Audio Imperia – Nucleus – THE ORCHESTRAL CORE
There are without doubt no shortage of orchestral sample libraries on the market, many claiming their own degree of uniqueness, however it often seems to boil down to a choice between fully featured expensive solutions, or cheaper, often older libraries with less than ideal playability or sound quality.
We are therefore focusing in this review on the middle ground, with a new library from Audio Imperia that aims to deliver great quality, playability and affordability all in a single package offering a wide choice of orchestral sounds and articulations,
enter Nucleus – The Orchestral Core!
For blind and visually impaired Komplete Kontrol users, it may be that previous Audio Imperia releases have slipped under the radar due to them thus far not having NKS support. , despite this, they do have several well respected releases under their belt, which started a few years ago with the Photosynthesis series, and rapidly grew to add some distinctive cinematic trailer libraries such as Dystopian Dreams, Trailer Guitars and in more recent times much larger and grandiose products like Jaeger their flagship cinematic orchestral library along with Cerberus epic drums. Nucleus itself draws some content from each of the latter two libraries, as well as Talos Volume Two – Low Brass, but there is also a good helping of brand new content that has been added which is specific to Nucleus.
The company themselves have strong credentials and pedigree, being made up of producers and composers, all with the technical skills of recording, sampling and sound design historically used in their own work which eventually inspired them to create their own commercial libraries.
The library itself which requires either Kontakt 6.1.1 or higher full version or the equivelent free Kontakt 6 player will occupy just over 20Gb of disk space, with 48kHz, 24bit NCW file format samples. there are 328 NKI files which also serve as the source of the available Komplete Kontrol presets.
Download & Installation…
Download is via the inaccessible Continua Connect app, however panic not, as manual download links can be self generated by pasting the provided serial code into a web page, following which you will receive an email with the file links.
Unarchiving was a straightforward task, and final authorization after placing the complete folder into your location of choice, was done via Native Access in the usual manner.
Lastly, launching Komplete Kontrol standalone triggered the rescan process, and the product is then ready to use as expected.
NKS Preset Browser & Plug-in Edit Controls…
Knob 1& 2 – Vendor and Product
Knob 3 & 4 – Unallocated
Knob 5 – Type, Bowed Strings, Brass, Drums, Flute, Mallet Instruments, Percussion, Plucked Strings, Reed Instruments, Synth Pad, Vocal
Knob 6 – Sub Types, Cello, Double Bass, Ensemble, Viola, Violin, Trombone, Trumpet, Tuba, Clash Cymbal, Crash Cymbal, Hi Hat Closed, Kick, Ride cymbal, Snare, Tom, Concert Flute, Glockenspiel, Gong, Marimba, Xylophone, Timpani, Clarinet, Oboe, Winde Ensemble, Other, Female Choir, Male Choir, Mixed Choir
Knob 7 – Unallocated
Knob 8 – Presets
NKS Plug-in Edit Controls
Page One – Main
Knob 1 – Dynamics
Knob 2 – Dynamic Range
Knob 3 – Expression
Knob 4 – Vibrato
Knob 5 – Sample Start
Knob 6 to 8 – Unallocated
Page Two – Reverb, Velocity Curve, Transpose & Range
Knob 1 – Reverb On/Off
Knob 2 – Reverb Pre-delay
Knob 3 – Reverb Time
Knob 4 – Reverb Amount
Knob 5 – Velocity Curve On/Off
Knob 6 – Velocity Curve Shape (3 choices)
Knob 7 – Transpose On/Off
Knob 8 – Range On/Off
There are some slight variations on the mapping between some instruments, but overall the above represents the general set of NKS parameters.
For some reason Nucleus currently has no pre-hear sounds associated with any of it’s 328 presets, which after being so used to this invaluable time saving feature, immediately gave me a sense of loss, as it meant that to audition a sound, you first had to load it. Thankfully I found that the loading times for Nucleus instruments are quite snappy so the wait was minimal, I am also told that the libraries pre-hear sounds have already been created, so should be available soon.
Unfortunateley the workflow was also slightly hindered by the rather cryptic naming of the presets, certainly ’01 Nucleus Strings Full Ens, made perfect sense, but 01 Nucleus 6 CLL + 4 DBlbss 8 Vo sustained? took more than a moment for me at least to decipher as 6 Cellos and 4 Double Basses sustained!
This abbreviated naming convention is consistent throughout the library, and whilst I was already aware that I was using Nucleus, however, to prefix each preset name with it became irksome when coupled with the need to hear and comprehend preset names.
I guess for sighted users that are able to read the text, this might not constitute a real issue, however as we cannot read a screen and instead rely on speech (even more so with the current absence of pre-hear audio) it can feel a bit cumbersome to locate and find the exact articulation you are searching for.
As you will have read from the detailed NKS Plug-in Edit description, there are two pages of mapped parameters. Although the existing mappings are sensible and valid choices, wee really could have used an additional couple of pages in order to access the Volume, Pan, Attack, Release, Pitch, Stereo Spread, Sample Reverse, Filters and mic mix options which are all present within the visual mouse driven GUI, these are what I would consider as important sound controls, and would not have created an excessive number of additional pages, which is in keeping with the accessibility section guidelines of Native Instruments developer SDK.
Conversely, these missing parameters have been included as the main two pages of mapping for the synth pad presets, but the trade off is that the reverb and other parameters found in the other orchestral instruments have in this instance been omitted!
Audio Imperia have been very receptive to these points, and will be looking to hopefully implement them in a future update.
Nucleus In Use…
If you are able to forgive these current shortfalls, the sounds that can be found within Nucleus are actually rather excellent, the product is billed as being orchestral cinematic , and the clear, crisp sounds certainly reflect this genre.
Although there are not the traditional multi microphone options available,the presets have two versions one a classic largely untreated sample, and another (the default) a modern equivalent with subtle yet noticeable leanings toward the film score style of sound.
As Audio Imperia’s other orchestral libraries Jaeger and Talos do have multiple microphone choices, it would appear that for Nucleus a combination of mic positions have been mixed to offer a one size fits all blend, and this has been successfully implemented, being not too close or distant, but with enough dynamic presence to be effectual, the current snag is that these two variations have not been assigned to NKS or keyswitches, so for the time being we only have access to the Modern mix.
With the reverb turned off, the samples are fairly dry, other than a little natural room space, which I am a big fan of as this gives the composer the ability to control and tailor the ambience to suit the project.
The DSP reverb that you initially hear applied to the presets, is actually making complete use of the Kontakt 6 own built in reverb, and as such can simply be turned off or substituted for one of your own choosing if preferred.
Of particular note is the approach that Audio Imperia have devised to handle the often tricky problem of sample start times and offsets that are commonly the bane of orchestral libraries. Typically hard editing a start point to tighten the playing experience can all too often result in a clipped unnatural sounding playback performance.
Nucleus still caters for this option by offering those ‘tight’ versions of presets for those that wish to use this method, but there are also duplicate presets with a start time that is 125ms short of the waveform start. This means that when playing back for example those more expressive legato lines, the result is much more natural sounding and authentic by retaining organic nuances such as breath and bow scrapes and bends on the relative instruments.
Audio Imperia fully explain this in the Nucleus manual, and encourage users to experiment with this feature, for example by moving forward the sample start yourself whilst initially recording your part will compensate for the feel of higher latency, and then pulling back the sample start again post recording should again deliver a better and more humanised performance, if this is what you are looking to achieve in your track.
In practice I noted that this is something that could be of particular use within quiet or solo passages, for example whilst scrutinizing via headphones between the standard and tight preset of the legato flute, I detected that the breathy chiffs at the start of notes were not truncated and much more natural sounding when not overly tightened, so this could be one prime example of it’s usefulness.
The main ethos behind Nucleus is that it should be an essential composers toolbox, with everything you need to create realistic orchestral cinematic tracks.
There are certainly no shortage of instruments within the library that more than adequately cover the core sections of the orchestra.
With solo instruments, ensemble sections, orchestrated multi instrument sections, percussion, drums, choirs consisting of male, female, mixed and even keyswitched phrases, and a tiny smattering of sound design pads and drones to complete this well stocked compendium, you would be hard pushed to find any major omissions, although at the risk of self contradiction I could not find a harp within the library!
The commonly needed articulations are all here for the relevant instruments within Nucleus, legato, sustain, Staccatissimo, Spiccato, Pizzicato, Tremolo and Trills can all be found in some cases as individual presets, and others in multi articulation keyswitchable patches, which can work particularly well in a performance if executed correctly.
It was nice to see the velocity curve control individually mapped with three curve settings, ordinarily it can be tricky to change this within Komplete Kontrol, so it’s presence here was appreciated.
Thoughts & Conclusions…
I have no doubts that Audio Imperia Nucleus is very capable of delivering upon it’s role as a cinematic composers library, and there are various online videos that can bear testimony to this.
The instrument sounds are dynamic and punchy, and can yield the big widescreen sound sought after by film, game, media and trailer composers.
Audio Imperia have done well to include what amounts to a whole orchestra in a relatively small data footprint of 20Gb, and this makes it an ideal candidate for a high quality mobile composing rig, where your entire instrument collection may not be to hand on a device such as a small laptop. Credit should also be given to the fast load times of all of the content, this being another plus for the portable set-up user.
For blind users in terms of accessibility, Nucleus could be immediately and vastly improved with the addition of the pre-hear sounds, which I am sure will arrive soon.
The adopted preset naming conventions for those using Komplete Kontrol speech access are difficult to comprehend. The odd decision to prefix everything with the library name is a waste of 10 characters that could have been better used to more adequately describe the preset sound.
I would also ideally like to see an additional couple of pages of NKS parameter mapping to make access more consistent, giving greater flexibility and control for blind musicians. To their credit, Audio Imperia have acknowledged this, and will look to make further improvements in a future update.
As things stand, with frequent use it is likely that users would soon develop their own go to range of instrument presets, and the obvious time saving workaround adopted by most composers, is to build an orchestral template which incorporates their most constantly used presets , this can then be named to their liking.
Nevertheless the bottom line is that Nucleus offers a welcome additional choice in the mid price range level of the marketplace, where choices for big screen orchestral libraries are still a little sparse.
Nucleus (THE ORCHESTRAL CORE FOR KONTAKT PLAYER), is available to purchase from the Audio Imperia website at a launch price of $399.00 until September 27th at 1am PST.
Audio Imperia Nucleus Product Page:
Nucleus (The Orchestral Core for Kontakt Player)
Nucleus – Sample Start Feature:
Nucleus – Library Walkthrough:
Daniel James – Nucleus First Look:
Audio Imperia – Nucleus User Manual:
September 20th, 2019
The author accepts no responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of 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 or 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.