Review: Zilhouette Strings by Cinematique Instruments

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Zilhouette Strings is a chamber strings library that, while overall limited in scope, provides users with a few unique features including seating arrangement and ensemble size control built into its interface. The samples are beautifully intimate and warm, and even though the articulations are limited (sustain, staccato, and pizzicato only), the sound is very flexible thanks to a few special parameters that can be tweaked to your personal preferences.

Jump to the Demos of  Zilhouette Strings
Jump to the Videos of  Zilhouette Strings

 

Review: Zilhouette Strings by Cinematique Instruments

Zilhouette is Cinematique Instruments‘ first dedicated string library. It was recorded with well-known session and live-orchestra players in a small recording space and in multiple arrangements, providing a variety of options for the basic sound. Thanks to some well thought-out playability features with modwheel and velocity control, this older library is still very relevant in today’s market.

Zilhouette Strings sells for €130 from Cinematique Instruments

 

Thoughts

The interface in Zilhouette Strings is not quite as extensive as those of more modern cinematic scoring libraries. This isn’t a sound design library with hundreds of filters, effects, and oscillators. However, the few controls that are available all serve a very important purpose and help to shape the sound in natural and musical ways.

The simplicity and overall clean aesthetic of the single-panel interface could really be seen as a positive trait.

What you see is exactly what you get. Front and center are the 4 mixer knobs – one for each instrument. To me, this is one of the most useful parts of the library. You can adjust the volume of each instrument in the ensemble, which allows you to actually solo single instruments and re-save .nki’s as single instrument patches. This is a bit of an oddity, because even though each instrument was recorded separately, Cinematique elected to only include ensemble patches. This could turn off some users (which it did for me) at first, as ensemble patches aren’t very useful to those looking to translate their mockups into full scores. However it is in fact possible to use each instrument as its own track thanks to the mixer interface.

On the bottom left and right of the interface sit the Reverb and Sweetness knobs. The sweetness knob applies some EQ and light reverb/space to the sound. It’s a nice feature, but I think the superior way to use it is by turning it all the way off for the driest and purest sound – this way you can control the finer details of EQ and reverb with plugins. The built-in reverb on the right has a few different spaces to choose from, as well as wet/dry knob. Again, this is always nice to have, but the limited control leaves it inferior to most plugin-based reverb units.

Last but not least is the Players menu. This is, in my opinion, the most useful feature in this library’s interface. The library was recorded with 7 violins, 2 violas, 7 cellos, and 2 basses. But this menu gives you a few options on ensemble sizes, going all the way down to the quartet of one of each instrument. By combining this with the mixer, you can even convert Zilhouette into a solo strings library! The quartet size is my personal favorite, especially when layered on top of a larger ensemble library.

Zilhouette’s sound is fantastic.

The recordings were conducted in a small space, leaving a more dry and malleable sound than a lot of modern-day libraries that drench their samples in a large hall reverb. For someone with even the most basic production skills, the dry sound provides the flexibility to put these strings in almost any space, blending with any other library. These samples would even work well in an up-front pop setting!

Playability is also one of this library’s strong points, thanks to clever combinations of the mod wheel and velocity levels. On the sustained patches, the mod wheel controls dynamics as per usual. The velocity, however, determines the attack speed. This is great for users like myself who try to stay with one track per instrument – no need to load up another instance for marcato samples. Just play or program in higher velocities to get harder attacks, or softer velocities for slow and delicate attacks. In the staccato/short patch, velocity determines dynamics and the mod wheel sets the length of the staccato note, allowing a smooth transition between staccato and spiccato.

The only major complaint I have about Zilhouette is the lack of more specific articulations, such as tremolo and especially legato. However, this library still overcomes a lot of content limitations through clever use of midi controls and space-saving techniques. While it is not the most highly detailed chamber strings library on the market, there is more than enough here to justify diving in for those who need lightweight and easy-to-use strings with a sweet sound.

As with all of our reviews be sure to check out the demos and videos included below to see if the instrument is right for your needs.

 

Facts

Zilhouette Strings downloads as 1.8 GB and comes with 3 NKI patches included (Longs, Shorts, and Pizzicato).

It does require the full retail version of Kontakt 4 or later.

Zilhouette Strings sells for €130 from Cinematique Instruments

 

Demos of Zilhouette Strings

Videos of Zilhouette Strings