Review Orchestral Series Woodwinds Ensembles by Sonokinetic

by

I am hesitant to say so without a month or 2 of real world usage but this new key switching system could be a game changer! Despite a few minor inconsistencies (and not including a Bass Clarinet or Piccolo Flute) Woodwinds Ensembles was recorded in a great sounding hall and uses some very innovative scripting for some very warm and lush performances.

Support Sample Library Review at Patreon

Donate to Sample Library Review via PayPal

Jump to the Demos of Orchestral Series Woodwinds Ensembles

Jump to the Videos of Orchestral Series Woodwinds Ensembles

Review Orchestral Series Woodwinds Ensembles by Sonokinetic

Sonokinetic launches the new Orchestral Series with Woodwinds Ensembles, a Kontakt Player instrument (Komplete Kontrol compatible) with four main instruments: Bassoons ensembles, Clarinets ensembles, Oboe ensembles and Flutes ensembles (all with 16 and 24bit versions included). Orchestral Series Woodwinds Ensembles comes in 2 editions: Standard and Extended.

For this review I got my hands on the Extended Edition which downloads as 61GB and sells for €399.90. The Standard Edition comes with a reduced number of articulations and sells for €299.90

Both the Standard and Extended Editions of Orchestral Series Woodwinds Ensembles are available from Sonokinetic

WoodwindsEnsembleInterface

Woodwinds Ensemble Interface

Thoughts

Sonokinetic had let the word out a couple months ago about their upcoming woodwind release. It was announced as the first in their upcoming multi-sampled Orchestral Series libraries and I have been waiting with anticipation. Sonokinetic is well known for their orchestral phrase libraries ( Capriccio, Grosso, Sotto ) which in my review of Capriccio I called a “paradigm shift”.  I felt (and still feel) Sonokinetic had taken a leap forward trying to push the boundaries of digital orchestral music production with the “sample library as orchestrator” and made huge strides toward reaching that goal.

Since becoming familiar with the innovative engine those libraries were built in, I was very excited to see what Sonokinetic would do to “reinvent” multisample ensemble instruments in their new Orchestral Series libraries. Especially since there are now a lot of options out there for core Orchestral instruments. Sonokinetic was up against some pretty epic competition if they were going to try to top what was out there and keep up with the kind of innovation they are known for.

Sonokinetic was up against some pretty epic competition to try to top what was out there

As I start to review Woodwinds Ensembles the first thing I see is that the sections are of 3 players per instrument (Bassoon, Clarinet, Oboe, Flute) with no Soloists and no Bass Clarinet or Piccolo Flute. There also isn’t a “Full Ensemble” patch. In my book, that is a pretty big hole in a woodwind library. But Sonokinetic nearly makes up for it with a very complete set of articulations and an innovative keyswitching system (SACS) that translates into much faster composing and breaking down yet another barrier between midi performance and intent.

The library does not include any Bass Clarinet or Piccolo Flute.

It’s All about the SACS

With Woodwinds Ensembles Sonokinetic has taken two steps forward revitalizing keyswitches as we know and introducing SACS- Sonokinetic Articulation Control System. Woodwinds Ensemble’s straight forward GUI, articulation system and wonderful sounding sample set take a minute to “get” but then you’re off writing with one instrument seamlessly shifting from legato to staccato, dozens of dynamic crescendos/decrescendos with length options and dozens of run variations, all accessible by the new keyswitching functionality Sonokinetic has created for the Orchestral Series.

Keyswitchindecator

SACS (Sonokinetic Articulation Control System)

SACS (Sonokinetic Articulation Control System) uses a pretty ingenious system for changing articulations. SACS controls the instrument using 6 white keys (C0, D0, E0, F0, G0, A0) to switch between the 6 banks of articulations (Sustains, Marcatos, Shorts, Dynamics, Runs, Special) and 5 black keys ( C#0, D#0, F#0, G#0, A#0) to switch between the sub-articulations in the articulations banks.

SACS (Sonokinetic Articulation Control System) uses a pretty ingenious system for changing articulations.

In addition SACS allows you to set the A-1, A#-1 & B-1 keys to any of the articulations giving you quick access as a “held” keyswitch. Handy white dots appear on the SACS graphic to indicate which keyswitches are enabled while a corresponding dot will be placed next to the selected articulation.

 

Lots of Customization Options

Clicking anywhere in the SACS graphic will bring up the “advanced mapping page” which gives you controls over dozens of parameters so you can customize the instruments keyswitching and playable range. This would be helpful if you want to program the interface to react in the same way as another developers keyswitch method or use the UACC articulation switching method.

WoodwindsEnsembleAdvancedMappingPAge

Advanced Mapping Page

The instrument loads up with Dynamic, Runs and Special articulations not loaded so I spent a few minutes trying to activate articulations that were not loaded –  they need to be clicked to load them. To bypass this from happening again I simply saved the instrument with all articulations loaded. Note that this does increase each instruments footprint from .5GB to 1.19 GB (with just the “Tutti” Mic on). I can understand not wanting to load unneeded samples, but the real power of the instrument is the ability to access all articulations. So starting up as it did I was confused as to why I couldn’t playback my dynamic, runs and special articulations.

Sound & Microphone Options

WoodwindsEnsembleMicoptions

Woodwinds Ensemble Mic Options

For each of the ensembles Sonokinetic captured 3 performers playing in unison in the same hall as their previously recorded Capriccio, Grosso, Sotto libraries. It’s a wonderful sounding room and I personally like the live feel of the Tutti mics. That said, orchestral sound preferences vary so be sure and check out the demos and make your own decision on the sound.

With the Tutti mics ON the instruments perform with a very nice open room sound. With Mic Option controls you can get a variety of mixes or use the close mic only if you are wanting to get all your instruments into the same “room” via a bus.

With the Tutti mics ON the instruments perform with a very nice open room sound.

Microphone levels automatically purge samples not being used. So when you turn the fader volume to ZERO on a mic position the instrument unloads those mic samples automatically. Important to note that loading each of the microphones separately with all articulations loaded increases your footprint to a little over 4GB. As mentioned above the foot print for thw Tutti Mic sample set is about 1.19GB on the instruments.

Microphone levels automatically purge samples not being used.

By default Woodwinds Ensemble uses a “Poly Legato” system. From what I understand this is a combination of scripting and legato samples and the playback seems smooth enough at all dynamic levels. A nice feature with the instrument is the “Auto Add Voice” which will detect polyphony and let you play chords just as easy as playing legato lines.

The Oboes have a strange nasal resonance with close mic only that will be noticeable when played bare. And when listening through close mics only, some RUNS articulations seem to cut out or fade out suddenly. These seem to be an intentional choice however since when listening back with the default Tutti mic (or Wide / Far mic ) the playback resonates in the room giving a natural sounding performance. This may not be a problem when played within an ensemble but played bare it is a little abrupt.

The instrument comes with 3 “Level Options” pages: Dynamic Range settings, Mod Wheel X-fade Option and a Valve Noise Level (which by default is set to about 80% giving a good amount of noise that adds a nice bit of realism).

I would have liked the dynamics of the short articulations (staccato & staccatissimo) to seamlessly match the legato / sustain articulation volume

If I am going to be critical of the instrument I would have liked the dynamics of the short articulations (staccato & staccatissimo) to be a little quieter and seamlessly match the legato / sustain articulation volume so I didn’t have to “jump” the modwheel to make the performances sound smooth and even. With the modwheel set to 64 playing a legato line (with the Sustain articulation) it is perceptively louder when keyswitching to the staccato articulation and thus I need to adjust the modwheel dynamics to match loudness. I found I could get a little smoother performance out of setting the “mod wheel X-fade” to OFF and adjusting my “key/mod velocity” slider.

 

Woodwinds-Ensemble_OptionsScreen

Additional adjustments available in the Woodwinds Ensemble Options Screens

 

What we see with the Woodwinds Ensembles is innovation in key switching that will translate into better performances and much faster programming for composers who choose to work with Sonokinetic‘s Orchestral Series libraries. By reinventing key switching this library takes us a big step closer to not thinking about technology and making expressive music in the machine with less technology in the way.

What we see in Woodwinds Ensembles is innovation in keyswitching that will translate into better performances and much faster programming.

After reviewing Orchestral Series Woodwinds Ensemble my biggest disappointment isn’t the lack of hi/low solo winds but that Sonokinetic has yet to release the other orchestral sections or soloists with this wonderful, well thought out engine. I will be eagerly waiting for Sonokinetic‘s next release in the Orchestral Series. I am hesitant to say so without a month or 2 of real world usage but this new keyswitching system could be a game changer!

Both the Standard and Extended Editions of Orchestral Series Woodwinds Ensembles are available from Sonokinetic

 

Demos of Orchestral Series Woodwinds Ensembles

Videos of Orchestral Series Woodwinds Ensembles