SonoKinetic Revisit the Classics!
SonoKinetic have recently released updates to some of their major sample libraries,
does this now mean their highly acclaimed orchestral products are now within our reach? – Read on!
Over the past year KK-Access has written reviews for two of SonoKinetics newer phrase based sample libraries, Noir and Largo. at the time I was both impressed and excited to discover that they had introduced some very unique and innovative features that made them entirely accessible to blind users, which is quite unprecedented in a product of this nature.
This was due largely to the boundary pushing script innovations of being able to audibly select sample phrases from the large palette available, in a similar way that pre-hear allows us to listen to presets before loading them from the Komplete Kontrol browser.
What was particularly revolutionary here was that SonoKinetic had managed to include this audio phrase selection method on the edit side of the Komplete Kontrol plugin, something that historically had not been possible. They went on to further exploit this concept with their exceptionally well recorded Bells Collection, which featured audio voice tagging for microphone and room selection, again a ground breaking feature that is very unique to this developer.
SonoKinetic have an impressive back catalogue of phrase based orchestral libraries covering a wealth of various styles and genres, however until now they had not had the magic aaccessibility wand, or perhaps more aptly, conductors baton, waved in their direction!
In a raft of major new product updates, Minimoal, Maximo, Soto and Caprisio have all now had these access features incorporated into their Komplete Kontrol NKS interface, meaning that we can all now make use of, and be productive with these high quality sample libraries.
The clever design strategy behind the SonoKinetic product range, lays in no small part to the high quality samples which are supplied in both 16 & 24bit versions to enable you to flesh out an idea using the less resource hungry 16bit presets, before finalising with the high end 24bit equivelent.
In terms of musicality, the genius in the way that all of the 4/4 phrases have been composed, means that it’s entirely possible to construct something that fits together well, often even if the phrase originates from a different SonoKinetic library. All of their recordings have been made with the same orchestra in the same hall, with the same microphone arrays, which allows for the potentially seamless blending of musical styles.
The intention here is not to provide an exhaustive or in depth appraisal of each of these products, but to run through and highlight how the updates will now allow us the ability to accessibly use the core engine that drives the libraries functions.
To this end I will skip the usual detailed browser control descriptions to concentrate on the plugin edit pages. I will however first briefly layout the premise of each product, and as always there will be links at the footer for you to delve deeper and hear the sonic capabilities of each library from the excellent walkthrough videos that Reuben Cornell hosts so eloquently.
This 30.8 GB library compliments the more vigorous performances found within Maximo and provides 6 Instrument Patches:
Minimal Main, Slow Patterns, Fast Patterns, Minimal Lite, Slow Patterns Lite, Fast Patterns Lite
The sampled Orchestral Instrument sections feature
Strings 52 players, Woodwinds 12 players, Melodic Percussion (two Marimbas, Xylophone, Piano and Celesta), Brass 11 players
This 51Gb full orchestral library is great for those more upfront and dramatic cinematic scoring styles,
There are main presets for Strings, Woodwinds and Brass in 16, and 24bit full and light file versions
The three recorded orchestral sections feature
– Strings 60 players
– Woodwinds 19 players
– Brass 22 players
With 50.3Gb of samples, Capriccio again features a full orchestra, this time with a more lively and up tempo tone, ideal for fantasy scores, and the addition of various percussion patches can add an underlying touch of drama if needed.
6 instrument patches; Strings, Brass, Percussion, Woodwinds, Runs and Multisampled Percussion Ensemble, again with both full and light versions.
The recordings include the following players:
52 Symphonic Strings:
Violins, Viola, Celli and Bassi
12 Symphonic Brass:
Tuba, Trombones, Horns and Trumpets
Bassoons, Clarinets, Oboes, Flutes and Piccolos
Taiko, Symphonic Percussion, Xylophone, Tubular Bells, Glockenspiel, Piano
Sotto is a 59.5 GB library that offers a softer and more subdued vibe.
The patches include full and light versions of Strings, Woodwind and Brass orchestral sections,
Strings 52 players
Woodwinds 12 players
Brass 15 players
There is the option to only download the 16bit version of each library if hard drive space is at a premium, SonoKinetic’s own download manager is also accessible which saves a lot of frustration when you are simply keen to get up and running quickly.
Also included within each of the main library folder, are midi files of each of the recorded phrases, this gives users the chance to mirror the scores using other instrument libraries if so desired.
All Under Control…
Library Plugin Edit Pages…
Let’s now take a look through what ultimately will be our central means of access, and I will then come back to explain how these NKS controls enable us to work with the libraries.
Page One – Preview, Phrase Select & Randomise
Knob 1 – Audio
Knob 2 – Phrase Select Layer
Knob 3 – Section
Knob 4 – Phrase
Knob 5 – Variation
Knob 6 – Phrase Select Apply
Knob 7 – Randomise All Layers
Knob 8 – Unallocated
Page Two – Phrase Edit
Knob 1 – Phrase Edit Layer
Knob 2 – Volume
Knob 3 – Release
Knob 4 – Link
Knob 5 – Pan
Knob 6 – Cross Fade
Knob 7 – Sync
Knob 8 – Modwheel
Page Three – Phrase Edit 2, Microphone Select & Tuning
Knob 1 – Phrase Edit 2, Layer
Knob 2 – Harmonic Shift
Knob 3 – Tempo Sync
Knob 4 – Unallocated
Knob 5 – Mic 1
Knob 7 – Mic 2
Knob 7 – Mix
Knob 8 – Tuning Adjust
Interface, In Use…
The operational concepts underlying these libraries are uniform across the product range, in that playing major or minor triads within a set key range will trigger one of the four user created presets. These presets are made up of three layers per instrument patch, so for example with a string patch loaded, you are able to set phrase layers for low, mid and high instrumentation, and then switch between these presets with keyswitches as you play your chords.
There are also keyswitches assigned that will allow you to mute and unmute individual layers of your presets either as you play, or on a post recording automation run through.
I think in a previous SonoKinetic review I used the analogy of a duck on a pond, seemingly calm as it floats across the water, yet underneath there is a pair of webbed feet furiously paddling, this still stands as clearly there is a hefty amount of complex scripted sample manipulation going on behind the scenes to handle all the pitch, tempo syncing, muting, cross fading and other data required to make these libraries take flight.
Access All Areas…
In terms of the plugin edit interface, we are now able to use the audio feature to audition and select the various preset layers before applying the change to create your own preset, or you can opt to roll a dice and randomise all the elements of a preset, all of these controls are found on page one of the NKS plugin interface.
Moving on, there are then options to alter individual orchestral section volumes (for example cello, viola, violin). Release, pan and crossfade settings are also to be found here on page two.
The volume of a preset is by default assigned to and can be controlled by the modwheel, which is common practice with orchestral libraries, to allow for a more expressive playing performance, however there is an option here to unlink the modwheel from other layers, mening you can make an individual phrase immune to the volume change while other layers of that preset continue to get faded, which can yield greater degrees of variety in your composition.
On page three, you can harmonically shift the pitch of an individual layer, change the sync to a ratio of your DAW tempo, and set your microphone mix settings.
On the topic of microphones, there are four individual mic options, close, Decca Tree, , Wide and Far (balcony). The two assigned mic knobs facilitate engaging between mic 1 & 2, then 3 & 4 and finally the mix control knob adjusts the balance between the two sets, so if for example you only want the close mic, you would turn mic 1 anti-clockwise followed by the mix knob also anti-clockwise to isolate that recording.
The final option on page three, is the overall tuning control which affects all layers of a given preset globally.
SonoKinetic always seem to include a useful array of keyswitches, which when used in combination with the Komplete Kontrol knob mappings, can greatly enhance and strengthen our overall interaction with a library.
I would suggest a 61 note keyboard model is the best way to fully exploit these features, you would certainly struggle on a 25 note keyboard.
Summary & Conclusions
Working with and ultimately creating with a phrase based library has a learning curve, both technically and mentally. On the technical side there is a playing style that needs to be adopted in order to successfully record and manage the phrases in order to achieve a relistic and smooth transition within a performance, there are some excellent guidelines, tips and suggestions within the manual to help with this process.
On the mental side if I can use that term, because we are dealing with pre-baked recordings, there is a definite thought process involved in juggling and working out what phrases work well with and compliment each other, and given the many possibilities you have in terms of muting and harmonic shifting etc, this can be akin to emptying a musical jigsaw puzzle onto your desk, knowing that all of the pieces do fit but not having the box lid to guide you to the final result!
This of course is the same for any user, sighted or otherwise, but with practice the end results can be truly stunning, as the many available demos will testify.
As any computer based musician will tell you, it can be very difficult to create a totally convincing orchestral recording from scratch, with a phrase based library much of these authenticity difficulties are taken away, because you are working with real pre-recorded orchestral phrases. the trade off is that you lose the luxury of using your own melodic ideas if you choose to use only the pre-recorded sections from these libraries.
However if you treat each orchestral section as a rhythmic musical bed, and can judiciously select and construct your presets, it could still be quite feasible to overlay your own orchestral melody lines.
I think the main point is, that these libraries now offer us enough access to make them creatively usable to us, and are flexible enough to provide imaginative potential in our music palette, whether that’s up front in a trailer score, subtely in the background of a game, film or documentary or even something more radical like a EDM track.
It’s wonderful to see that SonoKinetic are not a developer that simply releases a product and then swiftly moves on to the next without ever releasing an update. The time and financial investment involved in recording, creating and scripting libraries of these magnitudes and complexities mean that it is important to maximise their shelf life, and if a product sounds as fantastic through your studio monitors as these continue to do, then I’m all for it!
if I had a rubber stamp with ‘accessible’ written on it, I’d happily plonk it on these libraries, so well done once again SonoKinetic for actively taking the time to address the needs of your blind customers.
All of the above libraries can be purchased directly from the SonoKinetic website, check the links to individual product pages for current pricing.
Minimal Product Page
Maximo Product Page
Maximo Play Through
Capriccio Product Page
Sotto Product Page
(c) Chris Ankin
March 20th, 2019
The author accepts no responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of reading this article,or Any inaccuracies found within this review. All opinions or product functions stated are based soly on information perceived as a blind user whilst using the product in combination with information gathered from official factual sources on the web or product manual.
About the Author
Chris Ankin has worked previously as a freelance review contributor with articles published in Sound On Sound, Home & Studio Recording and ST Format Magazines.