Windows XP, Vista, 7 or higher; 4G RAM
MAC: OS X 10.5 or higher, 4G RAM
Kontakt 5.8.1 Full is required.
Fast internet connection.
Venice Modern Strings sells for $399.00 from Fluffy Audio
Contributor Dedric Terry reviews Venice Modern Strings by Fluffy Audio
“Rich, full and inviting sound from four nicely recorded mic positions. Recorded in Venice, this library captures the romance and elegance often associated with this historic, icon city.”